Sunday, May 25, 2008

Recent painting trip to Texas Hill Country

Looking to the West, 8X10, oil/linen board

This painting was done as a result of my recent painting trip to Kerrville and the Texas Hill Country in Mountain Home, Texas. I spent five days painting and taking reference there two weeks ago. I wish it had been longer. While there I stayed at the YO Ranch and had hoped to be able to wander the private ranch, which has exotic animals such as wildebeast, camel and giraffe on the grounds. Not to mentions thousands of deer and cattle. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to roam the ranch freely, since it is also a hunting ranch, where hunters pay lots of money to visit and kill these animals ( not the camels and giraffes though). Next time I'll probe a little deeper about the ranch rules. I figured with 50,000 acres, there would be plenty of room for me. Oh well, live and learn. But the people there were wonderful and helped direct me to lots of beautiful places at which I could paint. This painting was done back in my studio though, right after I got back home. I took the photo on my way back to my cabin after a long day spent painting in the field. I was beat and couldn't have done another painting if my life depended on it. So I stopped the car and stood by the side of the road and just took it all in. Of course I took some pictures, but that only took a moment. The rest of the time I watched, I took mental notes on the color temp shifts and the values. So many artist's I talk to talk about doing the same thing all the time. They are constantly noticing the complexity in the colors of nature. About how she balances out the warms and the cools. How marvelous it is to really look at the way God has mixed it all up so that it all makes perfect sense when you are experiencing it, but how difficult it is to invent it out of your imagination back in the studio. There are subtleties there that seem to be insignificant, but if you leave them out, your work will always have an amateurish quality about it. That's why I paint on location. It's information you can gain no other way. It teaches me every time, how little I know, and how I understand even less.

Fishing the Llano River (field study), 6X8, oil/linen panel

I did this painting on location on the same trip. I did 10-12 paintings while there, but I only brought a few home with me as carry on. The rest I Fedexed home along with my easel and paints. I'm still waiting for that box to arrive. This was a beautiful spot along the South Llano river which runs through Junction, Tx. I started the painting without the figures, and about half way through, these fishermen came along and make a perfect focal point for this piece. I'm going to start putting more figures in my on location work. They add so much to a painting I think. I love that the main figure in this one is setting the hook. A little action in a painting can be such a good thing.

Morning Texas Pasture (field study), 6X12, oil/linen panel

This was also a plein air piece. There were cattle that dotted the far pasture, and I might add them to a larger studio painting of this. But this one's size made me a little hesitant to try to do that. I love back lit landscapes. That's why I do so many of them. This one was my first piece of the day and I couldn't have asked for a better subject. I was just off the highway, where no one goes slower than 70mph. It's good training for being able to block distractions out while you paint. If you can concentrate while Semi's blow by you, hell bent for leather, then you're ready for all the crowds you attract while painting on location. No doubt.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Friday, May 23, 2008

Joanna Van Gogh and the power of One

Robert Genn is an artist who sends out a weekly blog/newsletter to which I subscribe. His recent post was about Joanna Van Gogh. Joanna was Theo's wife, who survived both of them. Now, most people in the arts are well familiar with Vincent's and Theo's story. Theo was not just Vincent's brother. He was also his link to the world, his confidant, his funding source, as well as his art dealer. It's impossible to put too much value on what Theo has done for the art world by preserving his genius brother's work. Not to mention the invaluable record of Vincent's inner thoughts, dreams and philosophy through the letters they exchanged over the years. However, a story that is almost unknown is the importance of Joanna's dogged determination to have Vincent's work recognized for the Genius that is was. We have Joanna to thank for single handedly championing Vincent's work after his death, and Theo's death a mere six months later. This story illuminates better than any I've heard about the importance of family, as well as the difference one determined person can make on the world. Enjoy...


Joanna Van Gogh

Robert Genn's Twice Weekly Letter
Insight and inspiration for your artistic career.

Dear Artist,

Vincent van Gogh died in 1890. Theo van Gogh, art dealer and brother of Vincent, died six months later, in 1891. Johanna, Theo's wife, inherited all the shop remainders including virtually all of Vincent's work. She soon moved with her small son from Paris to Bussum near Amsterdam. Johanna, age 29, went into distribution mode.

Reading the brothers' correspondence, she became convinced of her brother-in-law's genius and set about to do the right thing by him. "I am living wholly with Theo and Vincent," she wrote in her diary, "Oh, the infinitely delicate, tender and loving quality of that relationship." Placing work in various commercial galleries in the Netherlands, she also arranged for the gifting of works to strategic museums. It was hard going at first--people laughed at Vincent's work. The critics were skeptical at best, but in the end her writings and her persistent, visionary advocacy fanned the Vincent flames. She typed and revised the Theo-Vincent letters, finally publishing many of them in Dutch in 1914. When she died in 1925, she was still working on letter 526. Johanna also assisted in publishing a handbook for detecting Vincent forgeries.

In the "all's well that ends well" story of artists' lives and successes, there are worthwhile prerequisites. Some artists try some of them so the fruits of their labour can be enjoyed while their creators are still walking around. Vincent, who never saw a guilder from his art, had benefit of all five of the prerequisites:

Distinctive, recognizable style
Limited supply (200, plus drawings)
Controlled distribution (one caring person in charge)
Story (failure, poverty, passion, health issues, ear-off)
Tragic, preferably early, end (shot himself, age 37)

A dose of nepotism helps too. The van Goghs and the Bongers (Johanna's maiden name) were educated, professional, well connected and upwardly mobile. Vincent was the black sheep. It was Vincent's publisher-uncle C. M. van Gogh who was first in print with Vincent's story. Another uncle designed the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Johanna was herself a sensitive, literate yet practical type who spoke and wrote beautifully in three languages. After thirty years of hard work, she finally and graciously consented to allow England's National Gallery to buy Vincent's "Sunflowers."

Best regards,


PS: "Everything is but a dream!" (Johanna van Gogh, 1891)

Esoterica: It may take bereavement, another generation, or a canny dealer to see preciousness and perhaps value in a body of work. The combination of hoarding and distribution is part of the art. Work should not be too readily released or made commonly available to just anyone. Stratospheric prices come after the groundwork is laid. After that, as in the National Gallery, "Sunflowers" are now made available on mugs, calendars, shirts and brassieres. Theo and Vincent now lie side by side in the cemetery at Auvers-sur-Oise. If those two idealists hear about those mugs, they'll be rotisserating in their graves.


Incidentally, Bob Dylan's song "Visions of Joanna" found on the 1966 album Blonde on Blonde, was about Joanna Van Gogh and her single handed vision of what Vincent's work could mean to all of us.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Two Western Landscapes

Juniper Lake Study, 6X8, oil on linen panel

Mountain Snowmelt Runoff, 6x12, oil on linen panel

Hi Everyone,
I'm posting a couple of the smaller paintings I recently finished. Both are scenes in Wyoming, but are very different in their mood. The first is a lake near Yellowstone toward the end of the day. The second is early in the morning looking almost directly into the sun. That one is outside of Jackson Hole on the way to Yellowstone. I never get tired of the landscapes around the Jackson Hole area. I bet a person could spend several lifetimes painting it and still only scratch the surface.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Art Auction, May 9-10, 2008

Since I'm going to be participating in my first art auction in less than a week, I thought it would be a good idea to post my entry here and talk about it a little. I called this painting, "Sizing Up The New Hand". I had the idea of wondering what it is like for a cowboy who shows up for his first day on the job. Cowboys, being like everyone else, would be curious about their new co-worker. But Cowboys, being like nobody else, wouldn't sneak a peek at him. They would just look. No Bull, no pretenses, and no fear. Even the dog gets in on the once over. I made sure that the new guy's jeans were clean (and still blue), and his shirt was pressed. The other cowboys clothes have long since given up the ghost when it comes to looking new. After all, this is a working ranch.

The Auction, which will take place on Saturday, May 10, 2008, will be hosted by Texas Art Gallery and held at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Dallas Texas. The preview starts at 6:00 pm and the auction itself will begin at 7:30.

In addition, there will be a fixed price draw at the Gallery on Friday, May 9th, 2008. Draw will be held at 8pm. I have three pieces in the draw. The first is:

Morning Has Broken, 11X14, oil on linen panel

Mixed Team Roping, 13X20, Charcoal on Strathmore

Two Seconds To Go, 21X14, Charcoal on Strathmore

Ann and I are excited to get to meet the Gallery staff and Collectors. It's a chance to meet some pretty wonderful people who all love Art just as much as we do. Everyone at TAG (Texas Art Gallery), has been so very good to us. This gives us a chance to put faces to names. Not to mention, having the opportunity to meet the people who collect art and give people like me the ability to live my passion every day. We've had a chance to look over the Set Price Draw and Auction catalog, and we're excited to get to see some pretty wonderful art. I'll check in after the event and let you know how things went.

I'll be doing a bit of painting in the Hill Country after the event, so I would appreciate any tips on where to visit!!

Till next time, Steve