Friday, October 28, 2011

New Representation with The Art Gallerist

I just found out today that I've been accepted as a new artist with The Art Gallerist. is an online juried fine art gallery headquartered in the artist community of Laguna Beach, California.  I've been researching internet art sites for a while now and for the most part have been unimpressed.  Most of the sites are little more than ecommerce store fronts that do little to promote the art itself.  A lot of them have no real selection process leading to very uneven levels of art being sold.  Many sell original fine art, reproductions, crafts, clothing, and more on the same site.  Most of the ones I looked at also have monthly fees for membership in their gallery.

The Art Gallerist operates more like a traditional gallery.  Artist submissions are juried by a selection panel.  The website itself has the look and feel of an upscale gallery and even provides for interaction between the artists and buyers.  They have a great feature called the Collectors Club for buyers and a blog with lots of great advice for buying and selling art online.  Like a traditional gallery there is no monthly fee, only a commision on sales. 

I've been very impressed with everything about The Art and look forward to a long and successful relationship.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dallas Fort Worth Art Events and Exhibitions this weekend October 28 - 30

There are always lots of great art events in the DFW region, and this weekend is no exception.  Here’s a few of my picks for a family art outing.

October 28, 6:30 – 9 pm
Reception for the Community Art Showcase at the Arlington Museum of Art
Every year artists from the DFW area are invited to exhibit their work in the Arlington Museum of Art during October and November.  It’s not a juried competition, but there’s still an enormous amount of talent on display.  The show actually opened earlier this month, but Friday night is the reception. 
October 30, 2011, 2 – 4 pm
Reception for the 11th Annual Art Connection Member’s Exhibition at the Irving Arts Center
Don’t miss the annual exhibition at the Irving Arts Center featuring members of the center’s Art Connection program.  There’s artwork in a wide variety of media from a wide range of ages.   
October 30, 11 am till its over
Art in October Closing Celebration, Dallas Arts District
The Dallas Arts District has been featuring a month of great events and activities for their Art in October celebration.  This Sunday is the closing celebration and they’re really pulling out all the stops.  The DMA has a free Carnival of Creativity Family Celebration starting at 11am, then there’s a Fall Block Party at the One Arts Plaza starting at noon.  There’s a costume contest, lots of great cuisine featured, photo shoots, mariachis, artist demonstrations, and much more.  You can view the whole schedule of events at Make plans to attend and bring the whole family!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Using Artist Registries to Market your Art

In my quest to expand my art career with the goal of being a full-time artist I’ve been leaving no stone unturned.  I have read and followed much of the advice in Alyson Stanfield’s wonderful book I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion, and have recently been digesting  Jackie Battenfield’s The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love.  
They’ve really opened my eyes to the many opportunities artists have to market our work in today’s world.  My website and my blog are part of my new marketing plan, along with seeking alternative exhibition opportunities.  I’m active in a few forums and post my artwork regularly on Flickr.  Of course I’m still approaching galleries and entering juried shows as well. 
Recently I’ve realized that I’ve been overlooking one of the simplest, most effective, and cheapest methods for gaining exposure for my art.  While I had certainly heard of Artist Registries before, for whatever reason it never clicked that I should be submitting my work to be included. 
Many large cities, most states, and numerous private and non-profit art organizations maintain artist registries.  An art registry is a listing of artists, often including images of their art, bios, and relevant experience, that is made available to art collectors, gallery directors, buyers, and pretty much anyone else interested in the arts.  Often public art programs (or percent for art) include an artist registry as a first step in the selection process. 
Artist registries are sometimes referred to as slide registries, an old throwback term to the days when slide carousels ruled the art world.  Today most registries are online and digital. This provides the added benefit of a back link to your art website or blog which helps increase your ranking in search results.
Registries are a low-cost, and often times free, promotional tool for artists.  Many young artists (myself included) mistakenly  think of registries as something unique to New York and other big league art cities, but artist registries are a valuable resource anywhere. 
Type in “artist registry” in your favorite flavored internet search engine and you’ll be rewarded with countless links.  Many registries have residency requirements, so adding location keywords such as a state or city name can help narrow the results.  
Using this simple process I’ve identified a dozen or so registries, several specific to my home state of Texas along with a few national databases, which seem like a good fit for my work. 
While the submission process for some registries can be lengthy, the potential rewards for promoting your art are enormous.  With the whole world now connected by the web, there’s simply no excuse for not taking advantage of artist registries.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Artist Interview with modern day impressionist Sheri Jones

"Collector or Dealer"
Sheri Jones
Oil on Canvas
18" x 36"

When I first saw Sheri Jones work it made me think of my brother.  Not something that artwork normally does for me, but you see, my brother Vince is a car guy.  He’s been a mechanic all his life and now works as an engineer.  In his spare time he rebuilds and restores vintage cars, trucks, motorcycles, pretty much anything with a motor and wheels.  I think every family probably has at least one car nut.  Sheri Jones became inspired when she and her husband starting shopping for an old truck for him to restore.
Sheri has been painting for more than 25 years.  She considers herself an impressionist and strives to create an accurate but painterly look.  She paints from life, both outdoors in true plein air fashion, and in her studio from a still life.   Whether with a brush or a palette knife her paint handling is bold and loose.  With vibrant colors and thickly textured impastos Sherri brings new life and vitality to these old warriors of the road.
When Sheri received my interview questions she replied with enthusiasm and graciously shared her time and knowledge.  Her responses were thoughtful and revealed an artist constantly striving to improve her craft.

What’s on your easel right now?  Can you tell me about your works in progress and how they fit in with your body of work?
I am currently working on a 62 Volkswagen Beetle. It is bright turquoise and a nice reminder of times gone by.  I have been painting a series of vintage trucks. The old cars are a natural transition. The old truck fascination began when we started shopping for an old truck for my husband to restore. We started seeing them everywhere. I also wanted to paint these with more ease when painting plein air. He is currently restoring a 52 Chevy truck we bought.  I am inspired by the works of California artist, Timothy Horn when it comes to vintage vehicles.

"Blue Bug (62 Volkswagen)"
Sheri Jones
Oil on Canvas
11" x 14"

What artists or art movements influenced or affected you?
One of the most influential movements has been plein air painting. It changed my approach and improved my process. It forces me to paint fast and make quick decisions.
Another group that influenced me has been the Daily Painters. I found my kindred spirits with this group. Painting often and daily gives me the freedom to explore a variety of subjects.

Do you have a preferred medium (oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, etc.) or do you work in different mediums depending on the piece?  Why?
I am currently working with oil paints. I love their durability and creamy quality. I often apply the paint with a palette knife in an impasto manner. I love color and texture and I am able to achieve this with oil paints.

Where do you draw your ideas or subject matter from?  Do you ever paint on location or use photographs as references, or do you paint from memory?  Do you keep a sketchbook?
Inspiration for my paintings comes from my everyday environment. I like to paint things that I am familiar with and that surround me. I love painting plein air and get out as often as my schedule allows. This is usually once a week. Call me crazy, but I love to catch a sunrise on one of the back roads near my home in Granbury, Texas. I love to paint from life and often set up a still life in the studio, but I also paint from photos.  I keep a busy schedule and working from photos are sometimes my best options.  I do keep a sketch book in my car and carry a camera with me always.  The iPhone makes this possible and I use this tool often.   

"Old Blue"
Sheri Jones
Oil on Canvas
14" x 11"

What size/scale do you usually work in?  How long do you spend on a typical painting?
When painting from life I usually work small and use 8x10, 9x12 or 11x14. I often use the smaller studies for larger paintings. It is a great way to work out color use and design.
I paint the smaller paintings in less than 2 hours. My studio pieces are usually 11x14, 16x20, 22x28, or 30x40. I take more time with these and can spend from 8 hours to weeks to finish one. I typically paint in stages. My first stage is to get the canvas covered and set it aside to dry. I come back to it with fresh eyes and a new approach. I can often see things that need to be corrected after a little distance from the process.

Are there times when you can’t be creative or the paint just isn’t flowing?  How do you handle periods of “artist block?”
In the past, when facing an artist block I have studied a new medium.  I worked with molten glass, making lamp work beads.  The process changed my approach to painting. It taught me about color, form and design. It made my work more abstract and free.
If that doesn’t work I simply go to my studio. I have projects in stages all over the studio. I work full time and my time in the studio is limited. I make the most of my free time and seem to be more inspired. If I have too much time on my hands I don’t seem as productive.

How do you know when a painting is finished?  Is it sometimes hard for you to decide a work is complete?
I will set a painting up in my living room and study it from different angles. Quick glances and time are often the best tests. I also frame them and leave them in view. This is another good test for checking for errors and corrections. I have several artist friends and my husband that will critique a work and give honest suggestions.  I keep correcting and improving them until they stop bothering me. 

"52 GMC Truck"
Sheri Jones
Oil on Canvas
20" x 24"

What support do you like to paint on?  Do you prepare and prime your own canvas or panels?  Do you use any particular painting mediums (damar, linseed oil, liquin, alkyd gel, etc.)?
I like the Raymar cotton canvas panels when painting plein air. My larger pieces are usually on stretched canvas.  I also work on wood panels I get at the hardware store. I use a latex paint for a base, sanding between layers.  The only medium I use is odorless Mineral Spirits. I use this and a little paint to put my first layer on. I like a warmly toned canvas to begin.

What do you think makes the difference in becoming “established” as an artist, and what advice do you have for young and emerging artists looking to develop a career?
Becoming an established artist takes good old fashion brush mileage. Paint as often as possible and have many, many starts. Draw, paint or do something art related every day.

Do you teach or lead workshops?  Do you feel that teaching helps an artist develop, and if so, in what ways?
I am not currently teaching, but would be open to teaching workshops.   I have taught one day workshops for adults and taught children for over six years.  I love being in the class room and know being around other artist is very inspiring.  You learn what you know by repeating and teaching others.

"Faded Pink"
Sheri Jones
Oil on Canvas
8" x 10"

What’s next?  Do you have any current or upcoming exhibitions of your work?  Any special projects you’re involved in right now?
I recently had work accepted in U-Gallery, an on-line art gallery. I have had 2 solo shows and a two man show this year and participated in many group shows.  I have work that was juried into the Lake Granbury Art Association and the Navarro Council of Arts in Corsicana, Texas. Also The Artist of Texas is having a juried show at the Dutch Art Gallery in Dallas, Texas. It will hang during the month of November and December. The reception is scheduled for Saturday, November 6th. I will also have my work on display at The Visitors Center in Granbury during the month of November.  I will continue to paint daily and post as often as possible.

Please visit or for more paintings from Sheri Jones including her wonderful landscapes, still lifes, and more vintage automobiles.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review of Illusions Floater Frames from Jerry's Artarama

First, let me just say that I’m not really a frame guy.  I’ve never really cared for framing canvas, preferring instead to paint the edges on gallery wrapped canvas.  I’ve always felt like most frames draw too much attention to themselves.  Recently though I’ve been using up a stock pile of 3/4” deep canvases, so when three of my current paintings were accepted into the Artists of Texas show at the Dutch Art Gallery in Dallas I found myself in need of a few frames.  I looked into different readymade frames and custom moldings at local frame shops but didn’t really find anything I liked within my budget. Then I stumbled upon Illusions Floater Frames online at Jerry’s Artarama. 
Floater frames were popular in the 1970’s and seem to be making a comeback.  I found several frame companies that offered different versions of floaters, although most only seemed to come sized for 1 ½” deep canvas.  The Illusions frames come in ¾” and 1 ½” depths and are available in six different finishes.  Unlike most frames there is no lip that hangs over the front of the painting.  Instead there’s a small facing that’s offset about a ¼” from the canvas allowing the edges to be seen.  The inside is finished in black providing the “floating” affect.  They’ve received several good reviews on the Artarama site so I thought I’d give them a try.
This was my first experience with Jerry’s.  They have a four frame minimum order, but shipping was free with my order and arrived quickly.  I ordered five frames in different sizes, all in the natural finish.  When my order arrived I was initially a bit disappointed.  First off, the natural finish is actually unfinished, bare wood.  The first frames I opened were the 12” x 16” and 16” x 20” sizes and their fit was a bit uneven.  A couple of the corners had noticeable gaps.  My first instinct was to return the frames, but I decided to take a chance and open the larger ones.  To my surprise they were very well constructed with corners that fit tight.  I placed a couple of different paintings in the frames and really liked the look so I thought I’d see if I could make them work. 
Since the natural finish was actually bare wood, I first applied two coats of Tung Oil to seal and protect the wood and give it a bit more polished appearance.  There were also a couple of spots on the black paint on the inside that needed to be touched up.  The frames are supplied with all of the mounting hardware required and made for a pretty easy assembly.  I kind of wish they’d bypassed the clips and drilled holes for screws instead, but all in all the frames were easy to put together.  There’s also a video on Jerry’s Artarama showing how to attach the canvas to the frame using the supplied clips.   
The frames have an understated, unobtrusive look that really lets the painting speak for itself while providing a professional, finished appearance.  The problems I encountered seem to be primarily due to the natural finish.  For artists who prefer minimal framing, Illusions Floater Frames are a good choice, provided you’re willing to put in a little effort to touch up minor flaws.  They are inexpensive, lightweight, and if they’d just improve on the quality control a little I think they’re a perfect choice for a gallery setting.
You can check them out for yourself at Jerry's Artarama.
Professional, clean appearance
Unobtrusive, let’s artwork speak for itself
Selection of six different finishes (black, white, natural, black w/ gold trim, black w/ silver trim, walnut w/gold trim)

Natural is actually unfinished, bare wood.  I sanded some spots lightly and applied two coats of Tung Oil.
Quality control is inconsistent.  Larger frames (18 x 24, 24 x 30, and 24 x 36) arrived with good fit and finish and clean corners while smaller frames (12 x 16 and 16 x 20) had gaps on corners.
Paint needed touch ups in places.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Artist Interview with Oil Painter Larry Leach (Part II)

Larry Leach has been painting in oils since the mid 1960's and has taught painting and drawing for LSU in Louisiana and Lamar University in Texas. His artwork is in numerous museum and corporate collections, and he has had solo shows in galleries and museums throughout Texas, Florida, and Georgia.  He is currently an outreach artist for ColArt America. For more than thirty years his work has been concerned with the rendering of the landscape. This is Part II of my interview with Larry Leach.  If you missed Part I of the interview you can read it here.
"Blue Lagoon"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
52" x 64"
You've been primarily an oil painter throughout your career, although I know you painted in acrylics early on.  What is it about oil paint as a medium that attracts you?
I like oils for several reasons.  The first and probably main one is because of the addition/subtraction process in which I enjoy working.  I like to add color as an under-painting and continually scrape on it, add liquid glazes and scrape some of that away in a somewhat anal manner.  I continue this process until I like the kind of patina look with some areas that are thicker with thinner areas showing through.  I sometimes get to a point where I do a glaze of, for instance, "Indian Yellow" that becomes a highly transparent tonal unifier, then remove part of that before I start my process again.
Constable and Turner were the first to do this when Indian Yellow came out in the early 19th century.   Constable introduced the method to Delacroix, who showed Corot who then influenced Inness with his tonalism.  Needless to say, with acrylics, this process is almost impossible, as is the traditional painting method of wet on wet which is the stable of oil paint and easel painting.  Acrylic with its' quick drying time is essentially an addition/ addition process and is at its' best for masking off color, pouring methods, or collage, air brush, etc.  Unfortunately most people who use acrylic use it in a traditional wet on wet technique and that is a technical struggle for most artists.
The second reason I like oil paint is the choice of colors.  Acrylic has Titanium White, but no Cremnitz or Flake white which is a warm, opaque mixing white.  When you look at those beautiful Inness sunsets (or those of any painter before 1924 when Titanium White hit the market) he used a lead carbonate white (Cremnitz White).  So did Monet,  Cézanne, Renoir and all the other great colorists before 1924.  A lot of painters (Lucien Freud, Picasso, Balthus, Bacon), even though they had access to Titanium White, never used it because they didn't like its' strong tinting power.  It has no color temperature.  Therefore it tends to deaden flesh tones, for example.  Acrylic has Zinc White which is a transparent cold mixing color and now a few companies (Winsor/Newton) offer a mixing white in acrylic.  This is Titanium that is chemically milled in an attempt to copy the positive attributes of Flake White.  Zinc white is good but does not have the reflective brilliance of Flake.  Winsor/Newton calls it Flake White Hue in Oils.
Lastly, I just like the finished surface of oils in comparison to acrylics.  Our Beaumont friend John Alexander used to say acrylic is like eating at McDonald's and oil is eating the food of a French Chef.

"Sea Oats VI"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
72" x 96"
Many of your paintings are quite large and feature extensive brushwork and impastos.  How long do you spend on a typical painting?
This is variable with what else I have going on.  Right now, for example, I'm going through one of my worst painting draughts because I have been building a woodshop that houses my table saw, miter saw and such with room enough to house my tractor and yard tools, compressor,etc.  This is a 40x40' pole barn that  I have enjoyed building,  but it obviously takes away painting time.  My next project is a deck off of Sheila's side of the studio.  Then of course, we are both gardeners.
I am also busy as a ColArt America outreach artist doing workshops.  I enjoy doing them and it is lucrative but is time consuming also.  I leave Tuesday to do a three day painting workshop for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  This fall, I have already done workshops for the painting departments at the University of Georgia in Athens, the University of Florida, and SCAD of Savannah.
I paint best when I can have uninterrupted time.  When I can do this the process flows, large paintings can happen very quickly, and the work is usually better.  I usually have solo museum shows about every three years in which I try to have fairly new work.  The sales usually come as offshoots of this work that go out to various galleries in several states.  Before a show, I'm always very busy and I tend to be at my best.  I also usually have four or five commissions a year (some big, some small) and I tend to knock those out very quickly.  A 6’ x 8' painting usually takes about two weeks, but then I like to keep it in the studio for a few days to look at it as I usually see something I want to work on.
Are there times when you can't be creative or the paint just isn't flowing?  How do you handle periods of artist block?
If other artists read my answer here, I'm sure they may want to differ, but I don't really believe in the idea of artist block.  I saw the Pollock retrospective a few years ago at MOMA.  It was a great show in that they showed his very early work down to his last.  The best and greatest was the "Spring" series (1948-51)  For this period, they reconstructed the barn he painted in down to the music he listened to (Benny Goodman).  You could really feel the energy and see it in his work.  The next area covered his last works which were few and sad and truly looked like it was from a different artist.  So what happened?  The writers of the time told of him complaining of artists' block.  This may be one of the most famous examples of artists' or writers block.  From my readings of history and of being an active painter since the mid-sixties, I personally feel that in Pollock’s case he succumbed to the depression that he had throughout much of his life.  With the tragic addition of extreme alcoholism  he simply didn't go to his studio and stay involved with his materials.
I believe that so-called artists' block is from a lack of discipline which can reduce us to our lower natures.  Woody Allen felt that good work and creativity begins and ends with "showing up".  Various artists "show up” in various ways.  For the last 40 years of his life Wayne Thiebeaux would meet his friends every morning for coffee at someone’s studio, and as a group hire a nude model and draw for an hour or so.  They would then go to their own studios and do their work.  A lot of artists like the energy of the city and having a lot of other artists around for self-support.   Because of the way I was raised I need and am inspired by being alone in my studio. 
The only time I have had a problem with creativity was when I went through the devastation of a divorce from my first wife and my so-called train got off track for a while.  If you haven't already, read the biography of the great Winston Churchill who was a very regular oil painter even throughout the war.  Someone asked him how in the world he got in the "mood" to paint with all his other important considerations.  He basically replied that if he waited to get in the mood, he probably wouldn't do anything other than smoke his cigar and drink a bit of whiskey.
"August Afternoon"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
54" x 68"

How do you know when a painting is finished?  Is it sometimes hard for you to decide a work is complete?
I try to listen to my emotive self.  When in doubt I try to walk off and work in my garden or something.  I don't have a formula other than that I usually know when I'm pleased.  This has become much easier as I age.
When you taught at Lamar you were stretching your own canvas and preparing your own mediums.  Do you still complete those steps yourself, or have your methods changed?
I still mostly construct my own stretcher strips (1x4" with 3/4" quarter round ) and always stretch and gesso my own canvas.  Before I left Lamar, I started hiring a student to cut and put together my stretcher strips.  When I was in Melbourne Fl. for 6 years I successfully hired a retired industrial arts teacher to construct the frames, but for the last ten years I can't find anyone anal enough for perfection to do it.  I tried with a couple of people, but the money was wasted for their time and also for my materials.  We live near Ga. Southern University which has an MFA program, so I might find someone there, but I can't bear to even try to find someone to do the stretching.  I'm extremely critical of the perfection there.  If you remember, I always ordered my canvas from New York Central Supply and still do.  I stopped using rabbit skin glue before I left Beaumont as I found out on my own in that old humid studio that it very much attracted moisture.  I use a very high quality acrylic gesso from Winsor/Newton and sometimes I cover that with an Alkyd Oil Gesso, but mostly I don't.
When I was in Beaumont, I made my own Damar varnish from the crystals and then used turpentine and refined linseed oil to make my medium.  I stopped doing this about 15 years ago.  I know you're aware about my connection to Winsor/Newton.  I'm one of seven outreach artists for them in North America.  It's a contract each year in that they hire me to visit university painting departments (in my case the southeast U.S., and the reason that I was in Dallas last spring) to do demo/lectures concerning the technical aspects of painting.  Through this connection, I have received training each summer for the last 14 years.  These sessions have been held in England, New York, Washington D.C., Etc.  Through this, I have become familiar with the chemistry of these materials far more than an artist probably needs.  I have been inside the Tate, the National Gallery and several other major museums where the cleaning and repair of art work is done. The reason that I stopped using the old recipe of 1/3 portions each of Damar Varnish, Turpentine and Refined linseed oil that was used through the centuries is that the artists that employed this have all had problems with their paintings being cleaned.  Artists using a lamination of this glaze in their process (Cézanne) have color come off when the old varnish is removed.  This is because of the drying contradiction inherent with laminating the Damar Varnish.  It causes the turpentine to evaporate much slower and is trapped amongst the linseed oil which dries through oxidation.  The layers cannot sufficiently dry.  A Cézanne painting is therefore technically unhealthy.

I have since used Winsor/Newton Painting Medium which gives the same effect without the drying contradiction. This is thinned stand oil.

"Bull Creek Series III"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
54" x 84"
You've had numerous exhibitions in both gallery and museum settings, and have received some very important public commissions as well.  What do you think made the difference in becoming established as an artist, and what advice do you have for young and emerging artists looking to develop a career.
In my world, I'm still trying to make it.  With my rating system concerning artists, the top are the “Blue Chippers.”  They’re the ones that we talk about in Art History class and whose works are in the major museums around the world.  Collectors scramble for their works worldwide.  The next group are the “Red Chippers” which I'm a part of.  We make a living and are full time artists.  Some of us in a given year might rival the “Blue Chippers” for sales and income but there is no worldwide connection and the important museums are very few.  Our collections in museums tend to be mid-size, not MOMA.  As a group we have to work much harder and usually have several galleries because the Marlborough in NY is interested in the” Blue Chippers,” not us.  We tend to make a killing though with art in public places.  Most of these projects are for less than $200,000 and the “Blue Chippers” don't want to bother for such a pittance.
My only advice for any artist no matter their particular level is to stay within themselves and do what interests them.  Whatever that may be, do a lot of it and a certain passionate depth will develop sooner or later.  When and only when this depth develops, it may be time to exhibit the work and hopefully receive criticism that they respect.  Most of us go to school in this developmental stage and then hopefully we continue development throughout our career.  Sales of art is fickle and in this economy very hard for the entry level professional artist.  Most of us (like you) at some time in their career develop their connections to the art world of sales while under the safe umbrella of having a teacher’s salary.  Some leave teaching when they feel the umbrella is no longer needed. 
You taught for many years and continue to give workshops.  Do you feel that teaching has helped you as an artist, and if so, in what ways?
I can give you several quotes and ideas about this from my old professor and my contradictory feelings, but as a long-time teacher yourself, I would be interested in your personal answer to this.  My old painting professor who is now passed away, told me when I started teaching at LSU: "Spending your time as a teacher helps your development in only becoming a better teacher, not necessarily as an artist."  I have mostly felt that with my teaching days, but here and there I would have an energetic, curious and talented student like you and I would feel personally enriched and energized.
What’s next for Larry Leach?
I do not plan on anything different.  My path is clear and happy for me.  I have ideas for my next group of paintings, but they will certainly be a continuation.  I am connected with several galleries and the sales and commissions come and go.  Over the years they have kept me with enough work to survive, and at other times the commissions have been an overload and I had trouble keeping certain galleries with enough work.  In my case, this is the lot of the artist.

View more paintings by Larry Leach and learn more about his exhibitions and workshops at

"Farm Road"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
54" x 68"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Artist Interview with Oil Painter Larry Leach (Part I of a Two Part Series)

"Mama's Sunrise"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
54" x 68"
When I decided to expand my blog to include interviews with other Texas artists, Larry Leach immediately came to mind.  Though Larry resides in Georgia now, I met him while I was a student at Lamar University in Beaumont.  I had drawn my whole life but never really studied art formally.  At that time I was undecided about my path in life.  As a child I had dreamed of being an artist, but the “real world" seemed to believe that art isn’t a job.  After a couple of years spent bouncing around different majors, I finally enrolled in a drawing class.  I had never drawn with charcoal, and I didn’t know anything about Larry at the time, but I immediately felt at home in his class.  He has a genuine and easy going demeanor and a true passion for art that’s infectious.  He saw my potential and soon became my first real mentor.  When I visited his studio in downtown Beaumont it gave me a glimpse of what it was like to be a working artist.  When I saw his paintings at the Harris Gallery in Houston and later in his one man show at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas I realized that art can be a career.  When I expressed my doubts about earning a living to Larry, he told me “First you get good at something you love, and then you figure out how to make money doing it.” Larry Leach has managed to do both.

For the past 30 years or more, Larry Leach has painted the landscape.  His is a world mostly devoid of people, a world in which light and color interweave with memory to create their own history.  He is widely praised for his ability to fuse mark making and depiction.  His works are as much about the act of painting as they are about the landscape. 
Paintings by Leach hang in several museum and corporate collections including the Brevard Museum of Art, the Alexandria Museum of Art, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, LSU, the Moody Center, and the Kaiser Aluminum Corporation.  He has also received several public commissions from the Florida Art in Public Buildings program.  He has had numerous one person exhibits throughout Texas, Florida, and Georgia, and is currently an outreach artist for ColArt America.
When I approached Larry about the interview he responded with enthusiasm.  As always he was extremely generous with his knowledge and his time.  His responses were so thoughtful and informative I’ve decided to break the interview into two parts rather than cut it short.  Here’s part I of the interview, and Part II will be posted on Friday, October 14, 2011.
"Late Afternoon Light"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
54" x 84"
What's on your easel right now?
I'm working on two paintings right now and both are near completion.  The larger one is 54" x 68" and as usual, I hang it on my studio wall while I'm working.  I like the white wall that it's resting on.  It’s the same as the gallery or museum wall that it will be shown to the public with.  The smaller work is on one of my easels and is about 20" x 30."  Both paintings are part of a continued theme that I started in the early 1990's when I was in Texas: the image of the untainted or primeval landscape with the search for early morning or late afternoon light which drags across its surface. 
Where do you draw your ideas or subject matter from?  I know you have worked quite a bit from memory.  Do you ever paint on location or use photographs as references? Do you keep a sketchbook?
My ideas come from my collective past which includes being raised on a rural and isolated Louisiana farm.  My favorite pastime was roaming the woods with my dog and a sketch book.  This still is my base for conceptual growth, aloneness with nature, a love for the craft of my materials and a respected consideration of the history of art. After this my ideas come from working.  One work begets another.
I paint from memory, watercolor sketches and in a lot of cases from invention.  I don't rely on photographs.  The act of painting is important to me and therefore my painting at its' best gets the feel of a particular motif but resides somewhere between abstraction and realism.
I always loved your studio set up in an old bar in Beaumont.  What’s your current studio space and setup like?
Five years ago, my wife Sheila and I built our home/studio in rural Georgia, not far from Savannah in the middle of 21 acres.  The structure including a loft has about 5000 square feet which is divided between the living and studio area.  The studio area has about 2500 square feet.  The center of the room has a height of 16' which slopes to each side down to twelve feet.  Sheila and I share the working space.  So my painting wall that the 54" x 68" work is on is 16' high and 16' wide that drops from the center of the room.  Though the 54" x 68" work may seem to be getting on a large scale, it seems small on this wall which is designed for me to be able to work much larger if I need to.  I have palettes with rollers that can shift around where I need them.

"Sampson's Island"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
54" x 68"

We used to talk about George Inness and Cezanne and their influence on your work.  Can you talk a little about the artists and movements that particularly affected you?
Technically, I probably have been influenced by Cézanne more than anyone.  Specifically his working method of building the surface through a series of laminated glazes with a constant addition/subtraction process.  He used only a one size round bristle brush, whereas I combine the palette knife with #8 and #10 Flat hog bristle brushes.  I employ his use of warm/cool colors to attain weight and depth and like him do not rely on traditional Chiaroscuro.  The effect is that depth in my paintings lies somewhere between the "window" (illusion of depth into infinity) and the "wall" (flatness). I do employ more linear perspective than him.  Like Cezanne, I want the image to be parallel to nature and not a copy.  Cézanne also did watercolors on site and sometimes used them as guides in the studio.
The viewer of my work will probably see a closer connection to Inness.  This is because of similar themes (early morning and late afternoon dragging light).  A year or so before his death, he worked for several months in Tarpon Springs, Florida.  This whole area of West Florida is fairly flat.  Inness and later I and other artists have enjoyed the late afternoon dragging of light and the shadows off the live oaks which are native to the area.  Inness was a leading artist connected to the Hudson River School.  He was specifically influenced by Camille Corot.  Inness would impart Corot’s Barbizon Romanticism to his own work and like Corot, was primarily a studio painter.  Corot called his work "souvenirs" (memories of the landscape.)  He would also use watercolor to help him with his imagery, although one of his best friends did photos of most of the sites where Corot painted.  The main thing Inness got from Corot was the overall unified tone of the painting.  Therefore Inness and the third generation Hudson River school were known as "tonalists".  If you look at Corot and the other Barbizon Artists, you will always see a cow, a person behind a tree, ducks, etc.  Inness continues this with his work.  I depart from this poetic sweetness as you will never see a duck, human or anything but the pure landscape in my work.
Others who have a considerable voice in my work have been Monet with his series of paintings (28 haystacks) where the subject matter really becomes the light and his interpretation through his color and process. Also with his later large works, there is a feeling of entering into an environment and there is no focal point, no beginning or end.  Like Pollock’s' work, the drawing becomes inseparable from painting.  I abandoned the focal point in the middle 1990's and my whole body of work since has become somewhat of a series and part of an environment. 

"Island Counterpoint"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
20" x 20" each

In 1995 you had your first museum exhibition in Beaumont, TX at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.  I was struck by “Padre Island Counterpoint”, your grouping of forty 20” x 20” paintings of the Gulf Coast.  What led you to explore the idea of repetition in your landscapes?
These were meant to be seen collectively as one work, but also could be seen autonomously.   This idea was from others of course.  Jennifer Bartlett had just done her series of 250 enameled 12" metal plates in NY that were exhibited as one piece.  Some of the minimalists (Judd) also used this idea of repetition.  My friend Salvatore Peccarro from San Francisco showed me his 12" photo/silkscreened panels from a photo of the sky taken each day of 1992.  There was the obvious passage of time within this huge overall work. 
Since my initial series with 20" x20", I have produced over 900 20" x 20" paintings and have exhibited and sold as many as 60 at one time that were always placed 4" apart.  These are all over the U.S. and a few places overseas.  I have since used the idea on other scales (20" x 92" in repetition, etc.)  Besides other artists concerned with repetition, probably the main continuing influence is from Beethoven and his use of what he calls "counterpoint".  He would have a 28 minute composition with autonomous elements within that would lend themselves to the overall musical score.  Therefore, I usually name my repetitive groupings "Island Counterpoint" or something similar and the individual painting will be #1, #2, etc. from that particular counterpoint grouping. 
Paul Brach, who lives in New York and writes for Art in America, said: " The "Counterpoint" groupings is a lyrical exploration of the light over the ocean or an open expanse of beach: hung in series, the eye as it moves up, down, over and back has a sense of Proust's ephemeral time.  Seen as a totality the work has an ebb and flow like the ocean and time itself". 
"Beach Grass Series I and II"
Larry Leach
Oil on Canvas
96" x 30" each
Part II of my interview with oil painter Larry Leach.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Back Forty

"The Back Forty"
Mark Nesmith
Oil on Canvas
8" x 10"
A few months ago I had a gig with my band Hackberry Road at a private party.  The owners had a beautiful home, and we were set up on a ledge overlooking their pool behind the house.  On the other side of the fence behind the pool was open pasture with full trees and gentle slopes in the distance.  I remember being struck by the contrast of the blue sky against the orange of the field.  It reminded me a bit of paintings by George Inness so I whipped out my iphone and took a picture.  Then I forgot all about it until last night.  I was stumbling around in my studio, putting off working on a large painting that I'm not quite ready to start.  I looked through the camera roll on my phone and the scene once again jumped out at me.  It's not necessarily an uncommon view in Texas, and it's certainly a bit sweet and idyllic, but I've always loved the complimentary color scheme of blue sky against orange field.  I painted this one pretty quickly, using a medium sized round and a small flat bristle brush.  I dream that someday I'll have acreage like this of my own and be able to step out the back door into my own landscape painting, but for now I'll have to settle for oil on canvas.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunrise, Trinity River East Fork Wetlands, Kaufman County

"Sunrise, Trinity River East Fork Wetlands, Kaufman County"
Mark Nesmith
Oil on Canvas
8" x 10"
Click to here to bid on this painting.
Growing up in Southeast Texas near the Gulf Coast, marsh wetlands were a common site.  The look of the reeds and aquatic plants reflected off the shallow water was something I missed when I moved to Dallas in 1998.  Now there’s a wetland habitat close to my home in Seagoville that’s helping provide clean water for North Texas, and a wealth of painting inspiration for yours truly.
The North Texas Municipal Water District began construction on the East Fork Raw Water Supply Project in 2004.  Water is pumped from the Trinity River’s East Fork near Crandall through 1,840 acres of manmade wetlands.  The wetlands are located on private ranchland owned by the Caroline Hunt family estate.  The water constantly moves through aquatic plants to remove sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the water.  The cleansed water is then pumped 40 miles north to the NTMWD reservoir at Lavon Lake.  
It’s a brilliant idea, using plants, not machinery, to help meet the pressing need for water in North Texas.  It’s the largest reclaimed water project in Texas, and has the look and feel of a nature preserve.  There are more than twenty types of aquatic plants and a wonderful diversity of wildlife.  It’s a bird watchers dream come true.  In 2010 the John Bunker Sands Wetland center opened on site providing tours and exhibits of the wetlands.
This daily painting is a view of the wetlands at sunrise from Hwy 175.  Since moving to Seagoville in 2000 I have often painted the small creek running along the embankment beside the Trinity River.  Now that the wetlands have grown into a lush marsh I find myself more and more inspired by the view.  I love to watch the sunrise and set over the water.  Seeing the sky reflected in the shallow canals seems to erase the separation of Heaven and Earth. 
The wetlands are just a short drive from Dallas and make a wonderful family outing or a great educational field trip for a school.  You can find out more about the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center and schedule a visit here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs

"Steve Jobs"
Mark Nesmith
Oil on Canvas
10" x 8"
Click here to bid on this painting.
People who have only known me as an adult may not realize this, but as a young man I was a techie of the highest order. During middle school and high school countless hours of my youth were spent typing away at a computer.  During my freshman year I built a voice synthesizer for my old Commodore 64 computer and made it all the way to the Texas State Science Fair in Austin.  The following year I made to the region finals at the Houston Science and Engineering Fair with an expert system data base I wrote.  My friends and I were programming our own games with the dream of being the next big thing in Silicon Valley.  It wasn’t until late in high school that my focus began to shift more and more towards music and art and away from computers. 
This past week our nation mourned the loss of one of our true innovators.  Steve Jobs has been variously described as a visionary, a pioneer, and a genius.  He is credited with revolutionizing half a dozen different industries.  From Apple computers to smart phones and tablets, you’d be hard pressed to find an individual in our country who hasn’t been touched by some of his creations.  I was a late convert to the iPhone, but now I’m virtually lost without it.
Perhaps more important than the Macs and iPads he masterminded, Jobs genuinely seemed like a pretty good guy, temperamental and demanding, but a good guy nonetheless.  That seems to be a rare trait among our top business executives.  At a time when there are protests bordering on riots on Wall Street denouncing the inequality of our economic system, there are few who have bad things to say about Apple’s creator.  Whether through intent of design or by timing or sheer luck, much of the technology Jobs helped to pioneer opened doors for us little guys still dreaming of making it big.  I use Garageband and Logic on an iMac to record my music in hopes of releasing my own cd in the near future.  iTunes made it possible for unsigned musicians to compete head to head against the major labels, something unheard of when I was playing in my first bands in high school.  The same can be said of amateur movie makers and fine artists.  The advances in technology have opened a whole world of possibilities for those of us trying to make a living from our creative juices.
Jobs was a perfectionist who tried to foresee and predict trends in technology before they happened.  I think that’s true of all visionary minds, from Edison and Ford on up through Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.  As the great Silicon Valley pioneers head to their golden years, I wonder who the next generation of innovators will be.  Innovation in America almost seems to be a forgotten dream.  Steve Jobs was one of a kind, but I’m afraid we’re going to need a few more like him if our country is going to have as bright a future as our past.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Terrell Texas Daily Photo: thursday!

Texas Daily Photo is Brian Stout's ongoing visual diary of Terrell and the nearby region.   Brian is an amateur photographer who has been taking a picture a day in and around Terrell, Texas (or anywhere else he travels) and posting them on his blog since 2008.  Follow the link below for his current post featuring a dramatic sky image.

Terrell Texas Daily Photo: thursday!: 3 days til my 20k! a little nervous, but i'll finish one way or another... if i have to walk or crawl to the end. i'm getting some of that ...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nightfall at Lake Mineral Wells

"Nightfall at Lake Mineral Wells"
Mark Nesmith
Oil on Canvas
10" x 8"
Click here to bid on this painting.

Today's daily painting is a view across the reeds by the spillway at Lake Mineral Wells.  Across the lake the sun has just gone down behind the horizon leaving a pinkish afterglow.  This 10" x 8" oil painting on canvas was painted alla prima and fairly quickly.  The paint is a bit thicker and jucier than I've been using lately.  I originally intended to go back and work to a slightly higher finish, but after stepping back it seemed to capture the fleeting moments of glowing light before nightfall perfectly so I left it alone.  I guess this rounds out a week of sunsets.  I'll be working on a couple of larger paintings this weekend, and after the brilliant display of sunrises we've had this week I think I'll have to paint a few images of dawn as well.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tony Cragg exhibit at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas

Tony Cragg: Seeing Things
September 10, 2011 – January 8, 2012

Yesterday I took the 4th graders from Martin Luther King, Jr. Learning center to the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Dallas Museum of Art.  The Dallas ISD schedules every 4th grade class for a DMA field trip each year, and the Nasher allows us to tour the sculpture galleries for free on the same day.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to view the Tony Cragg: Seeing Things exhibit at the Nasher.  It's the first U.S. museum exhibition in nearly 20 years of Cragg's work. The exhibition will be on view at the Nasher Sculpture Center from September 10, 2011 to January 8, 2012.

The show features about 30 large to mid-sized sculptures dating from 1993 on up to some of his current work.  While Cragg's work can appear non-objective with a casual glance, there are actually many hidden treasures to be found.  My students loved discovering the various figurative references in the sculptures.  Many of the pieces contain profiles and parts of faces that are only obvious from certain angles.  Most of the larger works in the main gallery were made of wood, and the different grain patterns added another layer of interpretation to the work, often alluding to other materials in nature.  Some seem to suggest rock formations or sea shells. 

Critics praise Cragg for his innovative forms and his ability to tie together his interests in science and literature with an intuitive response to his materials.  The downstairs gallery featured a small selection of drawings that reveal part of his process.  My students particularly enjoyed the drawings created from binary rows of 0's and 1's that resolve into bedrooms and forests when viewed at a distance.

Outside in the sculpture garden there are a few more Cragg sculptures, including a large stainless steel piece polished to a mirror finish.  It makes for an interesting juxtaposition against the more organic feeling wood structures inside.  I'm planning to make a return visit to the Nasher and try to spend a little more time with Cragg's work.  It's an exhibit all ages can enjoy, and it's easy to see why the art world considers Cragg so highly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sunset at Malloy Bridge Road

"Sunset at Malloy Bridge Road"
Mark Nesmith
Oil on Canvas
8" x 10"
Click here to purchase this painting.
Here's a view of the sunset seen just over the tree line on Malloy Bridge Road near Seagoville, Tx.  All along Malloy Bridge Road there are acres of farmland.  This was a plowed field covered in a rich, dark top soil.  It made a wonderful contrast to the brightly lit sky.  Texas sunsets are spectacular, and you can watch them every night and never see exact same thing twice! 

When painting skies of any kind I find it useful to premix several colors on my palette.  For this painting I mixed a few greenish blues, several tints of yellows, oranges, and reds, and a couple of violets.  I like to start with a simple drawing indicating the horizon line and basic cloud formation, then loosely lay in the blues.  I tend to work towards the middle values initially, so I layed in the dark tree line and stronger values of the clouds next.  I finished with the vivid yellows and oranges and the small semi-cirle of almost-white for the sun.  I touched up a few edges and a couple of highlights on the ground, but I didn't want to overwork this one.  I like the loose and quick feeling of this painting.  It's kind of like watching the sky itself.  Everything seems to be constantly in motion.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Last Sliver of Light (The Golden Hour)

"The Last Sliver of Light"
Mark Nesmith
Oil on Canvas
8" x 10"
Click here to purchase this painting.
Here's a view from Malloy Bridge near I-45 in Ferris.  Malloy Bridge Road runs from Ferris through Seagoville and into Forney.  It's a very scenic drive, winding it's way through pastures and farm land and along gentle hills.  Part of the road between Seagoville and Forney is very low lying and is often closed due to flooding after a heavy rain.  On this particular evening clouds rolled in with the approaching rain at sunset, leaving one last, dramatic sliver of yellow at the horizon.  I wanted to capture the moment just before sunset when everything is bathed in golden light.  George Inness, one of my favorite American landscape artists, used the light during this "golden hour" to great effect in many of his paintings.  He believed the unifying effect and warmth of the lighting revealed the presence of God in all things.