Saturday, September 13, 2014

VL Article on Hall Groat, Culinary Art Immortalized: From table to wall By Francine Butler, freelance writer

 Culinary Art Immortalized:  From table to wall
By Francine Butler, freelance writer
Culinary chefs understand the importance of presentation and how often have they heard that their food is almost a shame to eat.  New York artist Hall Groat II has married his classical oil painting style with his appreciation of culinary art, specializing in desserts, by capturing them on canvas.  He has been specializing in this genre of art for the last eight years and has avid collectors of this from all over the world.
     Most collectors say they hang them in the kitchen and dining rooms where they evoke a warm welcoming feeling – making company feel at ease along with being aesthetically pleasing.  They are often hung in groups.
San Francisco collector, Terasa Ng, states “I love the chocolate Truffles piece that I purchased; I hung the piece in my kitchen grouped with other chocolate desserts from other artists. The family came over for Thanksgiving and they love the pieces and it has inspired my family to display desserts in their kitchens.”
Another collector in Palm Beach states, “I hung two of the pastry paintings in my kitchen, one below the other.  Not only do the colors in the paintings match the tones in my banquet room but I get the added bonus of having a couple of pastries without putting on weight.”
A prominent collector from Dubai, UAE during the summer of 2014 purchased two of Groat’s major dessert paintings, including lemon meringue pie and a banana split.   The collector states, “Some twenty years ago we travelled a lot to Italy and my husband and kids would always eat a banana split while I would have an expresso. It became a joke that I had to watch the family eat goodies while I saved!”

Many collectors have expressed that they like the colors and how the paintings become a lighthearted topic of conversation during dinner parties at their homes.
    Groat has created a couple hundred dessert paintings since 2006, ranging in size from tiny, six inch slices of cheese cake, all the way to gargantuan forty inch tall jelly-filled donuts.  He has painted nearly every dessert one can imagine, from iconic banana splits and chocolate sundaes to popular culture brands, such as Tastykake cupcakes and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream cones.  “Painting sweets early in the morning will curb your sugar addiction for the rest of the day” the artist claims. His studio drawers are filled with a variety of desserts that have been collected through the years that he uses as props to paint from.  The sugar preserves them quite well.

The artist insists, “Both creating and looking at paintings is cathartic. When people think creatively and keep their minds busy, they often forget that they are hungry. So for your next dessert try taking a bite out of a mouth-watering oil painting of a raspberry tart, rather than being seduced by that fat filled chocolate pie at your local supermarket.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Artspan Artist Spotlight Interview with VL Rees

 When did you realize you loved art and wanted to be an artist?
Before first grade!  I took art classes throughout elementary and high school, dabbled in college and after graduation, then gave it up for nearly 30 years.
Approaching retirement I thought about what I wanted to do after a left the corporate world and realized where my heart was.
It wasn’t easy to pick up a paint brush after a long break but gradually I began to make paintings that I enjoyed and didn’t make me want to cry.

Who has been your mentor, or greatest influence to date?
My first art teacher: Michiko Boorman.  She came to this country after WWII and raised a family while she studied and practiced art.  She taught me the basics in such a supportive way.

Who is another living artist you admire and why?
I’ve yet to a meet an artist in the Triangle who doesn’t inspire me in some way.  That said, I would pick Dan Nelson, plein aire painter extraordinaire.  His work is beautiful and often done under extreme conditions.  I love plein aire paintings but as a mosquito magnet, I don’t aspire to it.

What is your favorite surface to create work on or to work with? Describe it if you make it yourself.
Stretched canvas with a colored ground.

What are your favorite materials to use?
Oil paints.  I especially love using a palette knife for abstracts.  Using Winsor & Newton’s Liquin Impasto gives a great sheen and helps layers adhere to one another.  It also stretches the paint.

How often do you work on your artwork? How many hours a week?
I would like to say every day and sometimes that happens!  Currently I am planning a studio where, for the first time, I will have natural light, HVAC, and plumbing.  Once I’m no longer in “the dungeon”, I hope to devote 40+ hours a week.

What is the one thing you would like to be remembered for?
Personally, that I was there for my family, friends, and colleagues.  As a painter, that I showed the beauty in ordinary objects.

There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as distractions, self-doubt and fear of failure. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
In every painting there comes that “uh oh” moment.  I call it buyer’s remorse.  It’s when you think, “what was I thinking!” for choosing that subject, that size/shape canvas, that color palette, etc.
How do you overcome these obstacles?
Practice, practice, practice.  Over the years I’ve learned when to just keep at it and when to put it aside to ponder where I go next.  It’s also helpful to know that one can paint over the real disasters.

What are your inspirations for your work?
The interplay of light and shadow, and looking at everyday objects from a new perspective.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

VL Studio Vist with Marzena Oberc-Habzda

I was borne in Poland, where I lived in historic city of Krakow. My favorite activity as a child were, drawing, painting or creating figures from clay. I always could be found at my desk consumed by my latest art project. I participated in various art competitions, winning various awards.
My grammar school teacher encouraged me to focus on art as a future career. During high school at Liceum Plastyczne , I studied drawing, painting, sculpture and restoration of historic wall frescoes.
Toward the end of high school I have moved with my family to U.S.  After graduation I attended Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, for continuing education.
I also attended Pair Collage of Art in Hamden, Connecticut. There I studied Graphic Design.
I am captivated, inspired and challenged by various subjects in nature.  My main focus is on nature’s delicate yet powerful beauty, remarkable design and perfect color harmony. I am driven by a need to explore and capture a certain sense of light to evoke desired emotion and inner feeling not easily captured and expressed in words.
I am fascinated with perfect unity, relationship of shapes and harmony of color that nature delivers with such ease and perfection. This creates constant excitement, drive and spontaneous approach to the subject. Inspiration for every painting comes from seeing and experiencing something beautiful, something so captivating that it takes my breath away.
I love painting with acrylics! For health reasons, a while ago, I had to switch from oils to acrylics.
Once I discovered Golden Open Acrylics I never looked back. They offer slower drying time, therefore an ability to be manipulated with ease in order to create oil like appearance. My painting technique does not require  blending of colors, therefore transition from oils was rather quick and easy. I paint with small tiles for color gradually banding them to a desired value, warm or
 cool temperature, manipulating edges and texture to create a desired effect with ease. Because of their quick drying time, acrylics offer instant visual gratification and result. I am representational artist, therefore my painting style requires a specific canvas texture in order to maintain certain control and manipulate the paint to accomplish the desired effect. My favorite painting surface is the Cleassens #13, oil primed , fine weave  linen panel by Sourrce Tek.
Love the gliding ability of Golden Open Acrylics on panel surface. Acrylics allow me to paint faster with very satisfying results. Colors are brilliant, pure and easy to mix and manipulate . The felling I am trying to convey is accomplished in a quick and satisfying manner. I tend to favor cool colors; i.e; blues, purples. My very favorite color now is Naples Yellow.  There are many incredible artists that I admire as most of us do. However there are two artists of the past that made a very strong impression on me when I was still a young child. First one is wonderful Russian painter of late  1800 Ivan Shishkin and the other Franz A. Bischoff. There are so many wonderful artists today that I love and greatly admire, like Richard Schmid, David A. Leffel, Morgan Waistling, Huihan Liu,  Dan Gerhartz, Quang Ho, Sherrie Mc Graw, Karthryn Stats, Jeffery Watts and Scott Tallman Powers just to name a few. I am very gatefull to all of them for there willing to share their knowledge and experiences with the rest of us, therefore helping us become better artists and bystep some of the common mistakes and learning arrors.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Artspan Artist Interview with Jan Sasser

When did you realize you loved art and wanted to be an artist?

I can't recall a time when I wasn't aware I loved art.  Books, music, and visual arts were all valued in my family.  As a child, I loved to draw and was inspired by the sketching of an older sister as well
as my great uncle's amateur painting and sculpting.  When I asked for quality drawing supplies they were given, along with the imperative to treat them with respect and practice basic skills first.

However, family role models made their living in “more practical
ways.  I didn't conceive of art as a career choice until much later in life.  I flirted with the idea of applied art as a young adult, but didn't actually make the move to painting full time til pushing 50, after many years as a social worker.  By that time, the backing and support of an exceptional spouse made the risk more feasible.

Who has been your mentor, or greatest influence to date?

I wouldn't say I've had a mentor per se, though living in Charleston, I've had the luxury of example and interaction with many fine artists.  While few are traditional realists like myself, there is always something to learn from one's masterful use of
color or another's exceptional composition skills.  The generosity of successful artists with technical tips and career advice often amazes me.  I'm grateful to Rick Reinert and others who have nurtured my confidence along the way and “nudged” me at  key moments to shoot for a high profile show or opportunity that paid off.

Who is another living artist you admire and why?

One of several who come immediately to mind is Mary Whyte, a Charleston watercolor artist of international renown.  I've long admired her mastery of watercolor but did not recognize how exceptional she is until seeing a major body of her work recently in her “Working South” exhibition.  Each piece is an evocative gem of dynamic composition, rich color and texture, and masterfully rendered images that   express the character and personality of each worker and workplace environment.  Pieces are all part of a totally coherent and integrated concept.  It's as though she “wrote a book in pictures” that tells the tale of a disappearing way of life and makes you feel you know all the characters.  How can you fail to admire an artist who can do that?

What is your favorite surface to create work on or to work with? Describe it if you make it yourself.

I paint on prestretched primed canvas or linen.  As a slow painter, I find these far too satisfying to be tempted to invest time in making or preparing my own.  I love the “spring” of canvas against my touch.   A good even medium tooth weave interacts beautifully with my brushes and varying strokes to create textural illusions while
still being “flat” enough to allow precise lines and details when needed.

What are your favorite materials to use?

Simply, professional grade Winsor Newton Oils, odorless mineral
spirits for solvent, and refined linseed oil as a medium.  For brushes I like hog bristle for underpainting and certain textures.
I like soft red sables for details, clouds, blending edges, etc.

Do you have a favorite color palette?

My basic palette is:
Titanium White, Naples Yellow, Ochre, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Raw Umber, Rose Madder Genuine,
Cobalt Violet, Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine, and Ivory Black
(added recently and used “rarely and sparely” in mixes of darkest darks).  Cadmium Red, Gamlin Radiant Red, and Gamlin Radiant Magenta are included occasionally for specific pieces.  Certainly, I could manage well with fewer colors, but find all these useful so
“why not?”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

VL Studio Visit with James Loveless

Art has been my passion for as long as I can remember.  I love people and I have relished drawing and painting the figure since my grade school days.  Fortunately, none of those early grammar school portraits are at my website.  My purpose is to create images that are beautiful and historical. My focus is to display Christian, family values and reveal the truth by reflecting historical facts. .  My Bachelor of Fine Art at the Kansas City Art Institute led me to life as a full-time graphic designer and freelance illustrator for over thirty years.  I enjoy the play of light and color in nature and I enjoy telling a good story.

When I am not painting commissioned portraits, or painting plein air, I have cherished having several Native Americans pose for me.  I have been interested in the life of Native Americans because of my ancestry.  My grandfather was a cowboy, horse trainer and rancher in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was married to my grandmother, who was half-Cherokee and half-African American.  I remember when I was a little boy.  Then, I would ride horseback and sometimes travel to see my grandfather in rodeos in Oklahoma and Arkansas; it was an awesome experience.  Currently, I am researching the history of the relationship between Native Americans and African Americans in the old west.  I have been fortunate to gain the assistance from the Texas Civil War Museum.  Their historians assist me in my quest to insure all the artifacts in my paintings are authentic.  My goal is to have my paintings auctioned successfully at the Coeur d' Alene in Reno, Nevada.

I am a member of the Oil Painters of America and I work in oil paint because I enjoy the flexibility of oils.  I enjoy observing people and I still continue in figure drawing sessions with the live model.  I challenge myself to work more efficiently by writing articles and blogs about different oil painting techniques and attending workshops.  Some of the painters that have influenced me include; Norman Rockwell, Caravaggio, Howard Terpning and Mian Situ.

I hope you enjoy my work!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

VL Studio Visit with Milton Wagner

Milton Wagner – Aspen Ironworks
Master Craftsman

 The crisp smell of aspen trees has always reminded me of the Colorado high country cowboy life.  I was born and bred in a small mountain town in southwest Colorado.   The only thing I ever wanted to do was be a cowboy.  My mother had a picture of a three year old me with a rope in my hand chasing after a chicken.  From chickens, I moved on to dogs, calves and occasionally my sister.
I was lucky enough to come from a farming family tree with the occasional cowboy branch.  I grew up on stories told to me by my two favorite cowboy heroes - my great uncle Clem & uncle Henry. Other cowboys I idolized were John Wayne, Louis L’Amour, Tom Mix and the boys from the Ponderosa.

I’ve often been asked why cowboys are my idols and I guess it really boils down to what a cowboy stands for.  The cowboys I was lucky enough to know were loyal, honest and hardworking.  
When I was in high school, I divided my time between metal shop and cow punching for local ranchers. Whenever the ranches needed equipment fixed, I was the go-to person because of my metal-working background.  I learned early on how to use my imagination to envision metal as a great medium.

When I was eighteen, I broke my first horse.  That horse was my best friend and partner in crime for the next 36 years.  Right after high school, I met my lovely wife. While we raised our three children, I worked as an iron worker for money and moonlighted as a cowboy for fun.  In my spare time, I’d gather leftover metal, wood and horseshoes for future art projects.

I started Aspen Ironworks, an eco-friendly metal art studio 15 years ago because I wanted to work for myself & focus more on my art pieces. I work in two main areas - a studio/workshop on the back of my property and under a large oak tree overlooking the horses.  I use the oak tree forge when the weather is too nice to stay indoors.  I use a handmade forge, several pairs of tongs handed down from my grandfather to father and then to me, and two anvils - a 200 pound workshop anvil and an 80 pound vintage farrier anvil which I can transport if I need to.

I started out with individuals cowboys made from leftover rebar and quickly graduated to western scenes.  I thought about what does a cowboy do? A cowboy’s life is simple. Cowboys rope, they ride, and they drink.  My western pieces reflect this lifestyle. I do bar scenes, I do rodeo scenes and I do cattle drive scenes.

I feel my work is unique for three main reasons.  First, my cowboy knowledge is authentic. It's important to me that the story I tell is the right one.  I've been in these situations I craft out of metal.  I've been bucked off a bronco and know which part of the cowboy is last to touch the horse. I've roped cows and know the correct angle of the rope loop. My cowboys hold it at the right angle for roping a cow on the first try. I’ve been on top of the mountain when it's cold and freezing and the only thing you want is a cup of coffee around the campfire. 

Secondly, I believe in doing lifetime work.  I’m putting my name on each of these pieces & I want the people who buy my art to have something that will last them for generations to come. There are metal workers out there who just tack their pieces together and that irritates me. If you're going to do a true work of art, you need to craft it right. Thirdly, I believe in leaving a better world for my children and grandchildren than I had which is why 95% of the materials I use are recycled, reused, or eco-friendly.  I gather used horseshoes from my farrier friends & old metal bits from local farmers and scrap metal shops.  I even have a page on my website for local residents to schedule scrap metal pickups.

Every piece of my art has a unique story.  For example, each mirror used on my bar scenes is a rearview mirror from a scrapped car or truck.  My chuck wagon base is the bottom of an old broken rototiller.  Recently I created a steampunk bug with ball bearings I had received when we replaced a steel ball mill in a gold mine. The ball bearings start out 8 inches in diameter and they roll around and crush up ore to extract the gold.   By the time I got them, they had been worn down to about an inch across. I saw those and thought they would make great eyes.

I'm really excited about a trio art piece I'm working on right now. I've got a cattle drive scene. I've got a chuck wagon, and I’m in the process of designing the campfire scene. After driving the cattle all day, there's nothing more a cowboy wants than to take a load off and grab a cup of coffee around fire. I’ve already decided how to make the fire. I have some discarded copper plating which I will melt down and then beat back up into flames.

Even though I’m retired from day to day ranching, I still get to play cowboy occasionally.  Twice a year I head to Colorado. I help drive my son’s high-altitude grass-fed cattle up onto their mountain grazing lands in the spring and back down in the fall. Driving the cattle among the aspen trees inspires this old cowboy to come home and preserve that vanishing way of life through lasting sculptures.

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
~Francis of Assisi

Saturday, August 16, 2014

VL Studio Visit with Carol Jo Smidt

My fascination with the beauty and grace of horses greatly influenced my artistic path. Drawing horses as a 4 year old is my first recollection of my passion for art. My bedroom walls were covered with my pencil drawings of my beloved horses. Hours were spent drawing horses and other animals. It was in kindergarten that I realized others would want my art. Dissatisfied with my work, I took a horse drawing and threw it in the trash can. A classmate reached into the trash and took the drawing because he liked it! Even at that young age, I was amazed that people would want my work!

After high school, I attended the St. Paul School of Art. Fast-forward with me through marriage, a son, 21 addresses in 26 years during my husband’s Navy career, and a BA in Advertising Design from Iowa State University. We finally settled in an equine community outside of Woodbine, a small town in southeast Georgia. I finally could have my beloved horses on our small farm, but although my passion for art was there it still resided deep within and struggled to come fully alive.

After a dozen years as a self-employed graphic designer and periodic dabbling with a paint brush, I learned that my passion for art was to call me back via yet another path. Enrolling in Savannah College of Art and Design and taking a number of graphic design graduate courses, I was finally brought back to my first love. It was on this part of my journey that I realized my need to leave the work and world of graphic design to get back to my first love – the visual arts and my painting!

What is my painting world like today? I recently moved from a small loft on the third floor in our house to my new studio, which is the entire first floor of our house. I set myself on a fairly structured schedule, and I focus on some aspect of my new artist’s life on Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. Many mornings are spent with paperwork and research.  Without a schedule, my painting time would vanish, and I would have a lot of blank canvas! My work is best done with some breaks. I take small vacations, but after a few days, I hear the call of my paints, brushes, and canvases, and I eagerly get back to my easel and pour myself into my paintings.

For me, painting is like working on a puzzle, without the picture on the box to guide me. Most times the answers do not come particularly fast. But by experimenting, nudging here and there, my ideas begin to take form and a new painting comes to life. I normally paint by adding layers over layers. When the paint becomes too wet or my eyes too fatigued by looking at the colors being used, I move on to another painting. I have between 4 to 12 paintings in different stages of completion. 

I’ve heard it said that there is “beauty in the everyday”. I agree. I enjoy painting ordinary subjects with extraordinary colors. My painting subjects are usually animals, but I like the challenge of painting other subjects. Through my painting experiences, I have branched out by creating landscapes, still life, and figurative art.

Wanting to expand beyond oils, I started painting with pastels and gouache. I have grown to love these two new media. Changing my media and changing the size of canvases from ultra-mini to very large helps me move into a new creative arena.

Not wanting to become too comfortable with my art, I strive to continue to learn by trying anything new; subjects, color combinations, techniques, and media. Knowing that you need to discover by doing, I have learned that my “best teacher is my canvas”. I have come to believe that “to learn is to paint” and “to paint is to learn”.

Participating in regional art shows and festivals is one of the ways that I promote my art and to develop relationships with collectors and potential collectors. I belong to a number of local and national art organizations. Painting is a solitary pursuit, and I can easily become a hermit. In addition to getting out of my painting world, it is necessary to have the support from other artists. My contacts with other artists become great learning tools to see their art up close and personal and to get to know the artist behind the painting.

For me, the journey of a painting is part ability, part technique, part intuition, part sweat, and hours of learning from past paintings. The reward and joy of this journey is the painting process and continues to the person who emotionally connects to one of my paintings. Pet paintings of animals that have passed have provided me with some of my most powerful emotional connections. One owner of a loving pet, Savannah, who recently passed shared this: “my sister and brother-in-law had this painting done for us (by me) and it captures her just perfectly!”  This is one of the big reasons I paint!