Starting February 2014 this blog will be out of action.

But DO NOT DESPAIR. We've just moved, and you can still find the same riveting and informative posts that you have come to expect on our new blog:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's in a Title?

This is an excellent painting. The lighting, the composition, the execution, they are all excellent.  I look at it and don't know what is going on exactly, but I love it. I want to know more about it. I want to know what compelled the painter to make this image.
So I look at the title.

The title is "The Old Shepherd's Cheif Mourner," painted by Edwin Henry Landseer.
I enjoyed the technical excellence of the painting, but it wasn't until I read the name that I truly appreciated the painting's narrative excellence as well.
I look at the painting again, and now the dog's face takes on a sense of loss that is heartbreaking. Layers and layers of story now begin to unfold around the image for me.

Most of the time I dismiss titles as unnecessary nonsense by which lazy artists prop up technically inferior work because it lacks the ability to stand on its visual merits alone.

And it is true that in the past there have been instances where artists have taken a shortcut to applause by coming up with names for their work that sound fashionable or hyper-intellectual.

There have also been hapless artists who just wanted to paint something simple, like a lake, because it made them happy, but who then felt compelled to add some title implying that the image is really a statement on the post-industrial consumerism or the plight of the proletariat in eastern bulgaria or some fashionable elitist cause. All because they were afraid of their work as being labeled sentimental or anti-intellectual because it was representational and wasn't shocking.

This appreciation of psuedo-intellectual titles seems to have fallen away somewhat in the past few years. (I personally thank Frank Frazetta and video games for this)

There even exist online name generators to lampoon the whole idea of this sort of naming.
Consider http://noemata.net/pa/titlegen/ which will generate three pieces of abstract art at random, all with suitable titles.

However, this cultural reaction against fancy names has its drawbacks. And that is that we may forget the great value in a title.  I certainly do. In my efforts to avoid trying to sound pretentious I generally name my work something like: Painting #2, Monster #15, George Washington Field-Tackling a Bear #34 and so on.

But there is a classical use for titles. And that is to take an image that is already technically excellent on its visual merits alone, and then provide the viewer with further context and insight into it.

"The Old Shepherd's Cheif Mourner" is an excellent example of how a name can add to an image, and not be a replacement for technical excellence in one.


Lamp Post Guild Update:

Good news! In spite of my false promises involving domesticated camelid mammals, we somehow managed to meet our financial goal in the first 24 hours! So now the Guild is stretching its initial goals and is expandeding its course line-up.
To see what's happening check out: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pathwrightpress/the-lamp-post-guild

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

LlamaGate 2012

Excerpt from The Post Gazette, Oct. 10, 2012:

"In the wake of what is being called "The Llamagate Scandal," Justin Gerard's office has released the following:

"I want to apologize to everyone for the statements I made last week. I made some very foolish and insensitive promises involving llamas. It was childish and negligent. To all my fans and those who have supported me, I extend my sincerest apologies. 

 And to Llama-herders everywhere: I am sorry." 

Justin's original statements were met with a flood of outrage and confusion as media outlets everywhere scrambled to make sense of it. A long-time fan who preferred to remain anonymous said, "I just, I just can't believe he would promise a llama."

A local llama-herder said Mr. Gerard's statements were "downright spiteful and mean-spirited," and speculated that Mr. Gerard may not have a soul.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Goat Owner's praised Mr. Gerard's statements as "groundbreaking" and "honest," adding that "llamas are overrated anyway."

Mr. Gerard's office was not available for any further comment when contacted by this news agency."

For more on Llamagate 2012, please see http://quickhidehere.blogspot.com/2012/10/online-illustration-courses.html.


Guys, it was an honest mistake. I wanted to generate some hype for this online course and so I made a few reckless promises. I mean, who hasn't these days?

As a means to make it up, I have drawn for you this Luminous Golden Llama:

Also I have news on The Lamp Post Guild!
Today the Guild is launching its Kickstarter campaign for its interactive courses. These courses are super in-depth and will offer a lot of step-by-step tutorials and lessons for you to take at your own pace. We are really excited about the possibilities of these. (I would have killed for something like this in college.)

My course will be on illustration.  From thumbnail to final color image.
My dual course on "How to bake the perfect chocolate-chip cookie and Survive an International Scandal," is unfortunately not ready to launch at this time.

Pledges will receive early access to the courses as well as a variety of other oddities ranging from digital wallpapers to original oil paintings.

Check it out at www.LampPostGuild.com.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Online Illustration Courses

I have finally gotten around to doing some online illustration courses. Now, for the millions of you who have written me clamoring for a course on how I make the perfect chocolate-chip cookie, I'm sorry, but you will have to wait.

In the meantime though, I am working on an in-depth course on illustration through the Lamp Post Guild. The course will be super in depth and will offer demos and step-by-step lessons which you will complete at your own pace.  I will also personally give you a llama.

In my day, art education had largely to do with stealing books from libraries, or abducting experts and holding them at gunpoint until they told you everything. It was not unlike working with the mafia.  Except we were after art training, and we didn't go in for silly hats.
Today, using the magic of the world wide web, we no longer need to use guns, threats of violence or even money laundering to get an art education.
It's actually quite exciting how things have come along.  Sure, we will miss the smell of cordite and gun oil after a long day of learning, but overall I think it is progress.

If you are interested, follow twitter.com/lamppostguild for updates.

*Note - I was kidding about the llama.  Please don't ask me for a llama if you see me at a show.  I will not give you a llama.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Rembrandt and Dirty Tricks

I will now show you a trick I stole from Rembrandt when he wasn't looking.

I begin with an extremely tight drawing, paying careful attention to the lines and proportions and expression.  I spend months and months of meticulous, precise draftsmanship to achieve the desired design.

I then destroy all of that and apply thick coats of paint like I am on fire. I also make sure to mangle the color. 

I then eat my drawing, fall into a deep depression and curl up under the table and weep while playing recordings of whales and sounds from outer space.  

Finally, I take a lousy digital photo of the painting. If there is one thing I am good at, it is taking lousy digital photos.

This is where Rembrandt's tricks come in.  Rembrandt had a curious habit of stopping a piece that was giving him trouble midway through and doing small studies of his painting to try and fix the issues that were troubling him. By doing this he could light his way forward without further savaging his painting. (see Rembrandt The Painter at Work from University of California Press for more on this.)

In my case here, I began to have doubts about my initial direction with color. I had originally been thinking the orange and green of mid day, but as I got into the painting I felt more and more like I really wanted this to be at night. So instead of possibly wrecking everything and having to rework it later, I took a digital photo, (HA! bet you wish you had one of these Ernst) after which I then applied a quick treatment of color in Photoshop (my native tongue).  This new comp, based on my current painting, is then used to guide me through to the finish and prevent me from losing my mind or trying to eat my own hands. 

 12" x 16"
Oil on Masonite

I hope Rembrandt will forgive me for this little thievery.

PS: For those of you wondering about the goats...  Here, this is what actually happened: