Saturday, April 30, 2011


Tajena, 30 x 60", oil/panel

Windswept trees appeal to me.  By their nature they survive in harsh environments.  Constant wind will shape the trees into wonderful positions.  This tree is on open ground by a windy lake.  I like the idea that it bends but adapts and does not break.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Amitabha Stupa, Sedona AZ

Amitabha Stupa, Sedona Arizona

The trip to Sedona and northern Arizona is over.  Along with exploring the magnificent landscape, we were able to photograph Buddhist stupas in two places.  The Garchen Institute in Chino Valley and the Amitabha Stupa , both have two stupas each. So we return home with four new stupa photos for our book project.  This leaves us with only a few more places to visit until we complete the photography portion of the book and get into the layout and design.

Garchen Institute, Chino Valley

Friday, April 22, 2011

Resin Resin Everywhere!

I've dropped by a lot of art galleries here in Arizona (Scottsdale, Sedona, etc.) and I'm amazed at the sudden rush to coat art work with resin epoxy pour-on surfaces up to a quarter inch thick.  Art galleries are displaying, in some cases, up to 90% of their 2 dimensional works coated with these shiny surfaces.  I spoke with a few dealers who told me they have a hard time selling art without the coatings.  They explained that much of the market in this state is dominated by tourists and unsophisticated collectors buying art for vacation homes.  These folks respond to the thick shiny surfaces and see anything without the smooth finish as "poor quality".  Their criteria for determining quality parallels their appreciations of furniture, car finishes, granite counter tops, etc.

Example of resin coated painting from Etsy, on sale now for $300.
I first encountered this surface treatment about 10 years ago when I met Peter Hoffer who jokingly called himself, "the plastic counter top guy".  We laughed together at the famous quote by JM Turner who said, you need to put enough varnish on a finished painting so that the collector can see his own image in the mirror surface.

The original intent for varnish was to revive the dulled colours that result from oil paint drying. As well, the varnish protects art from the dirty environment.  It was designed to be removable so that paintings could be  cleaned.  These were good ideas and made sense.

In ten years the mad rush to coat so much art with a thick shiny surface is less about colour enrichment and protection, and more about the sensual feeling of smooth surfaces.  But what is beneath the surface?  Here in Arizona I find a lot of rather poor, second rate, weak paintings being dressed up with a shiny surface. I think serious contemporary artists should worry that application of resin coatings over their artworks will soon associate them with "tourist art" or "flea market art".  This resin trend is being taken over by unremarkable low end crap.  Serious painters beware, you may be tagged with guilt by association!

Addendum (May 6, 2011).  I spoke with an engineering professor (Wayne Reddit) from Georgian College who is an expert on epoxy resins.  He explained that these resins will yellow under normal lighting conditions over a span of a few years.  Over longer time spans the yellow will become quite pronounced. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hopi Lands

Sitting on the second mesa in Hopi Land.

I'm taking some time away from the studio to recharge my artistic batteries.  I am visiting the Hopi Indian reserve in the central part of the Big Rez - the Navajo reservation in Arizona.  This harsh, arid and visually stunning landscape is composed of three large mesas.  The villages are small and traditional.  One of them that I visited yesterday, Old Oraibi (photo below) is the oldest continually inhabited village in North America, going back over a thousand years.  I was invited into a resident's house which required I climb a ladder to get in his front door.  The Hopi man, Bradford was his English name, is an artist who does fine abstract designs on wood using colours and burn in.  He explained the traditional meaning of each visual element and how these signs relate to his world.

Old Oraibi, Hopi Reservation, as close as I could get before I had to put my camera away (no photos allowed), click to enlarge.

Very old juniper on mountain side.

I am inspired by the pinon pines and junipers that dot the landscape with an infinite variety of shapes.  I'm sure these shapes will show up in new paintings I'll make this year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Ardea, 2011, oil/panel, 36"x48", (click to enlarge)

Shapes like this one excite me.  Getting the form just right is a challenge, but I really enjoy the fine tuning while the paint is still wet.

Just heard that a number of my recent paintings from 2010 - 2011 sold at the Tanner Hill Gallery booth at the Dallas Art Fair.  This is wonderful news for me since the whole southern USA experiment is just that, an experiment.  I'm trying to find out if the art market there will be responsive to my efforts.  Next stop for Tanner Hill is Art Chicago, then back south.  I hope things continue to go well for them with my work.

I leave for Arizona on Friday for a bit of a vacation in the Sedona area.  I'm pretty pooped from all the painting and working at Georgian College too.  A lingering cold isn't much fun, but I think it is because I'm run down.  Time to re-charge my batteries for a while.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mojave Verde

Mojave Verde, 2011, oil/panel, 60x40" (click to enlarge)
I am continuing to experiment with colour and how it suggests space.  This painting has a very simple spacial background.  I used the white hills of the Mojave desert in the distance to set out a simple horizontal division.  I kept details to a minimum, just enough to lay out the idea of "far away".  I mixed a manganese violet with white and blue to create the colour in the sky.  I wanted to see if this unusual colour suggests both light and air so that the central tree form is defined. It worked!