As an artist and a teacher, I now feel the need to devote myself to work entirely from life. It's a choice based on quality and it's an important decision to make my work as strong and non-derivative as possible. For commissions, this can be especially troublesome, but I want to create truly original works of art that have a feeling of life in them. I want to create art that is as close to the source of nature as possible; And as a teacher, to encourage my students to do the same.
As a society we are now overwhelmed by digital photography. For paintings, this is particularly hazardous because many viewer's only relation to great works of art is through a screen. I see certain benefits, but the downsides are numerous.
Imagine if we lived with only recordings of music and no live music. What are the benefits of a recording? Well, most prominently, we have a greater access to the art and an ease of access. One of the advantages that I see is being able to catalogue my own work. the images on my site are meant as a visual record, but they're definitely not meant to replace the actual painting or drawing. Then we can ask, what are the limitations? Is ease of access always a good thing?
For me, a huge part of making art is about making a memory and to have an experience while painting. For a portrait, it's about being with the person and sharing a conversation. If I'm painting en plein air, I will remember trekking up the mountain until I reach the point where I set up my easel. Maybe I meet someone along the way and they comment on my painting. All of that is what I love about painting. Another thing to remember is that these experiences may not always be pleasant. I have a friend who said to me one time, "In hindsight, things will either be fun or funny." I try to remember this when I'm experiencing something that is real, but not enjoyable.
When paintings get boiled down to a photo-realistic image, it becomes devoid of life. I often say that I'm very impressed with photo-realism as a trick and demonstration of pure technical ability. In the same way I would be impressed by someone who had memorized the dictionary; I'd say, "Wow, impressive." But would I ever want to do that myself? Absolutely not. What's the point of that?
As I turn 30 this year, I want real world experiences. To look at things through my own eyes and develop more of my own style. To listen to live music. To take a hike through a beautiful area. To play a sport, instead of watching it on tv. To be in the game, instead of on the sidelines. To ride my motorcycle and skateboard. To make a pilgrimage to a museum and stand fact-to-face with a painting, in the same spot the artist stood before nature. To be sweating outside, battling the wind and bugs in order to create a painting. That's what makes me happy.
I have some big news: I am very proud to announce that I'll be teaching at the Teaching Studios of Art. The Teaching Studios of Art was founded in 2009 by artist and writer, Robert Zeller. Rob is a brilliant artist and I'm looking forward to working at his studio school. You all should also check out his book: "The Figurative Artist's Handbook". He's currently working on another book also which is coming in 2022.
This is all pretty new, but Rob and I spoke about a (virtual) still life course and possibly an in-person landscape workshop at their home base on the North Shore of Long Island, N.Y. I'm very excited about this opportunity and can't wait for classes to get underway.
For more information about this studio school, click this image below:
I started keeping a journal when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I'm going to be 30 this year so that makes it about a decade of journaling. I write about all sorts of things going on in my life, painting ideas, discoveries, philosophies, sketches, painful moments, heartbreaks, poems, funny moments, and anything else that. It's a creative outlet for me and a way to remember and preserve what I've experienced.
But this post isn't about my journal, it's about what I use to write in my journal. A fountain pen. For years I searched for a smooth and flowing style of pen to journal with. I tried everything from ballpoints to gel writers to sharpie pens. For years, I used a Pilot G 2 - 07 pen, which seemed "good enough".
A few years ago, I started to do research about old types of pens. I'm not sure what prompted it, but it was probably just my fascination with tools and techniques of the past. It also seemed that old letters and documents had a certain flow and beauty to them. I ended up getting a cheap, red plastic fountain pen from Staples. I tried it out and it bled everywhere, including through the paper and became a mess. It wrote for a few lines and then would skip. The worst part was that the ink cartridges ran out very quickly. If this is how fountain pens are, then I would stick with the Pilot G 2.
Then for my birthday, my Mom got me a very nice Sheaffer Sagaris fountain pen with my name engraved on it from Fahrney's Pens. It was a complete surprise, but I had had such a bad experience with the cheap fountain pen that I wasn't sure if I'd like it. Well, the difference between the cheap pen and the Shaeffer (which costs about $100) was night and day. Like so many things in life, the quality is what matters.
The Sheaffer didn't bleed onto the paper or skip lines at all. It was very smooth and felt great in my hand. The other main difference is that the Sheaffer has a refillable converter to hold the ink. It really opened my eyes to this beautiful tool.
So what makes a fountain pen so nice to write with? It's hard to describe, but there is a flow to a fountain pen which makes it feel more like painting than writing. You can write faster and allow your thoughts to flow with the ink (this also comes in handy for sketching). I had to make a couple of adjustments with my journals in order to accommodate the fountain pen: I now journal in a Letts of London book that has fountain pen friendly paper. A fountain pen's ink will bleed right through most paper, including Moleskines. It may seem like a lot of hassle just to do some writing, but I can hardly write with any other pen now.
Like most tools, there's a learning curve to using fountain pens and there's some homework to do in order to get the most out of your pen. Some quick tips while I'm thinking about it: Look up how to properly clean your pen, don't take your fountain pen on a plane, store your fountain pen with the nib facing up to avoid ink collecting in the nib and if you're not going to use your pen for a while then flush the ink out.
The final thing I love most about fountain pens is that the nib of the pen becomes adapted to your unique way of writing. From what I've read, this has to do with the elasticity of the nib and the way it becomes polished as you write in your style. For that reason, you shouldn't share your fountain pen with anyone else. (That might be the only valid reason to ever be selfish with your tools).
Any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below:
For my brother's birthday, I got him this make your own hot sauce kit from Gardener's Supply Co. I had some fun adding calligraphy on the bottle labels. I'm trying to get better at calligraphy and I'm enjoying the slow concentration that it requires. I also like it because I find it very relaxing. I'm not knowledgeable about the techniques of calligraphy but maybe I'll learn about it and take a class one day.