Archive for the ‘Art show’ Category

Watermelons in the Grass

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Watermelons in the Grass by M-J Kelley (pen and ink)

Watermelons in the Grass by M-J Kelley (pen and ink)

I quickly drew this when I was at a an art show in Sacramento, California. It was unbearably hot and everyone just seemed to move slowly through the thick air.

The pile of watermelons were lying quietly on the grass, undisturbed by anyone. They were a beacon of summer refreshment and an intriguing visual image – one that a Canadian doesn’t see very often. So here’s to summer and piles of refreshing watermelons!

BIG IDEAS

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

I love BIG IDEAS. Somehow, I magically come up with a plan for something and move in that direction. When I do that, I give it my all. I dig deep and research, ask questions, stay up late, get up early and do the hard work needed to achieve my goals. This behavior is a constant as long as I have a BIG IDEA.

For the last several years, I have had a BIG IDEA for my artwork. I have worked hard and some of that has paid off. But some, quite frankly, has seen me throwing precious energy into the wind only to watch it fly away.

The latter is unbelievably frustrating.

And so, here I am, reassessing my BIG IDEA. In fact, I’ve been doing it since late September, which is the main reason why I haven’t posted a blog since then. Reassessing BIG IDEAS is a bit paralyzing. It’s a mental transition that seemingly affects all of me. I am no good without a BIG IDEA. The transition takes time, but fortunately, I always seem to be able to move toward another BIG IDEA.

My new BIG IDEA begins with a return in the New Year to my traditional figurative roots. I was never very far from it, but it is hard to do everything I like to do. I have spent the last several years exploring my imaginative work with my surreal art. It will continue on its creative storytelling journey even as I take a more traditional turn. And as for my wildlife drawings, I have opted to only draw a few of them this year.

The biggest thing I am axing from my last BIG IDEA is the art show circuit. I want to focus on being a better artist ― strengthening my knowledge, honing my skills and just enjoying the process. Sometimes the art show preparation is so demanding that it is easy to forget that I paint or draw not for others, but for myself ― for the simple goals of expression and enjoyment.

I have other ideas tucked into my BIG IDEA but for now I think that is a good beginning to the New Year.

Art on Steroids

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I recently listened to a 60 Minutes podcast reporting that Lance Armstrong”allegedly” used performance enhancing drugs in order to win the Tour de France races. The basic premise of the story was that a cyclist had to blood-dope – because everyone else was – if he even wanted to possibly have a chance at winning. And if he didn’t? Well, forget it.

We have this too in the visual art world.

At a recent art show, I was once again reminded to what lengths an “artist” will go to produce salable artwork. At the show there was an “artist” there who painted on top of a photograph to create realistic looking animals. I believe this to be a performance enhancing art aid. A photo is taken, sent to a printer and printed on canvas. The “artist” then adds paint and sells it as if it were an original piece of art in the traditional realm of high realism.

I mentioned this technique to a 13 year old student of mine. He said, “Don’t they know that’s cheating?” and “So it’s about the product and not the process for them right?” Right.

Before I get into why this technique is wrong, I would like to mention that photography does have its place in the visual arts either as photography or as reference material for visual arts and illustration. But when an artist blurs those lines for the sake of making money, there are several issues:

  1. The “artist” isn’t being truthful to his/her customer because the “artist” is not disclosing that he/she has painted over a photograph. The purchaser of such work believes he/she is buying a “painting.”
  2. Juried shows love traditional realism. Rarely do jurors ask about the art making “process.” As a result, the shows accept the cheating “artists,” while rejecting those who have worked hard to learn their craft.
  3. The work is usually priced far lower than a work created from scratch by another artist. This is because the time, energy, and knowledge spent to create artwork goes into the pricing structure. This creates an unlevel playing field.
  4. The “artist” misses out on the true reason why one creates.

I am incensed by the nature of this type of work and by the “artists” who practice this procedure. I just don’t understand why these so-called artists wouldn’t want to learn – truly learn – how to paint and draw well.

As always, comments are welcome.

But I’ve Never Drawn a Polar Bear!

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

There is a lot to like about participating in an art show. The art, the people, being outside, etc. But sometimes there are things that make you want to run screaming from one. No, it’s not bad weather. I can handle bad weather – high winds, downpours, and extreme temperatures – all of which is fine.

What makes me a bit bug nuts are some of the things people say to me. It’s amazing really. Most of the time all is lovely. But then, every so often I am thrown for a loop. Take this little nugget of conversation from an elderly man: “My favourite painting is a copy of a French painting that I have. It is an exact duplicate painted by a man in China.” Now, I have no problems with Chinese painters. They are wonderful painters. But I do have a problem with forgery. Forgery is bad. How is it someone doesn’t understand that? Or does that become a larger discussion about art in the public domain?

Moving on…this past weekend a man in my booth turned to me and said, “I recently bought one of your pieces…from the Goodwill,” to which I responded, “No you didn’t.”

“Yes I did. Same style, same last name.”

“No you didn’t. This is a new series of drawings.”

“It was of a polar bear.”

“Right, I’ve never drawn a polar bear.”

Throughout the conversation, the man’s girlfriend nodded in agreement with her boyfriend.

Finally, I asked: “How much did you pay for it?”

“Fifteen dollars. It was a good deal.”

And with that they strolled out of my booth.

I hope they enjoy their artwork. You realize I have to draw a polar bear now.

8 out of 9

Friday, June 10th, 2011

That is the number of art shows to which I’ve been accepted this year. I think that is pretty darn good.

Sometimes, I tell you, it is a crap shoot. Neither rhyme nor reason as to why an artist is accepted into one show and not into another. Or why an artist was accepted the year before and not the following year.

But one thing is for certain: an artist should never take “rejection” personally. And though I’ll admit to a slight disappointment – which lasts momentarily – what follows is a fire in my belly and then I’m onto another new project. Rejection grants me precious time to work on new ideas.

Oh, but first you are probably wondering what show didn’t accept me. That would be the Queen West Art Crawl. I was informed in a “batch” email, broken down by alphabet. I was in the J, K, L, and M rejection pile. Who knows how many others were informed from A to I or N to Z. How do I know this? Because the author of the email used the CC line to address her bad news to me and 19 other artists. Can you believe that? Really, how rude to be batch emailed like that. I know 4 of those 19 artists – and their work is fabulous.

They, like me, should have been emailed directly and personally. We deserve that respect, even in rejection.

Art Shows 2011

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I have changed my mind … I have decided to show both my surreal landscape paintings and my wildlife drawings this year at regional art shows.

Some artists choose to display only one style. They worry about confusing their audience. I worry about that too. But I think it’s important to stay true to myself, my interests, and my varied forms of expression.

Because of my training, I am able to draw what is in front of me as well as what is lurking in the back of my head. I enjoy both the technical proficiency of sight work and the imaginative creations that come from cerebral drawing.

I don’t like showing two types of artwork at the same show. Instead, I have opted to review each show and decide what type of art is suitable based on the show’s focus and the people who attend.

I have applied for two September shows with my surreal landscapes. All of the other shows I will be showing my traditional work.

For a listing of my upcoming shows, please visit Events.

Artistic Decisions

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Recently, I have had to make some hard decisions regarding my art practice. Last year I showed my surreal artwork at art shows with varying degrees of success.

I realized after a long assessment these art shows may not be the proper forums for my surreals. There are many reasons for this. But one of the reasons that stood out for me was that of simple human conditioning.

Most art shows show a mix of traditional and contemporary with few showing surreal artwork. I think when people wander about a show they are preconditioned or have a visual imprint of the type of work they expect to see. This is really good for people who are showing similar work. It’s not as good for those who show different work.

I liken this to a person in the travel section of a bookstore who stumbles upon a misplaced children’s book. They are not looking for that type of book and hence dismiss it even though it may be a really good book. If, however, the children’s book was in its proper section, then it may have been better received.

I love my surreal artwork, but I feel they need to be shown in another format – a graphic novel or children’s book. Which means I will not be showing my surreal artwork at the art shows this year. Instead, I will be eagerly presenting my traditional wildlife portraits – which I love just as much.

An Artist’s Fundraiser

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Beauty Flower and the Skull Mirror (gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

The Little Art Show is a local juried art auction offering original and limited edition works donated by established and emerging artists (and no bigger than 8” x 10”). Event proceeds fund the operations of the Artists’ Network, a dedicated member-driven not-for-profit with a mandate of supporting visual artists and their practice through a program of professional development, studio and exhibition opportunities. The Artists’ Network operates the Hang Man Gallery and the annual Riverdale Art Walk.

I have donated The Beauty Flower and the Skull Mirror to this auction. This work is an imaginative creation originating from a pencil drawing, and is part of a larger series on surreal landscapes that I create. This small piece is a contemporary “vanitas” piece, representing the transient nature of vanity but with a live for the moment flair that seemingly exists in today’s society. It is painted with gouache on recycled press board.

This event will take place at Saturday, November 13, 2010 at the Mercedes-Benz Downtown 761 Dundas St. E., Toronto (Dundas & River) from 7 – 11pm. For more information about the show: The Little Art Show.

Wooden Cutting Boards

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

A few months ago I met a man at an art show who was selling wooden cutting boards. He asked me what I was doing at the show and so I told him I was showing my paintings. He then told me that he too was a painter. I asked him why he wasn’t selling his paintings. He responded by telling me that it was easier to sell wooden cutting boards than it was to sell artwork.

He then pulled out an old magazine that featured his artwork. The magazine displayed the most meticulously painted watercolours I have ever seen. They were collages of items that he had found along the way – ticket stubs, napkins, matchbooks – all painted in high realism. I was really impressed. I asked him if he was still painting. He told me “no.” Then with a shrug, he added “besides I already have a stack of paintings I can’t sell.”

Perhaps I was a bit naive to think that all artists care for their artwork as I do. I think it is important to be flexible with your work and to anticipate and integrate change. I guess if an artist’s focus is purely sales, then moving towards another art form would be favourable. But for me, I like what I do, so I try keep my work evolving and to be on the lookout for something that would work better while always remaining true to my work.

Silent Auction

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

The Band (gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

The Band is a gouache piece that I painted a few weeks ago. I created it specifically as a donation to a jazz and blues silent auction. The proceeds from the auction are to fund art exhibit display fixtures for the Collingwood Library.