Sunday, June 29, 2014

I love surprises (sometimes)

'Bath House'

As I mentioned in my last blog, it was aviation art that helped me turn the corner. That was the work that was first noticed for me. When all that happened, I decided that I needed to push that love of aviation art. There are a few big juried shows for aviation art and it was there that I would need to get my work. The massive annual fly in at Oshkosh Wisconsin is one of those shows. I faithfully entered every year and did pretty well. The core of recognized aviation artists are a close knit group and I was the definite outsider. Add to that, I used an airbrush which for a long time in many traditional art circles had been deemed as some sort of cheat.

One goal that I had (as lofty as it seemed) was to have my work printed in Flying magazine. I sent several well constructed pleas but found little success. Over time my passion for painting planes was set aside for my passion for painting cars and we bring the story to the present.

The other day, I happened to find my name linked to an issue of Flying magazine back in 2001. Clicking the link, I found that in May of that year, they did a feature on some of the paintings from that year's show at Oshkosh. Surprisingly, the painting 'Bath House' was on the top of that page.

Sometimes things get checked off the Bucket List without you even knowing!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hornet High and Roger Ball, Hornet

Hornet High
Sometimes I slow down and try to look in the mirror to take a bit of stock in this journey I have been lucky to be on. People often have memories triggered by pictures, songs and even smells. For me, I can add seeing my old artwork to that list of triggers. Looking at a piece of art that I have done in the past acts like a time machine of memories. In some cases, I can even remember the songs that were playing in the studio as I was working on them.

Hornet High and Roger Ball, Hornet have a lot of these memories for me. I did this pair of FA-18 hornet paintings in 1997. My head is still spinning with what was happening in my life back then. I had been graduated from college for six years without a whole lot of hope of having that degree earn a living, I was married and had two young children. It really was at a point where painting pictures for a living seemed like a selfish hobby. However, something happened to my work to reinforce the path that I knew I needed to be on. This pair of Hornet paintings were received very well. Better than I had really expected. Both were accepted into the EAA juried art exhibit in Oshkosh and led to my first articles in Airbrush Action and Airbrush Magazines as well as a feature in Naval Aviation News. In addition, these two paintings became my first limited edition prints. It was clear that I needed to continue pushing.

Roger Ball, Hornet

Not only did these two paintings give me a boost of hope, they also brought me into contact with so many of the heroes that make this plane as incredible as it is. I was fortunate to meet pilots, ground crew, mechanics and even designers that made this plane live and breathe. They are memories that will live with me forever.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How paintings choose me

I am intoxicated with the creative process. There is something extraordinary when an idea takes on a life of its own and really dictates its own outcome. That was certainly the case for 'In the Club', the painting of a 1949 Cadillac.

This painting began life while I was visiting my friend John at his antique shop, The History Room. On the wall he had displayed a number of old license plates from various states and years. My first thought was how cool it would be to tie a vintage plate into a painting. That got my head spinning with thoughts of sanding and priming a square directly on the center of the plate for the painting. That idea immediately presented several challenges such as dealing with working on the uneven surface of the raised numbers. This idea also raised the concerns of altering an actual '49 plate. I settled on creating a painting  that would sit above the plate rather than altering the vintage piece.

The painting itself usually dominates my thoughts in the early stages of the process however with this piece, I found myself wrestling with the manner in which it would be displayed. I knew that the work needed to be suspended above the plate without damaging it. The solution came in attaching the painting to a pane of glass in the middle of the frame. The pane would be invisible and not touch the plate at all. This brought me to my friend and master woodworker Larry Rancourt of Larry's Custom Woodworking to figure out the details of this very unique frame. I described to Larry what I was trying to achieve and he immediately took the ball and ran with it. The choice of the framing wood always goes hand in hand with the painting. Knowing it would be a vintage American car as the topic, we ended up deciding on Mahogany with an inlay of Maple.

Now that the frame was under way, it was time to turn the focus on the painting itself. This was the first time that the frame construction was put before the painting itself. I had a 1949 Massachusetts plate so I needed to find a great car to go with that plate. It didn't take long to settle on the incredible 1949 Cadillac Club Coupe. The image for this painting came from John Filiss of Serious It was the perfect image in that it showed all the beauty of the car and prominently displayed it's rear plate which I wanted to replace with my MA plate. From there it was business as usual getting the painting done.

Once the painting was finished, it was installed in the frame. One modification that was made was that the glass that the painting was mounted on needed to be tinted. The plate was visually very powerful and needed to be muted to separate it from the painting. The skill of Diamonds Window Tinting got the pane of glass perfectly tinted.

The result of all this was a painting that literally instructed me the entire way through the process. It is without a doubt where the most successful pieces come from.