Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Traditionalism in Art

One of the major difficulties in being an artist is the problem of being "typecast". Successful contemporary artists, and the artists that are famous in art history, have a particular style (e.g. Monet), or always paint a particular theme (e.g. Morandi). This is problematic for artists who want to flit around and do a little of this, and a little of that; or paint this way one day, and that way the next. You feel like you are not free to change, and just paint what you want. You have to paint what your public wants, or what they expect you to paint. Believe it or not, this is a problem for even us ultra-small time artists.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Broken and Bent

"Broken and Bent" Oil on Canvas, 2006

Life in the city. Conveying flatness and depth at the same time. Overlapping. Integrated. Confusion - but making sense. Mystery in the ordinary. Ordinary mystery.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My wife and I were talking about watching Bergman films, and she commented on how dark and depressing they are. Made me think of this great clip from Woody Allen's film, "Play it again, Sam."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Article in the Roanoke Times

Here is an article that the Roanoke Times did on St. Francis Anglican Church and my arrival. In the print edition the article is entitled "Renaissance Man of the Cloth". That's kind of snappy sounding!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bare Bones of Nature

Living in south Florida for two years I'd forgotten how much I loved the deadness of winter... particularly when the leaves fall off of the trees. The "bones" of nature are revealed, and the underlying structure of everything, and all of the lines and shapes that form the framework of the trees is laid bare for all to see. It is tremendous inspiration for painting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back to Painting

I am back to painting now after several months of packing, moving, unpacking, churching, ministering, etc. It is nice to feel the brush in my hand again. There's no suitable place to paint in oils here at my new home so I am working solely in watercolor and egg tempera. I found some good egg tempera sites, by the way, here, and here. It is a great medium because of the subtlety of and quality of the brush stroke you can get, and because it works with the ease of watercolor, but has the permanence and versatility of oil painting. I have been doing some landscapes, and will soon go back to painting buildings, I guess.

That reminds me of a funny story. A lady who came by and did a TV news story on the church recently, when she found out that I paint said, "Oh, so do I. I am taking art classes in college. But I can't paint in oils because whatever you paint is there forever. I am not good enough to paint in oils because there is no room for error." A lot of people have told me that over the years actually. But the moment I hear that I know that they know nothing about painting at all, because oils are the most forgiving media of all (uh, ever hear of layers of paintings being done on a single canvas?). Oils can be layered on top of each other to no end, whereas watercolor cannot. watercolor is the unforgiving medium.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Art School Confidential

Anyone who wants to see what most art schools are like, and what most art school students are like needs to watch the movie "Art School Confidential". It was on my "to watch" list for a couple years, and I finally got around to watching it a couple of nights ago. It's quite comical, though you might have had to go through an art program to understand some of the jokes. I can personally say that it is very accurate: it captures all of the different types of folk in art programs, the deep-sounding but meaningless philosophical lingo, the PC crap, etc. Check it out if you are interested.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cleaning up

Today (my day off) I am going to clean up one of the rooms here at church so I can hopefully do some painting in there. An artist has to have a studio. I haven't painted anything for a month and a half and am anxious to start back again....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Arts Ministries

Why do all of the revisionist churches have arts ministries, and not churches that adhere to the Catholic faith?

I am going to start a gallery at St. Francis, God willing!

Reviving Christianity's Artistic Tradition

This is one of the best things a church could do:


I have been too busy lately with my new parish. Too busy to paint. Too busy to post. When I get settled and into a groove I will probably start doing some landscape paintings of the beautiful SW Virginia landscape.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Landscape Blues

My wife and I had dinner at a swanky yacht club recently with some parishioners, and there was a gorgeous painting by A.E. Backus in the dining room. Backus is a legend on the Treasure Coast of Florida, and is credited with teaching the original artists of the "Highwayman" school of painters - a group that I refer to as "Florida's version of the Hudson River School". The beautiful painting - which I didn't get a picture of - made me lament not painting landscapes myself. I started off doing landscape, and used to do it exclusively (in the Bob Ross style), but once I began my formal art education I switched to other subject matter. But there is something infinitely satisfying and appealing about landscape art. The natural world speaks to all people. One of the few such paintings I have done recently is pictured.

Landscape is actually much harder for me to do than other subjects - I think because it is already very abstract. It's easier for me to take a very ordered scene and abstract it. But to work from something that is already abstract and organic is very difficult. Then there is associated factor of capturing light, special details, and so on, which is best done plein air, but which I hate doing because of bugs, wind, people, etc. Yet still, as we get ready to move away from Florida (my home state - fourth generation... born in Coral Gables), I feel bad that I have not tried to paint any Florida scenes while living down here for two years.

One of the hard things about being an artist is trying to decide what to paint. Once you learn to paint, you can pretty much paint anything you wish, so the real difficulty becomes focusing in on something and sticking with it for a while. I get so worked up doing paintings of a particular subject matter (cityscapes, religious works, etc.) that it feels awkward at times trying to break out of that mold to do something new. So that becomes its own obstacle which is simply added to any technical difficulties surrounded with trying new subject matter.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

No Religious Art

A friend with whom I have collaborated on some art projects before is going to be having a show at a Washington, DC gallery, and was told that the works we collaborated on could not be shown as "religion" is not permitted in the show. When he informed me of this I responded as follows:

"I am not surprised that work with religious themes is being banned by these facists. I was asked (twice) to participate in shows down here, but there was a similar ban, so I boycotted them. So much for "open minded" people. And there is usually no rhyme nor reason for such censorship. I could see, if you were doing a show in the West Bank or something why there might be certain stipulations like these, but to encounter this in the USA (and especially in DC), where churches, and synagogues, mosques, etc. are on every corner, and an established part of everyday life, is really quite strange. Such bans actually display a great deal of cultural ignorance and stupidity, especially when they come from institutions that are seeking to be "relevant". Religion has formed our culture, continues to do so, and will always do so for millions of people from all walks of life. By attempting to take religion out of the public square in this and similar ways, these institutions show themselves to be special interest cliques that are completely out of touch with average people around the country and world."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vatican says images of BVM breast-feeding are okay

Finally, an art-religion related story that is worth reading! Maybe we Anglicans need some images like this in our parishes. Check out the story here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Technology in Service of Art

I have decided that need to overhaul how I update my art website. Keeping that thing current and looking halfway decent (at best) is tons of work. It takes away gobs of time from painting and promoting my art. But it has to be done, as it is the best way of promoting my work. I only have so much time to devote to keeping that dinosaur updated, so I have to do it in the most time effective manner possible. The problem is that I don't know how to do it. Maybe my wife can offer some suggestions as to how to streamline the process.

Being an artist is not easy. A lot of people think it is only about creating the work, but there is so much more that you have to do. You have to conceive the work, do studies and prep, buy supplies, create it, photograph it, store it, promote it, schlep it around to shows, maintain websites, and on, and on, and on. Each of those steps have a million little steps involved in them. Promoting your work and trying to get shows, for example, is incredibly time consuming, as you have to research possibilities, prepare packages of information, pay to apply for shows, and more. I suppose when (if) you become famous you can have "your people" do those things for you, or you can pay a web designer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Anglican Way Institute Summer Conference

The Anglican Way Institute is holding a summer conference on the theme of Finding Grace Through the Sacraments. It will be held July 2nd - 6th at the Church of the Holy Communion (REC) in Dallas, TX. This conference is especially geared towards college and career aged Anglicans, but anyone who wants to learn more about orthodox Anglicanism is encouraged to attend. I strongly encourage young people to attend this conference if at all possible!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Two "removes" from truth...

No, I am not referring my own mental outlook, but rather Plato's opinion as to why art is a waste of time and energy. Plato did not have a very high view of art generally speaking (e.g. poets and actors were to be banned from the Republic on moral grounds). But he did have a broad theory on beauty and art, and the arts did have a place - albeit a very limited one (mainly educational) - in society. To Plato, art is essentially imitative. When we paint trees, or people, we are painting a copy of a copy (hence the "two removes from truth"). If one is interested in seeking and knowing the truth, then why spend time copying copies of forms? Truth is to be known in forms. Interesting theory, but whether or not it is a waste of time to devote one's life to making copies of copies is a matter of opinion!

Aristotle's more positive view of art is right up my alley. As in most ways, Aristotle tempers and tweaks his teacher's theories. Not believing in transcendental concepts, and not seeing imitation as a bad thing, he sees art as translating into visual/written terms the universal elements in things. Imitation is natural to man, and he delights in "imitating". (Don't we all?)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Art Supplies

For anyone interested, this is the place to go to buy traditional art supplies on the web. It is where I get all of my pigments, gessos, gold leaf, and more.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

By the way...

I am commenting on my old blog once again. It is just plain easier to comment on Anglican/theological topics on that blog and art/cultural related topics on this one.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Old and the New

Many people think that contemporary and traditional art and architecture cannot be successfully mixed. They think that a church, for example, has to be either completely contemporary (e.g. the Matisse Chapel), or completely traditional (e.g. St. Clement's). But that is really not the case. There are many prominent examples of churches that mix both styles, such as the National Cathedral, and Metz Cathedral (Metz, France). In both of these, very modern looking stained glass looks right at home in the midst of the soaring Gothic arches and beautiful carved wood. I had the great privilege of seeing the Marc Chagall windows in Metz firsthand several years back while working in Europe. They fit in with the rest of the building and its art beautifully. Therefore, before writing off the use of contemporary visual artistic forms in church, take a look around you, and see if there are not already modernistic elements in use that you are quite comfortable with and used to, and that look great in the building they are in.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Postmodern Lectionary Art

The Italian bishops' conference has recently adopted a new lectionary that is new, not because the readings are different from before, but because it is illustrated using the work of contemporary artists. Some people do not like the work. There is an article about it here. A well respected art historian, Fr. Timothy Verdon, defends the new lectionary (note: he was appointed by Ratzinger several years ago to choose the images for the book), and some other guy - Pietro De Marco - attacks them. It is well worth reading.

I can appreciate any art that is done well: renaissance to postmodern. Unfortunately other people are not that way. De Marco is one of these men, and he makes a number of assumptions about modern and postmodern art that just do not, in my opinion, hold water. He thinks that "modern" artists have "abandoned their foundation in reality in favor of emotion and mere ornamentation". But baroque art is supremely emotional, and utterly fantastic and unreal in so many ways too (e.g. Il Gesu church in Rome), so it seems to me if he criticizes modern art for this, he is also criticizing his cherished baroque art. He also assumes that "reality" boils down to painting the human figure in a "photo-realistic" way, completely ignoring the illusory nature of those styles. Emotionalism and illusion in art is not bad, and different eras show them in different ways. In another place he says that in past centuries artists were guided by theologians and biblicists, but today that is not the case, and so artists paint all sorts of "errors". But even theologians and biblical scholars can certainly guide artists the wrong way... for example, when artists from the renaissance and baroque eras would paint John the Baptist and Jesus as not being around the same age. Where were the infallible biblical scholars and theologians then?

I can't comment on everything he says, but it's a good article that you should read. Basically, take everything De Marco says with a grain of salt. Anyone who has studied art history will know what I mean. The same people who cannot appreciate images like the one above probably cannot appreciate many good and beautiful things in life, such as the symphonies of Mahler and the string quartets of Shostakovich, because they are not "immediately" accessible and take some time and effort to appreciate. But patient viewing of this type of art, like patient listening to the composers above, pays back big dividends in the end.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Manga Bible

I just found about this thing called the "Manga Bible". For those of you who do not know, Manga is the Japanese word for comic book - so this is a comic book bible. It has quite a following among a certain set of people. Manga uses a type of illustration called anime, which is a very slick looking and stylized. The guy who made this bible (which use the NIV version) is an English artist/designer who is also working on a degree in theology. The bible received rave reviews from none other than ++Rowan Williams (but don't let that stop you from checking it out). They have a few different versions of the bible: a Manga Bible Raw, and a Manga Bible Extreme. Maybe they will develop a manga Book of Common Prayer next! I think this is a great idea, and while anime is not my favorite style of art by any stretch of the imagination, this is, artistically and conceptually, miles above the "Precious Moments" bibles and associated products.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jackson Pollock

Here is a video of Jackson Pollock painting and giving some commentary on his art and method. Particularly interesting is his statement that a painting has a life of its own.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stations of the Cross - David O'Connell

I have just begun work on a new series: stations of the cross in large oil paintings (more on that later). Out of curiosity, though, I did a search on the internet and found this guy - David O'Connell (1898 - 1976) - who did a very nice version of them for some English church. I have no idea how large they are, but they are quite gorgeous. The site says they are "not everyone's cup of tea". That's probably because most people know nothing about fine art (they don't even really look at it), or how to appreciate an image that is not "immediate", or visually easy to understand (i.e. art fundamentalists). Anyway, this man's work is quite compelling.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

This is where the "brilliance" happens

Take "brilliance" with a big grain of salt. This is my art "studio". Once I had a big studio in a creepy old factory in Baltimore City, but now that I am a civilized married man, I have been relegated to my "man space"... in this case the garage. It works okay overall, though it's taken near to two years to get used to. An artist's studio, no matter how meager, is a very personal, and sacred space. The only thing I can compare it to for the non-artist is the altar. It is a place where heaven and earth meet, and where our very bodies and souls are united with the divine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Christian Mind

Recently I have been rereading a book we read way back in college called The Christian Mind, by Harry Blamires. Blamires was a student under C.S. Lewis at Oxford. Lately I find myself reading more books that would appeal to the minds of searching college students, but that's another story. Every Anglican, and for that matter Christian, should read this book. It is an ideal gift for a thinking college student. Written in 1963, and first published by S.P.C.K., this book is one of the best kept secrets in Anglicanism. It was, I understand, one of the Episcopal Book Club selections way back when. Obviously not enough people who became leaders in the Episcopal Church and the CofE read it.

The book says that the Church has by and large surrendered to secularism. It makes the argument that there is a secular way of thinking and a Christian way of thinking. He says that it is possible to think secularly about Christian things and secular things (which is what most people do), and that it is possible to think Christianly about secular things and Christian things (which is what Christians should do and promote). The Christian mind is marked by a number of things: its supernatural orienatation; its awareness of truth; its conception of evil; its acceptance of authority; its concern for the person; and its sacramental cast. He discusses each of these areas in detail.

Again, this is a great book, and would make an excellent parish study, or gift (especially to a college student). I am going to add it to my "recommended reading" list that I made for some parishioners. It is not hard reading, but really good and worthwhile nonetheless.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Perpetual Help & Cormac McCarthy

Here is the other icon I did for Christmas. It is Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Sorry for the bad photograph... I swear it is the camera and not me. I am currently working on, you guessed it, another crucifixion. But this one is in a more western style.

One of my goals for this new year is to read more works of fiction. Reading works on theology and philosophy all the time is fun, but variety is the spice of life. Reading good works of fiction, like listening to good music and playing music, and appreciating fine art, helps make one truly well-rounded and intellectually open. So I am currently reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which is really good. His writing style, at least in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is sort of like Hemingway - short, succinct sentences, but packed with meaning. It takes place in this post-apocalyptic world (just read the description I linked to on wikipedia). I mention this novel because it makes me think of the paintings of the Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum, who is one of the biggest artists on the international scene today. I have often looked at his art and been amazed at the bleak world it portrays. The people are cold and dirty, like animals, which is how McCarthy portrays many characters in this novel. I wouldn't say that the novel (or Nerdrum's art for that matter) is apocalyptic in the biblical sense of the word, as Daniel and Revelation, while definitely scary in some symbolic sense, do not have the element of hopelessness apparent in these works. I do recommend The Road, though, if you are looking for a really interesting, and sobering novel to read.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Thomas Kinkade: The Painter of Light

I don't know if I had too many mimosa's to drink this New Year's Day, or what, but I just caught Thomas Kinkade, the kitschy "painter of light" on TBN where he was giving an interview about his art, and it kind of blew me away. For years I have had an intense loathing of this man and his work, but now I feel like I understand it it a bit better. Before I go any further, though, I have to confess that once in a while I do watch TBN just to see what's on. As it happened, I was watching the papal mass at St. Peter's and got bored with it for a minute, so I checked TBN (ahhh, isn't postmodern American TV amazing?), that's when I saw Kinkade, whom the interviewer kept referring to as a "young man" (he's not young), sitting there in a beret of all things, waxing eloquent about art. The amazing thing was that he was quite articulate, and had a very definite philosophy about his art. When asked about the relevance of painting today he spoke briefly about the sacramental nature of art, and the power of the still image. Though he didn't use the word "sacramental" that is exactly what he was saying: God communicates His grace to use through inanimate objects. He gave the example of Paul's handkerchief in Acts 19:11-12. So I was shocked. I don't care for his art, though he is indeed a good painter. I don't like his mass marketing style or commercialism either. But he obviously believes strongly in what he does and sees it as his ministry and calling, and I think he does have integrity as an artist. If you can see his interview check it out. I think it may air again.