Posted on 1 Comment

Art Critique January 2015

It’s been a few months since I wrote a blog about our critiques, so in good old fashion New Year resolution making, I rededicated myself to this effort.  We are going on 4 years of this critique and it has been an exciting fellowship of Artist.  I’m look forward to us continuing on and developing our vision and increasing our body of work.

We start with Ron Howlett’s two watercolor studies.  These are finished works of art but I call them studies because Ron mentioned that these works are more like sketches made to develop a new series of artwork.  If you follow the old blogs you can see that Ron is further developing this motif.  Before there was the chasm between his rock formations under a very dramatic sky, where the ocean acted like a silent conduit between the two.  Now the ocean has become alive and begins to be a major part of the dialog between rocks and sky.  The first watercolor “Sea Night Fall” has five rocks in the foreground within the ocean which is actionable with whitecaps and rolling waves, all contrasted with a bright sky accompanied by a storm brewing on the left.  There was little to constructively critique except with the five rock formation’s intersection between ocean and rock seems lost due to the dark shadowing; they begin to flatten out and lose some volume.

In the other watercolor “Oregon Coast” the ocean is loud with intent and rises up to make itself know to the large rock in the foreground.  It reminded us all of Winslow Homers dramatic ocean scenes which a lot of Watercolorist strive hard to achieve; Ron has done this beautifully.  There is a power that is greater than the whole in the artwork.  The combination of the powerful ocean waves and the bold strong rocks heighten the drama of nature.  The only little critique we had was creating a bit more texture in the shadow areas of the rocks, particularly the far left rock, but that is a minor issue to the greater success of creating the feeling of movement, flow of mist and the time worn battle between the rocks and the pounding ocean.

Thom’s work “Attitundal” revisits work from years past. The figure harkens back to a time when West Coast Artist were not willing to get rid of the figure for the sake of a fully abstracted piece.  They wanted to use the East Coast aesthetic of bold mark-making, but juxtapose that against saturated colors and high value shifts within a known environment or motif, like figure, still lifes or landscapes.  I suppose that is precisely the problem we saw in the piece.  There is very little contrast in the work and in the areas that that happens there are element that mute that impact.  For instance, the yellow around the figure’s head, the bright green against the figures highlighted left thigh and the value in the window which matches the interior.  We suggested exploring the window more abstractly and contrasting the interior with the exterior through value.  This is not unprecedented, there is a long history in art where exterior and interiors are contrasted and become a major part of the motif.  On the other hand, we really like the mark-making that Thom had started and his always unique approach to balancing compositions with line and interesting shapes.  We look forward to see how he resolves the piece.

I ‘finally’ finish my last Shipley Center painting.  Last year I had a few distraction so it took some time to finish this piece (I’m still attempting to relieve myself from these distractions).  In fact, it was the only major piece I did all year!  In any case, it was well received and by showing it each critique it gave the group a chance to see my process (or madness) when it comes to building up layers of paint and abstracting from what I had previously learned by going out and doing a plein air painting of the same scene (in this case 6 times during the year) and then putting into practice what I had learned.  As a side note, I’m starting a new series of plein air paintings at the Shipley Nature Center and I found a new spot there.  Now I need to dedicate myself to getting out there each month.  In any case, I like the finished piece which is called “Sage Mound”.

I hope you enjoyed the blog, and we look forward to reading your comments, and a perhaps joining us in 2015.

Posted on Leave a comment

Art Critique May 2014

May’s critique welcomed two new members and of course they contributed wonderfully with the group.  Much of what we presented and talked about was our community with the world around us, and in particular the ‘natural’ world.

Thom brought a dynamic painting focused on how two worlds can influence on each other.  This paintings graphically describe the dramatic phenomenon of plate tectonics.  The patterns and texture of the surface are beautifully rendered and add an interesting approach to the idea.  The texture was greatly enhance by the cutting of the surface and glued on backing structure, which gave one the direct effect of a fractured surface.  The upper right globe is a bit subdued and bringing up the saturation and mark making would help the object work with the larger more dominate globe.  The white between the two planets was skillfully done and adds to the understanding of space within the work.

Jim just started with the group and brought a few well-conceived pleinair paintings.  The color composition of the painting shown in the blog works very well with the type of back lighting affect one sees in the piece.   The value structure of the work could be settled by darkening up the shadow edges and bringing more of the background light into the foreground objects.   But all together, there are some very hard fought colors in the rock shadow and background sky that make the painting an enjoyable experience to view and ponder over.

Jared is back from his residency in the Netherlands and brought some thought provoking photos.  These are photo from a museum out to the street, which brings up the idea of art discovery (and too me ‘irony’).  The irony being that he is in a museum to see the unbelievable artwork from the Dutch Masters and instead takes pictures of a rough surface glass of the outside.  Beside the irony though, these are interest works of art on their own merit.  There is a Diebenkorn feel to these photos and on a pure color/composition they work wonderfully.  The problem will be context though, and how these photos are sized and shown on the wall will require a lot of thought and care.

Pat is another new member and she brought a very personal painting.  It is sometime difficult to do a critique on artwork of a very personal nature, but done properly can be very cathartic and insightful for the Artist.  We all just loved the little girl, there is something very intimate in the pose and the eating of the apple that gives the viewer a feeling of comfort and joy.  The trees in the background is also very well done, though the tree on the left stop the viewer and over powers the left-side composition; removal would be potentially good.  The paint does lack richness but only because of a lack of paint on the surface.  In order to help saturate the surface and allow the painted surface to be richer with mark making and texture we suggested adding more paint, but to be careful not to change the color or value.

Having two new members was a great joy for everyone.  The more the merrier I say.  In any case, we look forward to share our time with them and anyone else that would like to join our critique.

Au revoir

Posted on 1 Comment

Art Critique March 2014

This month we had a very eclectic group of art which often provoke the greatest amount of discussion, especial focused on art making and processes.  All participates seem to draw from nature, but in much different ways of expression and feeling.

Donna presented a group of ‘ghost prints’ of waterfalls, or an idea of a waterfall.  These are built works developed from ink jet transfers, mono-printing in ink and drawn over repeatedly as she is working the idea.  We found these ‘prints’ to be very original and speak most about the self and how one feels within the elements of water, plant life and earth.  Yet on the other hand, they seem very solitary, or without human presence which highlights the idea of an untouched ebb and flow of nature. These are very delicate work and bode very well as a series, the difficulty will be in the way she chooses to present them; framed, floated, cut edge or broken and viewing level.

The manner in which Donna approached the work harkened back to a series of monoprints I did of Yellowstone. I had been working on a series of views from a car and the original photo inspired me to explore the image further. It is of an elderly women walking toward the hot springs in Yellowstone where steams and the mountain environment are active in the background.  Most of the group was interested in process and how one can create a plethora of feelings just by the act of making the image; there are a total of eight of them (you can see all eight at each inspired and pushed the other; this is the beauty of the mono-print technique.

Jared will be going to Holland and so in preparation did a series of images of streets named after cities in the Netherlands and kitschy images of windmills from miniature golf courses.  These are highly conceptual ideas and sparked a discussion of pre-actual-post effect of the residency he is to experience.  If one has never been out of the United States, one tends to have a preconceived, and most often narrow view, of the world outside, but once experienced in world travel those ideas fade away and are replace (as in my case) with a more thorough and enlightened idea of the world outside our familiar existence. We are sure this experience will play well into his future work.

Thom brought a cubist painting focused on Global Warming (GW) and its direct killing effect on trees. The work is executed with a cubist style and the color was of a mostly bright warm palette.  The wonderful colors used seemed to contrast against the pessimistic view of our effect on the world’s climate and the subject trees. To bring the harsh impact from GW back into focus we suggest applying more aggressive mark making around the subject thereby imposing violently on the trees as opposed to the current more playful marks that frame them.   On the other hand, Thom’s whimsical style (note the smiles and lollipop trees in the composition) may better be served to turn the pessimism of GW to the optimism of recover (may be asking a lot) and thus perhaps giving an ironic tone to the work.

These critiques continue to provoke ideas and bring into focus the environment in which we all live in, and most importantly for us, how this is translated into art-making

Posted on 1 Comment

Art Critique Feburary 2014

We had six attendees this month that included a wide variety of media and styles.

Ron presented three beachscapes (about a quarter sheet size), based on some plein-air painting on the coast of Laguna Beach. Comments were about the rich color and brushwork were used to capture the rocky island and foreground structure. All of them were well composed and well painted, using horizontal bands for the beach, shore, island, distant sea and sky. Discussions concerned primarily the relative simplicity of the clouds and sky versus the rocks, and ways to add additional detail and structure to clouds without overcomplicating them. Good background glow worked very well in all of them.

Donna first presented an excellent monoprint that she had made in an art class at OCC in 2004. It portrayed a semi-abstract view of a waterfall with scattered vegetation. There was a wide variety of marks, colors and textures that created all-over, multi-layered surfaces. We agreed that it was finished and not much more should be done. Her second piece was a large, mixed-media work portraying an all-over color field of stone shapes and surface markings, which included oil pastel. The rich, detailed shapes worked nicely up close, but lacked a spatial hierarchy of rhythm and movement. Several possibilities for improvement were discussed, including collage, geometric grid, open spaces, lean to detailed drawing such as in the works of Julie Mehretru, and reworking for a variation of pattern.

Jared presented a group of three, small, color photographs in vertical format and horizontal sequence, with a small, transparent, plastic throw-away camera mounted at the end of the photos. This work was his first art project done recently in his photography class whose assignment was an artistic narrative of a location. The photos presented a parking lot on Beach Blvd where a sculpture exhibition was placed. The black asphalt lot was adjacent to a yellow stucco house, with what looked like white marble statues of a Greek goddess. The photos presented a distant to close-up sequence of one cropped-view statue, using the yellow house and black asphalt surface to good effect to frame the context of each view.

Positive comments were that the photos and the zoom-in sequence provided a temporal dimension that worked well, that the black/yellow/white colors worked well together, and that the art-sale location was clear and yet mysterious as to the focus on one female statue. No title was given as a context. Another suggestion was made to move the multi-color photo to the front to begin the sequence and end the sequence with the close-ups of two views of the house. Another suggestion was to add another sheet with some text description or narration that adds both detail, drama and/or mystery.

Thom presented two recent small works in his “Earth Tree” series, concerning large trees of the earth as they relate to the welfare of humanity and nature. The first work was in a new and experimental painting style for him. It used a bright red canvas ground with multiple, horizontal bands of color with broken edges between them to show the red ground.  Positive comments were made about the richness of color and the semi-abstract character of the background with the broken red lines between them. However, the foliage of the tree top was not effective in suggesting a canopy with volume and sky light.

Thom’s second work was in his Cubist/Expressionist style in a square format. Critique comments were that the main tree was interesting, but that the gestural style side trees were too different for the composition to hold together. Also, the background brown color was too dark and did not integrate with the tree shape.

Andrew presented three, abstract, medium sized paintings in oil in vertical formats. The first two were reworked that have been previously seen and critiqued. Positive comments were that these present a unique style and meditative, painted in a confident style of subtle color fields, overlaid with patterns of brush marks of luminous color and in a variety of sizes and shapes. There are multiple layers of space suggested in a playful and intuitive manner. Andrew described these open compositions as analogous to his music.

The third painting was more structured in shape and ground relationship that he described as figurative. The subtle contrasts were painted using only four colors – black, white, red ochre and lead white. One influence in his work is Paul Klee. Comments were made that the frame detracted from the work, that some areas were too subtle so as to be almost empty and in a dull greyed tone. This was debated as to the nature of how to portray silence, quietness and the degree of subtlety that communicates with an art audience that has an experience with Western art tradition. Our art tradition permits the painter full freedom and license to follow his own direction. However, quiet paintings may take time to appreciate.

Hosted by Ron Reekers, notes by Thom Wright.

Posted on Leave a comment

Art Critique March 2013

The creativity of the works shown at the latest critique is inspiring.  Often artist within a group are diverse enough that showing work together gives everyone a great sense of contrast and diversity in art making which is a hallmark of our times.  Contrasting each work can help identify strengths and weaknesses in one’s own work, and give us a sense of how we fit together as a collective group.  This night was clearly that.

I started out with an unfinished piece that is getting close to being done (The image on the blog is in the final stage of completion).  It is a still life using Eduard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ as the composition which cares a large amount of detail in the motif.  It will be the last of these ’Still Life’  (see Series Description XXX) series and so perhaps I have a little senioritis regarding putting in the effort to finish it.  In any case, the group saw a need to develop both the lighter and darker elements which will give the motif greater drama.  As in all work that is in the process of being developed, having a clear direction to finish is very helpful.

Thom brought in his ‘G’ paintings, which he had shown before.  There are some nice improvements in the development of color and space.  The line work accents the bold G form which brings the image into focus and balance.  The color composition is beautiful and gives both the foreground of the G and the background a playful dialog of order and chaos.  Some better options might be to carry the background line work in the ‘G’ which would add a mystery to the space.  We collectively felt that the work harkens back to Kandinsky which is not bad company to be associated with.

Ron brought in a great piece!  There are times when a member of the group brings in a piece of artwork that is complete and is to be admired.  There isn’t anything more to say about this painting other than, start on another.  It is a magnicent rock form that plants itself to the bottom of the page.  Having you main object sitting on the bottom of the page would normally be found off (compositionally wrong) but the perfect balance of negative and positive space along with the refined rendering of textures, and gradation, make this compositional work fine.  I suggest anyone reading this blog open up the image and spend some time enjoying the coordination of the colors, the articulated crags of the rock and the overall feeling of this peaceful motif.  Note the edge of the rock and how the surrounding atmosphere falls softly on the rock surface; it really is a wonderful piece.

Loren brought work in but unfortunately I was not able to get any pictures that would have given the pieces justice.  That’s okay, we were very happy she joined us.

Contrasting art is a good thing.  The history of art is just that, a look at the times and the collective change in art due to the environment.  Yet we live in a pluralistic post-modern society that spends much of our creative juices de-constructing the past history of art making.  Yet during this process of art making, we appropriate common modern visual icons such as cartoons,advertisements and famous faces. Contrasting our art help we as Artist identify where we are in ourtimes.

Feel free to comment, we enjoy your input.


Posted on 2 Comments

Art Critique Feburary 2013

We’ve been busy, to say the least, and the latest crit shows some real progress in all participates. But before the work came out we began a lengthy discussion hovering around art history.  The discussion started with the idea of anti-art at the turn of the 20th century and how Dada seemed to clear the way to the modern esthetic which was manifested through Futurism and Surrealism.  Since then we have a long and diverse groups of ‘isms’ which can be manifested is artist like Gerhard Richter.  It was a great start of the evening filled with different styles of art and personal ’isms’.

Thom has two art pieces with exemplifies the diversity of the post-modern art.  His first piece is a cubist piece that extols the love of music, painting and gardening.  The red in the painting livens up the space and helps to bring the abstracted objects into focus. The upper left corner of the work lacks this activation and seems to fall away from any importance or contribution to the work.  Ways of dealing with that may be to warm up the grays in order to dialog with the reds and/or break up the space to be more in tune with the motif.  The formal aspects of the painting are well developed and it really is a fine piece.


The other object was experimental in the since that it was sourcing past abstract work about global warming and mapping.  Unfortunately it is at the mercy of the red circle and greenish gray that dominates the work.  Suggestions range for paying additional attention to the mark-making, to greater separation of the value structure, or to simply repaint with the under painting in mind.  The most constructive criticism seemed to us to be the need to gradate from the edges to the center; this can go from dark to light or vice versa.  It will be interesting to see if he can resolve this difficult motif.

Ron’s Yellow Cab painting highlighted the night’s critique.  The quality of the watercolor is well received and the range of values give the piece a since of drama and depth.  In order to differentiate the objects though, it might be better to apply texture to the surfaces, particularly the road and building.  A little work on the darker area can be done, but not too much. Other minor changes are to define the people more, but be careful not to lose the personalities already present. All in all, it is a wonderful piece that deserves to be shown to the public.

In January Donna brought a beautiful mixed media work of reeds in water.  The reeds roam harmoniously on top of and into the watery medium which leaves one in a meditative state.  There is an oriental feel to the reeds and a western abstract feel to the marks making, which make for an interest amalgamation of cultures.  The piece is on the high key side, so some coordination of darker elements could add to the depth of the work, and the upper portion of the work seems a bit unfinished and loses a lot of importance when compared to the low foreground; I’m not sure if that is as much as an observation than a criticism. We all loved the work and again it adds to our collective consciousness as a family of Artist.

This last month Donna brought some sketches of Joshua Tree.  These are well articulated drawings in color pencil that will give her adequate information for a larger formal drawing.  Creating essential information for the artist in a sketch is not easy and can take a lot of practice.  We each have our own vision, and Donnas’ unique style can be immediately seen in these sketches.  It is always rewarding to see a member of the group grow and Donna is a good example of that phenomenon.  The compositions are sound and the definition of space is clear.  It will be exciting to see if she chooses to make these into larger works of art.

I’ve been doing these blogs for quite some time now and can grow from your comments and observations.  Criticisms of the writing are greatly appreciated too.  If you haven’t yet, please read through these critiques and notice the growth in all participates; I see it and have grown from it as well.

Please feel free to join us by commenting and/or contacting me directly.