Welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy visiting from time to time. I will have fun posting information related to current projects, my travels, or just random thoughts! Feel free to post your comments anytime.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Commencement Address

I had the privilege of addressing the December 2008 Graduates of my Alma Mater, Lipscomb University on December 20, 2008. The follow are my comments to the graduating class. I recently mentioned the TR story in an interview with International Artist Magazine and realized it would be appropriate for the graduates as well. As artists, we have to tackle problems with our work head on if we are going to grow....there are no shortcuts in the life of a working artist... or as a human being!

Address to Graduates, December 2008

Thank you President Lowery, distinguished trustees, faculty, and alumni, proud parents, grandparents, friends, and members of the Class of 2008. I am profoundly honored to receive the Young Alumnus of the Year Award. I want to thank Lipscomb and the Alumni Association for this wonderful honor. I love this university and it has meant so much to my family and me. It is where I found my career, my wife and where I made so many friendships that still endure today. There is no doubt that the time I spent here set me set on a path that I still travel today and I am deeply grateful.

To the December Graduating Class of 2008… CONGRATULATIONS! This is an exciting day and I thank you for allowing me to share this time with you.

I was also a December graduate not that long ago. Since that time I have been a working artist.
I have the opportunity to meet some amazing people in my life as a portrait painter. Painting them often helps me to grow as a person as I learn about their lives, their success and failures.

Recently I had the chance to paint Teddy Roosevelt for the Roosevelt House in Washington DC. He is one of my hero’s…and heroes are important.

TR liked to do something he called “POINT TO POINT” walks. He would pick a point to start, another point as the destination and then map a perfectly straight line between the two.

He had one VERY firm rule. If you encounter an obstacle along the way…an obstruction… You can go over it, under it, but NEVER around it!!!

He also sometimes went through it! —

Once while President he took the Ambassador of France on a point-to-point walk late one evening.

On the hike they came to the Potomac River. The president said something like, “Well, Mr. Ambassador—our destination is on the other side, so well just have to strip off our clothes, bundle them up and swim across.” Wanting to please the President and knowing they were under the cover of darkness, the Ambassador did them same. As they waded in to the water the President looked back and noticed the Ambassador was still wearing his white gloves!!!!!

TR said “"Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Ambassador, you haven't taken off your gloves," to which he promptly responded, "I think I will leave them on; we might meet ladies!"

TODAY is end of one era of your life, and the starting POINT of another.

Make sure you begin with knowing what your PASSION is---some of you have found it, others are still looking. Take it from me there is nothing like waking up every day and loving going to work. Dream BIG!

Then set a GOAL—

Be willing to work hard, ask for help along the way (find a mentor), be patient, and FOCUS, FOCUS always on your goal.

Along the way, you are going to hit some bumps in the road-- some OBSTRUCTIONS---just like TR did on his POINT-TO-POINT walks. Remember over, under, but never around.

Without exception, the most successful people I have painted have been those who encountered many obstacles, but always confronted them head on and conquered them!

People like Sandra Day O’Connor—finished near the top of her class in law school, but was only offered jobs as a secretary when she left school in the 1950’s. She later became the first woman Supreme Court Justice.

Or Wallace Coulter. You probably don’t know the name. While trying to develop a machine that would count the molecules of paint in an effort to make paint stronger and stick better to U.S. Navy ships (and nearly running out of money in his little make shift lab in Chicago), one day he wondered if his device could count blood cells as well. Now, 60 years later---Every time you have blood drawn for a blood cell count, they use a COULTER COUNTER.

Or Senator Robert C. Byrd who grew up with adopted parents, poor, in a coal-mining town of West Virginia. He became the longest serving, brightest and arguably most powerful member of the US Senate in our history.

None of them had an easy road, but none of them let an obstacle stop them as they worked toward their goals. As they know and TR insisted…

Tackling problems instead of avoiding them or going around them BUILDS CHARACTER and WISDOM.
There are NO SHORT CUTS---no cutting corners to achieve success.
It may take time…many of you will work ten years to achieve over night success!

Also, as my mentor and friend Ray Kinstler has reminded me: don't forget to be yourself and know who YOU are! —

Do you think I care if you don’t like my shoes or not!?!

I was in NYC last week to paint a famous actress named Marian Seldes—she is receiving a gold medal next spring for her lifetime of achievements in film and theater. You would know her face, but maybe not her name. Although she has been played major rolls in such films as “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and won Tony’s for her work on Broadway---You might remember her as the grumpy old lady in the movie Home Alone 3 who gives Alex the toy car the crooks are after.

While we were sitting chatting in her apartment, she said to me—

“You know these are uncertain times and so many people are worried, but not me. Last week a friend of mine said she lost 80,000 dollars last month. She said her response was “you had 80,000 dollars to loose? She went on saying, “Do you know why some people are worried,” because money is what defines them---

“But we are not defined by money—we are artists---we are defined by WHO we are and the WORK we produce."

Don’t let the other people, the TV, or magazines define you—know who you are and be yourself.

Finally--Remember what you have learned here.

You have not just had an education, but a CHRISTIAN education---
A positive, Christian perspective that will keep you on a firm foundation while you travel on the path you set. Always ask God to travel with you, build a strong relationship with Him and he will steady you if you feel you are loosing your way, he will help you when you meet an obstacle you have to confront and conquer. You can’t do it alone. You will need the love of GOD and the love of your family and friends. Although you will achieve many things---None is more meaningful than your relationship with HIM and those you love.

So…Start with your passion, draw a straight line to your goals, confront challenges head on---and always work the hardest at strengthening your relationship with GOD and your family and friends.

As TR also said once to a graduating class “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground!”

God Bless and good luck!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Senator Specter Official Portrait Unveiled

Hundreds of supporters, friends and family joined Senator Arlen Specter at the National Constitution Center Friday evening for the unveiling of the Senator's official portrait. It was the largest crowd I have had the honor of unveiling a portrait for and a testament to the popularity of the Senator.

Speakers included Senator Specter's long-time friend and collegue Bob Dole, Governor Ed Rendell, and actor Michael J. Fox, who praised Specter for his work on stem-cell research and Specter's son, Shanin Specter who said "I was struck at how well you captured in my father those qualities of grit, determination, and intesity that we know so well. If I may summarize those quailities in my father, it would be , in one word, 'will'."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Department of Energy Official Portrait Unveiled

I had the pleasure of painting former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham for the Department of Energy. His official portrait unveiling took place last week in Washington D.C. Several current and past administration officials were present as well as many of his friends and family. 
For more photos click here:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Interview with Alyson Stanfield

INSIGHTS are a series of conversations with artists taking place on select Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CT, 6 p.m. MT, and 5 p.m. PT. Brought to you by Alyson Stanfield and artbizcoach.com, find out how artists build their careers, the bumps they encountered along the road, the turning points, and what makes them tick.

On November 20, 2008 at 8pm ET, Alyson will speak with me about how I started my portrait career, how I promote my work, workshops, and more!

For more information on how to participate, go to: artbizcoach.com/insights/

Monday, September 15, 2008

Justice O'Connor Portrait Unveiled

I had the honor and pleasure to unveil my portrait of retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, Spetember 12, 2008. Never have I known a more warm, gracious, and engaging person. I am thrilled to have had the privilege of getting to know her both in person and in paint.

For more on the unveiling click here:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Quick & Easy Model Stand

Looking for a quick and easy model stand? Check this out!!!!! I think I got this from my friend Dawn Whitelaw years ago when I was looking for a simple solution for my workshops. Certainly it can be used in your studio as well. Simply purchase a 4’x8’ sheet of 3/4” ply wood at your local hardware store (Home Depot will cut it in half for free!). Purchase four 5 gallon empty paint buckets from your local paint store. Place them on the floor, put the board on top and you have an instant model stand! Storage is easy too. Stack the buckets in the corner and slide the board up against the wall. A great solution that will serve any artist well.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Great Book on Anders Zorn

I just returned from a fun trip to Kimberly, Wisconsin where I taught a workshop at the Richeson School of Art. It was a great experience. The facilities were terrific and the students could not have been more passionate or excited about growing as artists.

I learned many things, but one discovery in particular was a great new book from China on Anders Zorn. Jim Hemmpel brought in several great books one day for all of us to enjoy including this wonderful volume on Zorn. I ordered one that day and just received mine. I recommend it to anyone who loves Zorn's work. Regrettably, I can't read Chinese, but the reproductions are terrific!

You can order one through Barn Site Gallery by clicking here. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Workshop in June

Jack Richeson School of Art
Portrait Class
Kimberly, Wisconsin
June 23-27,2008

I spoke with my friend and mentor Ray Kinstler after he returned from teaching a week long workshop at the Richeson School last year. He was excited about his experience and praised both the quality of the school and the directors.

When they phoned to ask if I would teach a class there this summer, I could not say no! Although I travel the country for portrait commissions, I rarely travel to teach. I am excited about the class and so looking forward to my week in Wisconsin.

During the workshop, we will be painting from live models in a spacious studio. I will be giving one-on-one instruction, demonstrations, and lectures throughout the week. Everyone will receive a nearly 200 page workbook I have written to compliment the week's studies. The class will kick off on Sunday night with a reception honoring the 2008 Figure Portrait Competition. The competition winners will be announced that evening.

If you are interested in attending, contact:

Art School Director, Terry Stanley
Email: artschool@richesonart.com
Richeson School of Art
PO Box 160
Kimberly, WI 54136-0160

Monday, May 19, 2008

Step 5

Continued development... A great number of brushes now worn out!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Step Four

Much of the canvas has been covered. The overall effect is established. I am now refining the overall image, working hard on the illusion, the likeness, and adding more detail.

Step Three

Constantly refining the drawing, I began to develop the head in more detail. I am also working to find the body inside the clothing.

Step Two

Working directly I began by massing in large areas, paying close attention to relationships of value, color, and proportion. I try to think simply wanting only the effect of the light.

Step One

Drawing in charcoal I mapped out the largest proportions. I am working on a white ground as opposed to a stained ground hoping the colors can remain more luminous, especially the thinner layers.

Portrait in Progress

I have been working on a fun portrait of a man from California for some time now. It has taken up my entire studio at 96" tall and I have to paint much of it from a step stool! He stands 6' 4" tall and wanted a life size painting for his home... makes for a BIG canvas! 

I have tried to photograph it as I have worked. I will attach them in several posts due to the number of photos. I hope to have new photos taken this week to show my latest progress. 

The are obviously many challenges on a portrait this size, but the sheer scale makes covering the canvas a real workout. I have even greater respect for Sorolla! I am concentrating on the effect of the light, the overall high key of the portrait and the amazing reflective color. FUN! 

For this and other demonstrations, check out my website at www.michaelshaneneal.com and click on "demo".

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Players Club Gala

I am just returning from a wonderful adventure to New York where 18 of my friends from around the country unveiled a series of Portraits for the Players Club Hall of Fame. It was a great event and a full house! During the evening I had a chance to visit with artist Linda Smith from New Mexico. Linda always has so many great ideas for painters including the tip on using a freezer zip lock bag for your brush washer! I am so glad to know who passed that one along to me so long ago!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tips on Survival II

Here are the remaining 5 tips on surviving as an artist. I'm sure there are many other ideas that come to mind. Let us know if you have anything to add!

6. Identify your market. Who are you painting for? How can you best connect with the clientele that can become your patrons? Recognize “who” can purchase your work. Contribute to auctions that you know are supported by influential people. Contribute work to elite private school auctions, hang a portrait in an expensive children’s clothing shop, propose your work to a successful and well placed gallery, speak and share your work with local business clubs. Offer to paint a portrait for FREE for a highly respected local figure, and request an unveiling event. These are just a few of many ways to help identify your clientele.

7. Fair pricing. Your goal is to have your work seen and to earn enough money to cover your expenses. Price your work fairly and reasonably. when starting the life of an artist, the more work you are completing (even for a modest sum of money) can create excitement and motivation by you and your client.

8. Diversification. Don’t just become a portrait painter! If I had not painted fruit and landscapes along with portraits when I began, I would not still be a full time artist today. Not only does this diversification help you grow as an artist, but it provides other opportunities for you to show your work and advertise your name. Not to mention, providing alternative income! Teaching can also be a profitable experience for you and your students. Not only as an additional source of revenue, but it can also connect you to other artists and potential clientele.

9. Dependability. You are a business as an artist. Go the extra mile and remain dependable at all costs. Be responsive and provide the best customer service possible. Unfortunately artists are not known for keeping schedules, arriving on time for appointments, or generally running their affairs in an orderly and responsive manner. Show your clientele that you respect them, appreciate the opportunity to work for them, and take your work seriously. Always do more than what is expected of you!

10. Develop a support system. Develop relationships with other artists and friends you can trust. Share your work in progress with them. Share problems you are facing or new ideas… get their feedback. These relationships will help you in your life as an artist, making the experience richer and more rewarding.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tips on Survival!

A year or so ago the Portrait Society of America did a series of articles in their newsletter on "Traits of a Successful Artist". I was honored to be asked to contribute my thoughts on things that have helped me to survive as a artist. Because this list is fairly long (10 points total) I will post it in two installments. As Mr. Kinstler has said to me more than once "keep the faith"!

1. Set goals and write them down! List things you would like to accomplish both in the short term and in the long term. You might consider committing yourself to a weekly class, list teachers you would like to study with, techniques you would like to improve on, subject and compositions you would like to tackle, galleries you would like to show with, competitions you would like to enter, etc. Setting goals is the first step to accomplishing them. Hang them near your easel as a constant reminder of what you will achieve.

2. Work hard. Whether you have the opportunity to devote your entire day, or just a portion of the day to your art, work hard! I have worked 12-18 hours a day for more than 15 years. It is important to devote as much time as possible to your growth as an artist, but you must work smart as well. An hour of painting free from distraction is worth 3 when the phone is ringing and the kids are home from school.

3. Study. Set aside a portion of each day for study. Read about a favorite artist, visit a museum either in person or via the internet, browse through a favorite art book, sketch from life, etc. Spend quality time developing your skills by reading and studying each day.

4. Tenacity! Don’t take “NO” for an answer! This can be no truer in the life of an artist. You will constantly face defeat and rejection. Galleries, agents, clients, friends, and even family may at times dampen your resolve. Put your passion to work. Remind yourself constantly that you can and will succeed. Pick yourself up after a bad painting, a rejection notice from a competition, or a negative review from a client. Turn each of these situations into learning opportunities. Ask yourself “what can I do better or differently next time?” Commit yourself to growth from every experience. Remind yourself constantly that you will succeed, that you will grow as an artist, and your decision to follow your dreams to become an artist will become or remain a reality.

5. Thrift. For nearly the first 10 years of my life as a full time artist I painted every painting on a $2 easel bought second hand, mostly held together by duct tape and a prayer! I rented a small studio that was prone to flooding and had less than ideal lighting conditions. It was important that I kept my overhead low and focused on living off of less than I made. Survival is your main goal. Living frugally whether by choice or not, is important. Getting to the next painting is your ultimate goal.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Website Updates

We have just added new content to my website! www.michaelshaneneal.com

New Portraits:
See a few new portraits including John Barrymore for the Players Club in NYC. Visit www.michaelshaneneal.com/portrait_barrymore.shtml for oil and www.michaelshaneneal.com/sketch_barrymore.shtml for charcoal study.

New Demonstration:
Visit www.michaelshaneneal.com/demo_scirica.shtml to view a step by step demo of my portrait of Chief Judge Anthony Scirica. 

Workshop Dates:
We have also just announced my workshop dates for 2009. Please visit www.michaelshaneneal.com/workshops.html for more information.

The hat is especially great for painting. The bill is black underneath to minimize reflections and color distortion while you paint. Great for indoors or out!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

2008 Portrait Society of America Conference

"You Be the Judge: Creating a Commission from Start to Finish"

On Friday I spoke to a great group at the PSA Conference on creating a portrait commission from start to finish. I shared both my approach of working with clients as well as the stages of creating a portrait. The clients I discussed were Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, Judge Jan DuBois, Sandra Day O'Connor and Senate Judiciary Committee Co-chairman Arlen Specter. 

The topics of drawing, value, structure, edges, and color were discussed as well as contracts, correspondence, life sittings, and framing, just to name a few. 


I had the honor of speaking at the Portrait Society of America's Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania last week. A high point of the weekend for me was being asked to speak at the Inspirational Hour on Sunday morning. We had a great group, much larger than expected for 7:30 am in the morning!  By request, here is the highlights of the talk I presented entitled S.H.A.P.E. 

Throughout our lives God gives us the opportunity to paint self portrait. As Benjamin West said we should always seek "... the essential character, not the accidental appearance" of our subjects. What does God see when he views our self portrait now in progress? How can we S.H.A.P.E. our lives to grow as people of faith to reflect more of God's vision for His people.

Col. 3:24 

Are you giving to others through your work? Do you teach, give your time and work to others? http://www.ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=112398

Psalm 78:70-72

Are you following your heart?

"He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his heart and his hands is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head, and his heart is an artist."  St. Francis of Assisi

I Chronicles 29:17
Psalm 25:21
I Peter 5:5

There are opportunities to do the right thing and the wrong thing everyday. Do you make good choices? Do you remain humble in your life and work? Do you give God credit for what he has given you?

Luke 10:41-42
Rev 2:2, 4, 5

Do you keep things in perspective? Do you remember the importance of God first in your life? Family? Relationships?

E= Experience
Romans 8:28

Do you use your experiences to grow? Both positive and negative experiences? God does not waste either. Both can help you grow closer to Him.

God is infinitely kind and patient. Ruth Graham once said after driving through a construction site she saw a sign that read "End of Construction. Thank You for Your Patience." She felt it summed up her life perfectly.  Keep striving everyday to SHAPE your lives and self portrait in His image. Think and reflect often on the perfect life of His son, Jesus. Go to God's word and pray for guidance every day.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Traveling with Paints

I travel over 100 days a year. In most cases I have oil paint, a small wood palette, and a few brushes packed in my carry-on bag. It would be easier in some ways to check the bag, but I prefer to take it with me. Last weekend when having my bags checked for a return flight, I was informed for the first time in months that I could not carry my small tubes of oil paint on board. In today's climate of airport security you hate to cause a fuss, but I knew that I could take them with me under current regulations. After mentioning the TSA rules for artists paint to the head screener, she reminded me that she was in charge and said "It sounds like to me that you think you are an expert on our policies..." I replied "No mam... just on the section related to artists paints." Eventually, after checking the paint with further screening, she let it through. By the way, make sure it will fit in a quart size zip lock bag!

Thanks to my friend Katy, here are the particulars:

The US Dept. of Transportation defines "flammable liquids" as those having flash points of 140 degrees F/61 degrees C or below. Artists oil paints are based on vegetable type oils. They are not hazardous for air travel. While many products that are used to clean brushes may not be taken on a plane such as turp or mineral spirits, small oil tube colors with a flash point above 140 degrees F (most are at about 440 degrees F)  are not dangerous for air travel. 

Check the website of your particular brand of paint you are carrying to see if they provide a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) data sheet.  Print that and take it with you. I would even encourage you to put it with your paints if you check your bags. Highlight relevant material for the screener. Hopefully you will not arrive at your destination with no paint and one of those slips of paper saying hazardous material was removed from your bag!

To confirm this, you may call the TSA at 1-866-289-9673.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sargent Lecture at the Portrait Society Conference

I'm looking forward to speaking at the Portrait Society of America's conference in Philadelphia next month. It will be a great event with approximately 800 artists from around the world in attendance. On Friday evening, one of my duties will be to present a program on the life, work, and technique of John Singer Sargent. My favorite artist to study, I recently ran across this interesting piece of information in a tiny "conversation piece" written by a personal friend of the artist, Martin Birnbaum nearly 70 years ago. In speaking about Sargent's personal assistant, Birnbaum said:

 "Niccola would often prime an old canvas with white paint mixed with raw umber, on which blues especially were silvery and brillant, but this pigment has an unfortunate tendency to eat through, if the paiting had not dried thoroughly, and then the picture is almost past repair." 

Anyone who has read James Montgomery Flagg's "Roses and Buckshot" know of a particular case where this could be the trouble. Pay close attention to the portrait of William Merritt Chase at the Metropolitan Museum each time you visit. You just may see something appear and then disappear!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Shaking off the Dust

I had a nice comment posted from Adrienne the other day. She specifically mentioned: "Would love to hear your comments about how you stay motivated. What do you do when you feel stale? Or do you ever?"

I do get "stale." Tired might be more accurate. I spend a lot of time in the studio each day hard at work at my easel and managing the many other areas related to the business of being an artist. I have found several things that help if I can't get my mind in the creative spirit. 

The most important approach for me personally... getting up early! Sound too simple? I started getting up at 5 am several years ago. It changed my life. Seriously, getting up early has made a huge difference. I often get more done before 8 am than I do in the next few hours of the day. The phone does not ring, the kids are asleep, and if you had at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep the night before, you are good to go.

I read as much as I can, too. Spending time with my art books, pouring over photo reproductions and reading about other artists, their work, and their lives can really get you in the mood to get back to work.

One other "secret." If getting started is the trouble... I start to work on whatever I am having difficulty with.  RIGHT AWAY! I just make a mark! Once I stop thinking about why I can't do whatever it is and just try, I begin to solve problems. Slowly, but surely I become inspired! And if getting back to a piece is the trouble... I make a mark! I have often found that so much of painting is problem solving. If I will just take the plunge, I find myself hard at work to make things right.

I have more thoughts on shaking off the dust, but I will save those for another day!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
By Dr. Meg Meeker

I just finished a wonderful book "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" by Dr. Meg Meeker and I recommend it to any dad with girls. As a father of daughters, it is one of the best books I have read on parenting. Dr. Meeker shares indisputable evidence that a father is THE most important influence a girl has in her life. Her outlook on life, the decisions she makes, her faith, and even her view of herself is incredibly influenced by her dad. 

She closes the book with this statement: "One day when she is grown, something between the two of you will shift. If you have done your job well, she will choose another good man to love her, fight for her, and be intimately connected to her. But he will never replace you in her heart, because you were there first. And that's the ultimate reward for being a good dad." 

Make sure if your daughter is at home or comes home soon... invite her into the studio... hang out and just be together. It's a small interruption and an important one.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Easy Cleanup

I forget who showed me this quick and easy cleanup idea, but I love it! 

Do you ever tire of digging out the goop from the bottom of your turp can? Line it with a plastic ziplock bag instead. When it is time to throw away the buildup, simply remove the bag, zip it up, and throw it away! 

Works great!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Always a Student

I'm just finishing the first day of a weekend workshop. We have a wonderful class full of eager students from around the country ready and willing to try new things and grow as artists. I am always energized by the excitement and interest in the eyes of the students. They want to learn and develop their craft. They want more. 

This should always be true of any artist no matter what stage of their career. The problems that face the new artist are similar to the problems that face the experienced one. You are still questioning values, proportion, mood, color choices, composition, etc. Hard work, time devoted to your craft and dedication to growth will make a difference. But any artist worth his salt should remain humble. Because there is a simple truth... the longer you paint, the more you realize how little you really know. 

As the folks in the mutual fund business are fond of saying "past performance does not guarantee future results". The great artist is one who appreciates every opportunity to approach a blank canvas, humbled by the work of the master artists of the past and proceeds with caution... ego in check and brush in hand. Past performance will increase your chance for success, but it is never a guarantee. 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Great New Book "I'd Rather be in the Studio!"

Michael Shane Neal and Alyson Stanfield 
at the Portrait Society Conference in 
Philadelphia, PA

I just read a wonderful new book for artists entitled I'd Rather Be in the Studio, The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self Promotion (www.idratherbeinthestudio.com) by Alyson Stanfield (www.ArtBizCoach.com). It is terrific! One of the best books I've read on helping artists to better organize their careers and it is full of excellent tips and strategies for marketing your work. A quick read I devoured it on a plane flight and extended layover in the Atlanta airport. In fact, i created this blog as a result of Allyson's strong belief in the importance of "blogging" by artists. It is a must reference for any artist working today.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"The truth is more important than the facts."

- Frank Lloyd Wright

Something I keep coming back to again and again is how important it is to balance the pursuit of "feeling" with the technical discipline necessary to create a work of art. Too much of one usually lacks discipline, too much of the other usually lacks feeling and becomes mechanical.

One of the most interesting developments in creating a portrait can occur when you check a measurement. Finding you are "incorrect," you make the change. Suddenly you realize something strange... your incorrect measurement felt better than the correct one! How can that be?! Can't you just simply "copy" nature and get exactly what you are looking for?

One of Mr. Kinstler's teachers John C. Johansen cautioned his students to not simply copy nature, but to "make nature what you feel it should be." He believed your interpretation could feel more like the illusion than simply copying what you see. 

While technical skill is very important to the artist, intuitiveness and feeling is as well. Whether it is a landscape, still life, figure, or portrait we should try to recognize the essential characteristics of our subjects, analyzing the mood, motion, and feeling to determine what we want to say. 

After all, it is the duty of the artist to interpret what they see. If you really believe Sargent simply chronicled... as he once suggested... then look again!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

de Laszlo

I have long been a dedicated fan of the work of Philip de Laszlo.  If you don't have Brush with Grandeur on your shelves in your studio, you've got to pick one up today!  A terrific painter and friend of mine, Steve Moppart, recently introduced me to a spetacular website just created by the de Laszlo Foundation.  One of my favorite pages on the website includes a short black and white film of the great artist painting on location in Venice.   Wouldn't it be incredible if we had a film clip like this on Mr. Sargent!  Check it out!