Thursday, March 22, 2018

339: Review of 12 Rules for Life

Cypher Graphic Novel, by Brad Teare
–I was honored that clinical psychologist and Youtube superstar Jordan B. Peterson sent me a review copy of his book 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos. This blog has a comparatively small readership and any review I write would hardly budge the needle of the book's sales–which currently trends near number one on nearly every booklist. I appreciate Peterson's generosity and willingness to share his book.

Peterson routinely talks with people such as Jonathan Haidt (who wrote one of my favorite books The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion) and recommends complex analysis of inequality in books such as The Great Leveler, published by Princeton University Press. I view Peterson as a force for rationality, but I knew his book would invite condemnation. Despite my expectations, I was surprised by an attack from The New York Review of Books. It was less a review and more a compendium of logical fallacies. Because of such attacks and such disregard for diversity of thought, I felt compelled to review Peterson's book.

The bulk of the book offsets many erroneous and detrimental ideas. Young artists will find concepts to help with self-confidence (Standup straight with your shoulders back, rule 1), networking (Make friends with people who want the best for you, rule 2), finding an authentic style (Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient, rule 7), and how to write an artist statement (Tell the truth–or at least don't lie, rule 8). The tone is as refreshing as the content and for most readers, there will be plenty to think about.

Ironically, 12 Rules for Life is not overtly political–there is little to object to from any political perspective. That isn't to say there aren't missteps. I felt his citation at the beginning of the book that order was a masculine principle and chaos a feminine one was sure to invite criticism. From Peterson's lectures, I understand what he meant. The role of modern women (radically transformed via medical innovation) has no archetypal analogy. At 60 years of age modern womanhood is too new conceptually to have evolved a genuine cultural archetype. It would have been useful if Peterson had mentioned this perspective.

Some will find Peterson's perspective at odds with art-house philosophy. But I challenge you to give his ideas a chance. Artists, above all people, should have the courage to think differently and Peterson's ideas are currently out of step with current ideological fads. Don't make Peterson an offender for a word but try to understand the concepts as he intended. Most artists will be greatly rewarded.

Over the years I've had the opportunity to mentor young artists. Their philosophies of art are often infused with an unfortunate postmodernism, especially if they've attended a public university. Such artists have a grudge against the rich, the very people who will buy their art. They embrace odd theories about art for the masses. One artist, a painter who had great potential, decided he didn't want to sell his paintings anymore because it was "just rich people" who bought his work. I have met many wealthy people in my career, and I have yet to encounter one I would consider a "robber baron," or anything even close. Most educated people see such stereotypes for what they are–crude attempts to dismiss intelligence and competency.

Highly competent people know how the world works, either intuitively or by experience, and what will make them better people. That is why they are successful. Their success is why they are rich. That is why successful people buy art and want to help artists with their careers. I reject the idea that art is only bought by the rich for suspect reasons, like trying to impress others. None of my patrons are compelled by such shallow motivations–primarily because such motivations are not conducive to success. Knowing that my art will inspire and challenge the owners of my paintings and, perhaps more importantly, their children, is a great source of satisfaction to me. Being a part of the upward drive of the human family is deeply humbling and rewarding.

One patron organized and sponsors a charity that does spinal surgeries for Peruvian citizens and has helped thousands to lead productive lives. Others fund arts events and organizations on a massive scale. Reflexively stereotyping people with money often means demonizing highly-competent and successful individuals–hardly a virtue.

It is likely that people who support the arts financially are going to be wealthy. This is true even with postmodernist art–an irony since postmodernists disdain the rich. This is reality: despite the utopian dreams of art professors, if you are going to have a career in the arts, you will be working with the successful and the wealthy.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson's book 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos is an excellent wakeup call to artists laboring under postmodernist burdens. Although the book is not specifically written with artists in mind each chapter details methods artists can use to have successful careers (and lives). His ideas are firmly planted in reality, with solid scientific research, and are an antidote to the patently erroneous theories plaguing so much of modern culture.

For many, it will take some humility to fully embrace Peterson's ideas (he can be pugnacious at times). I was taught fallacious postmodernist theories 40 years ago when I was in art school. They didn't work then, and they don't work now. Success is predicated on an ability to deal with the world as it is–not as a theoretical utopian fantasy. Once you decide to make peace with reality Dr. Peterson's ideas will begin to resonate.

If you are looking for a book that might not be your usual reading fare, I highly recommend 12 Rules for Life.

Brad Teare –March 2018

Above: Cypher Graphic Novel available at Amazon

Friday, March 9, 2018

338: Publishing with Zno

–I recently published a book with Zno and found it to be an easy way to print on-demand books. The prices seem reasonable and they've made it extremely easy to publish using just your phone (I used an iPhone 6s). You can compare prices here between the Blurb magazine and the Zno hardbound book–although at the moment it appears that third parties cannot order books via Zno. I include links below to the Zno preview and my Blurb magazine. I think the best deal is with Blurb, since other people can buy the books. Plus my Blurb version has the same images which are larger with accompanying text. Let me know which you think is the best service.

Brad Teare –March 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

337: Why Do People Like Abstract Art?

–I was honored to receive a review copy of Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Eric R. Kandel's latest book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science. The book explains why we derive pleasure from the visual arts, and how the satisfaction we derive from abstract art differs from the pleasure we receive from traditional art forms.

The topic of the book intrigued me because of my recent foray into abstraction–a path I didn't anticipate but one that injected rocket fuel into my landscape career. Why this happened was a mystery, and I wanted to know more about the possible process.

The book's technical subject matter is accessible to non-scientists and I found the ideas extremely informative and stimulating. When Kandel does get technical there is adequate information to sort things out–often using charts, relevant paintings, as well as labeled images of the brain–in case, like me, you have trouble distinguishing your hypothalamus from your hippocampus.

Kandel's main thesis is that the brain has multiple means of processing information which it synthesizes into what we commonly refer to as reality. Two brain processes (of many) identify what things are and where they are. These factors working in tandem allow us to form a sense of reality. Abstraction disorients this conventional process and allows for atypical cerebral processing of visual information (an example of such disorientation is cubism). Additionally, brain scans reveal that viewing abstract art lights up a broader range of cerebral regions than conventional, realist art.

Using eye scanning technology scientist observe that while looking at an abstract painting the eye does not settle on a focal point. The lack of objective cues allows the eye/brain to process the surface differently. With a conventional painting, the eye will slide along the horizon, get caught in a focal point like a red barn, or in the case of a portrait zero in on the eyes like a beacon.

In the case of abstract art processing, the viewer participates, in a sense, in the creation process. This more active experience is what Mark Rothko referred to when he said that "painting was not a picture of an experience. It was an experience." This participation can induce a powerful aesthetic state, occasionally akin to what many people feel listening to music.

Abstraction can also give a sense of distance to the visual experience which can incite creativity. Abstraction also activates disused functions of the brain and suppresses areas not generally repressed–a condition that can lead to a unique frame of mind (or altered state). Such a condition, akin to the creative act, removes the barrier between our conscious and unconscious selves, allowing those two aspects of consciousness to communicate in a relatively free and uncontrolled manner. That freedom allows the viewer to participate in the creative process by lending self-defined meaning. The viewer embraces an imaginary response that is induced by the artists work. The painting, therefore, is not the experience but what the viewer experiences from the trigger of the visual image. The reward is not the object itself but what the object evokes in the mind of the viewer. The experience becomes everything. In my mind, this concept taken to extremes has limitations and is the reason so many postmodern creations have devolved into visual sight gags.

While many might find it odd that the basis of abstract art is that it defies the way our brains are conditioned to process visual information, that is precisely the reason it has value. An additional aspect of art that challenges the visual system is that it allows us to project ourselves, like a psychological transference, onto the physical structure of the painting. Such projection explains why surreal art, an art form that defies convention in many ways, can be so powerful.

The book offers not only fascinating insights such as why the sense of sight and touch jointly induce aesthetic pleasure, but numerous fascinating facts (such as that Chuck Close suffers from prosopagnosia, or face blindness). The book offers an avalanche of ideas sure to stimulate any artist's imagination.

Brad Teare –February 2018

Golden Hills, 48" x 48", oil on canvas. Available at Anthony's Fine Art.

Friday, February 23, 2018

336: Making a Portfolio Magazine

–I recently made a new portfolio magazine via Blurb (you can preview the entire magazine below). I find the method vastly superior to sending photos or tear-sheets to galleries, which can seem outdated in today's more sophisticated environment. The price per 11" x 8.5" magazine is remarkably reasonable. I got twenty 24 page copies for $143 ($7.15 per copy which included shipping). I had a 20% off coupon but even without the coupon, it is a good price. The printing quality is exceptional.

I have tried Blurb's online magazine creator but found it buggy. I much prefer making a document in InDesign and uploading a PDF. Just be sure you upload each page separately (I always try to upload as spreads and it never works. When you upload you get a warning what you did wrong so you can go back and correct your PDF).

I plan to make a series of stickers via Moo and attach them to the envelope to make a presentation that will hopefully get opened and not thrown into the trash. With so many vying for gallery attention, it's important to get managers to actually open your mailers. I initially wanted to send the magazines in transparent envelopes with an address sticker on the front with a return address, to more fully showcase the cover image. But I have yet to find anything that might work. If you know of a clever way to show what is inside the 9" x 12" envelope please leave a comment below.

Brad Teare –February 2018

Magazine Cover: Summer Hills, 48" x 48", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Monday, February 5, 2018

335: Preventing Paintings from Cracking

–IN time nearly every oil painting will crack. But the challenge is to postpone that inevitability as long as possible. If you observe the paintings of Van Gogh, and other paintings of that era, you will see significant cracks in the lightest parts of the paintings. I attended a Maxfield Parrish retrospective a few years ago, and every painting was severely cracked. The painting surfaces looked like crazed porcelain plates–an unfortunate circumstance, especially since some of the paintings were less than 50 years old.

So how do we prevent paintings from cracking, especially with thick impasto passages that present additional challenges? There are several factors that lead to cracking. One of the easiest to control is the flexibility of the painting surface. Images painted on cradled wooden panels from the middle ages (some over 500 years old) show no signs of cracking. Many contemporary artists are painting on cradled aluminum panels that are extremely resistant to flexing. This is the current gold standard in painting surfaces. As you can imagine they are quite expensive. The solution, until I can afford aluminum panels, is to prepare stretched canvas on stretcher bars using acrylic technology.

The goal of canvas preparation is to make the surface stiff and impermeable to moisture. To make the surface less flexible, use the thickest canvas possible–somewhere between a 7 and 10 ounce is best. Stretch the canvas as tightly as your stretcher bars will permit. Use canvas pliers and heavy-duty stretcher bars if necessary. Paint the front of the stretched, raw canvas with a coat of matte acrylic medium. This will inhibit moisture from passing through the canvas and stop delamination of the oil paint from the gessoed surface. Some suggest priming the back of the canvas with an acrylic medium, but this can cause puckering of the back surface which can create surface distortions on the front of the canvas. Such stress will result in cracking. Never adhere anything to the back of the canvas (even a certificate of provenance).

To seal my canvases I apply Golden Colors Fluid Matte Medium to the front. Golden is a reputable company, and I prefer to use their mediums to ensure all the acrylic products will successfully cross-link in the preparation process. Cross-linking is a process where a chemical bond is created by the proximity of two layers of acrylic. When a plastic bag is left on a plastic surface, and you return later to find that the two substances have bonded together, that is cross-linking. It is a very powerful type of chemical bonding, and you want to foster such links in every layer of your acrylic applications.

The reason you apply a layer of acrylic matte medium first is you want the canvas to be impervious to humidity and to completely isolate the canvas from the layer of oil paint that will be applied later. The matte medium provides such an impermeable layer, both from the subsequent oil on top and humidity from below, while creating a surface the next layer of acrylic gesso can cross-link to. If the Fluid Matte Medium doesn't soak into the canvas easily, add acrylic wetting release.

Over the top of the dry acrylic matte medium apply two to three layers of acrylic gesso. The reason you don't paint oils directly onto the dried layer of Fluid Matte Medium is that oil will not chemically cross-link to acrylic. A physical, not a chemical bond, must take place between acrylic and oil. Gesso contains calcium carbonate (marble dust) to facilitate physical bonding. The marble dust additive makes the acrylic gesso medium porous. The porosity allows the oil to seep into the gessoed surface creating microscopic interlocking nodules. These nodules lock together like a zipper or velcro and form the mechanism of the acrylic/oil adhesion. Anything that inhibits this interlocking action, like adding a non-porous layer of acrylic medium or acrylic paint, will cause the oil to eventually delaminate from the acrylic surface.

Once my canvases are sealed and gessoed, it is possible to tint the surface with a thin acrylic wash. I prefer using Golden Colors' High Flow Acrylics because I can get a dark tint without having to use excessive amounts. You don't want to add too many washes as it will clog the porous nature of the gesso necessary for proper adhesion. One or two thin washes of the highly potent High Flow Acrylics will provide a deep color without clogging the gessoed surface.

I highly suggest sealing and gessoing canvases in this manner even if your canvases are commercially prepared (unless they are oil primed. Acrylic over oil will not adhere properly). Many formerly reputable companies are off-shoring their products, and the gessoed surfaces are often of dubious quality and will lead to cracking–sometimes within years, not decades.

This might seem like an elaborate process, but it is one that will prevent paintings from cracking well into the next century.

Brad Teare –February 2018

Above: Desert Journey, 20" x 24", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

344: Playing with Pinterest

–I HAVE mentioned several times that Pinterest and Instagram are my favorite social media platforms. Instagram has proved useful, and I've sold paintings posted on my feed. I have largely abandoned Twitter and Facebook (I find them annoying at best) although I maintain my accounts for the benefit of those following on those platforms. If you enjoy Instagram I hope to see you there (click here to follow).

I used Pinterest to select fixtures and decor for my new studio, and it's a great way to archive favorite paintings and collect reference material. I know many people use Pinterest for connecting with collectors and galleries, but as yet I haven't discovered how to use it for that purpose. Some of the Pinterest features remain mysteries to me–such as the Pincode feature (see the photo above). Pincodes, which work like QR codes, are touted as beneficial for commercial endeavors. But for the small business person, I don't see the utility.

Pinterest also has a widget generator (see below), but again I'm not sure of the advantage (although it has a button to export to Facebook, which might prove more irritating than useful).

If you are a Pinterest Power User I hope you will let us know how it can best be used and how it works for you. Many thanks!

Brad Teare –January 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

343: The Power of Your Environment

–ONE of my favorite philosophers, Jordan Peterson, wrote; You are neither your own master nor your own slave. You cannot easily tell yourself what to do and compel your own obedience.

This raises a question, if we are neither our own slave nor slavemaster, what can we do to modify our behavior? An intriguing answer came in an advanced readers copy of the book Willpower Doesn't Work by Benjamin Hardy. According to Hardy's premise, willpower isn't what you need to succeed. In fact, efforts to be your own slavemaster can backfire and ultimately defeat you.

Instead, to change your nature Hardy recommends changing your environment. The basic premise is described in the first chapeter–Every Hero is the Product of a Situation: Understanding the Power of Surroundings. The title explains the basics and I found further explanation fascinating. The main idea is that our environment defeats us or propels us forward in powerful ways that few fully understand. 

Later chapters detail why willpower is overvalued, how to outsource motivation, and how High Stress/High Recovery environments promote success (among other topics). The last concept is so interesting I hope to devote an entire blog post to it shortly.

Some of the ideas are well known by artists, such as how designating a specific space to paint will help you succeed. But it is interesting to read exactly why such modifications to our environments have such a powerful effect.

One of the most practical chapters, about using Forcing Functions to achieve goals, helped me see how I intuitively used Forcing Functions in the past and how I can consciously use the concept with greater effectiveness in the future. A Forcing Function is a strategy that forces you to comply with a goal. For example, if you want to get more exercise you might rent a studio close to your home so you can walk every day. The distance is calculated to be long enough to give adequate exercise yet short enough you won't be tempted to drive. I purposely have no internet connection nor cable TV in my studio–I can't waste time with those endeavors even if I wanted to. Such deprivation, a type of Forcing Function, also ensures I have time to get bored–since boredom is a powerful catalyst for creativity.

At 225 pages of well-crafted, easy prose, the book is a quick read and one of the best I have read in its category. For those perhaps too acquainted with self-help literature (I count myself in that category), this book gives a refreshing and productive spin on a familiar subject.

Brad Teare –January 2018

Above: Trinchera Stream, 20" x 20", available at Anthony's Fine Art

Thursday, January 11, 2018

342: The Power of Newsletters

–MY original article about defeating a creative block was condensed and included in a newsletter for Plein Air Magazine (read it here). I've already received several emails regarding the paintings and regard such exposure as critical to expanding one's art career. Most requested links to the original article or to relevant posts regarding painting in my style. If you want more articles, type the subject matter into the search field to the right. I have found it to be extremely effective. I use it myself when I need to find older posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog there is a sign-up field further down in the right column.

If new readers would like to follow my painting journey on Instagram my feed is here. Instagram is my preferred social media and I use it to simultaneously post to Twitter and Facebook (although I'm rarely if ever on those feeds).

Many thanks to editor Steve Doherty of Plein Air Magazine for selecting my article for inclusion in their newsletter.

Brad Teare –January 2018

Above: Golden Hills, 48" x 48", oil on canvas.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

341: Is Painting Still Relevant?

–AS my exploration of digital media continues I decided to check out Quora. I've answered a few questions relating to art on the site and have found it an interesting resource (most recently I asked the question about how to get attention for one's art outside the usual purview of art galleries. I received many excellent ideas).

Recently I answered the question is painting still relevant? If you haven't read my response on Quora here is my answer:

When I was in art school I was taught that certain artistic expressions were obsolete. The teachers explained that painting in an impressionist style was passé because the impressionists of the 19th century had explored all there was to explore in that genre. This was true, they said, with every preexistent art form. Such tired ways of thinking are still prevalent.

Simplification of the creative process is a post-modernist mode of thinking and uses an erroneous Darwinian model. It says that we consume styles as they are created, like a succession of animals going extinct to make way for superior life forms. Once impressionism, abstract expressionism, and other forms of painting are invented, they live for a season, and then go extinct. One of the many flaws of post-modernism is that such thinking uses the Darwinian metaphor incorrectly.

A more accurate use of the evolutionary model would be to envision art as an ecosystem. As we observe the system, we can expect every niche to eventually be occupied by a relevant art form. Just like the Arctic is populated by unique animals we can expect every artistic niche to be occupied by a type of art that conforms to that niche. We should expect abstract painting to emerge in large urban areas to reflect the international style of large cities. Areas of great natural beauty would foster artists expressing their interaction with that world. Performance art would flourish in areas where political life is perceived as a more dominant reality. The larger reality is that no real artist conforms to any metaphor, no matter how compelling.

Expectation of conformity in the art world is nonsense. Artists cannot be expected to reject authentic expression simply because it is out of fashion. Art can be many things, and art forms such as impressionism, tonalism, regionalism, and social realism can persist long after academics in metropolitan areas declare them extinct.

I practice what I hope is a unique variation of impressionist painting. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. To confine myself to the philosophical world of performance art, or other non-painting forms of art would make no sense. Painting will not only remain relevant, but every previous form of painting will be used and reconfigured into new and vibrant styles of painting.

In short, the news of the death of painting has been greatly exaggerated.

If you would like to see my personal painting evolution, including abstraction, impressionism, and marker paintings, please see my Instagram feed here:

Brad Teare –January 2018

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

340: Using a Failed Acrylic Painting as an Underpainting

–I transferred my acrylic supplies to my new studio in the hopes of doing some large abstract landscape acrylics–even though I don't have my gas fireplace installed yet. The temperature outside is around 10ºF (-12ºC). I tried to work despite the temperature, dressing in layers of clothing to ward off the bitter cold. I had two space heaters going full blast, but they still weren't enough to combat the winter chill. My efforts were defeated and after five hours I retreated to the warmth of my house where I spent the next two hours trying to warm up.

I was going to film my progress as I painted but only completed a six-minute intro. Despite the cold, I pushed the painting forward without filming so this segment remains a one-off and will not have a sequel. I thought the idea of using an old acrylic painting as a point of departure for a new painting might be of interest to some, so I posted the video below. During the painting process, I did have good results with a painting medium made by Liquitex called Liquithick Thickening Gel. You mix the medium with acrylic paint and the paint gets remarkably thicker. It's quite interesting and I wish I could buy it by the gallon (although a little goes a long way).

I thought the video might be a good test to see how my Udemy course might be received. The new studio has superior acoustics and lighting and has the potential for superior audio as well as video. Overall I thought the audio was an improvement over what I've produced so far.

Painting in my new studio was an interesting experiment–the light is amazing, but unfortunately, I need to get that fireplace installed before I can move forward with the Udemy class. Patience is a virtue–and a necessary one for artists. Let me know what you think of the video. I hope to have more soon.

Brad Teare –December 2017

Using a failed acrylic as an underpainting from Brad Teare on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

339: Using Acrylic Markers with an Underpainting

–IN an attempt to unify my woodcut and my painting style I've been experimenting with using a woodcut-like underpainting as a preliminary to my oil paintings. I began experimenting with acrylic markers after trying them out on a public graffiti wall at a conference I recently attended. I found the process remarkably like the woodcut or scratchboard process. 

I use Golden High Flow Acrylics, in black and white, loaded into empty Montana markers. The markers are an extremely flexible way to draw–I coat the canvas with black acrylic paint before using the markers. The less absorbent the surface the better. I then use the white markers to add the lights and the black markers as a kind of eraser where I can return to the black of the original surface by simply painting over the erroneous white lines.

If you want to see how I work in this new medium, I hope you will check out my Instagram feed. I have several examples of the technique including two videos I posted yesterday of an underpainting (the black and white drawing above) I did for a painting I will be painting today. I've been enjoying Instagram and have found it to be more reliable than Youtube (although all my videos are now back on-line).

If you have questions about this new experiment in underpainting I hope you will feel free to comment either here or on Instagram.

Brad Teare –December 2017


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