A word on palette care

I think it’s a bit silly when I see painters methodically cleaning their palettes with solvents after painting. Far better results come from simply scraping excess paint with a knife, and then buffing the remainder with a rag. That is to say, don’t try to remove all the paint from the mixing surface; scrape off all that you can, but rub the rest in.

This creates a wonderful “neutral” ground and over time, a surface like glass. (I say “neutral” in quotes because it’s not chromatically neutral, far from it in fact, but it’s literally an average of all the colors you use – what better starting point for a mixing surface? I also favor this color as a painting ground for the same reasons.) And of course leave the piles alone, they won’t likely form a skin for several days.

Straight Lines and Ellipses

Representational painting can be pretty tough; I could talk about the difficulties ad nauseam. Instead, I wanted to offer advice in overcoming two very common problems faced by painters: Straight Lines, and Ellipses.

Of course the knee-jerk reaction to straight lines is to use a ruler or some other straight-edge. However, once you try to follow a ruler with a brush full of paint you’ll realize how impractical this device is for our purposes. Another option is taping or masking areas to create straight lines. Again this works, but the results are far from perfect. Taped lines will give you a very hard edge (better suited for the trim in your bedroom than a piece of fine art).  Both a ruler and a mask may give you a straight line, but not without a lot of extra work to make it what you want.

The answer is even simpler. Just look down the painting at an extreme angle. It’s tough to represent this in photographs, but see the following images of a still life in progress at two different angles.

One need only put themselves at this position to observe the line in an extreme compression (foreshortening). Blemishes and deviations will become immediately clear. Make an adjustment, recheck, repeat. You’ll have a satisfactory straight line in no time, without the hassle of restating the edges as if you used tape or a ruler.

And it’s not just straight lines that will reveal themselves here; those dreadful ellipses will jump out at you too. As is known, the ellipse should never look like a football (with pointed ends), and it shouldn’t necessarily be an oval either. It’s supposed to look like a perfect circle viewed at an angle. The effect of this extreme compression on your ellipse will reveal issues pertaining to symmetry. If it’s working, your object will take on a more cylindrical appearance. The opening of the vase here (work in progress) gives a good example. This ellipse is pretty good (not perfect yet…), but it only arrived here after lots of angled viewing and correcting.

Just like checking your painting in a mirror, looking at it upside down, using a dark-mirror, squinting, standing on one foot (…), looking down the painting at an angle is a helpful and organic way of checking your work. By all means, use whatever devices you have at your disposal, but I find it’s often the simplest approach which lends the best results.

Ourselves and Other people

Did you ever notice that most songs are self portraits?

Katy Schneider

I came across Katy Schneider’s website a while back and wanted to pass it along.
I don’t know her… So I can’t say much about her…

But her paintings, especially the interior/figurative work, are quite wonderful.

Mostly autobiographical family portraits, they have a lovely spontaneity about them. Painted in a kind of short-hand, most things seem abbreviated or condensed down to the essential spots of color.  These small paintings create a visual journal of her life as a mother and painter. Nothing seems contrived or too elaborately composed, lending a sense of candor not often seen in picture making.                            www.katyschneider.com

She mentions recently illustrating a couple of children’s books… Once I Ate a Pie, and Painting in the Wind. But most of the paintings on her website are more than 10 years old.
I’d hate to think she’s not painting anymore… Hopefully the selection is just out-of-date.
(I know how that goes – and I’m not busy with children!)

-Update
Evidently I was too distracted by her beautiful paintings to notice that Katy has several shows coming up. The Wistariahurst Museum in Hartford CT (June 2012), and The Washington Art Association in Washington Depot, CT (September 2012).

Lagavulin, it goes with everything.

Lagavulin 16 Year old Scotch WhiskyWe’ve all heard that romantic stereotype of the “artist”, hopped up on so many drugs it’s a wonder they ever got anything done. And we may well owe all of Modernism to alcohol and mescaline. (But I must admit, most of it ought to be returned.)

I’ve never been one for too much experimentation… but I’ve had my fare share of indiscretions over the years, and I must say that the majority of work I’ve done under the influence of anything has been sorely lacking compared to that of a sober mind.

That said…

Goodness, does Lagavulin make a nice Scotch.

Group Show @ Pulliam Gallery

“Pets” at The Pulliam Gallery
June 5–30, 2012

Group show with work by: Ross Palmer Beecher, Mark Bulwinkle, Thomas K. Conway, Jeremy Dubow, Claudia Fitch, Joseph Goldberg, Max Grover, Elizabeth Knight, Jeff Koons, Corey Lunn, Sherry Markovitch, Hickory Mertsching, Peter Millett, Jeffry Mitchell, Ben Rosenberg, Jay Steensma, Whiting Tennis, William Wegman, and Ed Wicklander

Reception for the artists: June 6, 5:30–7:30 PM
First Thursday: June 7, 6:00-8:00 PM
Pulliam Gallery
929 NW Flanders St.
Portland, OR 97209.
503.228.6665

No updates… (Sorry!)

I find blogging to be rather intimidating. Or, maybe not intimidating… but it’s something.

Henceforth, my updates here will be quarterly, at most.
Of course, that’s an exaggeration (hopefully), but that way nobody’s disappointed.

Here’s a look at something in progress, an 18×18″ trompe l’oeil of David’s eye. This photo from the end of day one after about five or six hours work.

David’s eye plaster cast from Giust Gallery.

Art Renewal Center 2011/2012 Salon Finalists

I just learned that my self portrait was selected as a finalist in the ARC’s 2011/2012 Salon.

Visit the Art Renewal Center here:
http://www.artrenewal.org/

and view past Salon exhibitions here.
http://www.artrenewal.org/pages/contest.php?contest=2010-2011%20Salon&page=Main

Winners are announced sometime next month (I think?).
Pretty neat!

Self Portrait with Mahl Stick

Once in a while someone will ask me if it’s difficult to sell a painting, knowing I’ll probably never see it again. Surprisingly, the answer is no. (And of course not, I’m grateful for the sale!) More often than not, I don’t feel a sentimental connection to my paintings. That is — once they’re finished.

With some work, the really hard part, for me, is finishing. When I’m working, I see the picture daily for months or years. It’s always with me, whether in my mind or my hands; all the whileThomas Kenneth Conway analyzing different steps and going back to check my work, like wrestling with a complicated equation.

At a certain point, the picture develops its own momentum and carries on as if independent from me. I feel as though I’m watching, not doing. Once I see the painting headed for resolution, a kind of fearful surprise comes over me. It’s like a prelude to loss — the dread felt when you recognize you’re about to drop something, knowing it will break when it hits the ground and you can’t do anything to stop it. It can be frightening. I’ve caught myself avoiding this moment, seeing that a picture is just about finished. I have often run from it, sometimes just turning the panel to the wall (and ignoring it for days or months) or committing some drastic change which delays the end.

I’ve struggled with this for as long as I can remember. Part of it might be that fear of loss, thinking about sending the picture away… But more than that, I think it’s a kind of loneliness, knowing my relationship with the painting is about to end. More than any other subject, I find these feelings in self-portraits. It seems obvious, but they’re very personal paintings, often painted in the pursuit of some theory or technical issue. But above all, they’re driven by the simple pleasure of painting, unaffected by pressures of sales and exhibitions. To tell the truth, it saddens me to finish these paintings.

Click this image (below) for a high-resolution detail.

Thomas Kenneth Conway

Salon International 2012

Painting by Thomas Kenneth ConwayMy painting ‘Trompe L’oeil with Caravaggio’s Sleeping Cupid’ will be included in the Salon International Exhibition, a project of the International Museum of Contemporary Masters, hosted by the Greenhouse Gallery in San Antonio Texas.

2012 Exhibit Opening Reception:
Saturday, April 14, 10 am – 8pm

Exhibit Dates: April 14 – May 4, 2012