Friday, May 20, 2016

Zions Bank Show 2016 Is Tonight

This piece is my latest large canvas and is anchoring my display.
"The Golden Hour" is 24" x 40" - $4200
Just a reminder that the annual Zions Bank Art Show (and sale) is tonight. I will have over a dozen paintings on display along with the work of over forty other talented artists. Everything is original (no prints at this show) so come by, enjoy the art, have some delicious snacks catered by local restaurants and enjoy some live music also. Most of all, if you are considering buying original art, please do so tonight and support our vibrant Utah area art scene.

I'll be on the 3rd floor where all the good snacks are! Come say hi!

Shout out to my friend and fellow artist Rob Colvin for taking the photo that inspired this painting. I appreciate his graciously allowing me to use it!


Zions Bank Financial Center
180 N University Ave in Provo, Utah

Time: 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Remembering Jack Unruh

The illustration world lost another superstar this week. Jack Unruh, one of the most talented men with a pen to ever grace the publishing world, left us and we are all the worse for his departure. He was an icon and a hero to all of us who wield a brush, pen or pencil. Sometimes in life you get to meet your heroes and I had the pleasure to interact with Jack on numerous occasions.

Rather than give a rundown of Jack's artistic accomplishments, which others have done so well in the posts that have flooded social media in the two days since he left us, I will just mention how Jack touched my life and career as a person. It seems many of the same posts are focusing on Jack Unruh the man more than the art anyway.

I first met Jack at a design conference in Park City, Utah in February of 1994. I almost didn't attend because of the cost but friend and organizer Don Weller allowed me the student rate even though I had graduated two years prior. The other reason to attend was that I would get to hear from and meet some of my heroes including C.F Payne, Braldt Bralds and of course, Jack Unruh. I was mesmerized by Jacks presentation and was equally charmed when he took a moment to look at my student portfolio and give some encouragement.

At the time, I was working full time at an educational software company creating clunky 16 bit illustrations and wishing I could figure out how to leave and begin my real illustration career. Little did I know that less than five months would pass before I would be laid off from that job and be thrown in with the sharks to sink or swim. In the back of my head I kept Jack's encouragement tucked in a safe spot for when I needed a boost. A few years passed and I had the chance to attend the very first ICON illustration conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This was a watershed event for not only me, but for the entire industry. It was the first time in recent memory (or maybe ever to that point) that such a large group of illustrators were together in one place to discuss and celebrate the industry we all love. The very first evening, during the social hour, which by then had stretched past midnight, I found myself at the quieter edge of the lounge where I happened upon Chris Payne. I nervously reintroduced myself. He remembered me from the Park City conference and graciously agreed to look at my portfolio. My work had thankfully improved quite a bit from the previous years and we began to have a look. As we flipped the pages, I looked up and there was Gary Kelley who also joined in the perusal.

Each of them offered compliments and suggestions. I smiled and pinched myself. Two of my all time heroes were looking at my work! Just when I thought it could get no better, Chris looked up and saw Jack wandering the hall and called him over to join the critique. I could have died right there and been a happy man. Three of my favorite illustrators ever were looking at my work all at the same time! Better still, they had good things to say and offered much encouragement. I still remember Jack saying that he thought I was on a good track and that I just needed to keep working and I would make it. I ran into Jack again at the next ICON and he immediately remembered me. Jack had a wonderful way of remembering people and making you feel like a friend and that you mattered, even if years had passed since your last encounter.

The last time I got to be with Jack was in 2008 during a trip to Fort Worth, Texas. I was part of Murray Tinkelman's  University of Hartford Illustration MFA program and we were enjoying a week of remote contact in the Lone Star State. Of course, Jack was a local and Murray had asked him to come in and show his work to our group. As always, Jack knocked it out of the park showing his fantastic pen and ink and watercolor masterpieces. He Juxtaposed the visuals with tales of deadlines, nightmare projects, dream art directors and fishing. There was always fishing. I think Jack would admit that if he didn't love drawing so much, he would only do it to support his fishing habit.

One thing he said during the presentation that day that stuck with me was "If you aren't having fun with your art, then why do it?" I think he loved making art almost as much as he loved fishing. After his presentation, I weaseled my way into the lunch group with Murray, Jack and a couple of others. Jack of course, remembered me and we enjoyed a nice hour of good food and tales of the industry (and fishing). Jack always made you feel like you were important. He asked what I was working on and continued to give encouragement, adding that I probably didn't need it by now. Of course we can all use encouragement. I know I need it, even after twenty two years in the art business.

Jack Unruh was one in a million. He was prolific, diverse, unique, and a sense of humor that could biting at times.  He was a fantastic craftsman with a great sense of design a knack for brilliant use of negative space. We will not see anyone quite like Jack again, but I am grateful to have been a witness to his genius and to have rubbed shoulders at least a few times with this master of the pen. You will be missed Jack but take it easy on those trout in heaven. You've got eternity to wet that line.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Bit of Paradise

Around the Bend in Paradise- 9x12 Oil by Greg Newbold
So, yesterday I posted about painting with Josh Clare and shared some of the insights I gleaned from him. I had all those ideas fresh in my head as I set out after the morning demo discussion to make a little painting. Josh was really excited about the lighting conditions being mostly overcast. I have to admit that flat diffused light has never been my first choice. I am always looking and hoping for more dramatic light and shadow situations to paint, so this was a bit of a challenge for me.

We all drove to a stretch of riverfront in Avon, the hamlet adjacent to Paradise owned by Josh's friend and I set out to find the perfect vista. I wanted something that would present a composition that had both a variety of values as well as some dynamic lines. I decided to give this particular bend in the river a try. The river turns and separates around a couple of gravel bars and there were some nice areas of contrast between the bleached out log jams and the shadowy underside of the willows and trees. I set up in the trees and got to work.

For the most part the light stayed remarkably consistent over the two and a half hours that I painted and I soon gained an appreciation for Josh's passionate endorsement of overcast light. I don't think I will have such an aversion to painting on cloudy days in the future. About halfway through my effort, Josh swung by and gave me a few pointers on the progress of my painting and even put down a few strokes to show me what he was talking about. I forged ahead and think the end result is pretty successful. I will be touching it up a bit in studio to pull it all together, but overall, it was a good day and a good effort. I learned a lot and made some mini breakthroughs regarding the process I have been using to lay down paint.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Painting with Josh Clare

Josh Clare explains his working method while demonstration in Paradise, Utah

I had the pleasure of painting the vistas of Beautiful Cache Valley, Utah last week with the very talented Josh Clare. He lives in Paradise, quite literally. His home town is Paradise,Utah. In case you are unfamiliar with Josh's work, here are a couple of examples of his outstanding paintings and you can see more at his website.

As an artist I am constantly looking for opportunities to improve my craft, and I think there is no better way to learn than painting with artists who are better than or have different skills than you do. Since I am a late comer to oil painting (just the last few years), I jumped at the opportunity to spend the day with Josh. I met him last fall on another painting excursion and was struck by his down to earth style of explaining the nuts and bolts of landscape painting and the oil medium in particular. Jost has a great sense of color and his application of paint is lush and inviting. Josh was very generous in sharing tips on how to compose a picture, the importance of value, color chroma and edges. A couple of tidbits he shared struck me and are good reminders to all of us as we try to learn the alchemy that is oil painting. 

None of the ideas he shared are new and I have heard them before, but sometimes they sink in a little further when you are better prepared to understand them. Here are a couple of things he shared that I will be incorporating into my process or at least keeping in the back of my head while I work. Josh said "the tonal arrangement is key and must have the most interesting arrangement of light and dark shapes. Good tonal arrangement covers a multitude of sins." Of course I have heard this before and have even pounded it into the heads of my own students when I teach, but it's always a good reminder that without appropriate value contrasts and patterns, a piece can fall apart in a hurry.

Josh also talked quite a bit about the balance between thick and thin paint. This aspect of paint application has been a bit of a mystery to me as I spent so many years of my illustration career laboriously layering thin washes of acrylic paint to arrive at my final result. Josh stressed the need to arrive at a balance between thick and thin paint and the concept of "reserving" as you paint. This, he explained is where you hold back on aspects of color, value and thick juicy paint strokes in order to use those areas of dark accent value (or highlights), high chroma color and thick strokes as accents to your overall statement. These areas should be places where you want your eye to focus.

Early paint application- blocking in the shape, value and color
Josh also reaffirmed my instinct to have at least one favorite "nasty" brush. You know, that brush that is so hammered that it can only be used to apply those random, accidental stokes of paint that look so spontaneous and honest when you lay them down. I was glad to hear he has a few of these that are missing half their bristles and splay out in crazy fashion. I was glad I brought my favorite "nasty" brush.

Josh Clare final demo result. Subject to tweaking in studio.
He also explained why his method of painting on a smooth surface allows so much flexibility in paint application. He prefers working on primed and gessoed masonite panels (as do I) but his starting surface is somewhat smoother than  mine which allows smoother early application of paint. The thinness of these first passages allow him to build up easily to the thicker more textural finishing strokes. 

The best part of the day was taking this renewed inspiration into the field in the afternoon and trying out some of the tips he shared. The day was overcast which allowed a longer than usual stretch of consistent light.  I'll post that painting next.