Monday, May 2, 2016

Ravencon 2016

Armand Cabrera

I attended the Ravencon Science Fiction Convention this last weekend as a guest artist. The convention was a great place for people who enjoy the genre. Artist guest of honor was Vincent DiFate who is a force of nature in the art world, and I was glad to get a few minutes and sit a talk with him and hear some stories from his 50 plus year career as an artist.
Calling a Maker study 8 x 10 oil
The art show was well organized and there was some great stuff in the show. Most of what images were prints and I was one of the few people with originals. I showed a number of small studies that were the basis for larger paintings.
Ice Station study 9 x 12 oil

This process is a learning curve for me as I work on building new outlets for my imaginative work and so far the response has been positive. I do think going forward I will focus on larger venues and markets where there is a greater potential for sales of original paintings.
The Argonath study 9 x 12 oil

Saturday evening I did a 3 hour painting demo from a photo of a smaller study. This is the finished painting ‘Return to Dragon Hall’ 20 x 24 oil on canvas.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Upcoming shows

Armand Cabrera

I will have 14 small imaginative painting on display this weekend at Ravencon in Williamsburg VA. I'll post more pictures next weekend.

I will also be participating in a plein air invitational at the New York Botanical Gardens on June 19. There are 15 artists who have been invited to paint on the grounds and there is a show of Impressionist paintings by artists like John Singer Sargent and Childe Hassam.

There is also an Imaginative realism show in Denver Colorado being planned for October that I will participate in. More on that when things are finalised in the next few months

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Constructive Criticism

Armand Cabrera

 I was involved in a discussion about constructive criticism online. The original post made the point that unless you can accomplish the thing you are criticizing it’s not constructive criticism and is basically a useless form of sharing an uninformed opinion.

I actually agree with this idea and I have long been a proponent of artists working problems out on their own first. When that fails, I recommend finding a professional with greater skill to give you constructive advice on how to improve.

I know in today’s world this attitude may seem elitist but it actually is the fastest path to success. Some people are better at things than other people. If you can’t do the math, you can’t constructively critique Einstein’s theory of relativity. Too often people decide their uninformed opinions are valid and helpful, when they’re not. Those people in your profession that share similar traits with your own work and creative vision are the ones you want to talk to when you get stuck. Group critiques like group hugs are pretty useless. Other than making everyone feel important, they offer little help towards improving your work.

Asking for advice should always be thoughtful and targeted. Isolate problems first before asking for help. If the advice strays make sure to ask how it ties into your request. It’s very easy to get sidetracked even when someone knows what they are talking about and get too much feedback to effectively digest.

Art should be individual. Too many opinions and ideas from disparate sources will not improve most people’s abilities; just weaken them as their work becomes a hodgepodge of conflicting opinions. In my opinion diligence and hard work, combined with personal interpretations of information and discoveries have better outcomes for creativity in the long run. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Battlefield Bluebells Demo

Armand Cabrera

Every Spring I make a point of painting the bluebells when they come out and bloom. They never last more than a few days once they peak and so depending on the weather you can miss them completely if you don’t check on them. I know every April I need to make a trip to my bluebell spots and see what kind of a year it will be.

This year they weren’t as thick as in years past but they were still good enough to paint. I set up at my favorite spot at the Manassas Battlefield, the path along the stone Bridge at Bull Run.

The afternoon light is my favorite for this spot because I’m looking into the sun and everything is backlit on a sunny day. I found a place not too far off the trail and got to work.

The first thing I did was to establish the tree line.

 Next I blocked in a medium tone for the bare trees in the distance.

Then I blocked in the ground plain keying it to my tree color.

Now using the scene I design the trunks of the trees in my middle and foreground. I want to vary their placement angle and individual widths so they aren’t too static.

I move to the background again and start designing my sky holes in the background tree color already on the board. Once I have that in I carefully move forward in the picture plane marking key elements like the color of the bushes in the understory and the trail through the flowers.

With my big shapes locked in I start modelling the areas building a sense of light and form to the individual elements without obliterating my groundwork for the structure of the painting.
I spend the last 45 minutes unifying the whole picture adding details where it enhances the mood simplifying areas that distract from the feel.

The finished painting, ‘Battlefield Bluebells,’ 12 x 16, oil on board. The total working time was 2 hours from start to finish.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mathias J Alten

Armand Cabrera

Alten was born in 1871 near Tier, in Gusenburg, in the Prussian Rhineland. Alten was one of four children. The Alten family immigrated to the United States in 1889 settling in Grand Rapids Michigan. The young Alten apprenticed as a decorator. By 1895 Alten was married to Bertha Schwind and the couple operating a business together Schwind and Alten, offering art supplies, frames, sign painting, fresco painting for churches and scene painting for theaters.  

In 1898 Alten decided he needed academic training to improve his work. He went to Paris to study under Benjamin Constant and Jean Paul Laurens at the Academie Julian.

Alten returned to Grand Rapids and established himself as the premier painter there. His business thrived and he taught drawing and painting classes from the live model.

Alten showed versatility for many different subjects, figurative, portraits, and landscapes but his focus was always the working class. He eschewed parlor scenes for depictions of agrarian labor and common people.

As Alten became more renowned he began holding yearly studio exhibitions with great success.  Eventually these exhibitions moved to larger public spaces as his stature grew.

In 1910 Alten and his family went to Holland for a year and painted many coastal scenes of Fishermen and their boats. On their return Alten saw a show of the Spanish painter Sorolla whose paintings of Valencia fisherman inspired Alten.  After the success of Alten’s Dutch paintings he decided to travel to Spain to paint similar subjects.

The Spanish paintings by Alten were well received in Grand Rapids upon his return in 1911. Alten’s plans for more travel in Europe were curtailed by the outbreak of World War I. Instead the artist focused on Michigan scenes and portrait commissions. After the war Alten began traveling around the United States and holding shows in Los Angeles, Detroit and New York. He painted in California, New Mexico, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida.

 His exhibition schedule and portrait commissions kept him in demand and travelling around the country throughout the decade of the 1920’s and into the 1930’s until the time of his death in 1938.


Mathias J Alten: Journey of and American Painter
Various Authors

Published by the Grand Rapids Art Museum 1998