Monday, September 8, 2014

Behind the Scenes

Armand Cabrera

Most of the work for an art show goes on behind the scenes. I usually do two or three shows a year. That’s on average 20 to twenty five paintings for each show and this is on top of my normal production schedule that I maintain with my galleries and other clients in entertainment.

Shows take a lot of effort to plan and produce. There are editorial copy and ads and invitations to write and disseminate for all of the various outlets that we target for a specific show. The theme of the show must be decided upon well in advance. Travel arrangements made and trip logistics planned.  All of this needs to happen before or in tandem with the paintings being completed on time. 

I am lucky in that both Diane and I are technical enough to handle all of the promotion and prep from our side. The gallery or venue is also busy with preparations and plans and everything has to be timed just right for a successful show.

Of course new commissions will crop up and new opportunities will come along while we make our plans and must be fitted into a reasonable schedule to keep everyone happy.

The paintings have to be framed and shipped and the space hung. I like to have paintings finished a month or more before a show and ship everything at least two weeks before the opening.  This doesn't mean I don’t swap things out at the last minute or change my mind about what to include in a show but I make sure I have the body of work finished before I do that.  I like to offer a range of sizes and subjects for my shows and to demonstrate the range of my interests at that particular time in my career.  I think all of this helps educate my clients about my work.

My normal practice is to over produce so I can pick what I consider the best pieces for a venue. So if I decide on 20 paintings for a show most likely I will paint 40. This gives me a little wiggle room for subsequent shows and gallery requests later in the year. It also allows the gallery to veto a piece or two if they feel they wouldn't be a good fit for their clientele.  I prefer this to having anyone else participate in my paintings choices beforehand. Those decisions are all mine and they are what keeps me painting and growing as an artist.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Art and Labor

Armand Cabrera

"I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study
mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and
philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture,
navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children
a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary,
tapestry and porcelain." ~ John Adams

We just finished celebrating labor day here in the USA.

 Labor groups have been much maligned the last few decades. Some of the criticism is just but a lot of it is not. With labor groups weakening we are seeing a return to pre-1920 work ideas. Almost gone are the 8 hour work day and 40 hour work week. Gone is the idea you get paid an hourly wage in some industries like entertainment and gaming.

What has this got to do with art you might ask? Well everything. Labor movements of the last few centuries took their cues from the artisan guilds that started during medieval times and led to the renaissance for arts and European society. It wasn't quick, or without suffering but artists were there at the beginning.

Before the guilds you had very few classes of people in Europe. You had the ruling class, the clergy, the military class and serfs or slaves. Serfs were beholden to their masters and their masters could do what they wanted with them. They were expected to do everything to provide their masters with leisure time. It became obvious though that some serfs were better at building things than others, some were better at painting or pot making than others. Some had greater skill at metallurgy or woodcraft. The division of labor started to fall along lines of skill but these people were still slaves and when the ruler needed something they stepped to it skilled or not.

Guilds helped to change that. Guilds shifted the power back to the artisans who had unique knowledge that gave them skill with certain disciplines. Groups of people formed guilds around  disciplines to control the quality and the knowledge of a particular craft. The ruling class now hired and paid craft people to produce objects for them. Artisans became a class of people. It elevated them slightly from serfdom and peasantry. Their worth and status was not based on their bloodlines. Though the artists themselves were not revered individually their guild could be and that meant a better life for them and their family.

You worked as an apprentice in a guild under a master to learn to reproduce the master’s work exactly, learning over years to create a “master piece” something indistinguishable from the masters own work in the eyes of the patrons. Once this was accomplished an artisan could with his masters blessing then start another guild and continue the legacy of quality and style.

Guilds continued to elevate classes of people as society moved from small fiefdoms of slaves to freemen that were allowed to own property and control their own destinies. Again art and artisans led the way for this. As artists sought more control and expression over what they made the ideas of guilds loosened. Artists had more freedom for innovation and experimentation and this flowering of shared knowledge helped support the renaissance.  Artists were elevated to some of the highest levels of society as court artists, portrait painters, musicians, architects and muralists.

Every century brought greater freedom and a better standard of living for more people. Whenever things reversed and society faltered, groups of people would band together for their common interests and demand fair treatment.  The more skilled they were the more leverage they had over their place in society since their abilities could not easily be replaced.

Art and skill will always drive innovation and social change, as artists let’s make it for the betterment of all in society. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Armand Cabrera Videos

My partner Diane Burket is a voice over professional and has been going through my older posts and recording them as video podcasts. She has been posting them on Youtube the past few weeks  so I thought I would provide links to them here so people can listen when they choose. I will make a special section for them in the sidebar of the blog under videos

Mixing Greens

Painting Autumn Color

Aldro Thompson  Hibbard  Biography

Isaac Levitan Biography

Frederick Waugh Biography

Albert Thomas DeRome Biography

Collaboration verses Auteur

Armand Cabrera

As a production artist the idea of collaboration comes up a lot in my discussions with clients. A lot of the art world caters to making art in service of something else. I’m not talking here about people starting out or learning the particulars of a job requirement. I’m talking about professional artists who have established their ability. This is just as true for a portrait as it is for an illustration. In production art I’m often called on once the style of the project has been set and I must insert myself into that process as seamlessly as possible. 

Collaborative jobs take a special type of compromise that has nothing to do with an individual’s ability as an artist. Some people try to make the argument that it makes them a better artist but I disagree. I think it makes them a more pliable artist and individual.  At the very least it makes one a different artist not necessarily better or worse than when left alone. One who sees collaboration and compromise as part of the process needs to agree to the idea that other people who don’t actually do your job are better at it than you are; but to become that person you have to give up your own system of beliefs. 

When I work in production I give them what they want. If they just want a wrist to take their orders that’s what they get. If they want my creativity as a jumping off point for their ideas they can have that too. If they want to leave the authorship to me, I'm glad to oblige. They get to decide. I give them the best work I can, given the parameters they create.

No two people can be in agreement every step of the way. An artist must tamp down their personal voice and they most likely never know the artist you could be if left to follow your own heart and mind. Whether you make the decision consciously or not you have abrogated your abilities and knowledge to someone else. You will never know if left to your own devices, what you would have produced. Where would your art take you if left to explore on your own and accept or reject precepts as you discover them?

My solution for this is personal work. One of the reasons I developed a gallery presence is there is none of this in my gallery work. I in my personal work I paint pictures that I want to paint. No one is in on the decision process as I work. All the creative aspects of the painting are my decision. The gallery is free to accept or reject paintings I offer to them and buyers accept or reject what gets hung on the walls by buying them or not.

For me this is where my creativity and skill get pushed to new heights. It the only time I grow as an artist. I have to shrug off all of the outside opinions and dig down deep for my own solutions. I stand or fall on my experiments and decisions. Its all mine and its where the real art is for me. No one can see the visions in my head or how to paint them better than me. I could find solutions in other artists work but that would be a cop out for me, it has to come from inside. The best part of this path is when these paintings connect with clients. Then I know I have accomplished what I have set out to do. It’s not about shortcuts and monetary success though, it’s about the truth of my journey on canvas and it’s the only thing that really matters to me.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Tone Frames

Armand Cabrera

I buy metal and gold leaf frames for most of my paintings. I like how the metallic gold finish complements the paintings but sometimes the frames are not the right color or too brassy and bright and detract from the image. When this happens I tone them.

Many times the frames I buy change from order to order even though they are supposed to be the same frame style. Toning your frames helps to keep them the tone you want.

 The best way to start is use some old damaged frames and practice until you get the results you are looking for. There are many ways to do this, this is my process.

I mix up a bunch of varnish cut in half with mineral spirits. I mix in a small amount of the pigment I want. Usually a mixture of raw umber as a base with touches of yellow ochre or viridian added depending on what tone I want the color to be.

I then ponce the mixture into the frame with a big brush so I get a nice pattern to the application and it gets into all the cuts of the carving. I let this set and then wipe the excess of with an old rag t shirt. Once it is fully dry I polish it with renaissance wax. 

Here is a frame with half toned and half not toned so you can see the difference it makes