Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Substance of Art

By Armand Cabrera

Can anything be more tragic than to feel the infinite beauty of your surroundings, to read natures innermost secrets and, conscious of your own helplessness, to be incapable of expressing those powerful emotions? ----- Isaac Levitan

Art is not just what we know; it is also what we feel but for it to succeed as art it must provide a shared experience to the viewer. There are many names for this idea heart, authenticity, honesty, genuineness, truthfulness, substance. Whatever your definition, good art reveals some insight about the author. There is a false dichotomy set up about this idea in the visual arts that goes something like this; facility is the enemy of substance. The more you know the less you feel.
Many times finish is confused with skill. I would say this happens as much if not more than confusing inability with insight. Real skill is ability and judgment in directing and designing all aspects of a work. Color, composition, brush calligraphy, edges, design, and subject choice.

While I would agree that adding as much detail and finish as possible to a painting doesn't add any insight, I would also argue that having no understanding about what you paint or how you do it will not add emotional content to a painting either. Accident is not intent and while randomness or even inability may be taken as intended brilliance that is a lack of keen observation from the viewer not cleverness from the maker.

In both of my examples what is lacking is intent by the originator. The inclusion of everything without an orchestrated purpose, hoping for meaning, is just as devoid of substance as the lack of skill in hope of understanding. To convey emotion and genuine sincerity it must first be understood as a goal by the creator of the work. It must then be attainable through the skill of the painter.  A painting succeeds or fails to the degree the painter lacks a specific goal or they lack the skill to attain that goal.

To convey honesty requires effort, it cannot be steeped in fad or fakery. Honesty is helped by technical ability but it isn't created by it.

There are ten thousand people in the United States who can paint and draw to beat the band. You have never heard of them and you never will. They have thoroughly mastered their craft and that is all they have—their craft… Merely knowing your craft will never be enough to make a picture… If you ever amount to anything at all, it will be because you are true to that deep desire or ideal which made you seek artistic expression in pictures. ----- Harvey Dunn

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Autumn in the Blueridge 2014

Armand Cabrera

Over the last couple of weeks I've gone and painted up on the Blueridge Parkway or down in some of the hollows on the western edge of the Piedmont where it meets up with the eastern base of the mountains. The weather was poorest right at the peak of color but there were a few mild sunny autumn days that made everything worthwhile.  

Autumn will continue in the Piedmont for a few more weeks but most of the leaves will be gone from the upper slopes by then. I have plenty of reference for larger studio paintings and some finished pieces out on location. One of the joys painting outdoors is experiencing how different the same places and things can look year to year, month to month, day to day, hour to hour.

This time of year Shenandoah Park gets inundated with visitors coming to see the spectacular panoramas during the peak of fall color in Virginia. Normally I can drive into the park without any traffic and paint all day without ever seeing anyone, but not this time of year.  Crowds are everywhere during the week and double on the weekends. In a single day on the weekends its not unusual for me to talk to 50 to 100 people.

It reminds me of when I started painting and I was living in the Napa Valley and I became used to people talking to me while I worked. I think of it as good practice for good marketing. I've never understood people who can’t talk or are cranky to people that are curious about the painting process. While I don’t expect to sell when I go out to paint, I do sell paintings right off the easel sometimes or people stop into my local galleries to say they met me and sometimes they will purchase through the galleries. Not everyone can afford my paintings but they can afford my prints and meeting the artist can help decide a sale. Those sales wouldn't happen if I didn't talk to people when I was out painting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall color continues

Armand Cabrera

Once I caught up on laundry and correspondence after my Colorado trip I headed up to Skyline Drive to paint fall color in Virginia. The weather was a little dreary at first but the last few days have been spectacular and it looks like it will be a good year for autumn colors in the Piedmont over the next couple of weeks. I'll post more of my outdoor paintings and some process shots over the next few posts.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Painting trip to Ouray Colorado

Armand Cabrera

 Just a week after Illuxcon I was off to Colorado to paint fall color for five days with my friend Arthur. The weather was perfect most of the time although we did have one snow day which gave the peaks a nice dusting.

We timed it just right with most of the spots being at peak or a little before peak when we arrived. I finished eight paintings total and got plenty of reference for future studio pieces.

We had rooms at a bed and breakfast in Ouray and we made day trips to a predetermined place, splitting our time between the Cimarron Range and the Sneffels Range to get a morning and evening painting. At night we returned to town for a meal at one of the local food establishments .

The area boasts 10 peaks above 13,500 feet with 6 peaks above 14,000 feet. Unlike the Eastern Sierras which also has quite a few 14ers but prohibits vehicles in the back country, most of the close views of these peaks are accessible by forest roads and four wheel drive vehicles.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Illuxcon 2014 and Beyond

by Armand Cabrera

It has been a couple of weeks since I've posted anything here. My apologies, my schedule has interfered with my normal writing schedule. Last week I was in Allentown PA for the Imaginative show Illuxcon at the Allentown Museum. Before that I was getting everything ready for the show.

The show was very successful for me and I sold five paintings and a number of prints. I was also commissioned to do a large painting (3 x 5 feet) by the Illuxcon committee which was shown for the first time at the show. I had lots of positive feedback on my imaginative work and my idea to mix imaginative work with my plein air paintings appears to be paying off. People seemed to really like the way the work looked. I also received some magazine and book offers that may turn into some interesting work down the line.

This next week I will be in southern Colorado plein air painting with a friend so no substantial posts for another week. I should be back to normal and posting again by the 12th of Oct.