Saturday was our fourth Art Out Loud event at the Society of Illustrators. Each time, Dan Dos Santos, Greg, and I have been getting a little more practiced and a little more relaxed at running these things. This time was no exception -- I could not have hoped for a more enjoyable event. (Plus, my mom was there to help out so, really, what could have gone wrong.)
We had three Hamilton King Award-winning artists, Jim Bennett, Greg Manchess, and Gary Kelley -- each with very different sensibilities -- all doing a painting demo at the same time. All of them are natural teachers. They engaged the audience immediately, and, talked and fielded questions for the entire four hours. Any one of them would have been a great speaker on their own but, I suspect, the decades of friendship between them had a lot to do with the warm and intimate atmosphere in the room.
Jim Bennett worked on a image for a 2008 calendar of his baseball paintings. (Anyone that knows Jim, knows that he's a baseball nut.) In the beginning he focused on the important details -- the lead character's expressions, body language, etc. After that, he worked very loosely and off the cuff. He talked a lot about letting himself make as many "mistakes" as possible, "playing around...watching for good things to happen." Otherwise he said that he'd be bored with the image and, "If I'm bored, than my viewer is going to be bored."
Greg Manchess worked on one of a series of paintings for a new hospital of cardiology. He talked about the importance of value in creating an image, "You can make something any color you want as long as you nail the value." He talked about the importance of good reference, but, that an artist needs to supplement that reference with observation and memory. He mentioned, "You don't get your style, your style gets you." And, "You shouldn't shy away from your influences...they are trying to show you a place you'd like to go." He talked about learning from Gary Kelley and then branching off on his own...while continuing to push himself. "No one is born an artist, it's takes lots of practice and hard work."
Gary Kelley worked in pastels on a alternate (un-chosen) sketch for a wine label. (He graciously donated the painting to the Society Student Scholarship auction to be held December 4th.) Gary also talked a lot about influence and discovery...constantly looking around at situations and artists to inform his work, and, his desire to explore themes in various media -- oils, pastels, monotype, etc. He worked with his fingers as much as he used the actual pastels. He said that a lot of his process is following instinct but, "Instinct isn't about me being who I am, it's about doing a lot of looking and being influenced by the things around me." He stated, "There are no secrets, just years of experience." He spoke a bit about his start as a graphic designer and how that has informed his sense of composition. When speaking about the painting he was working on he said, "I'm looking at this work as a piece of design as much as a picture of something," "I want to retain the feeling that there is still a drawing involved in this piece," and "although I want this to look a little naïve and graphic, there is still something of a Wyeth influence in me that let's me enjoy placing in the details."
All in all, a great event. The crowd was full without being cramped. I was particularly gratified that so many people made a point to let us know what a good time they had. A number of notable artists were in attendance: Peter de Seve, Duglad Stermer, Donato Giancola, Robert Crawford, and others. Two artsit/writers for an online magazine, Resolve40, came to report on it. If I catch that post, I'll update it here.
A huge thanks to Gary, Greg, and Jim for being so giving with their time and knowledge. Thanks, also, to Arkady Roytman, Jinju Wantanabe, Rusty Zimmerman, Mike Sysn, and Garret Campbell-Wilson for, once again, helping out. And, of course, thanks to everyone who came out for the event.