Monday, November 27, 2006
I swore off art as a career the day I visited the San Francisco Art Institute to clear up a misunderstanding with their financial aid department. I had been admitted, but also been told the SFAI graduate program did not grant financial aid to non-citizens (I still have the letter). So I waited until arrival in San Francisco to clear up the matter. Apparently they had not heard that Puerto Ricans had been made American citizens prior to the Korean War.
But something happened once I got to the SFAI campus. I could not find the financial aid office, so I walked all over, through their exhibits, classrooms, and administrative offices. Tuition was in the vicinity of $15,000 a year in 1985, and I was asking myself the question "Ok, what do I get for $15,000.?" I sat on a bench in one of their open spaces on the second floor. The view was beautiful, and, as I appreciated the surroundings, I decided right there that I didn't want to pay $35,000. to become a conceptual artist. After this bold insight, I got up and was able to locate the elderly officer of their financial aid office. Just as I thought, she assumed I had applied from Costa Rica. In my awkward English, I told her not to bother.
Was that a good decision? What it terrible to reject the credibility that comes with a SF Art Institute degree? I have often asked myself the same question over the years. Let me know what you think.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
The falling water's roar was almost unbearable, and the mist made everything colder. In short, I was in my element, so I started painting, happy to be away from cigarette smoke and protected from the maddening crowds. Andrea Bocelli's voice reached me from across the street and thick traffic, and suddenly, the heads of every passer-by turned to face its origin. The huge fountain at the Bellagio had been activated.
I could now focus on the problem at hand. After the pencil drawing I could see the statues would steal the show, but I wanted to fight against my tendency to include too much background detail. Even though they occupied most of the space in the 12 x 12" Aquarello (Cartiera Magnani) sheet, I knew that the manner in which I treated the background would "make or break" this picture. So I asked myself: What do I simplify, and how do I do it?
I omitted most of the people walking within my line of view. I could not rely on spectators staying there long enough for me to paint them. I also used a purple wash over all of the background, except for the sky. Speaking of the sky, I left out the majority of the clouds, too wispy and white to make it in this "battle of the values." Finally, I left out some signs on the street which I thought would be distracting.
My approach varies. Sometimes I do the background first, sometimes the foreground. Sometimes I work on both simultaneously, especially if I am not yet sure of whether there will be enough contrast. In this picture, I did exactly that. It was a cold palette, reflective of the cold day it was.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
- a pocket box (I fill it with my own colors)
- plastic mixing pan about 7" x 10"
- foldable water "bucket"
- three brushes in their own case
- 12" x 16" block of paper
- mechanical pencil (never needs sharpening)
- plastic container with my paint tubes
- small natural sponge
- one bottle of water for each painting
- kneadable eraser
- paper towels
- hat, shades, sunscreen
Friday, November 10, 2006
I took advantage of the mild October weather (read: not rainy) to do a couple of quick oils in the park behind our house. Finding a cow-free spot requires a mile-long trek uphill through hot dusty fireroads. I normally take a $30. aluminum portable easel, a hat, a snack, a bottle of water, my sunglasses, a long sleeved shirt, and a foldable chair that doubles as backpack. Inside are no more than six tubes of basic colors, a pad of disposable palette paper, some turpentine, a set of about 20 hog brushes, a bit of stand oil, and some rags. Sometimes I bring a pencil, but most of the time I forget.