Monday, December 31, 2012

Hungry Artist Games

Heads up, today is the last day to enter the ARC salon!  Dave and I have said so before, and I'll say it again: it's a good thing to have a big, central competition for everyone from all the different walks of representational art to compete and mingle in.  One cool thing is how the ARC has been developing equal opportunity for illustrators to compete by adding a category for imaginary realism.  It's nice to have those creative and ambitious jerks drive home for us realist fine artists just how lame our mug shot portraits and overly precious little "life studies" are.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Titian's Venus of Urbino has a lot in common with this provocative mastiff.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone has a great holiday and are thankful the Mayans were wrong about the world ending in a fiery blaze of death.....stupid Mayans. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Dave and I don't make it to representational art galleries very often, what with living on an island where the main artistic output is totem poles.  Luckily for us, we make it out to NYC once a year to visit my in-laws, and that's when we nerd it up.  We compile a list of galleries, plot them on a map, and go.  We alternately praise and talk smack about our peers ("Wall-eyed ellipses? Oh no you di'n't!"), and if I'm really lucky, swipe a price list at Eleanor Ettinger Gallery and figure out how much money the featured artist made at their show that month, and what I would buy for myself if I had that much money.  It's easy because Tiffany's is right across the street and I'd only have to purchase one thing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

ARC Salon

 The Art Renewal Center Salon deadline is fast approaching.  I know a lot of people out there like to find excuses why not to enter, but the whole point of the Salon is to bring together the best artists in the fields of fine art, illustration, and concept art.  There is nothing else like it out there. 

I will say the ARC has helped me tremendously in my career and opened up a lot up a lot of opportunities.  If it wasn't for things like the ARC Student scholarship, I would have found myself hard pressed to have attended things like the Hudson River Fellowship.  In addition, Fred and Sherry Ross have purchased many works from both Kate and I.  We have both placed in the Salon with large cash prize awards which always seemed to come right when we really needed it. 

It is my hope that this year more concept artists and illustrators will enter, as they are also truly pushing the boundaries of realism and often go unnoticed.  For more information on entering, click here.

Here's one of the pieces I entered.  The "Happy Huntsman" finished.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Narrative work

For years I have heard people whining about the contemporary art scene with the phrase "but where's all the multi-figure narrative work like they used to do in the 19th century....waaaaaaaah?"  Well, it's time for them to shut their cake holes because I have taken my first steps towards such a thing (not like I'm the first).  A lot of people may wonder why I have not attempted anything similar before.  Quite frankly, because it's hard to pull one off well and it takes a lot of planning.  That's probably why you don't see a lot of people doing them.   I always wished I was like Rouge from  X-Men who could touch someone and adsorb all their powers;  in this case art powers.  I would walk up to some of my favorite artist's like Yuqi Wang, Scott Waddell, and Mian Situ and shake their hand, only to turn around and run off laughing with their skills of narrative painting.

(Sidenote, painting "random naked chick in bed reading book" does not count as narrative painting unless the story is about a woman whose cloths exploded and she decided to do some book research to figure out the enigma of why).

In this piece, there are two fisherman on the hunt for some aquatic creatures to destroy; I don't know, maybe some baby seals or something.  It took quite a bit of time to dig up the correct articles of clothing I needed, a boat, and a model who had a mustache so manly that Burt Reynolds would blush.
I did quite a few thumbnails to work out the composition.  One trick for this is not to simply sit down with a sketchbook and try to do fifty in a row.  Some are done in a sketchbook, a scrap peice of paper and even on napkins at a restaurant.  When I get an idea, I jot it down.  By the time I am ready, I have no idea what happened to the first 49 I did, but the winners are kept. 

I also try to do at least 5-10 color studies.  Ironically I always end up going with the one of the ones I did first, but I do a bunch more to make sure to kill time until the show "Shark Tank" comes on.  I was thinking of going on "Shark Tank" and offering them the investment of 50.00 dollars and a ham sandwich for 51 % of the equity in my business.

After that, time for the full-on drawing that will be transferred for the final painting.  In addition to these stages I still have to do ocean studies, boat studies, sky studies, and some portrait, narrative work sucks.

Start of cartoon
Some of the color studies.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The David Gluck Show with Matthew Innis

Matthew Innis is the artist responsible for the highly successful "Underpaintings" blog, but in all likelihood you probably already knew this, seeing as how half our traffic comes directly from his site. We thought if we interviewed him we might learn something about running a successful blog.

1) If you were stranded on an island with five other people with no food for weeks, how would you bring up the idea of resorting to cannibalism? Would you kinda joke about it to gauge people reactions then go from there, or take one or two people aside and go after the tubby guy before they knew what was going on?

I am a vegetarian, so if I said in passing, “Gee, Bob looks delicious,” I think it would ring everyone else’s alarm bells. Cannibalism would hopefully be the option of last resort, and aside from the moral issues which might get in the way of my eating my fellow islanders, as a vegetarian, I’m not overly fond of the taste of meat. So my focus on the island would not be, “which person do I eat first,” but “how do I make sure I’m the guy who gets eaten last.” To make the others seem more tasty to each other, I would give them all nicknames that would make them sound like food; names like “T-Bone,” “Chicken Leg,” or “Entrée.” I would also start exercising like crazy, not just so I would be harder to take down, but because the exercise B.O. would make less appetizing.

2) How many hobbits could you beat in a street fight before being overwhelmed by their sheer numbers? What would the number be if you had a lightsaber?

This is similar to a question I have pondered for years. Since reading The Fellowship of the Ring in fifth grade, I’ve often imagined getting into a bar fight with a bunch of hobbits while inside the Inn of the Prancing Pony. I think I know how that would play out. But a street fight, that would be totally different.

There are many variables that could affect my answer. For example, what kind of hobbits are these? Are they Harfoots, Stoors, or Fallohides? What is the environment like? Is it a paved street or cobblestone? Is it clean, or is there debris? How close are we to one of the seven daily meals hobbits eat? Are any of them smoking pipeweed? Have they been eating mushrooms? Is any one of them wearing The One Ring?

Hobbits are generally peaceful, but pretty tough. If I could get my back to a wall so no hobbits could sneak up on me (they move rather stealthily), if there wasn’t anything on the ground that could be used as a projectile against me (they have good aim), if none of them were invisible, and it was almost one of their seven mealtimes (they must be hypoglycemic), I think I could take down eight. (I have three kids, so from the experience I have beating them up, I think that I could take down the first three hobbits without breaking a sweat).

With a light saber, I could take them all. ALL. I mean, what chance would they have against someone wielding the Force? It would be like Anakin Skywalker at a Jedi nursery school.

3) If you had a time machine, would you go back and kill Hitler, knowing full well that the most awesome mini-series "Band of Brothers" would never be made as a result? This also goes for pretty much every awesome video game AND the Indiana Jones series.

“Yes, I would go back and kill Hitler,” or at least, that would be my first reaction to this question. I would do this so I could save the many victims of World War II who suffered and/or died as a direct result of the events that that man set in motion. However, this might create a time-space paradox by which not only “Band of Brothers” would no longer exist, but I might not either.

My mother was born in 1932 in Eindhoven, a town near the Belgian border in the Netherlands. If you ever saw the movie or read the book “A Bridge Too Far,” you may have heard of it. She grew up during WWII, and I remember the stories she told my sisters and me about the bullet hole in the ceiling from when a Nazi soldier shot at my grandfather when he was seen standing too close to the window after “lights out;” how her best friend across the street was killed when parts of a British plane that had been shot down landed on the girl’s house; the day her half-naked grandmother embarrassed and delayed a group of Nazi soldiers, allowing the Jewish family hiding in the attic to escape across the rooftops; the day her family ate their pet cat because food was so scarce; how the fear and stress of the War caused a large portion of her hair to fall out at age 8, and how it never grew back; and the day she met her first American, a soldier who heroically saved her by grabbing her and diving into a well during a bombing raid. There were many stories, more than she ever shared with me, but it is without doubt those events shaped her life, and thereby mine.

Of course, quantum theory would provide for time travel without paradoxes, so going back to kill Hitler would more likely result in a parallel universe. In my original universe, Hollywood would still have “Band of Brothers,” Indiana Jones, and the History Channel.

4) If you were immortal, where would you see your art career 400 years from now? 

In 400 years, I will be the last living painter - There can be only one. This is the very reason why I have a mirror next to my easel, instead of behind me, and why I use a katana as a mahl stick. I’m also a slow painter, so in 400 years, I’m hoping the painting currently on my easel would finally be finished.

In many ways, this question makes me think of the lottery question, “If you won the jackpot, what would you do differently?” Nothing would change for me, I’d just be doing more of what I love to do. I imagine by then I would be challenging myself to larger canvases, with complex subjects and compositions, and that I would still be trying, without success, to be more painterly.

5) We all know you have an impressive collection of feral cats, have you ever considered giving them away as prizes for your contests on Underpaintings?

Yes. Unfortunately, the farthest any package has it made it is only one neighborhood away before the mewling alerted the mail-lady to my scheme, and she returned the cat to me. I am currently working on feline hypnosis in order to put the cats into a deep sleep before placing them inside the boxes. So far, all that happens, though, is that I fall asleep, and I wake up to find the pantry depleted of marshmallows.

BTW - If anyone wants to try painting using cat whiskers, I have a huge supply.

6) Why did you decide to start what is one of the most successful art blogs on the internet? How has this affected your artwork?

In the words of Trey Parker, “Blame Canada.”

Allow me to make a short story, long . . .

I consider myself largely a self-taught artist . . . and I have the college degree to prove it. When I was in school, there was not an emphasis on technique and execution; the main goal, it seems, was to teach “concept.” And other than a few tempera paintings when I was in elementary school, I had not even picked up a brush until college, and I had not tried painting in oils until I was a senior. I was really behind the eight ball - I was getting a late start, and I had no one teaching me the basics of the activity I ostensibly wanted to do. To make up for the lack of training, I read a lot. I have a huge collection of art books, and it all started in college.

After graduating, I was able to get some illustration jobs, and basically started to teach myself to paint while on-the-job. I ended up doing a variety of commercial art jobs, from creating game art and book covers, to making prototype costumes for toys, sculpting action figures, and working in an animation studio. After several years, living on debt got old, and I quit art cold turkey, and went out looking for one of those J-O-Bs that offers health coverage, a retirement plan, and a steady paycheck.

I found one. It was awful. But I ended up with a savings account (my wife and I did not have kids back then), and I just couldn’t seem to forget about art, so maybe I could make that awful job slightly better if I knew it was paying for me to pursue art as a hobby.

Being self-taught, I was never really confident in what I could do, or in what I knew. So I made a short list of artists with whom I wished to study, and started taking classes and workshops with those people. My top five at the time were Marvin Mattelson, whom I had wanted to study with since I saw the work his students had been doing back in my college days, Jeremy Lipking, whose inspiring work I had just seen in American Artist Magazine, Tony Ryder, whose portraits blew me away, Juan Martinez, whose beautiful drawings I had seen in a show in New York City, and Michael John Angel, whose students were creating some of the most brilliant, drama-filled still lifes I had ever seen. I have been able to study directly with four of them - Angel is the only one of those five with whom I have yet to study - and I appreciate all that I learned from each of them.

For class with Juan, I traveled up to Canada. It was a great workshop, and I met some extremely talented people while I was visiting. Among them were Will Nathans, an American who had also studied with Mattelson, Kate Stone (I wonder whatever became of her), and Canadian Kristy Gordon, a Ren & Stimpy alumnus turned fine artist. Kristy was doing an awesome portrait of Kate, and I stopped by her easel to make a comment, and she started asking me questions, and like a typical out-and-about American with poor etiquette, I started giving her suggestions, and talking about art history. Kristy seemed interested in what I had to say, which I found shocking, because, after all, I was just a guy who read a lot of art books, and didn’t every artist do that?

Kristy and I kept up communications, and a while later, she wrote to tell me she had started a blog. I commented on some of her posts, and she asked me some more questions, and then she suggested I do a blog too. Up until Kristy’s blog, the only other art blog I had seen was James Gurney’s, and he’s brilliant, and I didn’t see what I could contribute to the blogosphere after seeing what he was doing. But Kristy insisted I knew a lot about art, so I figured, what the heck, I’d give it a try.

To my surprise, other people found what I had to say interesting too.

I didn’t know at first if anyone was going to read my posts, but I decided to keep plugging away at it. I decided I wouldn’t be someone who could help another artist finish a great painting the way Gurney might, but instead I could be someone who provided some knowledge and ideas that could help someone start a painting - an under-painting, you might say. I wanted to provide the kind of knowledge I wished I had been taught back when I was in college; I think every student deserves at least that much.

The blog has helped me a lot. For one thing, I’ve found out I’m a pretty good researcher (I think that is more accurate than saying I’m knowledgeable). And I’ve also learned that the adage, “To teach is to learn twice,” is very true. What I write about reinforces within me the techniques and lessons I’ve gathered over the years, and that helps me during the juggling act of painting, when there are so many different things to remember simultaneously.

The biggest impact on my art from all of this - the teachers, the blog, the research, and the support of the readers - has been a greater confidence in my own work. I feel that I was given permission to do the things in art that I had wanted to do but was discouraged from doing when I was younger (e.g. using the color black, working representationally, using my tongue to lick the lead white off my brushes, etc.). With that confidence, art has stopped being a hobby again, and because of the people with whom I’ve studied, and the notes I’ve made through the blog, when I mess up a painting (and I invariably do), I have some tried and true lessons to fall back on to see where I went wrong.

7) How would you define art using only 2 letters as your answer (you can have one number too if needed)? 

That’s tough. If I could use two numbers, it would be easy, but just two letters? Hmmmm... I think I will go with “q” and “i.” “Qi” is the Chinese word which refers to life force. It is vital, and encompasses the soul. And the inverse of “q-i” is “i-q,” which is fitting, because the majority of artists I know are possessed of high intellect. (I could have gone with the Japanese counterpart to Qi, which is “Ki,” but the inverse of of that would be “ik,” which just didn’t seem as fancy).

(I can't believe he came up with an answer for that last question that didn't involve "fu")


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pond's Edge in Progress

A while ago on this blog I posted a pic of my hot off the press last ever painting of Lucie, my favourite model from Toronto.  Since then I've decided that the title "Last Lucie" will make sense to approximately zero collectors, so I've started calling it "Pond's Edge," which will hopefully suppress people from asking me what is going on in the background.  I think that the title of a painting should either answer a question or cause a viewer to ask a question.  Otherwise you end up with stupid titles, like "Solitude III" or "Serendipity in Blue."

Drybrush.  Yawn.  This stuff must get so boring for you readers.

This painting was a little improptu.  Instead of starting with a concept and moving onto a photo shoot, I used some existing references that were just captivating.  The result is that I was freed up to focus on visual effects.  No fussing about anything else.

So I started this painting with the attitude that I was going to focus not so much on a complicated design or concept, but rather on doing something different with my materials.  I had this realization that I don't paint anything like the artists that I really admire, so my goal was to try to get closer to painting the way I really want to.  I've sort of been painting the way that I naturally paint up until now, without trying to push myself out of my comfort zone.

I definitely struggled with Lucie's face for a bit (as usual).  My mum pointed out once that truly beautiful people tend to have something really unusual about their faces.  Like Julia Roberts's cavernous grand canyon mouth or Brooke Shields's caterpillar eyebrows.  Lucie has these soulful eyes that look enormous, but are actually normal sized.  Throws me off every time.  The eyes are the first and last thing I paint and I can never get them right.  I recently painted a couple of girls who are not Lucie, and holy crap was it easy to get their faces looking right.

I decided I really wanted to experiment with a tight face and a loose background.  I hate backgrounds.  Trying to tuck a landscape in behind someone is lame.  I was trying to come up with a way of doing it that I really loved.

Painting with warms and cools, transparency and opacity to get the hair just right.

Right around now I took a break for lunch and read this while I wrapped myself around some bacon and eggs:

"In particular, another 'ism', Symbolism...has turned out to be more and more useful as an umbrella term to describe those strange new currents that began to emerge in the 1880s and that would reach their peak, on both sides of the Atlantic, by the turn of the century.  The drift was inward, a rejection of the external world that could be verified by touch our sight in favor of experiences that could be felt or dreamed in a terrain hovering between twilight and the deepest mysteries of sleep or myth...Whether in Moscow or Prague, London or Milan, Brussels or Barcelona, artists would shut their eyes in order to open the floodgates of feeling and imagination."

(Italics my own)

Wow.  If a blurb like that doesn't make you want to luxuriate in smokey, moody painting effects, I don't know what would.  There are very few things that get me excited about painting, apart from painting itself.  Usually anything an art historian or critic has to say about art pisses me off.  But just reading that made me think, "Wow, I want to be an artist when I grow up.  Wait, I am an artist!!"

"Mystery, as in a spiritualist seance, could best be conjured up by an ambience of haze, a milieu closer to reverie and sleep, where smoky phantoms appear and vanish as in a hallucination."

Damn!  I gobbled down my lunch and went back to the easel.

That background is my version of shutting my eyes in order to better see.

I've oiled in the whole shawl area, plus a margin of hair so that I can work into the shadowy areas between ringlets just enough to integrate the two areas.

Shawl in place

 Finished.  The last touch was to anchor her hovering head with a neck.

And here is a close up of the flesh tones.  They are much more broken than usual.  Drifting closer to how I want to paint.


We're not all fancy like at Underpaintings, which is real art journalism, so I don't know how to do the sophisticated little number trick.  The passage I quoted was an introduction by Robert Rosenblum for Eugene Carriere by Robert Bantens.