Friday, October 31, 2014

Workshop: Omaha, Nebraska October 18-19, 2014

I was in Omaha the weekend of Oct 18-19 for my Making it Fine Art Workshop. We had a grand time with ideas and paints flying through the air! There were breakthroughs and blast offs. It was a great weekend. Thanks to all that came and for your gracious hospitality.

A special thanks to the Beatrice Art Guild and their benefactors for sponsoring this workshop.

Pictured above are the wonderful workshop participants and below is my 36 x 36 oil demo in progress from that weekend. It is a smaller, cropped version of a larger oil completed some weeks earlier, Field with the Red Tree, 36 x 60.

Demo from the art workshop. Down the Meadow
oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

Monday, October 27, 2014

Old Masters After 80, some people don’t retire. They reign.

From the NY Times Sunday, Oct 26, 2014
Interviews by Camille Sweeney, photographs by Erik Madigan Heck

View the entire article here with more remarkable people and their comments about careers and aging.

Christopher Plummer, actor, 84, at his home in Connecticut.

In 2012, Plummer won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in ‘‘Beginners,’’ making him the oldest actor to win the award.

What has surprised you the most about being your age?

Well, the fact that there were no surprises surprised me. I don’t feel any older now or less flexible than I did when I was 60 or 55. It just goes on.

Was this information that was passed along to you, or did you have to find it out yourself?

Well, most of my contemporaries and friends have kicked the bucket. An awful lot of them are gone. But the ones whom I admired, for instance John Gielgud, was working when he was 96. And I remember thinking, Good God, that’s amazing.

I keep hearing that staying in shape is crucial past a certain age. Anything else?

Yes. And so is doing the work. It uplifts you. The idea that you’re doing what you love. It’s very important. It’s very sad that most people in the world are not happy with their lot or with their jobs and they can’t wait to retire. And when they retire, it’s like death. . . . They sit at home and watch the television. And that is death. I think you’ve got to continue. We never retire. We shouldn’t retire. Not in our profession. There’s no such thing. We want to drop dead onstage. That would be a nice theatrical way to go.

Ellsworth Kelly, artist, 91, at his studio in Spencertown, N.Y.
Last year, President Obama presented Kelly with the National Medal of Arts.

What’s different about your life now that you’re older?

When I was 79, I asked my doctor, ‘‘I’m 79 and you say I’m in good health, what should I expect from the 80s?’’ And he said: ‘‘If you haven’t got any of the Mayo diseases, you’re pretty good. You can slide right through.’’ And I said, ‘‘What about the 90s?’’ And he said, ‘‘Well . . . we’ll talk about that.’’ But I didn’t sail through exactly. What happened five years ago is I discovered that painting with turpentine, which I’ve been doing since the 1940s, had ruined my lungs. So I’ve been on oxygen ever since.

Any surprises?

I don’t travel now. That’s the big thing. But I’m here [in Columbia County, N.Y.], and I love it. Each year I’m very surprised by the color. . . . It’s one thing about getting older, you see more. . . . Everyday I’m continuing to see new things. That’s why there are new paintings.

What are your days like now?

I’m in the studio everyday. I draw a lot. . . . I chose plants because I knew I could draw plants forever. I want to work like nature works. I want to understand the growth of plants and the dead leaves falling. Oh, how I connect with that!

New Work: Field with the Red Tree, oil on canvas 36 x 60

Field with the Red Tree
Oil on canvas, 36 x 60 inches

I'm doing a workshop in the Lincoln, NE metro and I wanted a photo of the area for a promo. I came across a small photo of a local golf course and added it to the copy. After seeing this photo a few times, I felt compelled to try it out as an oil.

I was feeling ambitious so I got a five for canvas and went to work. It's a simple line of trees in a field but the idea is to make it compelling. Thrilling.

The green fairway had to go so I opted for a glowing, yellow field without as much foreground. I liked the way the trees were in shadow on the right but I made them more pronounced here, adding to the depth. 

From there it was a matter of doing interesting things with the sloping tree line. I noted a number of different tree shapes when I sketched it in, but when I was about to finish the oil, all those trees were too busy. I combined most of the individual trees, making masses of trees in the back. Instantly I had more depth and the opportunity to bring in some really interesting colors and effects. Once those colors were in, I saw the chance to take the entire painting up chromatically. That was the fun part, making the colors more intense and trying new combinations.

It became much more interesting with a stronger presence. I also like how various parts of the canvas shimmer and glow, a result of taking the work further with some unexpected colors and getting interesting results.

I think I got a pretty good score on that hole. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

New Work: Fall Arrayed Oil on canvas 30 x 40

Fall Arrayed
Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches

This canvas was started six years ago, perhaps more. I couldn't get the hang of it at the time. It didn't have much going for it and I didn't have any stimulating ideas to move forward with. It was in a stack of potentially OK canvases that I keep close by.

Fortunately, we grow as artists. So from time to time, I would go through that stack of unfinished oils with a more experienced eye. Occasionally I would spot an oil that I could move forward with.

In this case, it was a simple matter of adding more slope. The original version was too flat. There are a lot of trees represented here and they all had the same shape. So I began to round off a number of them and at the same time I was using a variety of colors, making the oranges, golds and green more complex. Other trees became a line of smaller shapes in the far background against the sky.

I kept trying new blues, pinks and purples in the sky - not completely covering each color until I got an interesting, glowing result. Behind the trees I did the same with the blues, making more iridescence in the dark shadows. That really set off the brighter trees in the foreground.

As I was working on the other parts of the canvas, I was using color on color combinations to the foreground as well. At times the ground was brighter, so I took the trees further, etc. I simply kept trying strategies that made the painting more interesting and powerful.

30 x 40 oils are like small sketches to me, but this oil packs a punch. I'm going to consider a much larger versionv

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Work: View through the Orange and Red Woods

View through the Orange and Red Woods
oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches

In this oil I kept working to increase the drama. It went through many permutations with each one becoming simpler and brighter. In the end, it was the use of stronger contrasts that brought all the colors together harmoniously and at the same time, intensified and enriched each one.

Note the greens. Once they went it, it made the orange to yellow palette sing!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Grateful Notices: Bright Encounter, pastel

Bright Encounter
Pastel on sanded paper, 15 x 15 3/8
Private collection, Ohio

Also available as a limited edition giclee print in three sizes

A few years ago, I began to notice the works of Casey Klahn. He is doing some seriously good pastel works with Very Good and thoughtful color. I wanted to spend some time with him, so we cooked up a workshop for him in Denver, my home.

He had a great turnout and I was in the back of the room with my pastels. At the start of the day, I began an image of trees and a creek - something I was comfortable doing. I didn't have a photo but it wasn't necessary. The start went really well and we stopped for lunch. On my return I realized my start could use a lot more punch or interest. The idea of the class was to break some new ground after all, so it gave it a shot and totally ruined the nice start I had before lunch.

What to do? 

I turned it upside down, filled in some of the awful areas with color and something new emerged! It was this field with a creek at the top. In short order, this very interesting image emerged.

I couldn't make the yellow field work, so I grabbed a color that was not already in the drawing, a pink. I had no ideal what it would do, but it was worth a chance. Sweet!

It needed more, so looking around the room, I stole a red that Casey was using in one of his works for my trees at the top. It worked nicely and with a few tweaks here and there, the pastel was finished.

You would think I knew what I was doing in the back of the room. 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Workshop: Making it Fine Art Workshop Kansas City, Missouri Feb. 7-8, 2015

View through the Orange and Red Woods
oil on canvas 40 X 40

Making it Fine Art Workshop
Kansas City, Missouri

info flyer newsletter info version
Sat and Sun, Feb. 7-8, 2015
Studio of Kirsten McGannon
Hobbs Building|
1427 W. 9th Street
Suite 402
Kansas City, Missouri, 64101

After the Sunday class, there will be a free lecture / book signing of Ken's new book, Manifesting 123 and you don't need #3. The lecture is open to the public.

This workshop will focus on strategies for making better paintings, going to new places in your work and making fine art.

$290. per person
Open to artists at all skill levels and limited to 15 participants

To register:
Kirsten McGannon 816-213-1075
or pay by secure pay pal

Workshop: Making it Fine Art Workshop, Massachusetts Oct 24-26 2014

Gold Progression, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

Making it Fine Art Workshop
Marshfield, Massachusetts info flyer
Only 2 spots left

Friday, Oct 24, Painting demo open to the public, 7pm

Saturday and Sunday October 25-26

After the Sunday class, there will be a free lecture / book signing of Ken's new book, Manifesting 123 and you don't need #3. The lecture is open to the public.

Sponsored by the North River Arts Society. This 'workshop will focus on strategies for making better paintings, going to new places in your work and making fine art.

$250 for NRAS members. Non–members, $290.
Limited to 15 participants

To register: Contact: Laura Harvey or
781-837-8091 (email preferred)

Workshop: Making it Fine Art Workshop Beatrice, Nebraska Oct 18-19

Field with the Red Tree
oil on canvas, 36 x 60 inches

Making it Fine Art Workshop
Beatrice, Nebraska info / flyer
Only one spot left
Lincoln, NE Metro
Saturday-Sunday, October 18-19 9-4pm
Price $150

Sponsored by the Beatrice Art Guild. This is a grant funded workshop to provide art instruction to rural Nebraska. The class is limited to 15 participants.

Places can be reserved by contacting Deb Monfelt 412-239-6768 415 N. 6th WYMORE NE 68466

After the Sunday class, there will be a free lecture / book signing of Ken's new book, Manifesting 123 and you don't need #3.
The lecture is open to the public

Friday, October 10, 2014

Three Short Films about Peace by Errol Morris

Three Short Films about Peace by Errol Morris
Three parts, 49:34 minutes

"They deposed a dictator, helped defeat Communism and started a movement to end famine. In this NY Times Op-Docs series, the Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, the former Polish president Lech Walesa and the rocker Bob Geldof talk about their campaigns for peace. Read the Director’s Statement on the page for more information.

It is very difficult to be a successful artist when there is no peace. Being an artist and purchasing artworks is a luxury and a side-effect of living in a peaceful environment. Yes, artists work in war zones, but survival is the priority, not acquisitions. We are dependent on so many for peace and we stand on the shoulders of millions that came before us.

This is a straight-forward and thoughtful film. It's like talking to a neighbor who has the most amazing story to tell.

It's good to see Lech Walesa again. I had been wondering about him. I wasn't aware of Ms. Gbowee but the two of them received the Nobel Prize for Peace. They were both at the center of impossible change in their countries, ordinary people with simple wisdom that moved mountains. Geldof had a singular idea that touched millions of lives.

As artists, we make moves on our canvases, paper, clay, etc and trick the eye. We get a lot of credit for it and I've learned to just say thank you and make more.

Sometimes we can move mountains. It takes thought and a lot of moves as well. I think the artist and citizen of the world in you will appreciate this.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Grateful Notices: Barn at the Edge of the Woods

pastel 15 1/4 x 19 1/8

It just occurred to me that I was traveling in Vermont with friends on my 60th birthday when I took this photo. Almost four years later to the day, it has sold and here it is on the blog.

I kept this pastel in the studio because it was still informing my other artworks. It is something I have been doing for years - hanging onto my better works until I can do art at that level with ease.

When I was an art dealer years ago, an artist would occasionally bring a work into the gallery that was far better than they usually do. I would make the suggestion that they take it back to the studio and use it as the high bar, the standard for the next works to come. Many of us find it very helpful.

Also, I have kept a number of works that represented artistic breakthroughs at the time. These works remind me to keep pushing forward and take more risks. There are a number of them in my home on the walls and some in storage. Good thing I did, because they will all be put to use.

I have just been invited to present a retrospective of my works at the Parker Arts Culture and Events Center: PACE, from January through March of 2015. It is a real honor to be featured in this amazing building dedicated to the arts. More information on that will follow soon.

Enjoy the glorious fall,