Monday, December 8, 2008

Art Alert December 2008

Vermont Sugar Shack & Lumber Mill

This painting of an old sawmill and sugar shack back in the woods was started in northern Vermont last winter. There are times when you realize that any additional work will take away rather than add to a picture, and you'd best quit while you are ahead. But other times, I think a painting needs to be more...resolved. Often artists will use the phrase "I don't want to overwork it," and there's something to that. However, as long as I continue to make good decisions, I find I can safely push a painting to greater finish. I worked on this one quite a lot in the studio. I had a reason for taking this approach.

Sometimes when I make a painting in one session it will have vitality but lack other valuable qualities. It may contain little descriptive drawing, rather like a novel or movie where the characters are not fleshed out to gain our interest. We don't care about them because we don't know who they are. Dickens, for example, was a master of this; the Teletubbies, not so much. A picture with this fault may grab our attention but contains little "meat" to keep us interested and reward our further inspection. After a quick glance, we are off to something else more interesting.

I should also point out that some pictures can't be worked out in the short hours spent on location. Because I was attracted to the scene by the stacked logs awaiting the sawmill and the low-tech, common-sense architecture, I wanted to take this picture to a higher level of completion.

The ability to do this sets me apart from many other landscape painters and is often my edge in galleries and shows. I learned to do this through the academic training I received back in the 1970s under Ives Gammell. The extra care and work in a picture may store value there, just as it might in a lovingly crafted piece of furniture or a finely built luxury automobile. Since a painting won't fuel your car, rip down a 2x4, or feed your cat, it has no reason to exist, other than it be well-made.

It is because of this, that we often point to a great craftsman such as a carpenter or mason and exclaim, "He's an artist!" We associate art with things well-made. Often, well-made is the result of extra care and longer effort. As a culture, we are so aware of the intellectual part of painting, it's easy for us to overlook the other half of its makeup, as a physical object that must be crafted into existence and not just thought up. Concealing this effort is called making it look easy. Sometimes I am able to do that.



Friday, November 7, 2008

Art Alert November 2008

Stapleton Kearns "Mount. Adams and Monroe in Autumn"

I have been turning my attention more and more to New Hampshire’s White Mountains for painting locations. This painting,"Mount. Adams and Monroe in Autumn", is from the Presidential Range. I made a painted sketch on location there and used it to produce this painting in the studio. It is influenced by the American Luminist painting of the late 19th century. Many of the famous painters of that era actually worked in the White Mountains.

Luminism may not be a familiar term to many folks these days. In fact, my spellchecker flagged it as an error and suggested "Leninism"! Usually in a luminist painting, the sun is within the canvas, which makes the light seem to emanate from the picture. The object is to get "glow." Luminist pictures often have a stillness or even a spiritual quality that makes them very different from multicolored impressionist paintings, which tend to be characterized by dynamic compositions and flashy brushwork. I also used a far more restrained palette than usual here, only a few earth colors and white. A limited palette gives good color unity and has the added benefit of fitting in well with many contemporary home color schemes.

Stapleton Kearns

Friday, October 17, 2008

Art Alert October 2008

Stapleton Kearns "Blow Me Down Brook"

I painted "Blow-Me-Down Brook" last winter in Cornish, New Hampshire. This is a location where one of my heroes, Willard Metcalf, painted many of his famous winter scenes about a hundred years ago. I enjoy tracking down locations where historic artists have worked. New England has lots of them!
It was about five degrees below zero when I set my easel up that morning. Most people think cold is a problem for a winter painter, but really the opposite is true. In winter the light is best when it's cold; when it's warm the sky is often overcast. I've got polar gear, and my boots with their five-inch-thick soles are rated to fifty below, I also have a foolish orange stocking cap like hunters wear, that I got a deal on at Wal-Mart. This hat is made out of a mysterious plastic material that is extremely warm. So I am not much bothered by the frigid temperatures. I do however need to keep my face out of the wind.
I often work along frozen streams and in the woods. I love this sort of subject. Streams lead the viewer nicely into a painting, and trees are the actors on a landscape painter's stage. Much of the time, it seems, a landscape painter is a tree painter.
This painting is 26 by 29 inches. That's a nice shape--it's a landscape shape, not quite square, just a little longer than it is high.
This painting won a couple of prizes this year. It won the R.H.Ives Gammell award at the Guild of Boston Artists on Newbury Street in Boston. I also put it into the 3rd summer show at the Rockport Art Association, where it won the Fay Rotenberg prize, the top prize in that show which also came with a $1000 dollar check (thank you to the Rotenburg family for funding the competition).

Stapleton Kearns

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2015 snowcamp

January 30 through February 1

Hi there. This is where you can sign up for my 2015 Snowcamp. This will be a three day workshop. Because of the demise of the Sunset Hill House in Franconia, this year it will be held at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett New Hampshire. That is near Conway. They have experience doing artists workshops and I think it will be a great place to work.
The dreaded snowcamp can be extreme but it is always a lot of fun. You will do nothing but paint and sleep, well except for eat. This is an outdoor class. All skill levels are invited.

 The workshop will begin Saturday morning and end Monday evening. That's three days. I charge $300.00 per person, a $150.00 down payment and $150.00 final payment to be paid at the event. 
 Please understand this is a non refundable deposit. If you sign up I will hold your spot in the class for you, regardless of whether you are actually intending to come. That is what the deposit "hires" me to do and guarantees you will receive. So please don't sign up unless you are intending to take the  workshop.
 Each morning I do a demo and then in the afternoon the students paint and I run from easel to easel teaching each student individually. I have several painting exercises that will help build the students skills in landscape painting that I work in to the schedule. We meet for breakfast, paint all day and in the evening I lecture from the screen of my laptop.

The camaraderie is an important part of the workshop and we will all be good friends before the workshop is over. Snowcamp is a lot of fun, and I hope to teach you as much as I possibly can in the three days it runs. I can save you YEARS of screwing around! This is as intense an experience as I can make it and you will do little else but paint, eat and sleep while you are there. I will work you like a borrowed mule!

One of the important things I teach about snow painting is the opalescence color of snow. I will show you a system for creating the look of snow in light with broken color.  

Snowcamp always fills, so if you want to come, sign up. I will hold the class size to 12, but if there is enough interest I usually do a second session. 

The inn takes care of our lodging and provides breakfast and it is required that you stay there in order to participate. If you go to their web site or call them be sure to ask for the special rate they make for the workshop.

I have no idea why I can't seem to generate a paypal button that actually links. I have done so many before. So here is the fall back system. Call me at 603-216- 5559 if you want to come. I am in the Eastern time zone, so if you are calling me from Irkutsk remember that. I will fill the class in order of the receipt of calls.

Go to the website of the Inn and make your lodging reservations with them. Here is their phone number 603-374-2353.

Here is their website

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Art Alert September 2008

Stapleton Kearns "A Vermont Stream"

Here is a painting from my recent 11 day trip to Vermont. I went up to deliver 5 paintings to the Bryan memorial Gallery in Jefforsonville. They are housing the New England Plein Air Painters annual show this year.

This sparkling stream runs through the Pleasant Valley in nearby Cambridge Vermont. It must be just about the prettiest valley in New England! It was a lovely, warm September day and the fall color was just starting. I like painting in the fall before or after peak color best.

Another of these paintings is going to be shown by the Guild of Boston Artists at the Boston International Fine Art Show in November. You can see that painting on the news page of my website. Contact me if you would like to preview these paintings as they are finished.

Right now I am putting the finishing touches on a talk and slide show to be presented on October tenth on White Mountain painting of the 19th century and its influence on the artists of today. I have a great legacy of art from which to draw. Every important American landscape painter was there in the decade before the civil war. The White Mountains are still very wild and unspoiled. I find myself liking the area and plan to paint there as much as possible during the next few years.

This presentation is only part of my involvement to help in the effort of the Jackson New Hampshire Historical Society to save an enormous 19th cent barn. They are selling prints of a painting which I made standing in the historic barn itself, looking out at the town of Jackson. One of the attendees of the opening reception gala on the 10th when I will be presenting this talk will win the original painting by raffle. You can find an image of the painting on the News page of my website.

The painting you see here is at the Banks Gallery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Jamie Lafleur the owner, has a great gallery in a new location on the edge of Strawberry Banke,the restored historic village.

Stapleton Kearns