Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I taught my first class at Howard High School in 1965.  I have taught at high schools, colleges, church basements, grand halls, regal resorts, and 45 states. I have worked with thousands of students and, for the most part, the experience has been extremely rewarding.  There is no profession as honorable and noble as teaching. Especially, if I may say so, teaching art! Where else can you find so many people dedicated to learning a craft that offers so few rewards. There is little chance of getting rich, fame is only in our dreams, and it seems that the better and  more personal we get at our craft the smaller the approving audience gets. From my point of view there are no people so beautiful as aspiring artist.

The rewards of teaching come in small increments, one student at a time.  One student making the jump from imitation to creation. Each new understanding brings a smile to the face of student and teacher.  Each time I see the light of awareness radiating from the face of someone I am working with I am richly rewarded.

Teaching and painting have been my life and I could not have wished for anything better.  This year I received the highest honor of all, even bigger that the Towson University Distinguished Alumni Award, and the High Winds Medal from AWS, when Barbara Smucker honored me with The Big Orange Splot award.  The Big Orange Splot is a children's book written by Daniel Manus Pinkwater.  It is the story of Mr. Plumbean who lives in a town where all the houses are the same until the day that a seagull dropped a bucket of orange paint on the roof of Mr. Plumbean's house.  The neighbors were upset that their perfect, predictable town had been altered. Mr. Plumbean, however, saw potential in the occurrence and painted his entire house  in equally vibrant colors.  "My house is me and I am it.  My  house is  where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams," said Mr. Plumbean.  After many discussions with the neighbors and lots of shared lemonade every house was painted exactly as the owner wanted his house to be.  Barbara Smucker's  inscription to me reads:
To Skip- Thank you for being the "Mr. Plumbean" in my life."

For me there could be no greater thanks than this gift of shared joy and respect.

Happy Thanksgiving !


Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Plan for Exploration and Success.

Tomorrow I leave for Springmaid Beach Workshops at Myrtle Beach, SC. This is my last teaching gig of 2010 the next being in March of 2011.  It has been a terrific year as I have had the opportunity to share with many students their breakthrough in the content and form in their paintings. Change in the art we make is always the result of a change in philosophy.  No change is impossible.  It is the old saying "if you are not growing you are dying" that should keep us looking ever forward to possibilities.
I am presently looking very much forward to the 4 months of uninterrupted time I have available for working.  That time will be as meaningful as I make it.  Procrastination, if unchecked, can eat up most of this valuable time. So, I need a plan.  Not just a general plan, like saying I am going to work hard during this time, but a more specific plan.
The images and ideas I have been working on still excite me and that tells me there is more to be learned. The best way to evaluate your enthusiasm for what you are working on is to pay attention to how excited you are about getting back to it.  Another barometer of your depth of  enthusiasm is what happens to the time spent working on the ideas.  If hours seem like minutes you are properly engaged.  If minutes seem like hours do something else.
My plan and desire is to complete 8 large canvas images.  These will be a continuation of what I have been doing  and I hope that the change from paper and watercolor to acrylic and canvas will open windows of possibility.  The idea of large paintings, at least 48" x 48", always excites me.  As these images depend so much on brilliant hues the larger the better, at least that has been my experience so far. Large paintings allow shapes of color to fill our field of vision and the feeling I get is one of being in the painting.   I will continue of make line drawings, to explore rhythms and gestures, although I rarely use them for the design of a larger painting. The works on paper will be the laboratory where I experiment with unusual color combinations for emotional content. There is nothing quite like making a declaration to yourself and to whomever reads this blog to get ones juices flowing.  It is my intention to share with you my progress.  For motivation, you know!
Week one will be used for stretching canvases ( wish I had a gallery assistant).

What's Your Plan?

"Quest"  22"x 30"

This summer in Maine, Diane Santarella (my wife) began exploring oyster shells as the subject of a series of paintings.  While the initial interest in  oysters as a painting subject was not planned, her following the inspiration and the resulting paintings were.  To see what happened with Diane's search go to: 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I have just returned from doing a workshop at the Hudson River Valley Workshops in Greenville NY.  Reentry is always a bit "catch-up time"with mail and messages.  It is also a time to reflect on the workshop and consider the good and the bad. One challenge I often share with students I title "A lot to a little".  

" A Lot To A Little"
I ask the students to select one subject that will be painted 4 times. Each creation will have 1 element imposed on the subject.  I have found that this one exercise covers most of what painters need to know about design. Design is a rather simple concept conceived by painters and teachers in an attempt to clarify how artist arrange shapes and colors to please the viewers eyes and deliver the ideas of their mind. Over the years, whatever that means, the teaching of design has become so complicated that is no longer helps as much as it hurts.  The elements of art are: lines, colors, shapes, textures, size and direction.  By choosing one of the substructures of anyone of these elements and making that selection dominate the image we CREATE art rather than imitate reality.  Here is the example I did for my last workshop. 

These 4 examples are painted on an imperial size sheet of Kilimanjaro 22" x 30" that is divided into quarters using 1 1/2 inch Ace hardware masking tape.  The subject is the Catskill mountain range. These are all the same subject selecting different distances from the subject and featuring different areas of emphasis.  For no. 1 (top left)  I chose to feature the color orange with many variations as the dominant "lot". The orange is 80% of this image.   No. 2 (top right) is 80% dark values.  The whole point of this experiment is to observe how changing the dominant color, value, texture, etc. changes the feeling of the subject.  No. 3 is dominantly light in value made with an abundance of white paint. In  No. 4  I selected a dominance of smooth surfaces broken up by areas of rough texture.  In each example there is the "little" that change in value, color, texture that is a counterpoint to the dominant element. Creating anything requires that you impose something beyond just reporting visual facts.  So, if you are to be a creative artist start creating and with this simple approach you can. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Beneath the Surface" - exhibit at Volt

ARTIQUE UNDERGROUND, Frederick, Maryland,  presents
 "BENEATH the SURFACE"  Paintings by William "Skip" Lawrence 
through October and November, 2010

By blending fine art and fine dining, Artique Underground creates an inspired experience of good taste in Frederick, Maryland.
Located  in VOLT Restaurant, Artique Underground Gallery showcases art by regional and international artists.  The art is specifically selected by partners, Carrie Delente and Nancy Pascale for the VOLT Dining Rooms, vestibule, and the Artique Underground Gallery, which moonlights as VOLT's private party room. Restaurant and bar patrons enjoy Bryan Voltaggio's award winning cuisine against a backdrop of art that is colorful, eclectic and sophisticated.
Buoyed by his success on Bravo TV's program "Top Chef," VOLT has become the coveted reservation, drawing a discerning clientele from the entire Baltimore and D.C area. For information on the restaurant, browse the website http://www.voltrestaurant.com/ 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who I am and What I believe

"Tide Pool #2"    22x30  mixed media
I have been painting since I was 12 years old.  By this time that represents a lot of years and many paintings.  I guess some would say I am a good painter, but by this time I should be.  I have a reputation for having the ability to make people laugh, a character blessing or fault, I guess that depends on your sense of humor, that I will accept. There are times when my sense of humor masks my genuine passion for making art.  I take my art seriously, but not myself.  People have said to me they never know when I am kidding or serious.  Here it is the answer, when I am talking about life and the things people do I sometimes make jokes. When teaching art, looking at art, or making art I never make jokes.
I  believe that art comes from our emotions and beliefs.  It cannot be bought at the art store, borrowed from another artist, or made with tricks and gimmicks.  There are those who teach tricks and use gimmicks to allow students to make images that look like art even though there is nothing in them that is art.  Imitation may be flattering to those being copied, but it is never authentic in idea of emotion.  Watercolorist are often heard complaining that museums and galleries do not respect their work. When the majority of watercolors they see are so based in tradition and technique it is no wonder the work is not taken seriously.
If it sounds like I am a grumpy old man (even though that is one of my favorite movies) I really am not.  My reason for proclaiming my dissatisfaction is that I know that many would-be artist are being cheated out of the real and greatest joy that comes from painting and that is the reward of CREATION.  Creation is the result of ideas and observations being given form that are unique to the artist.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What is this thing called blog...

She convinced me to do it. To blog. She said it would help me keep in touch with students and art buddies. To keep the conversation going after the work and excitement and commraderie of the workshop is over...
 I'd much rather be in the studio making art, not making notes.  But anyone who knows me knows that after making art I love discussing it with kindred spirits. So here it is--drumroll please!
The first blog entry in  Skip Lawrence's Studio Notes.
At this point we are still working out the format, finessing the fine points, so don't expect great revelations...