Friday, April 30, 2010

Swamp Sisters Opens for 2010 Season

There are actually only two seasons in the Northland, winter and the other. The other is when the Swamp Sisters Café & Gift Shop is open. That other season officially opens today, April 30.

The restaurant, located on 7249 Industrial Road (known by many in these parts as Highway 7) four miles West of Twig, is again serving breakfast and lunch from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through October.

A special feature of the menu is Bonnie’s Swamp Skillet with buffalo sausage or ham, onions, peppers, mushrooms, tater tots, eggs and cheese. It's exceptional, and I really like the toast that comes with it. The lunch fare is equally exciting. It’s home cookin’ at its finest, seasoned with warmth and a sense of humor. In fact, even if you don't get the ham, Toot will probably ham it up a little as seen in this photo here. (click to enlarge)

Once things get rolling and the tourist season leaps into full swing, this rustic country kitchen packs out, so you may experience a wait to be seated. As a somewhat novel solution to this problem, they will often fit you in at tables that have vacant seats. So if you and a friend show up, and the large table has two seats at the North end, Toot will ask if you mind, and lead you to your spot. If you weren't neighbors before, you're neighbors now, as the saying goes.

In the event that you do have to wait to be seated, you can enjoy browsing the gift shop. At left you can see Bison Boot Grease, which I do not believe is available anywhere else in the world. Much like the Cracker Barrel chain, they have a range of suitable distractions and items you can bring home with you after you eat. Pay for 'em first please, of course.

Nutritionist Adelle Davis, author of Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit and other bestsellers on eating, purportedly said, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper." They don't serve dinner meals at the Swamp Sisters, so you really can accomplish this aim right here, at least two days a week since they're open only on Fridays and Saturdays.

I'm not sure how long the season will run this year, but usually they wind down in late October sometime. So, I recommend you come early and come often. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Space Oddity

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills
and put your helmet on

Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown,
engines on
Check ignition
and may God's love be with you

[spoken]
Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff


These opening lines from David Bowie's Space Oddity were such a radical departure from the contemporary pop of its time. Contrast this to Honky Tonk Women (Rolling Stones) or Build Me Up, Buttercup (Foundations). The space race was in full swing when this was being written. The title is a transparent take-off on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had been continuously playing in New York for years. But the song is clearly about something else.

This is Ground Control
to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule
if you dare

You can picture the astronaut, out there alone, cut off from the world floating beneath and away from him, separated not only by space but by his strange experience, uniquely disquieting because how many people can understand or imagine what he is thinking, feeling, going through at this moment, his fears, his anxieties... and that strange comment about his fame... "the papers want to know whose shirts you wear" as he ponders the meaning of his life.

I don't always sleep well, with so much on my mind so much of the time. You have to wonder how these astronauts got any rest at all, wrapped in Mission Control outfits that can't possibly have been as comfy as being in one's underwear between sheets.

As with all great poetry, a rose is not a rose. And the capsule Major Tom is to emerge from is more than a capsule. He is leaving the security of what he knows for the uncertainty of the unknown; he is leaving the domain where he is in control. He is letting go.

This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating
in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do

Tom Wolfe's bestseller The Right Stuff is one fat book, but it's a fascinating read and a great picture of the audacity of the space program and the space cowboys who made it happen. Not everyone has what it takes.

There are many endeavors to which we are suited or unsuited based on our personal dispositions. Career choices, if at all possible, should not only dovetail with our interests but also our personality. Some people have to be outdoors and find office space stifling. Some are more social, and others most comfortable in solitude. Some like being active, others prefer contemplative tasks.

Wolfe made it clear that The Right Stuff is more than physical toughness. There's a mental facet involving courage, risk taking and steel nerves, among other things.

Wolfe made them out to be America's heroes, and on one level they were thus. But if you trace the aftermath of their space walks, moon walks, multiple cycles 'round the globe, you find that they were mortals, just like you and I. They struggled with the basic needs we all struggle with, how to make peace with ourselves in a world that often fails to understand us. Learning to overcome the loneliness of our isolation and find peace within our solitude.
Listen to the culmination here.

Though I'm past
one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much
she knows

Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead,
there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you....

Here am I floating
round my tin can
Far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do.

Is it tragic, or beautiful? Thomas Wolfe (author of Look Homeward Angel, and not to be confused with Tom Wolfe above) once observed, "The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."

Perhaps Space Oddity makes a connection because nearly all youth feel to some degree a measure of disconnection with friends and family, leading them to feel themselves misfits. When we recognize that nearly all have struggled with self-doubts, uncertainty, apprehension, then we understand we're not so alone as we imagined.

Of these things much more can be said. Have a thoughtful day. For those around you struggling with their isolation, reach out and share your ray of sunshine.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early


Opening stanzas, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, by Gordon Lightfoot


I've mentioned before my grandmother's influence in my becoming an artist. She dabbled a little with painting and I have at least one of her pieces -- There Is None So Blind As Him Who Will Not See -- inexpert in execution, but thoughtful and thought provoking.

Grandma Sandy had a friend who really could paint. We always called her Mrs. Crumpett. The pieces I saw were superb renditions of ocean waves crashing on a rocky New England coast. My grandmother owned a couple of them. As a young art student enamored with Picasso and Dali, realistic depictions of oceans didn't impress me that much at the time.

Fast forward 35 years.

I find it impossible to be anything but impressed by the realists in our midst. It's a skill that was painstakingly cultivated. With the advent of the camera and photography, art was liberated from the need to be tied to reality reproduction. Do we need a picture of the king? There are a dozen photojournalists who will document anything and everything for you.

Yesterday on the plane I read that Napoleon was a supporter of the arts and maintained a staff of artists. If you don't support them out of season, you certainly won't find the talent you want when you do finally wish for a life sized portrait of yourself. As busy as he was (for the duration of his reign he was at war except for 14 months) he still found time to strike a pose now and then.

So we come full circle to events like the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater body in the world, but its Northern climate makes it a hostile environment for a portion of the year. The thousand foot ore boats and transportation of other goods begins in spring and ends in late fall. The fisherman here respect her power, however, and know that the lake's calm can quickly turn deadly. So there is always an uneasy apprehension on the lake for even the most stalwart seamen here.

It seems strange that in 1975, when the ship and its crew of 29 went down, our Apollo spacecraft had already left the moon six years earlier. We may believe we can conquer space, but the wreck of the Fitzgerald is a grim reminder that nature still has her furies.

This is where the artist comes in. When the Edmund Fitzgerald went down, rescue boats were sent to find survivors who might be still somewhere in that terrible storm. There were no cameras snapping pictures or photojournalists putting their necks on the line that night. Doris Sampson made it her passion, therefore, to capture the frightening tension of that experience through art. The result is a series of paintings depicting the lost ship and the attempt at rescue.

I visited with Doris in her West Duluth studio a couple months ago and have been mulling how to best introduce others to her work. She is a superb draftsperson who has creatively poured herself into her work for many decades. When the opportunity arises I will undoubtedly try to visit again. The next best thing to being there is visit her online studio. There is a lot more here than you might initially imagine, because Ms. Sampson not only an imagination, but the talent to do something with it. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Went To See The Gypsy

Sitting here at the airport waiting to catch a plane, listening to Bob Dylan's New Morning album of 1970. Some called the album lightweight when it came out, but I think it has a lot of very fine songs, and a sweet sound with plenty to take away.

So I'm sitting here listening to Went To See The Gypsy, which many people say was about an encounter with Elvis, reading this meaning into lines like, "He did it in Las Vegas and he can do it here." The last two nights I've been staying at the Hilton, Elvis' stomping ground out here. Elvis paid annual homage to his fans here in the Mecca of Decadence during the month of August.

I personally love the chord structures and kinetic keyboard playfulness in the music even apart from the lyrics themselves. It's musically interesting with the building in of organ chords overlaying the tune, and the squirelly way the guitar gets a-pickin' as the song picks up.

The song describes an incident in "a little Minnesota town" and this, too, fits my mood today as I wait for the next flight to bring me home to my own little Minnesota town.

I didn't see Elvis or his ghost while I was here the past two days, but he did leave a lot of fingerprints.

Went To See The Gypsy

Went to see the gypsy
Stayin’ in a big hotel
He smiled when he saw me coming
And he said, “Well, well, well”
His room was dark and crowded
Lights were low and dim
“How are you?” he said to me
I said it back to him

I went down to the lobby
To make a small call out
A pretty dancing girl was there
And she began to shout
“Go on back to see the gypsy
He can move you from the rear
Drive you from your fear
Bring you through the mirror
He did it in Las Vegas
And he can do it here”

Outside the lights were shining
On the river of tears
I watched them from the distance
With music in my ears

I went back to see the gypsy
It was nearly early dawn
The gypsy’s door was open wide
But the gypsy was gone
And that pretty dancing girl
She could not be found
So I watched that sun come rising
From that little Minnesota town

Copyright © 1970 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1998 by Big Sky Music

Monday, April 26, 2010

Daniel Craig, License to Kill

"You only live twice:
Once when you're born
And once when you look death in the face."
— Ian Fleming

When Daniel Craig burst onto the screen in Casino Royale, and what a burst, I was mesmerized. But I couldn’t help wondering where I’d seen that face before. Ah, yes, Munich.

It is impossible to play Bond without being compared to all the previous Bonds. I’m guessing it’s a little like being an eighth husband or wife. So, we watch this Bond and think back on Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan… Of this list, Connery was perhaps the most physical while being simultaneously suave, though Ian Fleming upon meeting him said, "I'm looking for Commander James Bond, not an overgrown stuntman."

The Bonds who followed seemed to exemplify smooth, cool, suave. But the original Bond, with his license to kill, was just that, a killer… not just a lover. Daniel Craig has re-centered the Bond character on his true core, a loose cannon, passionate lover, with honed instincts and purposeful decisiveness.

So James Bond is back and he's alive and well. Any questions about Daniel Craig's worthiness were thrown out almost immediately as we were handed a film filled to the brim with exquisite action and explosive emotion.

Anyone who thought Daniel Craig couldn't pull it off has been proven wrong. He's done ith with style and a cold steel edge not seen since Sean Connery. Even colder, really. He's a very serious fellow, this bond, and I think this actor is surprisingly good, too.

I mentioned the film Munich. I am sure working in Spielberg's sphere was a good experience for Mr. Craig. But to see his range, check him out in Love is the Devil. (1998) It's a film that is definitely not for everyone. This paragraph from Alice Liddel on imdb.com fairly accurately summarizes the story.

'Love is the Devil' captures one crucial decade in the life of the English painter, Francis Bacon, considered by many, for the half century after World War II, the world's greatest living painter. This decade, the 1960s, is reflected through Bacon's relationship with a young hood, George Dyer (Daniel Craig), whom he first encounters ineptly breaking into his studio, and whom he immediately sleeps with. A depressive suffering constant nightmares, Dyer is wined and dined by the artist, initiated into his bitchily hostile coterie of friends, and gradually neglected as Bacon concentrates on his work. Many of the astonishing paintings from this period evince a great understanding and love of their principle subject, Dyer, and one friend notices that Bacon puts more effort into representing his love on paint than into the relationship itself. Dyer becomes increasingly suicidal.
The imagery in this film is not suitable for children, but is insightful as regards this important painter. Bacon left the art world bedazzled and benumbed a half century ago. His significance is such that Hans Rookmaaker, Dutch Christian scholar and friend of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, used one of Bacon's paintings for the cover of his excellent analysis of the arts titled Modern Art and the Death of a Culture.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to more of Daniel Craig.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dogs of War and Liberation Day, Italy

This morning I'd intended to announce that my painting Dogs of War is now posted and available for purchase at DiscoveredArtists.com, an online gallery where I have some of my work. How suitable that this morning I received an email from our friend Mario in Italy noting the significance of this day.

I'll be busy today again, I've a meeting at ten local time and am going to leave home. But today is also a very special day, and it has become a more special day since we got in touch with you and Bud. On April 25, Italy celebrates Liberation Day, the anniversary of the end of WWII. So it's the birthday of our freedom, a feast Bud has contributed in making possible. A kiss to him and you all!!!
Mario

Mario Monasterolo is a historian in Northern Italy's Po Valley region. While researching the end of the war, seeking oral histories and memories of those who lived that experience, Mario discovered my father-in-law's war memoirs, which were published in a book titled And There Shall Be Wars. Wilmer "Bud" Wagner was the second Minnesotan drafted into World War II and on the first transport across "the big pond" to engage the Axis powers. His preparation and service in Northern Ireland, North Africa and Italy makes for a good read, and is an outstanding historical document.

Interestingly enough, though Italy celebrates the 25th as its Liberation Day, for the soldiers in the field it was just another day, as Bud records here.

Wednesday, April 25, 1945
Took a side road, actually it was today that we went through Reggio, and not yesterday. Moved this morning and tonight. Went back to Division Artillery tonight about 10:30.


It wasn't until four days later that the reality of the end hit home. Again, from Bud's diary record And There Shall Be Wars:

Sunday, April 29, 1945
A day I won't forget for awhile. Up at 7:00.
Pulled out at 8:30. Made 172 miles. Cold and windy. Really enjoyed it, though. Thick groves of people lined the road all the way. Many beautiful girls, and well-dressed adults and younger people, all waving and cheering. Some close enough to you hold out their hands to touch yours.
Saw thousands of German prisoners. I counted 35 heavily loaded vehicles with Jerry prisoners, some high ranking officers, also nurses, all standing in their trucks, with Kraut drivers heading north.
We just crossed the Po again today, as wide as the Missouri River. We're at the foot of the Alps; they tower high in the distance, capped with snow, sure glad we don't have to chase Jerry through the Brenner Pass. We'd heard about that place.
We parked in a court yard for the night. Was a hard day, but nice driving on a good road, and made good time. Tom McGee rode with me.


In reflecting on this moment Bud, who turned 90 last summer, recalled for us the shouts of the Italian peoples as the soldiers passed, "Bueno Americano! No Bueno Tedeskie!" For Bud's 90th birthday celebration I painted the 2' x 3' panel above. It was a great day for Italy, and a great day for the families of those young G.I.'s who returned home.

Since making contact with Mario last year, we've grown ever more fond of the region and hope one day to visit one day. I've got my passport ready anyways... Perhaps the blog TERRE di SETA (Silk Lands, subtitled The People and History of Maira and Po) will whet your appetite for this region of the world as it has ours.


World War II Diaries and Memoirs is available for sale from Savage Press.
536 pages. Illustrated with 178 original photos and documents

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rivers

"All rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full." ~Eccles. 1:7

At one time rivers were the roads. Before the infrastructure of highways and byways, of rails and roads, the rivers were our transportation routes. In Herman Hesse's novella Siddhartha, the river is a symbol. As he encountered the river in various stages of his life, its wisdom was revealed to him as it reflected his soul.

At one time in my life, the word "rivers" meant Larry Rivers, an artist whose paintings made an impression on me when I was a young art student at Ohio University, Athens.

The best part about one's college experience is the vast sea of influences one gets exposed to. And university libraries are just the ticket for getting that exposure.

I lived in Scott Quad my first year at school which was possibly the closest you could get to the school's library without sleeping as a vagrant on the main green. Row upon row of large fat books filled with full color photos of art seemed to reach out to me. I explored, found that the number of artists I'd never heard of was countless, and so much of their work fascinating.

In this manner I encountered painters and sculptors from all periods of history, favoring the moderns at the time. To call Larry Rivers my favorite artist would be a misnomer, but for sure I liked the originality and passion with which he created his work. He had studied with Hans Hoffman but rejected abstract art, choosing instead an approach that gave viewers something to grapple with, figures and forms rather than fields of color or designs. A Ukrainian Jew born in the early twenties, he emerged as a very successful painter of central influence in the 1950s New York circle with numerous shows and accolades. If nothing else he was exceedingly productive. Making art is what he did, and I liked the liberated sense with which he attacked his work. You can see examples of his work here.

Note: The pictures illustrating this blog entry are markings made with my own hand and not to be confused with Mr. Rivers. For more, check out my daily art blog The Many Faces of Ennyman.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Across the Graph

It’s been a big week in social media. At the top of the game was f8, the Facebook Developers Conference in San Francisco. Wearing jeans, sneakers and a black hoodie, founding giant Mark Zuckerberg paraded his vision for the future of cyberspace, “One graph to rule them all,” which essentially feels like a plan for Facebook to rule the virtual world. Well, you can’t blame him.

When Mr. Zuckerberg uses the word graph to describe the world wide web, it brings together images of gene mapping, physics and geography in a somwhat new way. The phrase is nothing new, was being used in some social media circles even three years ago. Will it catch on now and go mainstream because of f8?

To my surprise, f8 is already past history in Twitter's Top Trending Topics, unlike Justin Bieber, who has been a Top Trending Topic for more than two months... oh, wait. Newsflash: Justin Bieber is not a top topic this morning on Twitter.

My painting A Postmodern Man was featured on Autralian artist Jeremy Lee's spOOk's art blog yesterday. This past weekend I was interviewed there, which was personally gratifying, but even more exciting (for an artist is when one's work is grappled with and meanings extracted by a good reviewer. Check out JL's "A studio critique of a visually ambiguous work" which is a commentary on this painting, which happens to be available for sale here.


In still other news across the graph, I had the privilege of being interviewed this week by Dallas blogger M Denise C, who has been following Ennyman's Territory since 2008. She was doing what I do sometimes, which is surfing across the the blog universe by clicking on the "Next Blog" buttons which appear at the top of most Blogger pages. Being efficient and purposeful has its place, but there's also a place for allowing unexpected Surprise into our lives.

As long as we're doing announcements, two more are worth mentioning. First, I had my Dogs of War painting scanned at CPL Imaging this week. It will be installed at the DiscoveredArtists.com gallery if I am able to find a few minutes this weekend. Second, Swamp Sisters in Saginaw is opening for another season very soon. Details to come.

In the meantime, have a very special day and a wonderful weekend.

ennyman

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Five Minutes with Cheng-Khee Chee

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." ~Pablo Picasso

Last night I had the privilege of attending Wine & Chee's, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Ballet that was held in the Great Hall at The Depot here in Duluth. In addition to the wine tasting and beers (I was coaxed into trying at least one of the beers) there were hors d'oeurves from six area restaurants, each putting their imaginations to the ultimate taste bud test while being aesthetically fascinating as well.

The wine list included wines like Lake Sonoma Zinfandel Port, Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc, Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc, Rosemount GSM, Coppola Claret, Lindeman's Moscato, Kenwood Merlot and many others, with fascinating descriptions like, "vibrant and full of verve... intense floral aromas that mingle with cool melon and tropical fruit, and a light crisp mouthfeel, complemented by fresh peach, ripe pear, and pink grapefruit flavors"... or "a nose of ripe black and red berry fruits, along with some tar and earth." Or, "a rich dense jammy raspberry and dark cherry fruit core" and "textured notes of vanilla."

Area businesses contributed a wide range of goods and services for the silent auction, and a number of big ticket items were auctioned off by emcee Pat Kelly later in the program. I'm not sure if the wine sampling is designed to heighten our social skills or loosen our wallets, but the effect of the evening was a very lively, enjoyable event for a good cause.

During the early part of the evening I was able to sit with Cheng-Khee Chee, who had contributed some limited edition giclee prints which he was on hand to sign, hence the name of the event, Wine & Chee's.

Mr. Chee is a world reknowned watercolorist and illustrator of the best selling children's book Old Turtle by Douglas Wood. Many of his themes have become instantly recognizable by fans of his work, much of which is breathtakingly beautiful in real life. An Associate Professor Emeritus of the University of Minnesota, Mr. Chee is a Dolphin Fellow of the American Watercolor Society, signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Transparent Watercolor Society of America (Master Status), Watercolor USA Honor Society and others with a list of honors longer than a man's arm.

So I sat for a spell with Mr. Chee and his wife, both of whom exude warmth and generosity. I asked where he was born and how he ended up in Duluth, Minnesota.

He replied that he was born in China, but went to Singapore, which is a multicultural melting pot. This became his stepping stone to coming to school at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, and ultimately to Duluth.

Of special interest to me these days is how to find more time to do art, and I asked what the path is to becoming a full time artist. He laughed and said art students should prepare to do something else for a living, knowing they will have to do their art on the side until they retire, then they can be artists. I noted that he was a full time artist, and he laughed again, saying he took early retirement in the mid-1990s. Throughout his life he supported his family by teaching art. "If you can get a job teaching art, that would be good," he said in answer to advice for young, aspiring artists.

If you are not familiar with Mr. Chee's remarkable work, please visit his site today and bookmark it for when you have time for a more leisurely engagement.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Things Falling from the Sky

Oh, it came out of the sky
Landed just a little south of Moline;
Jody fell out of his tractor
Couldn't believe what he seen.
Laid on the ground and shook
Fearin' for his life,
And he ran all the way to town
Screamin', "It came out of the sky!" ~John Fogerty

In The Truman Show there's an early scene in which a studio light seemingly falls out of the sky and almost its our hero. The inexplicable event threatens to shatter to idyllic bubble in which Truman has lived, but quickly gets explained on the radio, though the explanation is somewhat non-sensical. Studio lights aren't supposed to just fall out of the sky.

Remember the Coke bottle that gets dropped into Africa's backcountry at the beginning of The Gods Must Be Crazy? If you've never seen that film, find it on Netflix or Blockbuster. The bottle thrown from a plane sets in motion a whole string of unintended consequences.

Two news items that happened to share placement on the same page of yesterday Duluth News Tribune captured my imagination. The first was titled, "Wisconsin farmers tire of meteor hunters." Evidently a meteor successfully entered our atmosphere and broke apart over Wisconsin. The flameout was quite visible in the Midwest sky. Meteorite hunters soon descended on the region where disintegrating fragments supposedly reached the earth, and the farmers graciously allowed them to hunt for these frags.

The second story involved a laptop falling from the sky, with near catastrophic consequences. Here's but one version of the story, Laptop falls from helicopter, nearly hits boy. Evidently, the laptop had been left on the helicopter's skid. It was one of those LifeLink helicopters that service many of our hospitals today. We don't, as a rule, expect them to drop laptops on our heads.

Does anyone recall the trigger event that resulted in Chicken Little shouting, "The sky is falling!"?

On the (Duluth) home front, if you haven't already filled your evening with other commitments, you might be interested in Wine & Chee's, tonight's fund raiser for the Minnesota Ballet in the Depot's Great Hall.

The spread will include dozens of wines and select beers, with light hors d’oeuvres from six of Duluth’s finest restaurants. There will be both silent and live auctions for a variety of merchandise, including prints by Cheng-Khee Chee, who will be on hand for signing. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Met Exhibit Demonstrates Picasso's Importance

It's funny how ever since reading that Duchamp had replaced Picasso as the most significant artist of the 20th century, I just haven't been able to put it down. The argument was persuasive and I wrote about it in a blog entry Post-Modern Art: The Sound of One Hand Clapping? My blog comments the following day ran under the headline "Why the Urinal Was #1."

No question about it, however, Picasso will not go quietly from the throne room. And recent exhibits abound to demonstrate why Picasso was undoubtedly the most influential artist of the century.

Two years ago we saw the travelling Picasso exhibit at the SF Museum of Modern Art in which room upon room showed how American painters had been influenced by the Spanish giant. This spring a Picasso retrospective in Philadelphia highlighted another collection of works by the master's hand. Now, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Big Apple is pulling out the stops to unveil 300 of the 500 Picasso works which they own, a mind-blowing collection really.

The Washington Post* announced it this way.

"Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)," which opens on April 27, aims to reveal hidden details about his works.

The show will present 300 of the prolific Spanish artist's paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics. Organized chronologically, it is an overview of Picasso's entire career, from the harlequins of his Blue and Rose periods, to later Cubist paintings and colorful linoleum cuts.

There is a significant qualitative difference between the two artists, Duchamp and Picasso. Duchamp's ideas were corrosive, Picasso's work inspiring. Duchamp was certainly talented and influential. But as his life went on, he stopped taking an interest in painting. Picasso created for a lifetime.

It's true that Pablo Picasso took a six month interlude at one point during which he washed his brushes and put his art aside. Maybe even Picasso can be permitted to have a mid-life crisis. Afterwards, he returned to his life calling and stayed at it for the remainder of his days, dying at the ripe old age of 92, a painter till the end.

The volume of Picasso's works speaks volumes. As an art student seeing his paintings in person provided pure inspiration. I was awed when I first came into the presence of a room filled with Picasso's at the MOMA. But then, I was painting and understood what he was doing... or so I believed.

This weekend I received the mail a book I ordered from Amazon.com called 501 Great Artists. I liked my 501 Great Writers so much I just had to get the companion volume. Upon opening the envelope, I could see from the cover photo pretty who the editors of this work consider most significant. Though once more it could be argued that Picasso is only on the cover because he's more famous and he will sell more books than the influential but lesser known Duchamp.

Oh, well. If you get the chance, do make an effort to take it in. But don't be like the clumsy lady who earlier this year stumbled into a Picasso piece, and tore it! There are better ways to get your name in the paper.

"Meantime, life goes on all around you." ~Dylan

*http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/19/AR2010041904189.html

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brian Walker Interview, Part III

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." ~Pablo Picasso

Last week I had a good dialogue with Brian Walker, co-founder of DiscoveredArtists.com, that seemed worthy of a wider hearing. We had been talking about the impact the Internet has made on the art scene and a little about the challenges for emerging artists in finding an audience for the work or connecting with buyers. This is the final section of that discussion.


PART III

E: When I was in college, I was going through the arts program preparing to be an art major and I remember reading an article about Mark Tobey, how he was discovered at like 45. It was inspiring and gave me hope. I just wrote about this on my blog a few weeks ago, this book of interviews with Duchamp, and Hans Hoffman, Edward Hopper, Mark Tobey, and in the book you read that the guy had gone to Europe, he was with Gertrude Stein, he'd been in New York so when he was discovered at 45, he had already been part of the art scene for 20 years. He wasn't just discovered. He'd been doing things.

BW: It finally paid off.

E: Yeah.

BW: So I think what part of my frustration is for artists, is that I think some of this whole starving artists thing is self created. I think that any product, and I'm not trying to productize art, don't get me wrong, I don't want to make it a commodity because it's not, but there are basic steps that every artist should be taking to get themselves out there. You know, artists on our site for the most part, new guys now under the new way that we market, they're being seen. Their work can be seen by 4000 people in 2 or 3 months, and while sales aren't great right now which is partly the economy, partly because the Internet's not fully realized yet and partly because it takes a while, art's not necessarily an impulsive buy, especially when it's a readily available all over the place. But it takes time. I've always referred to this as a marathon not a sprint. You've got to be out there and that's the bottom line.

E: How big is the art market today? I have numbers for snowmobiles, how many snowmobiles are sold in a year, or what the sales are for amusement parks, diesel trucks, and sports betting. How much is being sold in the art scene if you extract Sotheby's million dollar auctions?

BW: I can't answer it. I'm a data guy. I'm actually working on a subproject right now that's part of what I did in my previous life, a lot of analytic works for large clients, and analyzing their data. A lot of this is not available. I've had a really hard time sort of compiling, how much art, not from the Sotheby's perspective, but how much art was sold last year?

E: Right.

BW: It's really really tough to get a figure.

E: I know, I was trying to find that myself.

BW: I can tell you this, that in the research that I did, on what I considered to be at the time 5 of the top online art market places --these included Boundless Gallery which has now since closed, they were up for 7 years, they closed 2 months ago just about, which is unfortunate, because they had, anyway, that's another story -- but there were 5 of these... and I can't remember if EBSQ was included, but I was able to kind of get a sense... (I joined many of them because I did paint for a while, as more of a hobby; I'm not a good painter although everybody loves my abstracts that are hanging on my walls, but that's beside the point. I'm a marketer, not an artist but I did try that out and partly just for research and I as able to extract data and understand who was selling. I know that Boundless did an announcement while I was part of them, that they had just reached a million and a half dollars in sales in the first 8 months.) ... I think that the total combined for just 5 sites was somewhere in the neighborhood and I'm kind of reaching back but it was around 10 million dollars, and these are smaller kinds of sites. So maybe that's a little bit of a ballpark, and obviously I don't have all the data. Etsy sells, if you want to call it art, they've got a lot of crafts and things, but they're certainly moving a lot of inventory. The price points are lower, but they still move a lot. I had heard, I think this is right, 25 million? Something like that.

E: That's pretty good volume.

BW: Well they have tons of visitors, too. And then eBay did come out with a report, and again I have all this stuff stored away, I haven't referred to it for a while but eBay had come out with a report on art sales on their site, and it was in the multi million dollar range, but with price points under a hundred dollars.

E: I saw that, and if you're doing giclee prints and it costs you x number of dollars and they sell it for less than what it costs to print it, you're not really in a very good business.

BW: You're not in business.

E: Thanks, Brian, for your time and insights... We'll see where it goes.

My own small corner of DiscoveredArtists.com can be found at
http://www.discoveredartists.com/gallery/ennyman3

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Twin Ports Art Scene Highlighted in Earth Day Gallery Hop

The weather was perfect. Whatever you were planning, the clear skies made for a sweet, breezy afternoon no matter what your pleasure. We did a little hiking near Carlton, then dropped into Canal Park for a portion of the Duluth's 20th Anniversary Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop.

The annual event includes free trolley service to the various locations, which are quite spread out actually, ranging from the Art in the Alley in Superior to Tweed Museum up at UMD. Being mid-afternoon we took in the Canal Park galleries, especially enjoying the atmosphere and eats at Silvertson's. (Oh, yes, the art there is wonderful, too.) Wish we'd had time for more. I know that Jeffrey at Lizzard's had been exceedingly busy re-arranging everything there for this special event. I strongly encourage you, especially if you are not a regular face in the galleries here, you owe it to yourself to check 'em out. Don't wait till next year's Gallery Hop, though that salmon and cheese spread at Sivertson's was to die for, and I will be dreaming about it for the next 365 days.

Here's a list of this year's participating galleries. If you're in town, most are open year 'round and all have something to offer.

Art Dock
394 South Lake Avenue, Duluth

Blue Lake Gallery
395 South Lake Avenue, Duluth

Duluth Art Institute
The Depot, 506 West Michigan Street, Duluth

Duluth Public Arts Commission
301 West 1st Street, Duluth

Sivertson Gallery
361 Canal Park Drive, Duluth

Tweed Museum of Art
University Minnesota Duluth, 1201 Ordean Court

Zeitgeist Arts Gallery
222 East Superior Street, Duluth

Waters of Superior
395 South Lake Avenue, Duluth

Art In The Alley
912 Hammond Avenue, Superior, WI

Gaia Art Gallery (above Hell's Kitchen)
310 South Lake Avenue, Duluth

Lizzard’s Art Gallery and Framing
11 West Superior Street, Duluth

Washington Studios Artist’s Cooperative
315 North Lake Avenue, Duluth

If you're in the Twin Ports area on a weekend getaway or weeklong escape, the galleries will welcome you. Many have treasures which you'll want to bring home to remind you of our neck of the woods since many of the artists who show their work have been themselves inspired by the sensory offerings of our Northland, both the scenes and the activities.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brian Walker Talks Art, Part II

An article in yesterday's Financial Express, "Art Market Breathes Again", noted that the art market is in a recovery mode after a two year hit as a result of the recession. I personally lack the background to know what it means for local artists here in Minnesota or in Sydney, Australia, but it can't be an entirely bad thing if a Giacometti sculpture sells for more than a hundred million dollars. People who buy art of that pricing scale are expressing an optimism that the value will be still higher tomorrow.

Earlier this week I spoke with Brian Walker of DiscoveredArtists.com regarding the current art scene and the impact of the Internet. This is a continuation of that discussion. The pictures here today are examples of the work he represents.

Ennyman: I thought that when cable came along that it would break the stranglehold of the networks and give all the talent in this country new channels of distribution. What ended up happening is you just got a lot of schlocky stuff on 500 channels.

BW: That’s exactly right. Talent, true talent, is very concentrated, you know? And you know I'm a business owner and I want to be successful and I want to be successful for artists, but I'm also a realist and I don't think that we'll ever see a day where there's only 5-10 really major art websites, although there are a couple that are players. I mean Etsy, for what it does, is kind of a big player. There are others like that are trying to make their way. They do different things. I envision DiscoveredArtists.com -- and it has a ways to go certainly -- as eventually becoming a primary, high end spot for, and not just price point, but for compiling and having a gallery full of 500 of the best artists we can find. I want people to flip through pages and every single piece, love it or hate it, you know art is so subjective, but every page you look at you're impressed and you like what you're seeing there. So to backtrack a little, I don’t think the Internet has yet realized its full potential in terms of art sales. People are still skeptical.

I hear this all the time, even from artists, but a lot from buyers and friends of buyers, and my best friend who lives in New York. He and his wife buy art all the time. They're huge art advocates, yet they've never bought art online and they probably never will. And that’s one of the problems, because people feel like they need to see it. They need to smell the paint. They need to be up close. And I disagree. We're going to try to break down that barrier. You're not going to win everybody, but I think that's one of the primary things that still has not completely clicked in. eBay does sell a lot of work. I remember seeing some statistics on it, mostly very, very low priced.

E: Right, when I go there, 2 out of 3 paintings don't get a bid. I was trying to determine whether I wanted to be there or not and I decided not to at this time. I kept checking, and I kept going to Etsy and EBSQ, and a couple others. I’m sticking my toe in the water and submitted my work here. But eBay just doesn't seem like the place for a serious person to be... although I did email a couple people who sell there who said by selling on eBay it gave them the confidence to go to galleries and get more serious about selling their art.

BW: Here's the great thing about eBay for an artist. They get 30 million visitors a day, so that alone is one incentive for an artist to go. The problem is -- and we see this a lot in the art world, you may be one of these guys -- I know several people who take this to the extreme and, I hate to use the word, arrogant, but it’s just an easy word for me to use. I come across artists like this all the time. I talk to them, there's a bartender in my right down the street from my office here, who I've known for quite a few years, he's been at the same bar for 15 years, bartending behind the bar, nothing wrong with the profession, that’s not my point, he is an excellent, excellent artist. I mean the guy's mind blowing. I've seen his work. I've seen him do a show or two. I love him. I said, “Come on, just be a part of us.” He said, “No way, I'm holding out for museum representation.” He's skipping all the galleries. His mind is set. And I see that a lot. Personally, those kind of guys would never even fathom being on eBay, because it sets a skill by association.

E: Well, when I left school and was seriously getting ready to have a show in New York, a 3-man show, and my life kind of bottomed out but at that time I remember talking to a guy and asking what it takes to make it, and he says you've got to eat bone soup for 10 years. I grew up a little too cushy to want to do that.

BW: You know Ed, here’s the thing. I think, and this is kind of hard to articulate but I'll try... I think that the reason that a lot of artists struggle, it's their own fault. There are 2 things going on, first of all they're not marketers. That's okay. You're an artist, you don't have to be a marketer, or a promoter. And besides, promoting yourself is the worst road to go. I mean you've got to start doing that but eventually,I mean, actors have agents.

E: I know, I've felt that way about a lot of people and that a lot of careers could be helped if they had a career manager.

BW: Yeah, well, our whole society is based on you not tooting your own horn. It's about 5 other people tooting your horn. And that's the bottom line on that. So we've got that problem but the bigger problem that I perceive and I may sound a little jaded only because I've dealt with this so much in our short 2 years, many artists are struggling despite themselves because they are holding out for something. And I'm sorry, you don't have to be in DiscoveredArtists.com but you've got to be doing something. You can't live in a vacuum and expect the world to suddenly recognize you. You've done 10 high end New York City gallery shows, you've sold 20 of your pieces and that's fantastic, but it may end there.

CONTINUED


Eye Pod Invasion (top) and Fabric of Time (bottom) are paintings of Ken Webb. Mixed Emotions is by Filomena Booth. Both painters are represented by DiscoveredArtists.com Click images to enlarge.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Charlie Wilson's War, Revisited

"Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity." ~Sigmund Freud


In the summer and fall of 2007 (was it really that long ago?) I read two really outstanding audio books, No Country For Old Men and Charlie Wilson's War, without knowing they were in the works as big Hollywood films that would reach the silver screen later that year. Both books were superb, and though the films had flaws, both are worth seeing in a big way. Last night I revisited the Mike Nichols film adaptation of Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman... and the now well-known but then virtual unknown Amy Adams (Junebug, Enchanted, Julie & Julia.)

I don't think this film is really about how a maverick congressman (Hanks) and a maverick CIA guy (Hoffman) teamed up to win the war in Afghanistan. That's the surface grid, but underneath this film is really a revision of the spin that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War and brought the Soviet empire to its knees.

In a world of much complexity, it is natural for people to seek clear, simple explanations for everything in order to give our beliefs a firmer footing. Black and white is easier than shades of grey. If we come up with pat answers, we do not have to think about a matter after that. So the masses tend to be attracted to pat answers.

For this reason, propaganda was born. Napoleon may have been the first to use journalists specifically for the purpose of winning the masses to a point of view, a method of interpreting the events going on during his rule and reign. In those days it was called Yellow Journalism. Later it was called propaganda, a word intended to convey something positive when popularized in the decades preceding its use by the Nazis.

Post WW2 the word we use is spin. Both our major parties excel at it. Hollywood is very skilled at it as well.

Here are a few thoughts I had as I finished the film again.

1. I think it has been a cornerstone of the Reagan Legacy that he singlehandedly brought down the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War. That interpretation of history is a form of mythology. Charlie Wilson's War is but one back story which has come to prominence through a book and film, but there are many variables way beyond what our imaginations can conceive that had a bearing on how events unfolded. An argument might even be made that unions at the turn of the century helped force wages higher resulting in a stronger economy in this country leading to our not being vulnerable to Communist propaganda because of our strong middle class. Or that our geographical distance from World War 2 left our economy is less of a shambles and a much stronger nation that could outlast the grinding toll of a prolonged Cold War. In short, things are not so simply explained.

2. Corollary: the very same thing can be said about the enormous upswing in the stock market in the 90's. Clinton was president and spinners have made the case that he was the reason for this growth. The resilience of capitalism and economic actions of the Reagan administration have also been strutted to center stage as the impetus for this surge of investor confidence in the 90's. Or, it could be that a lot of Boomers were finally starting to make some serious money and sacking it away for retirement. In short, the truth is probably murkier than the explanations.

3. Corollary 2: The collapse of the economy in 2008 led to a new round exegesis regarding what went wrong and who caused it. The housing collapse, the credit crunch, the whole nine yards has been shovelled into wagon loads of blame. As with Charlie Wilson's War, there are probably back stories that won't see the light of day till many of us have passed over to the other side.
I like the subtitle of George Crile's book: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times. Hyperbole? Probably not. What scares me is how much other stuff is going on in Washington by rogues and loose cannons and the party animals of both parties. What's really going on in D.C. today? Does anybody really know?

BRIAN WALKER INTERVIEW part 2 coming within the next few days.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brian Walker Talks About DiscoveredArtists.com

Being an artist has many challenges. The first set has to do with the whole process of creation. The why, the how, and the often challenging, "At what point has this piece I have been obsessing over, at what point do I call it finished?" And so a new work has been conceived and birthed. Now what?

DiscoveredArtists.com, the brain-child of co-founder Chicago's Brian Walker, is one answer to this question. DiscoveredArtists.com is an exclusively online art gallery. I recently contacted Mr. Walker and asked for his time in order to share his vision with readers here at Ennyman's Territory. What follows is the first portion of our exchange Tuesday evening.

Ennyman: Discoveredartists.com is a business that aims to bring artists and collectors together. How did that project come about, and when?

BW: Well, this thing has evolved quite a bit. We launched DiscoveredArtists in July of 2008, so we're a little less than 2 years old. But I spent 6 months before that researching pretty much the entire art market online. I almost bought a brick and mortar gallery here in Chicago, and I'm happy that I didn't, and decided to go virtual. I figured we'd have greater reach and there was maybe a need, I don't know that that need has been there the last 18 months -- it’s been kind of a tough market -- but I'm certainly happy I didn't buy the brick and mortar.

E: Yeah, there's a lot involved with that I'm sure.

BW: It would have been double trouble, but you know, I was actually in Italy when I sat down with my business partner and we decided to conceive this. It was about 6 months before we launched and we went to Rome and then we went to Florence, and went to a huge art show. There were about 800 international artists at this enormous show and (we) met a lot of them, and that was kind of what confirmed for me that I wanted to get into this. Initially it was this concept that we'd bring artists and art buyers and interior designers together, which was a great concept but it’s evolved from there… As we establish our brand people begin to trust us, people begin to be trusted. The art that we're showing is high caliber, and it’s really evolved into where I want to become more curated, more about providing just the highest quality art and artists that I can find. And then provide promotional services to artists. Marketing, promoting, that’s my background.

E: What was your background, or I guess I'll let you finish this part and then I'll ask you that.

BW: No, well that’s kind of it. We started off allowing just about anybody to come into the gallery and that was a huge mistake. We're kind of backtracking now and trying to undo some of those mistakes… not to offend artists or hurt artists feelings, but there's just no way to compete out there because artists are so critical of themselves. And art buyers, the ones who really matter, are going to be very critical. So we've got to keep the quality up, and that’s something that the past 5 months I've been addressing. It's still a work in progress.

E: I got attracted to what you were doing because of high caliber of the art there.

BW: That’s really critical. I don't want to get insane about it, but frankly whoever you and I might decide are the best artists on the planet right now, they likely have such an arrogance about them that they'd never fathom the idea or even think about being a part of what we're doing. I want to change that. That’s what leads into the marketing part of this. I think that what's most critical, and it's really where our skill set lies, we've created a gallery and we've created an ecommerce site where people can come and buy, and we're always going to market. But artists, for the most part, are not very good marketers.

E: I agree.

BW: So what I've really found, for 99 bucks a year, I'm going to go out and some of it is self serving, because you know, you're always going to get more promotion than your 99 dollars, and that's the self serving part, because we want to go out and continually push you, push your art because it makes the gallery look good and it makes everybody else look good. So it's really about honing in on this marketing and trying to attract people into the gallery, let them know that Discoveredartists.com is the place online, because there's a lot of stuff out there, but really if you want to come and find what we consider to be some of the best artists... Some of our guys are starting and untrained but they're excellent, and compiling the best artists that we can find, and making their work available to designers and collectors and so on (is what we are doing.)

E: Regarding your background, you started to say you had a marketing background, or were you in art first and then marketing? Because you're not a kid…

BW: I've been around. I'm in my 40's, 42 now, 43 very soon. When I started out, as a kid, my stepfather was in the rock and roll business, had a record label. As a kid I went to every rock concert there ever was, all the great ones. In the 70's I saw all the greatest artists, and I hung around them. I mean, I was a part of that life, and really enjoyed that, but my career took me different directions. My two primary jobs that have been my biggest jobs, because I've done a lot of things throughout my life, included trying to start other companies. But I worked for 2 PBS stations, public television stations, first in LA for about 4 years, and then I moved back to Chicago and took a job at the PBS station here called WTCW, and worked for them for seven years. I became their director of marketing and basically handled all their fundraising and direct marketing efforts. I had a pretty big staff and customer service, so that was part one of my real career. Part 2, I ended up going to work for the Chicago Tribune.

E: How has the internet changed the art world. It seems to change everything it touches, and in the art world in particular, what have you seen? I mean there's an incredible amount of stuff being sold on Ebay even.

BW: I have to answer this question from my perspective only. This may not be a fair assessment, so I guess I'll caveat my response. I don't think that the Internet has yet to realize its complete potential in terms of art. I think there is still a lot of skepticism. Here is what I think, I think there are too many art websites. I'm one of them, I think there are way too many of them, most of them are crap, most of them are full of just… because every artist tries something now so they're bouncing all over the place. In my dream, there would be 5 big ones and that'd be it. Because it’s diluting--

E: --the quality?

BW: It dilutes quality and also confidence.

TO BE CONTINUED
Disclaimer: Some of my work is currently being represented by DiscoveredArtists.com.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Five Minutes with Portrait Artist Jeremy Lee

I met Jeremy Lee through Twitter this week,@spooks_art. Not literally, since he lives in Australia and I in Minnesota, but we exchanged greetings. He'd responded to a tweet, visited my blog and shared his own site with me. When I checked it out I sensed the harmonic quality of our interests.

The interview revealed we had more in common than I had at first imagined. We both began drawing at an early age. Both had an early introduction to photography. Both have been married a long time, each with two kids. Of his he stated, "2 kids who are totally unique and can have no substitutes." Same here. And both have had a fascination with drawing faces.

For your edification, here's the rest of what I learned about Jeremy.

Ennyman: I see you have been doing art since you were a little tyke. What were the influences that led you to take an interest in making pictures?

JL: I started at age 4 - drawing people's ears. Go figure!

The most influential memory I have was at 6 years old when I made a blown-ink drawing into a kind of underwater sea-monster surrounded by every kind of sea dwelling creature you could imagine. I thought it needed a name and spontaneously made up something with about 40 characters and barely pronounceable. It was, I suppose, a nested compound-onomatopoetic word. At that age, I was forever building things. Come to think of it, that has never stopped. My latest major project is the stick-dwelling that we call home. I've been plodding at that one for the last sixteen years having damaged myself in one way or another on just about every element of construction. The house is a work of art in itself as a three story pole-house with an A-frame. I guess an appreciation for aesthetics, and an instinctive visual-oriented learning bias predisposes me to a life of creating 'things'. As a child I used to copy cartoon characters and spent many hours coloring in books, drawing insects in fine detail, and fanciful mechanical inventions including perpetual motion machines which I promptly abandoned upon learning about the laws of thermodynamics. I formally studied woodwork, metalwork, art and pottery and was offered an apprenticeship at Winchcombe Pottery. However, the pay was terrible and I opted for a career in electronics. But I can't stop making things, and I can't stop drawing and painting. It fills a gap that would otherwise swallow me up.

E: Where did the name spOOk come from?

JL: My electronics career was somewhat involved in the covert side of communications. That's all I can say. Thanks for putting in the gOOgly oh's in spOOk. I like the binocular/eyes/observation connotations. :-) Also it's a relatively unusual name which makes it easy to search on the Internet. If I used something more generic, then it would get lost in the noise.

E: I've kept my Ennyman moniker for the same reason, easy to find when people Google. How did you come to move from England to Down Under and what's the art scene like where you are today?

JL: Originally from Canada, having moved to England, one winter, my wife and I were holed-up in a flat in the UK so cold that we wore hats and clothes to bed. We decided to follow the sun. Canada was also cold, but Australia had a similar resource-based economy and stable democratic government. My electronics degree was a ticket out of the freezer and into the sun.

E: Have you been obtaining commission work via your blog? What is the price range your commissioned work is currently selling for?

JL: The blog and web site is very new. I consider it a tool and not the be-all and end-all. It's there to give to the community as much as to gather contacts and friends. Having an active blog is an asset which can be converted sometime later into more focused commercial activity if required. At present 'spooks-art' comes high up on the page-rank so it means I can just say to someone, "search for 'spooks-art' and you will find my work". The main motivation for selling my work and accepting commission is basically pressure from those who view it in person. For a long time I resisted, preferring art for the sake of art.

E: Pricing can be a challenge for many artists. Any suggestions to emerging artists on how to value what they produce?

JL: Unfortunately, to make a living from a small business you need to pull $40 an hour, 6 to 8 hours a day. So although one of my original detailed graphite portraits took 80 hours, it is priced at $2000, currently hanging in a local gallery, and I can only offer this price because it's not my main stream of income. I'll do a less detailed but quality A4 portrait for $200 which is a typical rate for that sort of work. But prints, publications and teaching are good potential sources. I intend to publish my book when I have finished the illustrations. I am releasing the contents of the book on my blog and encourage comments because someone at some time will say something profound, and if so I'll ask permission to include it in the final copy with attribution.

As with any business, pricing is simply supply and demand. If you are overwhelmed with work, then put the prices up, and if you have capacity, then lower them, but never sell at a loss. However, there is a strange psychological phenomenon where a more expensive piece often increases its desirability. We live in a strange world.

E: What is the most interesting portrait you've ever done and in what way was this so?

JL: When National Geographic published that now world famous picture of Afgan Sharbat Gula, I was transfixed and instantly produced a sketch of it. It was the eyes that got me. Several years later I also did an oil painting of the same subject. Today, I won't show it, not because it is a bad painting, but because too many other people have also done it. It's the same with 'Jack Sparrow' and 'Angelina Jolie'... I am tired of seeing cliche celebrity portraits. So to answer your question, the most interesting portrait is my Bolivian Woman in Prayer, featured in my gallery. She is unknown, intense, and full of emotion. One that I will likely do soon will be from a sketch I did in Corfu of a living monk - probably long gone now. He has/had a closed eye and a cheeky smile. Attempting this now will have to be based only on the sketch as I have no other reference. This will be interesting because a good portrait has layers. There is the technical execution, on top of an emotional content, on top of an informative layer to be seen by only those who properly observe. A hand drawn portrait has the potential to present much more than a photograph, even if the reference is photographic. My current project is a double portrait from a small blurry wedding portrait of some 50 years ago. It's a challenge to render an A3 drawing from a 6B photograph.

Enny: What's the art scene like there where you are today?

JL: My next door neighbor is a professional musician, his wife exhibits hand made pottery, one of our best friends is an impressive illustrator aiming to publish some children's books. We have the National gallery in Canberra, and huge galleries in the major cities. Rural Queensland is a burgeoning art mecca, and Sydney hosts the work of many strong artists. We have several boutique art galleries, and some excellent educational establishments. I'd say the art scene
in Australia is outstanding. The local art scene boasts a small Island overrun with artists, and the town councils actively promote local art.

E: Any favorite artists?

JL: Loads. Some living some not. Immediately coming to mind are:
Paul Lung
Armin Mersmann
Michael Angelo
Monet
Mondrian
Turner
Chuck Close
Denis Peterson
Some of James Gleeson's work.
Salvador Dali
Jackson Pollock

E: That's a good list. Thanks for your time!

JL: Welcome !


Be sure to visit Jeremy Lee's site, http://www.spooks-art.com

Follow Ennyman on Twitter: @ennyman3

Inspiration for "What IF?" (the lower portrait) is from a friend of JL's called "Home Alone" at http://bohemianpoets.deviantart.com/ As Jeremy notes, "She has some great art, too."