Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thanks for Listening 2016







How very grateful I am for you.

To my dear friends, colleagues, collectors, bloggers and loved ones who made 2016 such a wonderful year, you will never know how much your support is appreciated.

This Blog has been an amazing thing and has served multiple purposes. It has created a creative community of which I am a part and given me a voice to speak about the art I create. It has allowed me to think deeply about my work, art in general and its importance in the world. It has given me a window into the making of my art and by others, and a wealth of information to share and digest. I admit it has been mostly about me, for I benefit the most. But it would not exist without you.

Thank you. Thank you all for your continuing support.


“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”     ---Friedrich Nietzsche









Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year, Jim



For my loving wife Linda, I know that no words can express how grateful I am for you.
I am a lucky man. 
My goal and promise in life to show you every day how much I love you, appreciate you and cherish you.
All my love, and Happy Anniversary!




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Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim 



Website - jimserrett.com 
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vanitas II - Etiquette - Finished








"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."  - Oscar Wilde.


Intuition.


I get an idea and tend to just run with it, focus on the process and let the concepts evolve as I go. When working in a series, one piece will feed into another and things will lead in interesting directions, if you let them. This awareness of the painting experience is directing your decision making and aesthetic choices. The process is always asking questions as you answer them, what hue, value, chroma, shape, edges, scale and on and on, and hopefully with experience you are doing all of this intuitively. I find a lot meaning, energy and satisfaction within this chain of events.

Media – Popular Culture and Dumbing Down


It seems that where ever you go today there is someone staring at some little device lost in a vortex of texting or in some loud authoritative one-sided conversation. I wonder how much of their life is spent with their head down and eyes glued to a screen. People have become so dependent on these devices, if not addicted, starring and constantly checking their smartphone. Having a conversation with someone while they are texting is not multitasking, it’s just bad manners. When my earliest cell phone rang it was usually a client or art director in a panic about some deadline, commission or change needed. Silence was a good thing…

I am very supportive of the technology, but I wonder what it says about society and its direction. With all this conversing we actually seem to be becoming more anti-social, less tolerant and self-absorbed…the synonym for Narcissism is Vanity. (We just had the most narcissistic/egotistical public display in history the 2016 Presidential election.)

We always study the culture of past civilizations by the artifacts they leave behind, we analyze their art, literature and music in hopes of getting a glimpse into the conscious of that society. I wonder what a future archaeologist will think of a society in which a dead shark formaldehyde preserved or a real-life bed strewn with empty liquor bottles, soiled underwear, and stained sheets is considered high culture? Does it take the absurd and obnoxious to get us to look up from our cell phones? With great interest and at times contempt I’ve watched the “official” art establishments join the conceptual art carnival where ruder and cruder is worth more. I mean what does an 18-karat golden toilet installed in a Guggenheim Museum bathroom, by Maurizio Cattelan’s titled “America”— yes an actual functioning gold toilet – says? Conceit, arrogance and snobbery, more synonyms for Vanity.









Ugly – is easy.


I try to be open minded and tolerant, but I don’t get the joke, postmodernist art seems to me to be elitist and exclusive, a system in which mediocrity is rewarded and validated by a self-contained circle of critics and promoters. And it’s no secret that the real value is its importance in monetary exchange and more its utility as an unregulated commodity.

When we approach art from the oppose end, that of beauty. We are judging it by a different set of metrics. We look at art through our human experience, a personal, truthful and honest view of the world. Great art transcends time and subject matter, not because of the artist’s technical prowess, but because it embraces universal ideas. It has an intrinsic power, some sensation of perfection that bypasses the intellect, in the same way that we receive sensual pleasure from the scent of a rose. John Ruskin referred to this as Simple Beauty, but also spoke about Ideal Beauty which he calls Relation. The artistic idea of relation goes a step beyond Truth, Beauty, Power and Imitation, into a realm that requires intellect. This is art that produces expression, sentiment and character. I see that as the gateway to understanding/creating artistic beauty- it is to see with the mind (intellect) and heart (emotion) These are the core universal ideas.

I enjoy writing/blogging about art but it truly is more for me than you. Writing is my way to work out some of my thoughts and concepts, engage in a bit of exchange and learn something new.  I hope you take my opinions with a grain of salt, for they may change. I believe it is very important for artists to give insights into their ideas, share those opinions, explore and conduct critical thinking about the world around us.

Who better to speak about art then those who make it.  That seems to me to be the proper etiquette.







Vanitas II - Etiquette, oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches, Jim Serrett


In the Vanitas genre people look at the skull imagery as macabre and morbid symbolism peppered with some moral instruction. That is one of the obvious interpretation, but I see it more as a cautioning reminder that life is precious, so they better not waste it on frivolous and meaningless things. Often included in the Vanitas or memento mori images is the phrase Memento vivere - Remember to live.

Live in the present moment. And recognize how we spend our time is important, what are we really cultivating? Is it improving our lives? Does binge watching hours of junk TV (which I am painfully guilty of) enrich your intellect or cultivate a skill? We need to have a balance, things we do that are frivolous or fun and those which are worthwhile.




Links:


Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



Website - jimserrett.com
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Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings




Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vanitas II – Etiquette – WIP






Here is an update and progress shots of my second Vanitas painting. I've made a couple of passes over the underpainting and I'm starting to model the form. Looking for a very sculptural feel, I want the illusion of space to govern this piece and to have all the objects sit and recede with a sense of dimension, which moves the viewer into the picture by means of light, form and depth. This is very important to the narrative of this Vanitas.

My still life set up is a shelving unit draped and boxed in with black fabric to block out any light.  I light it from within and balance the same light on my canvas and palette. I often use my pochade box as a standing palette, and will normally use a hand held palette in unison to work out color mixtures.






On the palette I premix mix a string of colors for each object representing it's hue, value and chroma. If I see there is any color shift as it moves from light to dark along the string I will tap warm or cool into it from my color palette as needed. This way I am never tied to those premixes and as I see reflected light or a temperature shift I can quickly punch it up or tone it down without breaking the flow of the painting process. Because if am really way off on my judgement, I can make those finite adjustments as I return for my second or third pass. Each time I visit a passage, the subtle differences in color and value become easier to find.
This way I can just stay in the zone.






The Vanitas or memento mori imagery is a fascinating genre to explore and is full of interesting symbolism. My concept of the Vanitas or certainly the core idea behind them is to use it not just as a platform to speak about the struggle of life and death, but of art and life.

I will save more of that conversation for later and as I work through this piece I will share those thoughts. I do want to share this link to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the amazing series “The ArtistProject” in this episode’s artist Roland Flexner discusses the 16thcentury Vanitas painting by Jacques de Gheyn II.






Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 






Website - jimserrett.com 
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Friday, October 7, 2016

Vanitas II – Etiquette - Drawing and Underpainting





Preliminary pencil drawing for my next Vanitas oil painting, originally it was intended to be a simple contour drawing to transfer to canvas, but I was just having too much fun with a pencil.
The majority of my still life works begin with a simple but descriptive contour drawing, which works out the composition and suggests the shadow side or turning point on the form. This is typically more than enough information to move on to the next stage of paint. Especially for any monochrome underpainting.


I pushed this one quite a bit further. In a preliminary drawing you can do a great deal of problem solving. By simply dissecting the imagery, exploring the shapes, form and value relationships. You really familiarize yourself with the subjects and those nuances that first attracted you to it. This process seems the most natural for me and the most challenging. I feel that I am looking through a lens and slowly turning it, focusing in on the subject through my mind’s eye, interrupting it as I go. Becoming more aware and knowledgeable about this thing before me as I progress through the process of creating the image.  As I describe the effects of the light, it becomes more and more dimensional and real to me. And enjoyed fleshing out the value relationships in this drawing.






I transferred the drawing to board. With the subject in front of me and the value study as reference, I painted a quick wipe out umber underpainting, to truly reinforce the value relationships before my first color pass.

If we attempt to translate the natural world into paint with some type of optical fidelity (faithfulness to how that object looks in real life), what you paint is light. I know this is the vague common answer you hear when you ask an artist - what do you paint? But it is the simple truth, the truth of physical properties when describing form, what is illuminated and what is in shadow? No matter what the subject is; skulls, flowers, apples and oranges, I paint the effects of light first and the narrative second.

Our perception of everything in this world is described by light or the lack of.
It is the universal narrator, the chronicler, storyteller and poet.



"The purpose of art is to stop time." — Bob Dylan







Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 




Link: Fun with a Pencil By Andrew Loomis


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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Vanitas I - The Death of Superman




Here is my finished piece exploring the art of the Vanitas. What a fascinating subject matter to dive into.
Vanitas I -  The Death of Superman, oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches © Jim Serrett

Memento mori is a Latin phrase which means "remember that you have to die", the phrase certainly speaks about the frailty of life and our mortality. Originating from a practice common in Ancient Rome; as a general came back victorious from a battle, and during his parade ("Triumph") received compliments and honors from the crowd of citizens. He ran the risk of falling victim to haughtiness and delusions of grandeur; to avoid this, a slave stationed behind him would say "Respice post te. Hominem te memento" (“Look after you [to the time after your death] and remember you're [only] a man."). Memento mori!” Remember that you will die!”







The early religious imagery surrounding death was often used as motivator to live a good, meaningful and virtuous life. Churches would commission and display memento mori art to compel viewers to meditate on death, reflect on their lives, and re-dedicate themselves to their theology. 





By the seventeenth century Dutch Masters like Adam Bernaert, Pieter Claesz and Willem Claesz Heda had turn this imagery into a genre of its own called Vanitas, still life paintings which often contained religious and allegorical symbolism to remind us how vain and insignificant our human concerns are and consequently, how important it is to turn to God/deity. The term Vanitas comes the opening verse of Ecclesiastes 1:2 in the Latin Bible “Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas’, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.



Still Life with a Skull by Philippe de Champaigne,
 Vanitas c. 1671 is reduced to three essentials Life, Death, and Time


Keep in mind we are talking about the Golden Age of Dutch culture, the Netherlands was an economic and cultural powerhouse in the seventeenth century, the Dutch East India Company was the largest commercial enterprise in the world, controlling more than half of all oceangoing trade. The Dutch were enjoying a very high quality of living for the era, and artists like Rembrand, Frans Hals and Vermeer were producing works of art at a caliber and quality that still astonish us today. With the wealth and exotic goods of it's far-flung trade, there seemed to be a considerable interest in religious themed imagery that had a moral lesson with some symbolic reminder of death to underscore the “vanity” of life and the need to be morally prepared for final judgment.




A Vanitas Still Life with Skull, Books, Römer, Oil Lamp and Pen, by Pieter Claesz, 
c. 1645 Oil on wood 15.5 x 23.5 in

The Oligarchy Vs Theocracy of the seventeenth century Dutch Republic and Painting in the Dutch Golden Age are pretty interesting subjects, certainly a fascinating period of history. Below I have added a couple links that go further in depth. 


However, I want to stay speaking about the imagery and metaphors that these Dutch Master were creating. The symbolic meaning of objects used in Vanitas paintings runs a gambit of psychological nuances and subtleties. Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit (decay); bubbles (the brevity of life and suddenness of death); smoke, watches and hourglasses, (the briefness of life); and musical instruments (brevity and the ephemeral nature of life). The skulls and empty glass are fairly obvious. Some of it may be a little ambiguous today, decaying flowers, insects and fruits, but for most I think the allegories can be interpreted to where they still reveal a hidden meaning or truth. And in that is the universal truth, the one thing, that no matter what socio-economic background or theocratic religion, the same reality exists, just how short our existence is. And what we do with it does matter.




As the late great comedian Gene Wider said, "Time is a precious thing. Never waste it." That is the meaning or narrative I get from those Vanitas and memento mori pieces. Yes, remember that you are mortal humans, that yes each of us will die in time. We are not ten feet tall and bulletproof, little reminders that we are not Superman might be good for us. So the candle will go out, we must come to terms and know our mortality/humanity.


But we must also not forget, Memento vivere - Remember to live!






Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 








Website - jimserrett.com 
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Memento Mori - Vanitas WIP






Having spent much time sketching the anatomy skull it is understandable that I would become interested in the significance or meaning of such an enigmatic image. The skull certainly represents the frailty of life and the inevitability of death. Building on this theme I’ve become interested in other symbolic imagery I can add to this narrative. All which has led to a close study of the art of the Vanitas, the seventeenth century Dutch paintings filled with allegories and symbolism illustrating the impermanent nature of life and the vanity of human activity. And what kind of painting I could create that communicates the temporary nature of our existence.  More about this subject matter as I push through this painting. So here is the contour drawing of my idea on the easel.

Memento mori - Remember that you will die. Know your mortality.
Memento vivere - Remember to live.



Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 


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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Memento Mori No.4







Very interesting subject. I love a drawing challenge, and this skull with it multiple planes is more of one than I thought it would be. To describe form, think light and shade and it will explain the object.

Memento Mori No.4, Graphite pencil with white chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches






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Friday, July 15, 2016

Memento Mori No.3




The more you know about a subject, the more you’ll discover what you don’t, and the more you will want to learn. As I pursue these drawings, it is beginning to shed new light on how I look at the face, I am beginning to see the structural framework of the skull in people’s faces and visualizing all the relationships of the features.






Memento Mori No.3, Graphite pencil with white chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches




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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Memento Mori No.2





Learning the proportions of the head, by understanding the anatomy of the skull.
The two main parts of the skull, (Cranium) the skull and (Mandible) the lower jaw and chin.
The round cap of the skull, (Calvaria) the bony ridge below the eyebrow (Supercialiary Arch) the (Zygomatic Bone) commonly referred to as the cheekbone. The goal is to expand my practical understanding of anatomy and the ability to apply it to observations from life.





Memento Mori No.2, Graphite pencil with white chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches





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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Memento Mori - No.1






"Say Hello to my little friend!"
Received this great anatomy skull for my Birthday, going to be working on some drawings.






Memento Mori I, Graphite pencil with White chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches




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Monday, July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July by Childe Hassam






The Fourth of July by Childe Hassam, 1916, oil on canvas, 36 x 26 inches


This patriotic flag painting was painted by the American Impressionist Childe Hassam (1859-1935).
I believe it to be a street in NY city, one of several pieces he produced in this genre. These are some of the most distinctive and famous works by the artist. There were around thirty painting in his "Flag series". (Notice the flag in the foreground and how it has only 48 stars as Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states in 1916.)  Always an inspiration and one of my favorite artists.


Happy 4th of July!




To learn more about Childe Hassam click this link.




Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Buddha Baby – Finished





I have had this little guy for over a decade, he was a dash ornament for a few years and has been hanging out on the bookshelf for several more. I've always wanted to add him into a painting somewhere/sometime. Plus, I figure anyone that stuck with me this long deserves a little recognition.

Painting, (creating a work of art) is always a balance of the internal and the external. The object I see and how to technically recreate the illusion of it in form and color with pigments. And the internal, that which generated this connection with me enough to want to create a expression of it.




Technique is important, it is the tool bag from which you pull, the foundation on which you create. Usually what attracts me to a subject is the underlying abstraction, how to convey light and form with painted shapes is more than enough of a challenge. Honestly there are times when I am oblivious to what the thing is that I am painting and see only color, edges, shapes – form described by light is a fascinating subject and the medium of oil paint is the most incredible material to depict it with.






The emotional attachment artists have to their subject matter is a difficult thing to explain. Funny thou - it can easily be seen in a piece, the expressive response has a tendency to works its way in unconsciously while you are creating. Sensitivity, intuition, passion are words used to describe that empathy for your subject. When I look at great art, art that really touches me, all tend to exhibit three central traits... skill, creativity and empathy. And empathy being the most elusive, for I feel that it is something which takes time, and something that is more experienced then learned, it is...some reflection of our artistic selves and our inner emotional lives.




“With our thoughts we make the world.” ― Buddha




Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 


Website - jimserrett.com 
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Friday, April 22, 2016

Finished the challenge!







Here we are at the end of my 30 in 30-day painting challenge and I have got to say that it zoomed by, I must have had fun.                           

I enjoyed exploring composition and colors with these alla-prima paintings. From the beginning I intended to concentrate on design and composition but as I reflect over the collection I started to see an unexpected story being told. As I was looking at the big forms in nature, a theme quickly evolved that was about earth and sky and water. Lots of weather effects, dramatic skies, sunsets and clouds, the forces of nature.  So I was happy that they collectively communicated the spirit of the natural world.

My approach was to be as direct and complete with my brush as I could and record the motif in front of me. The goal was to make quick and spontaneous decisions, describing things simply and abstractly. Yet hang onto that illusion of real space and place and the experience of it. I find myself looking a lot at the Barbizon painters, Charles-Francois Daubigny and Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and the Russian School of the late nineteenth century Isaac Levitan and Ilya Repin.  These painters handle the sense of space so masterfully, so much abstraction in their work, brush handling, surfaces and texture. They could just drag the viewer into the atmosphere of the painting


Anyway this is where my head has been during this endeavor. Looking for insight from artist of the past and observing the world for inspiration.  








You can see all 30 paintings at my Pochade Box Painting blog.



Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim 



Website - jimserrett.com
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LINKS:












Saturday, April 9, 2016

Day Twenty of the Thirty Day Challenge






It is twenty days into my Pochade Box Painting challenge. And a few of these sketches I will certainly develop further into larger studio pieces. So far I have enjoyed the process and gained some gratifying hours of pushing paint around. Can’t beat that.



Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings





Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Day 9 of the 30 in 30 Challenge.





Day nine of my thirty-day challenge, thinking about the fundamentals of landscape composition and focusing on mark making with these alla-prima studies.




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Sunday, March 20, 2016







I have been wanting to do a painting challenge with my Pochade Box for some time now. And figured I would just go for it this spring, with all the color changes it is one of my favorite times to paint on location. I also think because of studio projects I have neglected somewhat, my plein air work and this would be a great way to get those painting chops back up and going.

The procedure will be to produce and post daily, a Pochade box painting. The technique will be mainly wet into wet (alla-prima) completed in one sitting. However, I never underestimate the power of a good glaze.  I will post the finished works on my Pochade Box Paintings blog and at auction on Ebay.

Painting on a daily basis will allowed me to focus on the fundamentals, drawing, value, design and color and hopefully learn something new every day. That synchronicity is my goal, the more I paint, the more I learn about painting, the more I see as an artist.

Experience is the most powerful means of learning.
At the core of evolution is challenge. It is the trial to overcome an obstacle. Creative evolution does not occur in a straight, steady progression but is marked by false starts and dead ends, random leaps in different directions, and periods of fruitless activity.

It is a slow progression.

And there is something else, it takes discipline. That artistic mastery we all strive for in our life requires a constant push. So this is the idea, and the Thirty Day Manifesto, I hope you will follow along and see how I do. 




Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim


Website - jimserrett.com 
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Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings






Monday, February 29, 2016

Buddha Baby







There are things we do or experience in life that seem to fit with our psyche, they just feel comfortable and natural to us. I have always drawn, filled notebooks with Army men and monsters from Mars, I was the kid in class that everyone would ask, “Can you draw me a...”.  I still remember, like it was yesterday the first real paintings I saw in a Museum. They blew my mind, and yet somehow I knew I had to figure out how in the world they did it. And later, the first time I pushed a puddle of oil paint around on a palette, I knew, oh yeah…this is it.


Joseph Campbell wrote, “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”



Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim




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Friday, February 12, 2016

Short and Stout





This little ceramic teapot has such a nice warm brown glaze on it that I found it to be just an interesting subject to paint. I like the images reflected into it and really enjoy the subtle colors. I am using the red and white napkins as a design element to bring a pop of color into the motif. 

The teapot is a small 2 cup pot that is painted just about life size. My thoughts were to paint an intimate painting about a cherished object representing a quiet moment in one’s lifeNow if all of this metaphor comes through the painting, to the viewer I would be surprised. But I do think the emotional intent comes across.


I'm a little teapot
Short and stout
Here is my handle
Here is my spout
When I get all steamed up
I just shout
Tip me over and pour me out

I am a very special pot
It is true
Here is an example of what I can do
I can turn my handle into a spout
Tip me over and pour me out


Short and Stout oil on panel 8 x 10 inches © Jim Serrett




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 Website - jimserrett.com
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Monday, January 25, 2016

Brown Teapot - WIP - Underpainting Techniques






I am laying out the image on the canvas panel with a thinned mix of brown made from umbers, almost a sepia tone. Wiping out and editing the lines as I go, attempting to get as accurate a drawing as I can. What I want is the basic structure and design over which I will lay my first color pass.


You can find more information and demos on underpainting techniques here.

Links:
Grisaille underpainting



Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 


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