Thursday, April 19, 2018

344: Persistence of Paradox Show

"Out of the fires of desire and despair are forge all the formerly irreconcilable opposites of paradox."Cypher

–OVER the last two decades, I have been trying to combine the seemingly irreconcilable worlds of woodcut and oil painting. In my latest show, opening tomorrow (April 20, 2018) at Alpine Art in Salt Lake City, I demonstrate the fusion of those paradoxical art forms. Tonight, between 6 and 8, I will give a talk about the art and process of the 28 pieces included in the show. I hope to see you there.

Many of the pieces have a QR code attached which add a deeper level of context to the pieces. For those unable to attend I embed the videos below.



























The last video (above) was filmed on April 5, 2016, over two years ago. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to mount a show of paintings based entirely on imagery from my graphic novel but the technical means had not presented itself. It took two years of rumination and one week of exposure to new ideas to finally move forward with the show. I'm extremely proud of the show and hope you will be able to drop by for a visit. It will be on display until May 25, 2018.

Brad Teare –April 2018

Above: Your Move, 48" x 24", acrylic markers on canvas, available at Alpine Art.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

343: Painting Interview

–TO be in the company of those who wish the best for you is one of the greatest blessings a person can have. Over the years many artists and fellow painters have followed my work on a variety of social platforms. I have regretted that my schedule has limited closer contact.

I recently communicated with Indian artist Darshana Bajaj, who posted our conversation on her blog (read it here). I found her questions insightful and appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my creative motivation. The heightened awareness has provided clarity at a critical moment in my career. [One addendum to the interview: I describe an ideal day–in actuality, my days are far more chaotic.]

I appreciate everyone who has given words of encouragement over the years. I have especially enjoyed the unique cultural perspective of my friends from India. Thank you so much for all you have given me.

Brad Teare –April 2018

Above: Golden Hills, (closeup), 48" x 48" available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

342: Writing a Press Release

–IT is a good idea when having a show to write a brief press release. Press releases are prewritten articles to intrigue journalists into investigating more or to use as copy for their respective publications. The main point is to convey important details while entertaining the reader. The more unusual the show the easier it is to find a unique angle to promote the exhibit. A good rule of thumb is don't be boring.  After you write the basic text, edit out any detail that isn't informative or doesn't have entertainment value.

The copy for my upcoming Persistence of Paradox show is more sophisticated than I might otherwise have used because I feel the show will attract a different kind of gallery attendee. If I were writing for a landscape show my language would be simpler. The name or subject of the show sets the tone and the readers' expectation. Below is my final press release:

Persistence of Paradox simultaneously explores the visual complexity of Brad Teare's graphic novel Cypher and the significance of its quirky, Jungian mythology. Teare uses the medium of acrylic markers (the markers graffiti artists use) to develop and expand the surrealist imagery revealed in the original book. Teare discovered that by using white markers on canvas painted with black acrylic paint, he could replicate the look, and more importantly, the state of mind, of working in scratchboard and woodcut–the original mediums of the comic book.

"The original graphic novel was comprised of dream imagery that I stitched into a comprehensible structure," Teare says. "The challenge was to focus the narrative while retaining the overall surreal, symbolic content."

The exhibit continues that impulse by visually exploring the mystery of life–with all its paradoxes. Some of the comic pages are meticulously painted onto canvas at ten times the original size. Smaller paintings are tributes to original characters and include Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, as well as a cast of archetypal icons from Femme Fatale to the League of Ogres (a crew of motley Hades-dwellers). 

Although the show consists primarily of works on canvas, included are two sculpture/assemblages that pay homage to iconic scenes in the series. Teare has attached QR codes to many of the artworks and attendees can use their phones to access additional surrealist and explanatory video.

Cypher originally appeared in Heavy Metal magazine and was later published as a graphic novel by Peregrine Smith Books. It was critically acclaimed and received accolades from the Spectrum Annual, Fantagraphics Books, as well as Simon & Schuster's Comics Encyclopedia. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Paradox Press, as well as many other comics anthologies. While living in New York, he illustrated books by Alice Walker, James Mitchener, Ann Tyler, and many others. He now lives in Providence, Utah.

Brad Teare –April 2018

Above: League of Ogres, 30" x 24", available at Alpine Art

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

341: "Persistence of Paradox" Interview

Marker painting, Dali, 12" x 14", with QR code
–I was honored to be interviewed for James Gurney's blog about the upcoming Persistence of Paradox show, April 20, 6-9pm at Alpine Art in Salt Lake City. The questions were insightful and really got me thinking not only about technique but the deeper motivations for the show.

Below is a short video that demonstrates the basic principles of my technique. I explain in more detail on Gurney's site.

Many thanks to James Gurney for the opportunity to reach more readers concerning this unique show. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Brad Teare –March 2018

Monday, March 26, 2018

340: Why Paintings Crack, Part 2

Closeup of Summer Sky, 48" x 48"
–PAINTINGS with thick applications of paint are especially prone to cracking. So I've decided I need to take strong measure to ensure my paintings, which are distinctive for their thick texture, will not crack well into the next century.

I won't treat the subject of painting layers in the correct order, with the right proportion of oil, as it is outside my expertise. My paintings are painted alla prima, that is, in a series of sessions while the paint is still wet. When it begins to dry, even just lightly skimming over, I am done painting. The technique I developed doesn't allow for adding layers of paint over previously dry layers.

With that in mind, there are two aspects of creating a solid paint film on a canvas. The first consideration is to treat the canvas so the oil does not soak from the paint layers into the raw canvas. This means adding an isolating layer. This can best be done by coating the canvas with an acrylic medium. My preferred method is to use a bristle brush to apply a thick layer of acrylic gloss medium. In addition to creating an oil impervious layer thereby protecting the canvas from the effects of the oil, the acrylic medium helps stiffen the canvas making it less movable while still maintaining flexibility.

Once impermeability is established you need to create a surface that oil paint can adhere to. The best bond would be a chemical bond. But there are few surfaces oil will chemically bond with. One such material is copper, especially with lead-based paints. Copper will chemically cross-link with oils and create a nearly uncrackable bond. I have seen paintings by Carl Block which were painted on copper panels that are in perfect shape nearly 200 years after they were painted.

 Few can afford to paint on copper panels these days. So we have to content ourselves with creating a solid physical bond. A layer of acrylic gloss medium has no tooth for the subsequent layer of oil paint to adhere to. The only way an acylic layer and an oil layer can bond is by mechanical means. This means that the acrylic has to have tooth, or actual physical properties that intertwine between oil and dried acrylic. Think of this mechanical bond as a kind of interlocking mechanism like velcro, but on a microscopic level. The acrylic layer must provide something for the oil to latch onto. This requires adding something to make the acrylic emulsion porous. Essentially the requirements are contradictory–you need the canvas to be protected from absorption and the oil painting side to have an element of absorption, but not so much that it will absorb into the canvas material.

Acrylic gesso (or more aptly named acrylic ground) is made up of acrylic polymer and marble dust. The marble dust creates just enough permeability that the oil can latch onto the surface. In the absence of such permeability, the oil paint would just sit on top of the emulsion and would eventually delaminate (that is, peel off like an old band-aid).

There are other ways to create permeability. You can add a coat of acrylic matte medium (matte mediums have a marble dust-like additive like aluminum hydroxide). This creates a sandy, gritty surface–perfect for applying oil paint.

In summation, you need to isolate the canvas with an acrylic medium. Then add an acrylic medium that will cross-link to the subsequent acrylic layer and provide tooth for the oil paint to adhere to. With most painters, these two processes can be done by coating the canvas with three layers of quality acrylic gesso. In my case, where I want to draw on the canvas with acrylic markers to clearly define my composition, I will seal the canvas with acrylic gloss medium, paint on a layer of acrylic Mars Black, draw the composition with white acrylic markers, and then make the surface porous by adding a layer of matte acrylic medium toned with Golden Colors' Heavy Body Red Acrylic (which compositionally is very similar to acrylic gesso).

This might seem like an elaborate process, but it is one that will ensure that my highly textured painting have the highest chance of not cracking well into the next century.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

339: Review of 12 Rules for Life

Cypher Graphic Novel, by Brad Teare
–I was honored that clinical psychologist and Youtube superstar Jordan B. Peterson sent me a review copy of his book 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos. This blog has a comparatively small readership and any review I write would hardly budge the needle of the book's sales–which currently trends near number one on nearly every booklist. I appreciate Peterson's generosity and willingness to share his book.

Peterson routinely talks with people such as Jonathan Haidt (who wrote one of my favorite books The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion) and recommends complex analysis of inequality in books such as The Great Leveler, published by Princeton University Press. I view Peterson as a force for rationality, but I knew his book would invite condemnation. Despite my expectations, I was surprised by an attack from The New York Review of Books. It was less a review and more a compendium of logical fallacies. Because of such attacks and such disregard for diversity of thought, I felt compelled to review Peterson's book.

The bulk of the book offsets many erroneous and detrimental ideas. Young artists will find concepts to help with self-confidence (Standup straight with your shoulders back, rule 1), networking (Make friends with people who want the best for you, rule 2), finding an authentic style (Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient, rule 7), and how to write an artist statement (Tell the truth–or at least don't lie, rule 8). The tone is as refreshing as the content and for most readers, there will be plenty to think about.

Ironically, 12 Rules for Life is not overtly political–there is little to object to from any political perspective. That isn't to say there aren't missteps. I felt his citation at the beginning of the book that order was a masculine principle and chaos a feminine one was sure to invite criticism. From Peterson's lectures, I understand what he meant. The role of modern women (radically transformed via medical innovation) has no archetypal analogy. At 60 years of age modern womanhood is too new conceptually to have evolved a genuine cultural archetype. It would have been useful if Peterson had mentioned this perspective.

Some will find Peterson's perspective at odds with art-house philosophy. But I challenge you to give his ideas a chance. Artists, above all people, should have the courage to think differently and Peterson's ideas are currently out of step with current ideological fads. Don't make Peterson an offender for a word but try to understand the concepts as he intended. Most artists will be greatly rewarded.

Over the years I've had the opportunity to mentor young artists. Their philosophies of art are often infused with an unfortunate postmodernism, especially if they've attended a public university. Such artists have a grudge against the rich, the very people who will buy their art. They embrace odd theories about art for the masses. One artist, a painter who had great potential, decided he didn't want to sell his paintings anymore because it was "just rich people" who bought his work. I have met many wealthy people in my career, and I have yet to encounter one I would consider a "robber baron," or anything even close. Most educated people see such stereotypes for what they are–crude attempts to dismiss intelligence and competency.

Highly competent people know how the world works, either intuitively or by experience, and what will make them better people. That is why they are successful. Their success is why they are rich. That is why successful people buy art and want to help artists with their careers. I reject the idea that art is only bought by the rich for suspect reasons, like trying to impress others. None of my patrons are compelled by such shallow motivations–primarily because such motivations are not conducive to success. Knowing that my art will inspire and challenge the owners of my paintings and, perhaps more importantly, their children, is a great source of satisfaction to me. Being a part of the upward drive of the human family is deeply humbling and rewarding.

One patron organized and sponsors a charity that does spinal surgeries for Peruvian citizens and has helped thousands to lead productive lives. Others fund arts events and organizations on a massive scale. Reflexively stereotyping people with money often means demonizing highly-competent and successful individuals–hardly a virtue.

It is likely that people who support the arts financially are going to be wealthy. This is true even with postmodernist art–an irony since postmodernists disdain the rich. This is reality: despite the utopian dreams of art professors, if you are going to have a career in the arts, you will be working with the successful and the wealthy. It takes care and character to treat people as individuals rather than members of a social group. But it is the right thing to do.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson's book 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos is an excellent wakeup call to artists laboring under postmodernist burdens. Although the book is not specifically written with artists in mind each chapter details methods artists can use to have successful careers (and lives). His ideas are firmly planted in reality, with solid scientific research, and are an antidote to the patently erroneous theories plaguing so much of modern culture.

For many, it will take some humility to fully embrace Peterson's ideas (he can be pugnacious at times). I was taught fallacious postmodernist theories 40 years ago when I was in art school. They didn't work then, and they don't work now. Success is predicated on an ability to deal with the world as it is–not as a theoretical utopian fantasy. Once you decide to make peace with reality Dr. Peterson's ideas will begin to resonate.

If you are looking for a book that might not be your usual reading fare, I highly recommend 12 Rules for Life.

Brad Teare –March 2018

Above: Cypher Graphic Novel available at Amazon

Friday, March 9, 2018

338: Publishing with Zno

–I recently published a book with Zno and found it to be an easy way to print on-demand books. The prices seem reasonable and they've made it extremely easy to publish using just your phone (I used an iPhone 6s). You can compare prices here between the Blurb magazine and the Zno hardbound book–although at the moment it appears that third parties cannot order books via Zno. I include links below to the Zno preview and my Blurb magazine. I think the best deal is with Blurb, since other people can buy the books. Plus my Blurb version has the same images which are larger with accompanying text. Let me know which you think is the best service.

Brad Teare –March 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

337: Why Do People Like Abstract Art?

–I was honored to receive a review copy of Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Eric R. Kandel's latest book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science. The book explains why we derive pleasure from the visual arts, and how the satisfaction we derive from abstract art differs from the pleasure we receive from traditional art forms.

The topic of the book intrigued me because of my recent foray into abstraction–a path I didn't anticipate but one that injected rocket fuel into my landscape career. Why this happened was a mystery, and I wanted to know more about the possible process.

The book's technical subject matter is accessible to non-scientists and I found the ideas extremely informative and stimulating. When Kandel does get technical there is adequate information to sort things out–often using charts, relevant paintings, as well as labeled images of the brain–in case, like me, you have trouble distinguishing your hypothalamus from your hippocampus.

Kandel's main thesis is that the brain has multiple means of processing information which it synthesizes into what we commonly refer to as reality. Two brain processes (of many) identify what things are and where they are. These factors working in tandem allow us to form a sense of reality. Abstraction disorients this conventional process and allows for atypical cerebral processing of visual information (an example of such disorientation is cubism). Additionally, brain scans reveal that viewing abstract art lights up a broader range of cerebral regions than conventional, realist art.

Using eye scanning technology scientist observe that while looking at an abstract painting the eye does not settle on a focal point. The lack of objective cues allows the eye/brain to process the surface differently. With a conventional painting, the eye will slide along the horizon, get caught in a focal point like a red barn, or in the case of a portrait zero in on the eyes like a beacon.

In the case of abstract art processing, the viewer participates, in a sense, in the creation process. This more active experience is what Mark Rothko referred to when he said that "painting was not a picture of an experience. It was an experience." This participation can induce a powerful aesthetic state, occasionally akin to what many people feel listening to music.

Abstraction can also give a sense of distance to the visual experience which can incite creativity. Abstraction also activates disused functions of the brain and suppresses areas not generally repressed–a condition that can lead to a unique frame of mind (or altered state). Such a condition, akin to the creative act, removes the barrier between our conscious and unconscious selves, allowing those two aspects of consciousness to communicate in a relatively free and uncontrolled manner. That freedom allows the viewer to participate in the creative process by lending self-defined meaning. The viewer embraces an imaginary response that is induced by the artists work. The painting, therefore, is not the experience but what the viewer experiences from the trigger of the visual image. The reward is not the object itself but what the object evokes in the mind of the viewer. The experience becomes everything. In my mind, this concept taken to extremes has limitations and is the reason so many postmodern creations have devolved into visual sight gags.

While many might find it odd that the basis of abstract art is that it defies the way our brains are conditioned to process visual information, that is precisely the reason it has value. An additional aspect of art that challenges the visual system is that it allows us to project ourselves, like a psychological transference, onto the physical structure of the painting. Such projection explains why surreal art, an art form that defies convention in many ways, can be so powerful.

The book offers not only fascinating insights such as why the sense of sight and touch jointly induce aesthetic pleasure, but numerous fascinating facts (such as that Chuck Close suffers from prosopagnosia, or face blindness). The book offers an avalanche of ideas sure to stimulate any artist's imagination.

Brad Teare –February 2018

Golden Hills, 48" x 48", oil on canvas. Available at Anthony's Fine Art.

Friday, February 23, 2018

336: Making a Portfolio Magazine

–I recently made a new portfolio magazine via Blurb (you can preview the entire magazine below). I find the method vastly superior to sending photos or tear-sheets to galleries, which can seem outdated in today's more sophisticated environment. The price per 11" x 8.5" magazine is remarkably reasonable. I got twenty 24 page copies for $143 ($7.15 per copy which included shipping). I had a 20% off coupon but even without the coupon, it is a good price. The printing quality is exceptional.

I have tried Blurb's online magazine creator but found it buggy. I much prefer making a document in InDesign and uploading a PDF. Just be sure you upload each page separately (I always try to upload as spreads and it never works. When you upload you get a warning what you did wrong so you can go back and correct your PDF).

I plan to make a series of stickers via Moo and attach them to the envelope to make a presentation that will hopefully get opened and not thrown into the trash. With so many vying for gallery attention, it's important to get managers to actually open your mailers. I initially wanted to send the magazines in transparent envelopes with an address sticker on the front with a return address, to more fully showcase the cover image. But I have yet to find anything that might work. If you know of a clever way to show what is inside the 9" x 12" envelope please leave a comment below.

Brad Teare –February 2018

Magazine Cover: Summer Hills, 48" x 48", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Monday, February 5, 2018

335: Preventing Paintings from Cracking

–IN time nearly every oil painting will crack. But the challenge is to postpone that inevitability as long as possible. If you observe the paintings of Van Gogh, and other paintings of that era, you will see significant cracks in the lightest parts of the paintings. I attended a Maxfield Parrish retrospective a few years ago, and every painting was severely cracked. The painting surfaces looked like crazed porcelain plates–an unfortunate circumstance, especially since some of the paintings were less than 50 years old.

So how do we prevent paintings from cracking, especially with thick impasto passages that present additional challenges? There are several factors that lead to cracking. One of the easiest to control is the flexibility of the painting surface. Images painted on cradled wooden panels from the middle ages (some over 500 years old) show no signs of cracking. Many contemporary artists are painting on cradled aluminum panels that are extremely resistant to flexing. This is the current gold standard in painting surfaces. As you can imagine they are quite expensive. The solution, until I can afford aluminum panels, is to prepare stretched canvas on stretcher bars using acrylic technology.

The goal of canvas preparation is to make the surface stiff and impermeable to moisture. To make the surface less flexible, use the thickest canvas possible–somewhere between a 7 and 10 ounce is best. Stretch the canvas as tightly as your stretcher bars will permit. Use canvas pliers and heavy-duty stretcher bars if necessary. Paint the front of the stretched, raw canvas with a coat of matte acrylic medium. This will inhibit moisture from passing through the canvas and stop delamination of the oil paint from the gessoed surface. Some suggest priming the back of the canvas with an acrylic medium, but this can cause puckering of the back surface which can create surface distortions on the front of the canvas. Such stress will result in cracking. Never adhere anything to the back of the canvas (even a certificate of provenance).

To seal my canvases I apply Golden Colors Fluid Matte Medium to the front. Golden is a reputable company, and I prefer to use their mediums to ensure all the acrylic products will successfully cross-link in the preparation process. Cross-linking is a process where a chemical bond is created by the proximity of two layers of acrylic. When a plastic bag is left on a plastic surface, and you return later to find that the two substances have bonded together, that is cross-linking. It is a very powerful type of chemical bonding, and you want to foster such links in every layer of your acrylic applications.

The reason you apply a layer of acrylic matte medium first is you want the canvas to be impervious to humidity and to completely isolate the canvas from the layer of oil paint that will be applied later. The matte medium provides such an impermeable layer, both from the subsequent oil on top and humidity from below, while creating a surface the next layer of acrylic gesso can cross-link to. If the Fluid Matte Medium doesn't soak into the canvas easily, add acrylic wetting release.

Over the top of the dry acrylic matte medium apply two to three layers of acrylic gesso. The reason you don't paint oils directly onto the dried layer of Fluid Matte Medium is that oil will not chemically cross-link to acrylic. A physical, not a chemical bond, must take place between acrylic and oil. Gesso contains calcium carbonate (marble dust) to facilitate physical bonding. The marble dust additive makes the acrylic gesso medium porous. The porosity allows the oil to seep into the gessoed surface creating microscopic interlocking nodules. These nodules lock together like a zipper or velcro and form the mechanism of the acrylic/oil adhesion. Anything that inhibits this interlocking action, like adding a non-porous layer of acrylic medium or acrylic paint, will cause the oil to eventually delaminate from the acrylic surface.

Once my canvases are sealed and gessoed, it is possible to tint the surface with a thin acrylic wash. I prefer using Golden Colors' High Flow Acrylics because I can get a dark tint without having to use excessive amounts. You don't want to add too many washes as it will clog the porous nature of the gesso necessary for proper adhesion. One or two thin washes of the highly potent High Flow Acrylics will provide a deep color without clogging the gessoed surface.

I highly suggest sealing and gessoing canvases in this manner even if your canvases are commercially prepared (unless they are oil primed. Acrylic over oil will not adhere properly). Many formerly reputable companies are off-shoring their products, and the gessoed surfaces are often of dubious quality and will lead to cracking–sometimes within years, not decades.

This might seem like an elaborate process, but it is one that will prevent paintings from cracking well into the next century.

Brad Teare –February 2018


Above: Desert Journey, 20" x 24", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

344: Playing with Pinterest

–I HAVE mentioned several times that Pinterest and Instagram are my favorite social media platforms. Instagram has proved useful, and I've sold paintings posted on my feed. I have largely abandoned Twitter and Facebook (I find them annoying at best) although I maintain my accounts for the benefit of those following on those platforms. If you enjoy Instagram I hope to see you there (click here to follow).

I used Pinterest to select fixtures and decor for my new studio, and it's a great way to archive favorite paintings and collect reference material. I know many people use Pinterest for connecting with collectors and galleries, but as yet I haven't discovered how to use it for that purpose. Some of the Pinterest features remain mysteries to me–such as the Pincode feature (see the photo above). Pincodes, which work like QR codes, are touted as beneficial for commercial endeavors. But for the small business person, I don't see the utility.

Pinterest also has a widget generator (see below), but again I'm not sure of the advantage (although it has a button to export to Facebook, which might prove more irritating than useful).

If you are a Pinterest Power User I hope you will let us know how it can best be used and how it works for you. Many thanks!

Brad Teare –January 2018

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