'Treats' Acrylic on wood assemblage ©robinrkent

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Footloose Art

I've been moving at a slower pace. Finding time to refuel while continuing to create without adding stress. A change in attitude. Recent pieces are fewer. And looser. Still I must be happy with the results.
"Magic Man' ©robinrkent
I guess when you keep at it, you're bound to notice changes as you go. Sometimes I think growth is not a conscious, deliberate act. More like one foot in front of the other.  If I already knew where I was going, I would have been there sooner!

Glad to find my new footing with this piece. I've had these shoe stretchers for a while and was wondering when the right piece would come along.

I must have been waiting for my 'Magic Man.' He was a compilation of many saved pieces. And they came with their own colors. I didn't paint anything but his hands and face. And even his face had his eye positioned from a suggestion where a previous screw was located. He's big too. Check the yard stick in his skirt.

It was almost automatic. I let him take the lead.
And tried not to step on his toes.

The header above titled 'Treats' recently sold at Stowe Craft Gallery , the new gallery carrying my work. Happy they went to a good home.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Fine Fit

I'm the newbie on the wall at the Stowe Craft Gallery - an established craft gallery in the heart of Stowe, Vermont. Stowe is a ski town, home of The Sound of Music von Trapp family, and a town of many cultural offerings. I remember visiting thinking 'this gallery would be a great fit for my work',  then had a call from them wanting to discuss just that. Here's the piece that piqued their interest and is offered in the gallery:
'Dining Al Fresco'  wood assemblage  50 x 21"     ©robinrkent

Glad they are a gallery with a focus on fine craft. Like the Shelburne Museum, this form of art deserves to been seen with like-minded pieces. The energy plays off each other.

A craft artist leaves hints of the creative process behind in their work. Look closely to see how a problem is solved, turning their medium into a cohesive piece. I can feel their steps though it may be months past its creation day.

The difference between craft and art is muddled, but to me that extra dimension is what craft offers: the tactile/visual sense of a hands-on effort.

Even wall assemblages fit this trait.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Is this a sign?

....or an art piece?
A new illustrious shop has opened in downtown this summer. One of our prominent interior and architectural designers decided to go public with a shop full of wonderful touches that make a house a home. Actually the name of her shop is The Home Shop.
I was happy given the assignment of making her sign. She had an image of her daughter in mind and it was easy to translate into reality.

This photo shows the finished sign, propped inside against the glass, waiting to be hung outside.
courtesy of Nancy Leary, proprietor. 

Below are some photos I took of the process:

(left) This became my guide for the finished piece. It has notes as to the size (big!) permitted as well as suggested hanging spots. 
Although I think in 3D assemblage, this showed the overall look of the finished piece.

(middle) I marked off the size limitation so I wouldn't make it bigger than desired (I know how things can get away from you), and eyeballed the drawing on primed sign board (plywood with a brown kraft paper finish) painted black. Chalk makes it simple to make corrections and easy to see while cutting it out.
(bottom) I make a pattern of the pieces to be in relief (face, hands, leg, house, sash), cut two of each  (it's a 2 sided sign, hung perpendicular to the front of the building), painted each element using my usual house paint palette and glued them in place following the chalk outlines.
And viola! Another of my signs hit the street in downtown Brandon. Now a rest then back to creating art for inside homes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air

I sold my two fine art acrylic on canvas paintings and the gallery wanted replacements.
Sold: 'Old Wooden Dock' Acrylic on canvas  ©robinrkent

Since they were hung above/below each other, I had a narrow, vertical space to fill. A tall order.
And my bandsaw is fixed.

Sold:'Away From It All' Acrylic on canvas    ©robinrkent
So I went 'shopping' in my wood shed for the right size 'canvas.' The shed decor is very eclectic. Many forms to choose from. Haven't figured what the ironing board (below) will be used for yet since I'm unfamiliar with its original purpose. 
Wood shed with sentry

I found the perfect size in the form of a garden gate that had been trimmed at the top to accommodate some special space in a previous life. Tall and narrow. And it wanted to be outside again. That was the inspiration for the subject. Many times I listen for hints of what the reclaimed have to say.

'Al Fresco Dining' wall assemblage  21x50"  ©robinrkent
Sticks were used for the overhanging tree,
wooden balls for fruit,
scrap wood leaves and robin,
two shingles make the table,
spindle splinters for chair and table legs,
plywood for dishes and napkins,
the key hole is original;
the rest is house paint.

A summer vacation would add the final touch.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Assemblage and disassemlage art

A new era.
I've learned so much recently. And not about fine art. Becoming a mechanic - an artist in tool appreciation - could be a future profession, if there was one.
When the band saw replacement parts arrived, I disassembled the saw, removed the worn pieces, bolted in new ones, stretched new tires on the wheels, found a new way to replace a 'metal self tapping screw' that no longer sufficed. The manufacture's tech support was very helpful with hints and tricks for assembly and complimented me on my own creative answers.
Never knew I would appreciate an exploded diagram.
Hearing a woman's voice asking technical questions may be more commonplace for them, too.
It's like a new machine. Runs like a purring kitten. Guess I really am an assemblage artist.

Band saw in pieces
A 'together' band saw

Saturday, June 15, 2013

When One Door Closes...

...another one opens.
Sooner or later.
Just make sure to grab the knob.
My screen door knob     ©robinrkent
I'm always surprised when I look back on moments and only now find the message and notice the convergence in its timing.
Generally patient, sometimes the answers to my wishes come slow. When put in context, I appreciate its karmic pace.
It's now my busy season, and my number one art tool is unavailable.
My bandsaw, a sturdy, trusted and loyal friend, has had a breakdown. Trying my hand at major surgery I found the problem, and sent away for replacement parts. But shipping is 7-10 business days. And not my kind of business days.
This week long reprieve has become a guilt-free gift from creating wall assemblage or sculpture. Clear the shop, make some room. And paint on canvas, maybe, too.
My bandsaw is giving me a summer vacation. What a nice boss.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Swinging In The Rain

(Continuing the story from last post:)
After thinking of (and attempting) many options of how to keep "The Chef' sign standing against the wind and rain, I decided on the most clever idea yet:
buy a plastic swinger sign frame
Swinging freely in shop    ©robinrkent
I noticed a small one used at the Town Offices, and then saw them everywhere. But do they come in a size and strength big enough for my 5 foot tall Chef? After calling Florida and Minnesota, I found a shop nearby.
I bolted front and back signs together with a horizontal post between them for the pivot. After slipping the sign over the crossbar, I nudged it a bit. It swung smoothly, like a well oiled machine!
Problem solved. Strong and neat. Happy artist. I couldn't wait to bring him back on the street in front of the Cafe Provence...

One hitch: the sidewalk isn't level. It pitches sideways to the curb and runs backwards down the street. The Chef was banging into the support on the bottom, not happy with the tilt.
After some fine tuning, (a full dimension 2x4 wired to the frame on the curb side), he's swinging again.
I will check on him now and again to make sure he stays 'straightened up and fly right'.

Cafe Provence was selected for the 2013 Editor's Choice Award (Best Food and Dining) in Yankee Magazine.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mean Streets for this Outsider Art

Sometimes I get into a subject or theme, either willingly or not, and can't let go. Now it's street art. After finishing the rain barrel for the 'Connecting the Drops' street project (see previous posts), I'm revisiting my Chef sign for Cafe Provence here in Brandon.
With new town ordinances, the old piece I made to set inside the top of their existing sandwich board put him over the size limit.
Original sign
Building a new sign - taped chalkboard paint drying
The object of the new sign is to keep visibility. Parked cars along the street were acting like a crowd blocking the view at a concert. (Or a woman in a large hat at a poetry reading.)
So some width had to go to gain height and keep within regulations.
Everything went perfectly until, out on the street, he met the enemy: The Wind. He was overwhelmed. So now he's back in the shop and we're putting our three heads together to find the solution making him weather friendly. Curb side 'outsider' art isn't always as spontaneous as it may seem.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Come and Go

I can cross another big assignment off my list. The rain barrel mermaid has left and is ready for a bigger pond. Here she is, in the city far from home, with some fellow barrels ready for their newspaper interview.
Mermaid and me (center in red) with some from her class of 20
Every time I start an assignment, I learn something new. Mostly about art or technique.

This time, I was the lesson. The reporter made a game of guessing the art to the artist.

Mermaid eavesdropping to the Director's interview
He was surprised I made the mermaid. He thought a young dude to be one tagging street art, but this first hand experience made me pause. Do fine artists get this surprised reaction? Maybe the fine arts are more dignified. Or should I find a comfortable middle ground with looser paintings and assemblages, leaving street art to the young-uns? Nooo...don't like self imposed retrictions without good reason. I'll try to own the fact of who I am no matter. Maybe I'll turn into an eccentric artist when I do get old.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Talking With My Hands

Without photos of my work to illustrate my point, I am helpless. Why post words from an artist (still not sure of the type) without something to look at? I always read story books with the goal of getting to the next illustration as a child. Now magazines are my guilty pleasure.
I have deadlines looming, being the beginning of the 'season' here in Vermont. Lots of art popping up along with gardens and baby animals. More time spent in the shop and at the easel than at the computer or outside. Here is the status of the mermaid rain barrel. (You can read the last post for her back story.)

3/4 view of the pickle, er, rain barrel in process.    
She needs to put her face on. Then some makeup. My mother used to say 'A little powder and paint makes a girl what she ain't.'

And the smell of pickled peppers (banana peppers I'd guess) when you unscrew her lid is devine. Makes you want to order a pizza.

I always start from black, so it's hard to see here, but by the end of the day, I should have her looking more photogenic and ready for her closeup. A nice flowing of mermaid hair would help as well. Will have to scout for just the right screen in the barn upstairs. Buttons for jewelry, etc, will be the final touches.

And that's a good thing: I'll have another post coming right up!

Monday, March 25, 2013

And Now Some Street Art Assemblage...

Finally on a full tilt roll with my painterly paintings. Newest one, above, is still in progress, but whined, wanting to be on the masthead. Will post the finished version when ready.
A vision of things to come?
A street art assemblage project is next.

Like the unfinished fine art painting above, I'll post progress on my art rain barrel commission here.

The Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District will mount 40 finished barrels on bases and stagger them from Church Street Marketplace, Burlington (our only Vermont 'city') down the hill to Lake Champlain's waterfront.
A few sentences about stormwater run off and its threat to the lake's health, posted next to each barrel, will help educate and hopefully entertain.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Folk Art vs Trained Art

I surveyed the recent art opening where my two previously posted paintings in this blog were hung. I asked a viewer (non-painter from town) if they could tell which work was mine. He picked both out.
'Aging Circus Act'  Mixed media sculpture      ©robinrkent
Going back to creating 'painterly paintings' from contemporary folk art has been a learning lesson. Seems one can transfer painting experiences from one medium - and style - to another. No one-trick pony. 

Universal topics often arise at the same time. I recently read via the Fenimore Art Museum  blog  the same art segregation issues when museums hang shows. They highlight a well written article from the New York Times in their post on this very topic.

But from the art business side, is it a good thing to mix styles? When patrons see you as a folk artist and then you're painting 'paintings,' are you confusing your market?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

You Are Not Alone

After completing my first (in a long while) painterly painting (shown above), I figured I'd try another. I have a few snaps that might turn into paintings someday. I'll keep creating folk art assemblages and such, but this new curiosity adds another layer to the mix.
'Away From It All'       Acrylic on Canvas               ©robinrkent
My paintings are intentionally soft because I use the same brushes (and paint) on canvas that I use when painting wood sculptures and assemblages. The wood wrecks the brush point, and I like the effect. I bought new (sissy) brushes to be used only on canvas and am waiting for their arrival.
Found a kindred spirit. Alanna Martinez has similar views to mine on painting. In her short article on 'Blouin Art Info,' she sums up 6 painting instincts while viewing the Matisse show at the Met. She hits on many of the 'no-nos' I was told, turning them into 'yes-yes'. Here's the link: http://www.artinfo.com/print/node/854181

Friday, February 15, 2013

True Love

Here's my problem with my love interests. I love doing funky, fun whimsical pieces where I can add my own narrative. But recently (well over the last year now) I've been tempted, dared, and coaxed to go back and try my hand at the serious side of painting.
The header piece (above) is for our local Guild's www.brandonartistsguild.org upcoming show "VermontScapes." A landscape might work as a subject.
On the dock (r) with friends. Sporting stylish canvas sailor caps
and bamboo fishing poles. Chris (center) shows her catch.
I decided to paint the boat dock.
It was the place, as a child, I'd lay and look through the slats at the cool green water and its fish below. Lamenting the thought of fall's onset, my departure, and school's fast approach.
While painting, I recalled all this: the fresh water smell, the sound of water lapping the posts, the give and sway of the dock.
It occurred to me I haven't seen many wooden docks still in use. It became a worthy subject.
My surprise Valentine: a gift to myself from one who was there. Fond memories revisited in the form of a wooden dock. Maybe I'll paint this way more. And make some folk art assemblages for the show, too.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Making Sense of It All

I've always had people around me. I see them in faces in leaves and in folds of curtains. New companions join me even today: faces in the bathroom floor's marbling, and many crowded in my pile of wood scraps. They seem to be involved in whatever they're doing and don't mind me observing them.
Woman with windblown hair
Sometimes I keep a sub-section in my wood scrap pile of pieces that remind me of certain things. Usually casualties from projects that hit a bump somewhere in the creative process and got tossed aside. But even then, when I look through that pile, I see something else yet again.
Bird waiting to fly
For example, this piece (left) started as the head of a woman in the wind. Was she going for a motorcycle ride?
But when I rediscovered her (right), she had turned into a bird.
When giving it a little thought, I wonder if it was some unspoken message. Was I missing the birds this winter? Or was I observing a fairytale: did she wish to become a bird and was waiting for the chance to fly.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Mighty Pencil

What a wonderful thing the pencil is. I think of this often as I write notes to myself or sketch late at night in bed. 
'The Pencil Is Mightier'
wall assemblage ©robinrkent
I never worry about it failing to write when held upside down or leaking ink blobs on my blankets or sheets.

Pencils aren't greedy - they are fine with sharing the same space with other marks as I loosely sketch, waiting while I decide which line to use, a prelude to a new work.
They have a close history with Thoreau also:  No. 339: Thoreau's Pencils www.uh.edu/engines/epi339.html  He knew pencils inside and out, literally. The lowly pencil didn't give him any lip when he expounded on the philosophy of transcendentalism.
It was the pencil that initially communicated those feelings to all who cared to read his words when he wasn't there. Such a responsibility.

When I think about it, pencils are taken for granted, ubiquitous, inexpensive, and can be the accepted object of frustration. 

I don't know where I'd be without them. I think they need to be shown a little more respect.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Art more valuable than money?

'People seem to believe more in art today than they do in money.'- Alex Vervoordt, Antiques dealer and interior designer, ElleDecor

Came across this quote while scanning my usual magazines trying to zero in on the art shown in the room settings. It stopped me and grabbed my attention.
 Portrait of the folk artist as a blonde
 in the early days long ago, experimenting
More than money?
Sounds like spinning gold from straw. Yes, the riches are in knowing one's calling. Payback comes in the details - making art choices that will change the direction of a piece at every step:
subject matter? what's to be conveyed?
traditional or folk art style?
2 or 3D -  painting, relief, or sculpture?
whimsical or trained, aka 'serious'? (my hardest query at the moment)
colorful or muted?

Those answers could stay elusive and may take a lifetime of experimentation.
Not in a hurry, though.
As long as others continue to believe more in art than money.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Visionary Art

I have art projects yet to be crossed off my 2012 list, even though it's 2013. These are without tight deadlines, but still to be done. Old lists lead into new. Like birthdays year to year. Another day and I don't feel different. Yet.
'New Book In Heaven' (detail) mixed media
I have to focus on finishing these art pieces before looking at new ideas. It's hard not to look ahead: no unwrapping a present before its time. What will be envisioned next?
Many artists are 'visionary.'
Sometimes I am and sometimes not. Sometimes I see the completed artwork before I start. Sometimes I let the painting process or wood shard be my art guide and follow it blindly through many wrong turns.
There's no real instruction book on the 'right way' to procede when creating.
I just look forward to turning the page to start creating the next chapter.
And seeing if what was envisioned turns into art.