Thursday, December 31, 2009

Richard Schmid, The Landscapes

I just finished reading and perusing Richard Schmid's new book on landscapes. It's no surprise to me that this book shows some of the most incredible works of art by a living artist today. He is and always has been a star that is just out of reach from us all.

The Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art, Chicago, was where I met Richard Schmid. We both served on the Board of Directors and Richard was president. This was in the mid 1980s when some great emerging talent adorned the halls of that old mansion in Chicago. Richard's generous mentoring spawned some of the great names in contemporary realist art in America today. This is the Richard Schmid I know, unselfish and extremely focused in his world of art.

I recommend this new book, "Richard Schmid, The Landscapes", Stove Prairie Press. see The hardback edition is $135.00 and worth every penny.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How many months in a year?

Are you sure you want to stick with your answer of '12'?
And what is a dry-seasoned year referred to? Maybe El Nino? Are you sure?

We understand beliefs vary widely from person to person, but we count on the consistency of solid facts. This reminds me of why painting commissions can be so difficult. Betty wants a French cafe painting scene with bright red awnings. We work out the details and a month later when I show her the completed piece, she says, "oh, not that color red". Everyone sees color differently, and, everyone sees the world uniquely.

How about the Chinese farmer trying to explain the unusual hot, dry weather one year? El Nino? "The traditional Chinese lunar calendar follows a system in which a month must be made up every fourth year- sometimes there is an extra ninth month, or an extra second month, and so on. This year is the fifth one. Whenever there are two fifth months in one year, you can count on a hot dry spring followed by an extremely wet summer. This is the way it has been in the past, and thus the peasants [farmers] are not surprised by the current heat and dryness. Everywhere in the countryside they complain quietly about the problems of having two fifth months in one year." -River Town, Peter Hessler

Question your assumptions. Is it really like this or like that? There are many truths.
The opportunity for expansion of ideas and awareness, whether of the world or towards art, comes from this constant questioning and observing.

Here's how I see red.
Do you see what I mean by red?

p.s. Colors may vary according to individual monitor settings. ;-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

A free book: Alfred Currier: Impasto

It is soon to be Thanksgiving, so in that spirit, I am giving away 5 copies of my art book. The 112-page full-color book focuses on my work in the past 15 years, including a chapter detailing my process. "Alfred Currier: Impasto" was published in 2003 by the University of Washington Press in association with Marquand Books. It was written by Ted Lindberg, former curator for the Vancouver Art Museum. It retails for $40. Shipping will be included.
To be eligible, all you need to do is post a comment on my blog answering the question: "What is your favorite quote on art ?". Sunday, I will draw five names at random then announce the winners! You must check back Sunday November 29, 2009 or after to lay claim as a winner.
My Favorite quote is from Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep".

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Sweet Life In Paris

I've traveled and painted through France before but, never in Paris. I had a past preconceived idea of Parisians so I avoided Paris because of my weak French skills. I just spent 1 1/2 weeks painting on the streets of Paris with my partner Anne Schreivogl who used to live in France, therefore fluent in French. It was a wonderful experience and I found the Parisians very engaging and friendly. As it turns out, my language skills were just fine as I provided the Parisians with cheap entertainment. I stayed in the Marais district, two blocks from the Bastille monument in an apartment owned by Rob Horby from San Diego, a nice affordable place with close access to everything.

Paris is about art, food, and love, through and through. It's such a melting pot of cultures. Painting on the streets of large cities tend to draw crowds of people and Paris was no exception but, they were extremely courteous. They would only talk when I would turn and say "bonjour" first. This was where I got in trouble because they would assume I could speak French and they would then barrage me with questions. I then would level the playing field by saying; "Parlez-vous anglais?" That would slow the process of communication and the fun would begin. I know some French and they would know some English and the rest was waving arms, rubbing chins, and scratching heads

I became fixated on sidewalk cafes with their colorful umbrellas. Painting these cafes requires you to be fast and deliberate with regards to your painting. On a sunny day, these cafes are packed with animated conversations and people watching. Every shape and angle is exaggerated, the way they hold a cigarette or a glass of wine, it's all part of the visual show. Down along the River Seine, the city will haul in sand for the summer so Parisians can sun bath, a sight to see. It was along the Seine while I was painting that I happened to look up and spotted Laurie Gere taking my picture. Laurie is a friend from my town of Anacortes Washington, small world. Bicycles, scooters, and mini cars everywhere. Police on roller blades and bicycles maneuver through the streets as if in a carefully orchestrated dance routine, protecting us from what we are oblivious to.

With special permission, artists can still paint and copy the Masters in the Louvre and Museum D'Orsey. As a right of passage, I would have loved to have done this but, no time to apply was afforded me. Instead, I set up my easel in the Louvre courtyard and painted the Arc Du Carrousel from the Pyramid. During my painting of three hours, the Louvre guards would occasionally circle around me on their bicycles taking a look at my progress. When my painting was finished, I stepped back for a look. Two guards approached me and said that the Louvre was private property and I had to leave, ......"are you finished?" with a smile. Art first, then we deal with the consequences, I love it!

This post title, "My Sweet Life In Paris", is inspired by a newly-released book of the same name, that I highly recommend for those who enjoy reading about la vie in Paris. The author, David Lebovitz, was giving a talk in Paris while we were there. We sadly missed it.

For those of you who follow my Blog posts, I'm sure you haven't heard the last of this Paris painting trip.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Deception Pass

I was really moved by my last impasto painting and couldn't get it out of my mind. I drove to the south end of Fidalgo Island a few weeks ago to watch an intense sunset that seemed to be forming by late afternoon. A rather trite subject, it always intrigues me. They become trite because of the beauty that draws painters and photographers into their web. The question in my mind is can I paint it differently than anyone else? Can I find something that no one else has found? Is this what goes through the minds of all artists as they approach this subject? Should I walk away? No, I'll stay and play.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Painting Small

As I've mentioned in the past, my work takes two basic forms, large impasto studio painting and plein air painting. There is another aspect and that is the in between process that results in small studio paintings. Throughout the year, I'm constantly sketching and formulating ideas for my large works. This process results in small works, generally with figures. These small paintings are where I try to see a small part of what might be the finished focal point of a much larger painting. Some of the images are repeated as I'm trying different aspects of color and design and how they might juxtipose with each other. My favorite size is 9x12 and sometimes 12x12. These paintings are available for purhase, should you desire.

I'm only showing a few small paintings on this post but you may see more on my website:
On a side note, I will be teaching a plein air workshop in May 2010 for 10 days, in Umbria, Italy. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in this or other painting workshops in the future.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oyster Run

It was said that 25,000 motorcyclists converged on Anacortes Washington last Sunday for the 28th Annual Oyster Run. The population of Anacortes is 18,000. What's the history? I'll let you research that aspect. My story is about art.

Art has many faces. Art for the viewer would probably be considered a form of entertainment. What about art for the artist? The process of doing comes to my mind at first but, what about expression? Where does that enter the realm of art? I focused this post on the "Oyster Run" because I feel it's a combination of several art forms. The photographer, the motorcycle designer, the groupie, the rider, and the voyeur, all entertaining.

My friend and photographer J.B. Smith put together the following chronicle. I hope you enjoy. Al

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Voice

I made a conscience choice to leave Chicago 20 years ago in search of quality of life. Quality of life in Chicago was good but, I'm just a small town person. My journey took me to Washington State, specifically Anacortes, my home. What a beautiful place it is here in the Northwest. The people are open and friendly. The water, the mountains, and everything in between is drop-dead gorgeous. Why am I writing this? Well, sometimes I miss the vibrancy and bustle of the big city art scene not to mention the opportunities afforded to a growing art career.

The question might be: would I have established my own voice as an artist if I stayed in the big city? I probably would have but, definitely not the one I have today and for that, I'm thankful. I was on the path of being a technique-based painter and that wasn't where I wanted to be. As I've mentioned in the past, I feel that your technical skills are only the tools of expression. It's what you do with those skills that count. My mind was set on finding my own identity as an artist. When I was younger, I didn't know what that meant or what direction I was heading. All I knew was that I wanted to explore, discover, wander, and wonder.
My own voice came by accident. I was starving and contemplating putting a "career" in art on the back burner while I took a job-job. What happened then was pivotal to my work. Resigning myself to this change, I just started playing around with my art with no intended motive of selling. I experimented with shapes, color, and form. The results were my signature style of painting, impasto. What made it work was the research of Robert Gamblin and his development of G-gel, an alkyd gel for painting with thick paint. Generally speaking, oil paint will dry, dry, and dry some more until it eventually cracks even with the best "fat over lean" guidelines applied. This is especially true with impasto, a thick buttery application of oil paint.

Fall is here which means that I'm back in my studio as opposed to painting outside. This painting, "Shoreline", is a work of fragmented color that appears abstract as you stand close. As you step back, your eye will blend the color. The first two images are close-ups of this painting. The last photo is the completed work.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Intense week of painting on Whidbey Island

It was an enjoyable but, intense week of painting at the Plein-Air U.S. Open. My painting was a struggle most of the week. I was rained on twice, and once, the wind caught my umbrella with my painting, sailing them both onto the highway. Fortunately, a bus stopped all traffic for me while I retrieved them. Determined to continue, I worked and overworked the painting for six hours: "ugh."

Towards the end, I headed for the beach for a little sunset painting. I guess I needed to be inspired and Jamie was the model that inspired me, wow! The inspiration lead to a "Juror's Choice" award of which I'm very proud.

The last painting was a father and son fishing at the end of the day at Deception Pass. The salmon were running and they didn't notice me painting them from the trees behind. Titled "Got One Dad", they never looked back to see me working. As it often seems in art, the faster paintings are the ones that capture the emotion of the moment while the labored ones miss the mark.

Pictured below is Anne Schreivogl painting on the streets of Coupeville. A brightly colored safety sign with "Plein Air Painter" boldly on it was a great help. In years past, cars and people sometimes challenge your position on the streets. I was hesitant at first, but came to love that sign as the week went on.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Plein Air Painter's US Open

The 4th annual Plein-Air Painter's US Open will be September 8th - 12th on Whidbey Island in Washington State. For me, this is an exciting event. Most plein air events are invitationals, meaning that you have to be a member of a club or clique to participate. Some would argue that it's about quality but that says to me that it's about accepted technique. I bring this up because yes, you can judge technique but, I do not believe you can judge the emotion an artist gives to his or her work. That emotion is what fine art is all about. (there I go again, defining art) ;-)

The US Open was established four years ago by landscape painter James Moore, a Montana transplant now living in Washington. This event allows everyone the opportunity to compete. There is a judge in the end but, not to get in. That removes the mutual admiration society from blocking the flood gates. Each year it has grown larger and larger with artists coming from all over.

If you live close by, I would encourage you to be a participant or voyeur to this event. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the work of these artists. In the end there will be a Gala with a silent and live auction. Yours truly will be participating as well.


The two images on this post were my attempts from this past week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Attic Gallery, Portland Oregon

I'm proud to announce my association with the Attic Gallery in Portland Oregon. For many years, Portland has been a great "art town". Attic Gallery has served Portland since 1973 and has a great stable of artists of which I'm delighted to now be a part of.
See: and click on my name under artists.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Summer has mostly been saved for painting en plein air but the studio called me back in for a little impasto painting. From the vantage point of this composition, tulips are not grown.

Along the levy of the north fork of the Skagit River, Mount Baker peeks over the top, an awesome but subtle depiction on this clear day. In reality, the foreground is covered with blueberries but, being literal is not what I am about. Representaton comes second to texture and color. Truth is more feeling than fact.

The finished painting here is 36"x60" so when compressed in a photo, you cannot see the texture(impasto). This is the reason I have also posted the closeup shown below.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I had an interesting conversation at the coffee shop the other day about being productive, wanting to learn, and living life to the fullest. What's this have to do with art? Because of habits, rituals, and just good ole work ethics, we fill our days. When I cannot paint, guilt sneaks into my psyche. What do I do? I clean my brushes, water the plants, and weed the garden. Time flies by. Is this what I want? NO! At my age, I want time to slow, but, guilt keeps me moving.

Lately I've taken to just sitting, being in the moment, listening to the fountain, and watching this little white butterfly move around my courtyard, seemingly aimless. The straightest path is not always the quickest road to inspiration.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Visit my studio July 18th and 19th

I'd like to extend an invitation to you to visit my studio this coming weekend, July 18th and 19th from 10AM to 6PM. This is part of the Skagit Artists studio tour and I will have lot's of new plein-air paintings as well as a few "impasto" works. Anne Schreivogl's studio will also be open with lots of "wacky whimsical work".

Our studio address is 1818 M Ave, Anacortes Washington. It is a short drive of 1 1/2 hours North of Seattle and 2 hours South of Vancouver British Columbia.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer crops

Tom Robbins once wrote in "Another Roadside Attraction" that the Skagit fields grow more than half the world's supply of cabbage seed. A closer figure upwards towards 90% would be a more accurate count in today's market.

Most of my paintings have depicted migrant farm workers picking tulips. I use the tulips in most of these paintings solely to exploit their color. Reality in the fields is much different. This delta soil, with virtually no industry upstream, hosts some of, if not the richest soil in the world. Strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, beets, cucumbers, cabbage, spinach, are just a few crops grown here for not only consumption but, also propagation.

Often, I will study a figure in several paintings before I let it go. This started when I moved here with a 15 year old, Maria, and her father. I painted those two and then later, Maria's husband, for over ten years. These two paintings shows the beginning of that process.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mount Erie Grocery

The one thing I've noticed about painting en plein-air (open air) is the scents of the day. When I visit a painting that has been sold, maybe years ago, I can still remember the day it was painted if it were painted on location as opposed to in my studio. I drove out by Campbell Lake at the foot of Mount Erie today. The Mount Erie Grocery sits neatly at it's namesakes base almost timeless in it's demeanor. A smell of silage drifts through the air, an unmistakable mark of this day. A small Jersey cow watches me paint then drifts away after boredom sets in. Watching a painter paint is something close to watching grass grow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Contre Jour

For some odd reason, every summer I've painted at the end of Ninth Street, for the past 19 years. The light is always different and I love the challenge of painting into the sun, also known as "contre jour" by the French.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cycling and Painting

I've been a bicyclist at heart for most of my life. I say "at heart" because I haven't ridden much in recent years. The concept of cycling and plein-air painting has always intrigued me so off to Vancouver Island, British Columbia I went on my overloaded 85# bike. Most serious cyclists would be horrified at that weight but, no tube of paint was left behind thus a secure artist treks on. My travels took me to Victoria via the Lockside Bike Trail for three days with a side trip to Sooke on the Galloping Goose Trail. I painted a produce market in Victoria on a glorious day of sunshine, great color too. Riding to Salt Spring Island was a little more challenging. It was a steep climb straight out from the ferry but, I did not have a concept of what hills were ahead. I don't have a method for capturing miles but soon after the ferry landing climb, the road began a slow increasing grade that seemed like three to four miles. Then a sharp turn to the right and the road went vertical. My lungs were holding but, my thighs were burning. I drank and ate every electolyte replacement I had but, finally I ground to a stop. (Hm-mm, 85#?) I walked the last 1/2 mile and finally summited. Simultaneously to this grind, friends of mine, Jill, J.B., and others were summiting Mount Baker. I felt akin with them. The results of painting yielded 3 for the week. The results of cycling yielded 150 miles. The combined results are mixed in my mind, too much weight. Staying local with my bike and paints seems more intriguing now.
I have a dream has now been changed to I had a dream. Maybe a motorcycle, hmmm?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Photography Workshop

"Art Lesson" photo by Lewis Jones, Anacortes WA

When I was 12 years old, I was asked if I wanted to paint a sign. Yes, my first art commission!

The sign was straightforward: 'MOTEL'.
The size was to be 8' x 16'.
The background was white.
The letters to be red.

It all sounds very simple. The lumberyard delivered four 4' x 8' sheets of plywood with a quart of red, white, and primer, all oil-based paint. Immediately I jumped into it and within four days, it was finished. I stepped back, arms folded, what a nice looking sign!

"Mom, come to the garage and look at my sign!" I proudly said. Then the crushing blow as Mom told me that the correct spelling was MOTEL not MOTL. I had put one letter per sheet of plywood.

Having said that, two very important things in my life are "spellcheck" and "auto focus/auto exposure" cameras. My experience with cameras is not unlike my experience with spelling.

Not having taught in over ten years, the Skagit Valley Camera Club has asked me to be part of a creative workshop for a group of mostly professional photographers at the end of May. (For more info click here: Unleash Your Creative Spirit). The last time I talked to a group of photographers on art, Lewis Jones documented it with the above polaroid transfer at the American Camp, San Juan Island.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Figure

The Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art, Chicago, gave me a constant source of models to paint from. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1991, that option was unavailable. That move, unbeknownst to me, began a longtime love affair for the migrant workers. To keep my drawing skills up, I would head for the fields of the Skagit Valley, rich with farm workers. Generally speaking, I would grab a 5-gallon bucket in the fields, turn it upside-down, and sit on it with sketchbook in hand, then return to the studio to invent the color.

More details on this available painting can be viewed at:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

In Full Glory

That yellow sky is such a motivator, especially this time of year. The tulip fields are in full bloom, here in the Skagit Valley. My outside thermometer reads 41 but it feels likes 50. My problem was finding the pickers. By the time I found them, they were too deep in the fields, but the painting of intense color felt good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is art?

While my readership is nonexistent with this first blog entry, I'll define the question of "What is Art?" without too much fear of rebuttal.

If you confront a painting and you really like it, it works. If you confront a painting and you absolutely hate it, it still works. If you walk by a painting and you continue on to the next, maybe that's the one that is lacking, at least for you. Bottom line- art has to convey emotion to the viewer, negative or positive. So, when you walk up to a painting and say, 'Who would ever buy this?'- it worked!

Art is about conveying emotion.
Now for the artist, it's more about the process of doing as opposed to the end product expected.

In this blog I'd like to share my thoughts on that process from the exhilaration of plein air (outdoor) painting to the timelessness I feel in the studio painting impasto, modulating color with the brush and palette knife with thick layers of oil paint.

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