Monday, December 5, 2011

Formation of a painting

This is a very simple application of a creative thought. I have been studying ravens for the past several months with some in compositions that have been fun. I believe that I've only scratched the surface so, with no further explanation, please find Formation in it's development stages.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Painting Haystacks

I chose the title "Painting Haystacks" since it does describe the approach of my work. I'm referring to Claude Monet's repetitious, and what appears, duplications of haystacks and other motifs.

To understand this, the artist is NOT duplicating paintings but, instead, exploring color , texture, and all of the complexities that confronts him or her in the process of creating art.

Recently confronted by an artist, I was asked if I got tired of painting tulip fields. I had to smile at this question because, this artist wasn't that familiar with my work. Yes, the migrant workers and the tulip fields of this Skagit Valley region of Washington State do contribute about 30%-40% of my work but, I also paint other motifs as well. As a business decision, I tend to send these works to galleries outside this region.

In the small study of "Alla", I was exploring the migrant farm workers from a pencil sketch. The oil study allowed me to work out the invented figures. For the final painting "Unison", I used the figures as a center compositional tool so the eye of the viewer did not go directly to the sun. The idea here was to stop the viewer so he or she would explore the painting. Now, all that I said in this paragraph are learned techniques that I've acquired over the years of working at my "craft". 
But, Fine Art is my goal here, not craft. This is what binds "Unison" and "Snow Valley" together. These two paintings, although a similar subject matter of past paintings, are not duplications. These paintings are the exploration of color and texture. To be specific, an exploration of the saturation of color provided by intense sunlight. Within each value range of color, I have broken the color down in triads of color application.

With the music playing, I dance with my brush and palette knife, lost in the process of painting and seldom acknowledging my subject matter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Plein Air Studies Inspire Studio Works

When I travel and paint en plein air, I keep my studies rather small, 8x10-11x14.  This seems to fit my needs.  I suppose I could just carry a camera but, I find the absorption of the experience is what carries my creative energy to my larger works.  It's about the process of doing for me as opposed to the end product expected.  I do use photographic reference on occasion so, I'm not an "I paint only from life" artist (see my last blog titled "Ravens"). 

So, why would I just enlarge a painting that I'd already done?  The answer is pure and simple: the plein air painting was a reaction and depiction of my environment of that particular day without much creative thought.  A lot of what I do in the studio is creatively-driven as opposed to technique-driven which is what plein air seems to demand from most.  I love the creative process to art and consider techniques only the tools of expression.  I do not feel that technical wizardry is the end within itself although, I do appreciate fine craftsmanship in all disciplines.  Sometimes craft is confused with art.     

As some of you may already know, I was invited by artist James Moore to join him and a few other artists on a painting trip to Glacier National Park this past June.  I was completely blown away by the beauty of Glacier and extended my stay by three weeks.  I had completed 22 paintings on location which will be featured in my upcoming visual chap book: Alfred Currier: Glacier National Park 101.  This book will be released in February 2012 at a show of this work at Howard Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, Washington.  Included in this show will be several large paintings that have been inspired by the plein air studies.  Seen below are three finished works with a few start photographs to show my process.

plein air study for large works
Goose Island was so magnificent!  It was also a tour bus stop that netted no fewer than 100 tourists looking right over my shoulder.  I'm used to occasional on-lookers but, this was too much.  I was so surprised to see this little study when I returned home.  I thought is was going to be a disaster but, it was one of my favorites.  The large painting became an exploration of fragmented color.

"Goose Island" Glacier National Park, MT 24x30

Many Glacier was one of the windiest paintings of the trip.  I hid behind a little tree and stacked rocks on my French easel 'til I thought the legs would break.  Luckily my 40 year old friend held up.  I searched for subject matter in this painting but, I didn't realise that it was the atmospheric perspective that drew me in when I started this large piece.

"Many Glacier"  Glacier National Park, MT 24x30

"Lake Saint Marys" Glacier National Park, MT 24x30
Lake Saint Marys was my first plein air painting at East Glacier.  The incredible light made this a no-brainer. 

Seldom do I like my paintings when I finish them because I'm too close to them and all I see is the struggle.  I have to put them in the rack to season a while.  After a few weeks, I can pull them out and see them as others do, removed from the process.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Last May, I took the Alaskan Ferry from Bellingham, Washington to Juneau, Alaska.  This was a trip up the Inside Passage with several stops along the way.  I chose the Alaskan ferry because cruise ships are too large to navigate these narrow waters and I wanted to experience the voyage to it's fullest on my first trip to Alaska.  My final destination was Juneau with whale watching and hiking planned.

Early one morning, I find myself sitting on a park bench near the state capitol building in Juneau.  A very large black bird lands on the back of the park bench with me.  He clucks and makes strange sounds, then flies away.  I sit and observe.  There are ravens everywhere, it's 6am.  They skip, run, fly, and observe.  They watch me watch them.  One picks up a piece of string and drags it around for a while, then drops it. Another flies in and grabs the valuable string, then flies off with it. 
I notice a raven with what appeared to be a purple bead in it's beak.  He walks around, drops it, squawks, and picks it up again.  I stand and walk towards him, he skips away.  I follow and he runs. I stop and so does he.  I go back to my bench and sit. 

Again, a raven flies in and lands on the other side of my park bench, hm-mm(?), is he the same one as before? 

Over the next few days, I return to this spot with a keen eye of just observing these guys (and gals).  Their antics are amazing.  One does a tumble a few yards away.  What was that all about?  They seem to have this obsession with carrying things around, digging, and talking.  They have some interesting reflective color in that deep black, soft and hard edges with violets, blues, and greens.  The wind ruffles their feathers, an unkept look as if they'd just got out of bed.  Their heads twists and turns as if they're trying to understand.  I catch my head doing the same, trying to understand.
contact information:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Howard/Mandville Show opening May 5th

The show, titled "A Sense of Place", will open this coming Thursday evening at Howard/ Mandville Gallery in Kirkland Washington.  You are invited to this show as I, along with Romona Youngquist, Renato Muccillo, Michael Ferguson, and Kim Matthews Wheaton, will show our world as A Sense of Place, reception: 6-8pm.  Come join me on Cinco de Mayo.

Click here to View Show

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tarantulas and Art, a bite.

Which is scarier, holding a tarantula in your hand,
or spending $5000 on a piece of artwork?

Both seem very formidable, but, with education and confidence, both can be accomplished, even enjoyed.

My partner, Anne Schreivogl, although normally very peaceful and kind, will not hesitate to smash any arachnid who dares to enter our home.  "All bets are off when they've crossed that line," she says resolutely.  Recently however, after a Ranger Talk at the Saguaro National Park near Tucson, she did not hesitate to let "Charlotte", a seasoned 16-year old tarantula, take her furry spider legs and crawl up and onto Anne to say hello.  After the Ranger lecture she had the confidence to try it and from the photo, you can see she enjoyed the exchanged greetings.  It turns out these cuddly "teddy bears" of the spider world don't like to bite unless very provoked, and the bite is minimal for humans.

So now, let's look at the scary business of spending signifcant money on art. Here are two important aspects to consider to lower your risk:

One: Why is the art priced the way it is priced?
With any risk, you want to understand what is at stake.  As you begin to pay top dollar for art, its important to understand why are you are paying what you are paying. 

Is this artist established and committed to their work?  Have they been an artist for a long time?  Are there magazine articles and printed material to support their efforts?  Are similar pieces of that size by that artist close in price?  Consistency in their commitment with gradual increases in prices over the years is key.

Two: Is it worth it for you to buy it?

Buying art, beyond the above considerations, ultimately comes down to how it moves you.  If you aren't sure, then wait.  However, if a painting or sculpture grabs you, and you walk away, and cannot stop thinking about it for days, weeks, or even months later, that piece is very likely to keep your interest for many years to come.  Art is about emotion. Period.

If you are talking yourself into buying it, or feel you "should" own a piece because of the artist's name, you probably will not even notice that painting on the wall years later.  Most decisions we make on purchasing things are rational and logical.  "Is this toaster going to work well and last?"  Art is one of the few purchases where we can buy based on how it makes us feel.  It is scary, but with the above guidelines, it can also be liberating and gratifying, and allow you to enter into a whole new world of joy and beauty.

So the next time you are looking at original art, whether in a gallery or at an artist's studio, keep these considerations in mind when you see a piece you are enamored with.  In the end, you will avoid being bitten by the art world, and instead leave giddy and content.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Impasto "RED"

Bubbling up from the gallery request pot has come unusual requests for "red" paintings.  Now, I'm not shy about using red, nor am I objecting to the requests.  I like red!  In the pasts few months, four galleries asked for red paintings.  Is it the glum economic times?  Have I been selling more red paintings lately which prompted this?

In the past, galleries have had requests but, they've been more like: you have any tango paintings? ...or, do you have any tulip paintings? ...or, landscapes? ...or, figures? or, still lifes?  But, red? 

Now, in my studio, I'm looking at a near finished painting of the tulip fields of the Skagit Valley. A decision is to be made....... Okay, YELLOW, WHITE, AND BLUE ...

 (with a hint of RED).  ;-)....

"RED"  36" x 36" oil impasto

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Object of Beauty

I just finished reading Steve Martin's new novel, "An Object of Beauty." I wanted to read this book because I knew that Steve Martin was an avid art appreciator. What took me by surprise was his uncanny behind-the-scenes knowledge of the business of art. This is a book worth reading for artists as it will give you a sense of place in the art world.
I must say that the artist's involvement is more about the process whereas the viewer is about appreciation, entertainment, and/or maybe business.  I enjoyed this book but, was left with an empty feeling for the artists. 

Below is a photographic progress of my most recent painting, "Glow."  This 48" x 60" impasto oil was one where I lost all sense of time and space as the painting almost painted itself.  In regards to Martin's book based on those who speculate on art, no thoughts of financial or critical acclaim ever entered my mind.  I just did what I do and others will decide whether it's an object of beauty or just another trite and sentimental attempt at painting.  Pushing paint is fun.

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