art

Art, Nature & Soul #30

“I’ve Seen The Light” ,

Over the past 6 years, we've been going out to Ptown on Cape Cod. Friday nights they have a gallery walk, that have featured artists on these nights. I stumbled upon 'Hilda Neily Gallery' early on and was immediately intrigued. A few years later, in 2017 a living retrospective on H. Neily & this painting, ’HEAT', was in her gallery and felt, I had found an immediate kindred spirit in her work, as she was getting back to her roots and incorperating some drip work, as well.

~Hilda Neily started painting with Henry Hensche at The Cape School in Provincetown in the early 1970's. Hensche started The Cape School in 1933, carrying on and developing the ideas of his teacher, Charles Hawthorne, who started the first art school in Provincetown. It was Hawthorne's school that led to Provincetown becoming one of America's preeminent art communities.

So then this happened, last year May 2018~ Not at her gallery but several blocks away on Macmillan Wharf, I stopped to view some student work, at a hut, of The Cape Cod School of Art. I'm asking questions about the art and the person is asking questions about Blaze(our pup) and loving on him. The conversation goes on and we're talking more about art. She starts telling me, that the school and she teaches, ”color how to see color and that once you get it, it's like dropping acid." So I tell her that I'm an admirer of Hilda Neilys work, she seems to understand that, like none other. She says, "I am Hilda Neily." I've been stopping in at her gallery over the past five years, had only seen photos of her, always painting, from the back or side profile, but never met her. Our conversation went on and on, about art, dogs and our partners. What a kick and a thrill, would love the opportunity to study with her.

With that I decided I must study with this artist, so this year, August 2019, I attended the 3 hour a day, 5 day workshop. As an artist , there’s always more to be learned & explored. It's emphasis is color and light, Hilda had me at, "once you get it, it's like dropping acid" & so we shall see. BaHaHaa😀

So, it was, I set out with this goal in mind, too learn to see the light saturated color and add it to my more tonal/colorist palette in approach paintings, thus integrating that blast of light to my work. But keep in mind that while I’ve attended some classes, studied via book & dvd, various great artists painting techniques, that it has been about 25 years since I’ve taken a class or workshop. Within my studies, which have been to learn and find what made those artists successful, not to do what they do, but perhaps incorporate some small amount of that magic into my artworks. Which is to say not immerse myself in their discipline, but utilize it within mine. The last class I took being a Remrandt style painting class at the S.A.I.C.. That would be the extreme polar opposite in approach, for various reasons, one being the palette was only 4 colors, Titanium White, Ivory Black, Venetian Red & Yellow Ochre. Teach, the instructor that is, then, was surprised at the amount of color I could express with this limited palette.

*Note 1~How I see color. I’m said to be highly color sensitive. I’ve come to see it, not as big blocks of color, but more like all the colors that are reflected within the color, that make the color, thus I’ve tended to express it broken. Ones eye tends to average it all out, at least from a distance, to an uniform color, but up close a more complex variation appears and is expressed, at least from my perspective, intent & purpose.

My Background, a partial context~ I’ve drawn and painted, been involved with the arts, the entirity of my life. Over the past 15 years have focused, prolifically on creating & exhibiting my artwork. I’m mostly self taught as I have little formal training, thus am highly experimental, in the past, however, am more refined of late. I’ve also been in the custom framing and fine art sales business, since 1986, thus am said to have a keen eye for color. If you know what slant rhyme is, I’m a slant colorist. For further info, refer to my website, about the artist, blogs or Facebooks about me.

Workshop~

Day #1- A sunny day at the Cape Cod School of Art, a class of 16-18 peeps. We set up are easels outside to do block studies, to see how color and light interact upon each other. That is to say how different colors reflect and change color, depending on the intensity of light or shadow. I set off doing what I do, how I do and had a very nice painting going, as I tend to work fast and matter-of factly. As some of the students perused each others work, some viewed mine and I heard things like, “he speaks his own language”, and I thought, cool. Then instructor came by and started working the painting, knocking down my work, in fact scrapping it off, showing and expressing why it was not correct. I was mortified, for one, I do not scrape off paint, its expensive. I tend to take pieces to their completion, if they’re not successful, I move on, but keep them around awhile as learning tools, to see what was wrong. Feeling out of sorts, at this point, I realized that the persons involved in this workshop were all at various levels of painting experience, including myself, as I’d have to unlearn, or rather try to stop doing what I do, if I were to get anything out of the experience. Although, the instructor did like some of my color notes and said so. At the end of the 3 hours, we set up our paintings in the classroom for critique. Mine stood out from the rest, for one reason or the other and not necessarily for goodones, or so I thought. Once they were set up, a woman I had not met, pointed at my work and asked who’s is that. I kept silent, then ‘C’ asked again and I replied mine. She, ‘C’, then said it looks like a HENSCHE. For review, Henry Hensche was the Cape Cod school of art instructor whu trained Hilda Neily, my current instructor. I felt a shiny lining, a ray of light, if you will.

Day #2- Began with 3 hour workshop. Overcast, grey day, H. Neily did a grey day demo. Which should have been perfect for me and yet in order to learn this way of seeing, I must abandon my artist ways, so I can then integrate this new info into my artwork, moving forward, thus challenged. Challenge one, see in blocks of color. Challenge two, I primarily use brushes and palette knife is a sublemental tool usually. Now I’m only using palette knife. Challenge three, I tend to mix color on the canvas. Challenge four, the scrape off still freaks me out. Challenge five, My panels are typically toned iron oxide, prism violet or grey, some canvas, others smooth. I’m asked too paint on white smooth boards only. My initial thought is, Great, now even the panel will reflect the light and color, but, thought, perhaps that’s intended. As Hilda states to me, “Grey board saaaad, white board HAPPY.” Adding, “the world is so messed up,” and I finishing with, “why would we want to add to that?” A most challenging day, to say the least & had to set my ego aside for the remainder of the workshop.

Day #3- We all met at a dune crest that overlooks cottages, salt marshes, the Atlantic and Ptown, off in the distance. Also, this was near where we stayed and I already had fallen in love with the view. It started as a sunshiny day. Several of her assitants, would peruse the other painters, coach and give direction. Several of them, over of this & previous days would stop by me, like what I was doing, then Hilda would come over to see what I was doing, blend or scrape off. I was working on a painting, as I’ve stated before I work quickly, so by the time Hilda got to me I had built a great many details into the painting and had what I thought a top 25%. A top 25%, is a really, really good painting. She began to blend and knock down the sky, my heart sank and my eyes bulged out of my head as my stomach flipped over, no joke. She continued, and spoke of blocks of color then stopped, stood back, partially , I think realizing, sometimes regardless of getting the light right, a good painting is a good painting. I finished knocking the colors together and removing all details. Went to see what another painter and assitant was doing. He had built up a good painting, as well. I told him I thought I had something too, he had commented as much, just 10 minutes prior. When I told him of Hilda’s reaction to it, he said, it’s best to just follow the instructors direction and perhaps the meaning would become clear. I then looked & found an opportunity to tell Hilda how I came to the workshop and showed her some of my most recent artworks, to give some context and tell her what my goal was, to see and understand the light saturated color in which she painted. The day was done and I got back to the Hotel. I had taken some photos, I had every day since the workshop began. I had taken a photo of Hilda’s and my piece that day. Eureeka, side by side in the photos we had the same color range, I had got it. While my broken color had everything there it wasn’t until they were blended, could the instructor, standing right up on it, see if I had it correct. I was thinking painting, I should have been thinking color study and realised this way of seeing and the approach is just the opposite of my regular one.

Day #4-Before I left for the workshop, I had told Don it seemed that no matter how I painted, Hilda would correct it the other direction. I felt that she was perhaps challenging me. He said, “it’s like a zen riddle, to see what you got, go with it,” and so I did. Light is a fleeting thing, to say the least. The day began as a bright shiny one and so we, set up our easels & painted from atop the dune crest this time over looking the sea. I just love the view high upon the crest where we’re staying, ironically the crest, as it turned out, is also where we’re doing the last three days of our color studies.I painted the trees in the foreground, cottages, ocean & sky. No I was painting blocks of color and was told, “yes, that’s better.” Then our sunny sky closed in, an overcast one. That means my warm & cool color variations changed and that equals a scrap off and a start over. So I scraped off and began again. More relaxed and going with the flow, I painted the scene, light included and so 1 piece completed. But was told,” to think color study not painting, find the light.” I believe Hilda’s guidance has been so beneficial and I’m so psyched to have had this opportunity to paint with her.

Day #5-The last day, was a full sunny one atop the dune crest and I stuck, strictly to color studies and finding the fleeting light. They were a great bunch of people to paint with. I walked around easel to easel, to see what others were doing. Hilda and the group huddled around her as she corrected anothers painting, explaining what she saw, as she worked. I worked the patches of color in a minalimist way akin, in my head, to Rothko. Hilda made her way to me. Are you afraid of color, she said. No look, I responded. The painting at an angle, lined up the 3 layers of the scape perfectly. I squinted down and said, If you look all the colors are spot on. “Really” she retorted, “come now.” “Are you color blind,” she playfully asked, as she began to correct my piece. “no I have a keen sense of color” I said and another painter said, “That’s another kind of color. So it was as Hilda corrected the center areas of my color study, Within each of the centers of land, sea & sky, she left the correct color notes of light.I said, yes that’s perfect and I did another study and Hilda came by again and said, yes, that’s better and I responded ,”yes, I’ve seen the light!” To which she, with a smile on her face said,” that’d be a great title for an article, I said it will be my blog.

Rarely do the stares align, but, it’s always been my mission to seek and find those artists whom I have shared ideas with & who best encapsulate the finest qualities in art and study with them. Hilda Neily is such an artist of these qualities. It has truly been both a challenging & an eye opening experience. Hilda said, “See you next year,” another assitant said to come to some of the ‘drop ins’, & ‘C’ said, “you know you’re a really good artist”. As an painter/artist I am always studying and working out a new problem, it’s the nature of painting the painting & hopefully finding the light, Hilda is such a light.

~Richard

as always your questions & comments are welcome.

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Hilda Neily/Richard Sperry collabrative color study,  (The blocks of color are me, the light in the center are Hilda, light blue in the sky, bright blue in the water & more yellow in the shrubs/trees/grasses. Exactly what I had in mind.)

Hilda Neily/Richard Sperry collabrative color study,

(The blocks of color are me, the light in the center are Hilda, light blue in the sky, bright blue in the water & more yellow in the shrubs/trees/grasses. Exactly what I had in mind.)

Art, Nature & Soul #29

On occassion I’m commissioned to do more decorative abstract artwork, as well. This piece was taylored to this collectors home with little information. That being primarily of color & size, as the client already liked and knew what I do and that’s the key. Being an artist and doing commissions, can be tricky because it’s a meeting of the minds, both collector and artist merged.

At 60”x15” and horizontal the important part for me was giving it a focal spot. This was achieved by using silver leaf and stronger color at the center and tapering off as the piece expanded the depths of the horizon. The rest was basic design elements: color, line, texture, shape, space & so on. Beyond my typical approach, which begins with a three color acrylic splash painting, followed by laying in the my oils, increasingly, I began to utilize a ‘Scraffito’ technique to scratch into previous layers of color, thus giving more line, direction & texture, plus adding in 18k gold or silver leaf as I’ve done in this work.

The piece then completed, sent an image off to the customer for their approval and was framed in a simple black gallery frame, delivered & hung to their delight.

Commissions welcome & as always feel free to comment or ask questions

~Richard

commissioned artwork in its home

commissioned artwork in its home

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Art, Nature & Soul #21

The Sandhill Crane~ Theses incredible birds, began visiting us early spring 2013 and have come every season thereafter. As it turns out, the pond behind our home is perfect for raising a couple of fledglings. Every spring they come, nest and we wait to see if they have one or two chicks. The parents begin to raise them, take them out of the pond, training and showing them , how to survive. The adults are so familar with us, they allow us and our current pups to walk within feet of them. Throughout the season, we watch and photograph these wonderful birds as they go through their annual cycle. Interestingly, their plumage changes with the seasons to give them cover from predators. The dusty blue/gray feathers, against the burnt orange coloring is my favorte. As fall arrives the colors turn more mud gray to blend in , they begin the lift off dance and flight training for the long migration south begins. A favorite of my observation times to behold them. They stay longer than I think they will and sometimes I’ve captured some great photos of them on the pond in a snow fall. They stick around, until almost Christmas every year and are gone about three months before returning for another season. I always wish them happy trails and with a little hope, anticipate their return in spring.

On a somewhat mystical note, if not only a, there are no concidences type thinking. I had raised a family of 4 Shiba Inus, a father, mother, daughter and son. The first, the father was Kai-Guy, the ambassador. The male pup, Kodi, was adopted by a family, we dog sit him, about twice a year throughout his life and he returned to us toward the end of his life. They lived nice long lives and in 2012 the last two passed on, Snowy, the daughter at 15.5 years and then the mom, Sunny just before her 17th year, that November. People who know me, know my feelings on life, the universe and how everything is connected in ways and for reasons we do not always see, know or understand. With that said, the Sandhill Cranes arrived early the next spring. I’ve come to see them as incarnations of our family of pups. It may seem odd to many, but it has been a beautiful way for me to cope with their losses. Life is for the greater %, how we choose to see it & what we make of it.

The painting style and techniques in this painting are a fusion of decades of experimenting and learning, come together on canvas. I usually begin with a three color splash and drip, tonal wash, to find the rhythm of the piece. Then a liberal amount of Titanium White is swirled upon the canvas before I begin adding design elements of color, shape, texture, line, balance & harmony. Typically, I think about the fractal nature of the physical world, patterns within patterns, within patterns, broke up by random chaos. My color palette has been fairly consistant and refined over more than a quarter century. I use brushes, palette knives, scratching tools and kleenex to move the paint around until I’m satisfied with the results, it’s then completed with a scratched in, signature.

'At the Pond', 24"x20" oil on canvas (2017) private collection

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Art, Nature & Soul #17

What is ART? More importantly who decides. Are the answers based on academics or emotive ones, is it because it's realistic or non-objective, does the fact that a painting was done in oil rather than acrylic have any weight, or perhaps it's the fact  that it was painted 'en plein air', instead of in a studio, gains us some insight.

Whether, it's highbrow/middlebrow/lowbrow, who cares. Van Gogh, Monet, Vermeer and El Greco are several visual artists, who had gone, rejected or un-recognised in their own lifetimes, someteimes both. So many others were discovered and advocated for, by persons of influence and decisiveness, within their lives, such is the case with Jackson Pollock. Personally, I know of at least three instances of persons being summoned to the court of high success. What they all had in common was the abitlity to put themselves out there, at all costs, until they gained an audience with that person or persons of influence, sometimes by happy accident. Once this happens, your in, it's art, for many this happens posthumously,  their efforts go un-recognised until some future date and sometimes never.

 What can be known for sure, is that being an artist of any sort is an uphill battle all the way. It takes an unbridled passion, discipline and fortitude.  As for me, my 'pallete' is extremely large and varied, when it comes to 'what is art'. It's an endeavor, often thoughtful, historical and relevant, to its time and speaks to the context of the creator.  It's what inspired a person to create something of a non-utilitarian purpose. A person who is merely struggling to grow as a human, as artist and make their statement about life and the world around them, as they experience it, see it.  The history of art, what it is, and who decides, is as long and complicated as the story of human history itself.  Whether you started creating at age, 1 or 101,  create in crayons, oil or other materials; are the most apt realist or most compelling minalmalist abstract artist, who decides if it's art are the people who purchase your artwork, show it, collect it, now, or in 25, 50 or 100 plus years, later.

While you may 'like' or 'not-like' it, if it's in a museum the broader concensus, is that it's art. But, that's another subject. fore it ,speaks to your personel sense of aesthetics. That said, most people,  seem to rely on the leaders, for their decision making, as to whats good, what's art, and fall in line with such. So when those persons of influence, that gallery that took a risk, the art fair that juried you in, that exhibit you were allowed to participate in, that magazine that wrote an article, those individual family members, friends and persons from around the globe, decide to purchase and acquire a piece of your work, declaring it to be art. Thank them, for in the final analysis, what art is, is in fact in the eye of the beholder, so it's most important to be grateful to those who behold yours, declaring it 'ART'.

Thanks everyone; family, friends, patrons, collectors, sponsors and benifactors, for your continued support and as always feel free to comment. ~Richard

'Eye of the Beholder' 36"x36" acrylic on canvas (yr.20  ) in private collection

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Art, Nature & Soul #15

Intuitive and stream of conscious, so were the the artworks done in this time frame. Sunrise and sunset, the day begins and ends,  many of my color sketches, studies and completed works, involve these times of day, as it's when I'm out there, usually walking, inspired.

During this time I was writing and editing a novel, 'Libertalia, Seize the Day for Remember We All Must Die' under the pen name DrahCir. It is a steampunk pirate fiction with historical elements. A fun romp through time & space, drawing on my life and long list of literary influences.

Keeping it direct, raw,  & spontaneous, with all the things in my thoughts influencing the outcome, I set out this morning, with acrylic paints, linen canvas, palette knives,  and brushes to paint a piece for a digital colorplate illustration for the novel (1of24 included). The sun peeking out the sky, the ocean, and a tallship in silhouette. Look carefully and you can add your story to the scene.

'Dusk' (Black Sails) 16"x10" acrylic on linen. (yr. 2011)

It became p'178 for the novel, thus acquired and in a private collection.

  

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Art, Nature & Soul #12

Inspiration comes in many forms and from many avenues. I grew up in a little one bedroom yellow house, until age 7, in a nearby suburb of Chicago. The house was set back further from the road, as compared to others in the neighborhood. Me, my mother, father, sisters, & on occassion, extended family members lived there,  when they needed a place to stay temporarily.  

Memories flood back from days gone by. An early memory being  one of the great mystery of snow. Around age 5, I had scooped up some snow and saved it in a metal & lidded minnow bucket, to save for the spring, only to find when spring had come, the snow had melted. I suppose we all have these kind of experiences, but for me, it became a realization of a few things. One being, the awe of beauty, another of the inevitability of loss and still another of emmense possibilites of learning.

This piece was painted in 2011, at the plateau in my drip & splatter fusions of abtract and representational subject matters. I'm using acrylic and interference paints here. Swirling loaded brushes of color on a substrate, allowing them to drip, then  splattering them with h2o to encourage the process, followed by carving and directing the flow with a palette knife to create the subject and story, the painting is then completed with more splattering.   

Van Gogh & Gauguin have there yellow house experience and I had mine, a duality and juxtaposition of turbulence and joy.

'Yellow House' 19.5"x15.5" acrylic on board 

Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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Art, Nature & Soul #7

One of my favorite authors/thinkers once quipped, that the problem with abstract art is that it doesn't have a horizon line. Kurt Vonnegut also said and I quote, "I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center."

As more of an outsider artist, which is to say, an artist with very little formal training and making their way through the conformitities of the day, I'm more experimental in approach. As a boy of 12, I remember wanting for that eureeka moment and thinking that true art must be created in a vacuum. I doodled and drew often, mostly the people around me. Da Vinci, Dali, Van Gogh, Carravagio, & Pollock, were and are my primary artists of interest, as a child and young adult. 

From caricatures to realism, to the more surreal and impressionism, and on to post-impressionism and expressionism, I've created in pencil, pen & ink, soft pastel, clay, oil, acrylic, and a multitude of various fusions of mediums, exploring the possibilities.  Always with the idea in mind that I too could fuse ideas together into a single approach.

With this idea in mind, over a decade ago I began to blend my representational and abstract ideas together. This piece is one of the results of the process of bringing these ideas together. It is done in acrylics in a drip and splatter approach that is layered in a multitude of glazes. It is, I believe, one of my successful works of abstract with a horizon line.

Please feel free to comment.

'The Edge' 60"x48" acrylic on canvas by Richard Sperry

  

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