Archive for the Gallery Talk Category

Quit Painting Other People’s Art

Posted in Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Gallery Talk, Literature, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16 March, 2010 by endlessslug

Here’s an issue I see frequently in the world of art today from the lowly student, to the returning retiree, to the professional: Re-creating a work of art into the artist’s medium resulting in a lifeless copy of something once beautiful and meaningful.

Do you know what I’m referring to? Have you seen/created works like this?

I’ll contain this discussion to my fellow painters:


The most common form of copy-painting folks often come across is people who paint from photographs.  Yes, yes, I know, many painters and especially illustrators use photographs frequently as reference in the construction of an image.  A reference.  Say it with me now, “R E F E R E N C E”. A painter knows how to draw the image already, the photo helps in the small details when a painter feels they need to recall more specific information.  Far too often, we see students and especially pseudo-professionals create a work entirely from a photograph.  A trained eye quickly picks up that photos have been used.  Why should we not do this? The work ends up lifeless – only a copy.  Some artists can make some aspect of these works interesting: Watercolorists can sometimes create interesting effects in color application and transparencies, drawers can create different effects in line weights and contrasts, and the painter can shift a whole mood in addition to the previous two effects.  But these changes are often pedantic and cannot detract from the image as a photo.  We can always tell the photo-painting because of the inclusion of excessive details revealed by looking at a pictoral reference, which are different from the movement details we find with live or imagined objects.  The photo is a static instance of an event and completely unsuitable for a painting.  Photo-paintings also lean towards the development of bad habits: restrictive drawing space, restrictive palette, attempts at color which result in drab local color arrangements, and lack of experience in drawing live models/scenes.  As painters, we must, at all cost, SEE (with our personal eyes) what a subject looks like – how it moves – how light plays off edges and curves, how lines appear and disappear, how color plays in the shadows, and so on.  A photo cannot reproduce this; neither does video.

A couple of simple rules:

Stop and change your idea immediately if you plan on painting any of the following:

1) Family photos

2) “Found” photos

3) Pet Photos

4) Cellphone Pix

5) Website caps

6) Cropped areas of a photo in an attempt to do something “different”

7) Paintings of famous photographs or paintings of work you did in your photo class that you got that A- on.

8 ) Anything your friends say you should paint.


A) These are all terrible ideas and have been done by every wannabe post-mod contemporary shit student artist for the last 10+ years.

B) It will result in a terrible painting that no one wants to see.

C) They are boring.

D) They are artistic Plagiarism!

Artistic Plagiarism

Sometime in the last 30 years, some idiot decided it was “OK” to “express yourself” in any way you feel as long as you are being yourself. You, you, you, you, me, me, me, me, blah.  Once upon a time, a favorite old art professor told me, “paint from a photo and you’re committing plagiarism.”  The shitbag art students in the class with me argued with this guy for weeks about that statement.  Partly, he said it so these kids would say something and begin to argue to make them academic artists, but he was also correct.  The photo itself is already a record of an event and it’s own aesthetic creation.  It might be more historical document than art, and the ‘artist’ might decide to elevate the work to some sort of western notion of fine art, but the work is already done – why paint that?  Just frame it and put it on the wall.  When you paint it, you’ve just copied someone else’s work – maybe even your own.  To him, and to me, it’s no different than taking words from a published document and using them as if you said them yourself.  And like the trained literature/composition instructor, the trained artist can tell right away when the work is a photo-painting, thus knowing it was plagiarized.  I believe a little part of that intuition exists in all viewers of the work which somewhat universally makes the work uninteresting – except to the Sunday-painter whose mind was just blown: “Wow! I can paint my dog too! and I have the perfect picture of him in a little pink sweater I knitted”.  Thanks photo-painter for shitting up the art world one person more.

So, in conclusion:

I> Don’t paint from photos or any other copy-reference; draw from life

II> If you do paint from photos, DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR PAINTING that the photo does not or can not.  If you constantly strive to improve upon the photo and instead work more from life, one day magic will happen… you will no longer need it.

*** ADDENDUM ***

That was quick – I got bombarded with private and semi-public arguments within minutes of this post.  On one hand, it’s good to see people are reading me, on the other, I wish people would argue less, listen, and learn.

I should clarify, however: Artists of all forms know that human minds are repositories of experiences and knowledge manipulated by intuition and abstract forethought resulting in limitless creativity, thanks to Noam Chomsky and linguistic anthropologists everywhere, boo to modern philosophers and psychologists.  My argument about ‘not’ painting other people’s work is a plea for artists to construct their own work – which they can certainly do.  We all learn some painting from copying masters and other artists, this is normal behavior, but copy-learning must be tempered with real painting as well and eventually, the student moves away from the copies to become their own master.

My argument is for those artists in galleries downtown, right now, who dare put a photo-painting on a wall.  The “why” about this problem might be fleeting for most non-artists though.  The major problem with photo-paintings is that they are terrible paintings, lacking energy, lacking style, lacking composition, idea, complexity – name it, and these paintings do not have it.  The best one can achieve is small variations of technique – but who cares? The average viewer doesn’t give a shit, they want to see a nice painting, not a dentist’s office visit.  It reminds me about times when I’d go see movies with film student friends.  The movies might have totally sucked, but the film student goes on and on about the direction, lighting, and so on, amidst a flood of angry or confused movie-goers.  This is crap, and a hallmark of the postmodern world we live in where things are now created for exclusive groups, instead of larger audiences.  The longevity and usefulness of personal art is temporary, fleeting, and ultimately meaningless.  We don’t expect every painting, film, or pop-song to be amazing for centuries – of course not – but why don’t we have long-lasting works anymore?  This is the question I raise and attempt to locate data for.  We also do paint for ourselves.  I have a number of personal drawings and paintings that will never be shown.  Not because I’m ashamed, but because that the art is not for a public – there’s no need to show it.  I have a responsibility as a fine artist to show only work which I believe a public would like to see and needs.

Here is a painting exercise for folks – I’ll use my own work.  <gasp> no he didn’ – Sure, I did use photo reference in my earlier days; I too tried painting from photos.  I learned the lesson first-hand that photo paintings lack something which model-based paintings have.  I have since learned how to use a photo for a painting, not as the painting.

Which of the following paintings was created from a photo?  Which of the following paintings was painted with photo-reference?  Then criticize and analyze. I don’t have enough portraits scanned in for a good data set, apologies, so I’m selecting three portraits and two landscapes.

-The Endless Slug


Bye-bye Artspan

Posted in Art, Gallery Talk with tags , , , , on 1 March, 2010 by endlessslug

Had to remove my Artspan membership today.  Those of you who had that bookmarked may delete it.  I liked the site and the look of it, sort of, but it really cost me way too much money per month to host there with little to no return on investment.  It was nice to have my sites pop up early in the search engines though, but oh well.  Now to get my stuff into a real, physical gallery… any takers?

Note, I urge folks to go to the links at the right and buy something.  Keep the slug alive!


Posted in Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Gallery Talk, Studio Work with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27 January, 2010 by endlessslug

One of my pastel drawings was the favorite work on by guest curator Anthony Cochran!

Endless Passage (Reversed)

Check out what he said about it and read his article HERE.

It’s nice to finally get a little recognition for something I’ve done.  The only problem is that over the winter, I realized that many of the images I posted on my portfolio sites were reversed due to the scans of the slides I used.  I re-packaged the original works to protect them a bit more, and realized that the slides were backwards.  I switched all of them out – except for the ones on Zatista.  Doh!  So, apologies to Mr. Cochran, but if you flip that image, I hope it isn’t any less your favorite!  Also a note to would-be buyers out there, take a look at the image in reverse and see if you still want it – hope you do!

-Endless Slug, endlessly slugging.

Endless Passage (Correct)

*** UPDATE ***

The very active folks over at Zatista gave a read to my blog today and noted the image flub.  They’ve kindly switched my image on their marketing materials to show the corrected image.  Who feels like an idiot? Slug do.  Anyway, thanks to Zatista for being so tenacious with their aid and interest in my work as well as all the other artists over at their site.


Bottom-feeders of the Art World

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Film, Gallery Talk, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technology, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17 November, 2009 by endlessslug

I often check ARTINFO‘s website for new gallery exhibition calls, jobs, and news.  It’s a hip site.  Today, I happened upon this:

tactileBOSCH Gallery & Studio, Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom

Call For Submissions – Reduplication of the Real
An exhibition of photographic Performance Art documentation
Deadline: 1st December 2009

During the last decade a curatorial style has arisen that gives greater significance to the soiled, worn, damaged and defaced props left at the conclusion of a Live Art performance. Often these objects are considered Art in its own right and have been showcased in various stand-alone exhibitions. Yet the other significant permanent Live Art by-product: photographic documentation is often simply understood as a prosaic method of documenting the act for future reference and so its strengths as a stand-alone Art form has yet to be fully tested.
However, the photographic documentation of a performance is often fascinating, poignant and even humorous in its own right. It is a montage of esoterically linked everyday objects juxtaposed with a performer, focused in their entirety on a single, ultimately pointless, action; all frozen in a single frame. The photographs, with their distorted quotidian actions and objects, can come across as a scene anywhere between an uncanny distortion of the everyday and a gross and disturbing dream-like sequence
Reduplication of the Real will showcase a diversity of photographs that document Live Art Actions by both established and emerging artists from both national and international backgrounds. Some images will stand-alone while others will form small sets covering an individual performance. The exhibition will highlight the strengths of performance Art documentation and will lead the way towards further dialogue about the images as standalone works.

The exhibition aims to showcase a broad and diverse selection of images and as such, will work on an open submission basis. The curator will review all submitted work and choose a selection of work based upon their strength as standalone images. In order to keep the exhibitions presentation clear and cohesive the curator will request an electronic copy of all selected images which will be printed in sizes to compliment the galleries layout and mounted in a uniform manner.

Images will be valued at a price that will be discussed with selected artists and sold at 30% commission. All unsold work can be brought by the person who submitted it at the price of its creation.


Seriously?  I was reading this and asked myself, “where do I begin?”  Not only is Live Art a massive waste of anyone’s time (please learn from the DaDa movement), but to profit on and exhibit the leftovers from such performances as art itself?  Have we gone to such a pseudo-refined degree that what we produce from a pre-planned arts demonstrative performance is in itself some sort of communication?  What exactly is this particular form of trash telling an audience that the trash after my last Stop Making Sense party did not?  Yes, “something happened,” I get it, but who cares?

There is a sense of archaeology about such a processual art display.  I keep using the word “art,” by the by, but I hesitate greatly to use it.  I once created a 35 minute powerpoint mini-movie on the archaeology of trash receptacles around my college campus for a contemporary archaeology course – so I do know a few things about trash and leftovers and how people generally feel about it.  People care little for it.  There is no good art-style “shock” about “what remains”.  Few people really care at all.  As the exhibition description says above, these are wastes of time.  Folks that travel the Live Art scene may pick up something from the leftovers and sometimes can swap stories, but what we have here is something more pedantic and certainly post-modernly selfish.  We have forcibly created storytelling among a very small imagined community for the purpose, I believe, in maintaining the ties and ideology – namely the life – of that small group.  People who have been to the performances can see references to what they saw, what they didn’t see but what other’s must have seen, and things no one should see.  We don’t have art for art’s sake, not art for artist’s sake, but art for ‘this guy”s sake.  What have we become?

I read a number of published theses from the grad students of the Art Institute of Chicago.  A number of them claimed that painting was dead and film was the murderer.  I’d say, rather, that painting is sleeping, and waiting for the confusion of the contemporary western art state to kill itself so that we may move on to making beautiful, mass-meaningful things again, and not waste our high-interest lease on time.


More Gallery Observations

Posted in Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Gallery Talk, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25 October, 2009 by endlessslug

Again, I hark back to the Fall Openings in the Chicago galleries this year.

One of the most consistent issues I observed while sweeping the new shows was a distinct reliance on store-bought materials.  Of course, it is relentlessly difficult to procure more pure materials these days, but even simple things are being skipped over simply for the ease of production or more probably, simply because the artist is ignorant or following other seemingly less-ignorant peers.   I should specify a bit.  By store-bought materials, I am referring to the use of tube pigment, synthetic oils, pre-stretched canvas, pre-mixed gesso, and pre-cut stretcher bars.  I, of course, have used most of this as well while being a student learning to paint and in the more student-oriented galleries, I expected little else.  However, the more I learn about painting – as we all do our entire lives – the more I understand that anyone can make strikingly good paintings if they only used the right materials and understood the act of creating a surface as a carpentry construction is necessary as a first step towards a great painting.  Proper materials allows not only richness of the work, but longevity, value, and most importantly – the ability to more quickly, cleanly, and efficiently get your point across.  For American painters especially, I cannot fathom why anyone would walk into the corner Blicks and pick up pre-made materials.  We all know that artists are not as broke as the urban folklore tells the general public.  I can only attribute this behavior to a combination of poor instruction and laziness with a seeding of contemporary distraction.  A painting surface built from ground up gives the most individualism to a work.  Mixing your own color from dry pigment using the right type of oil that you want is the next step.  Do you even know the effect that certain oil has in certain pigments?  Is there any point of control?  Art is a science!

Well, the other side of this materials issue is the viewer, whether me or anyone.  It takes a painter all of a few tenths of a second to notice the use of store-bought materials.  I can walk through a gallery of 50 artists and identify the Winton Payne’s Gray and Gamblin Galkyd medium in every one.   This makes going to a gallery less exciting than it once was.  When I see everyone using the same materials in the same way with no care as to the content of the work, the construction of the work, nor the placement of the work, then I just don’t care about the work in any way shape and form finding them all to be mediocre to crappy student work that ought not to be up in the gallery.  But we have so many galleries lately too and these galleries must be filled.  Right?

And a final general note to painters out there…

Learn these two skills, please:  Fat over Lean & Layers

Oh and don’t research how to paint on the internet.  Find a human being in person and ask them.


Blog on the March

Posted in Art, Film, Gallery Talk, Literature, Music, Pop-culture, Social Science, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 15 September, 2009 by endlessslug

Just wanted a small update for the handful of dedicated readers out there – I have a number of posts coming up soon.  It’s been a little light this month in the posting world for the slug here due to working on stuff, general disillusionment with society again, and an overwhelming sense of futility every day I wake up.  But, I had the pleasure of getting my slug-ass up and going out to the gallery openings in Chicago over the weekend which inspired a number of topical ideas for blog posts as well as new paintings.  The work at the galleries were so amateurish and shit that I have been punched (slugged) in the face with an excitement for working rarely seen at the slug studios.  I also picked up a couple new books I’d like to review and comment on.  So, hopefully we’ll have a very post-heavy mid- and end-month.


Wisdom from the ancients

Posted in Artists, Gallery Talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15 August, 2009 by endlessslug

Here’s a quote from one of my favorite figure painters, Fritz Willis:

“Everybody’s a critic.  Some criticism is based on personal taste, some on knowledge, some on ignorance.  Some is constructive, some destructive.  Welcome it all, accept what you wish, reject what you wish.  After all, it’s your painting.  Never be disheartened by adverse criticism.  The worst thing you can say about an artist’s work is, ‘His paintings wouldn’t offend anyone.'”  -The Nude, pg. 30.

One thing, I feel, is often left out of these sorts of quotes on criticism:  know what the criticism means before you reject or accept it.  Criticism comes to you for a reason.  You might not know as much as you think you know, or you could be enlightened unexpectedly or even intentionally.  All too often, the new student is assaulted with this philosophy of ‘throw out what you don’t agree with’ making the student feel somehow superior to the long tradition of artists that came before.  This sort of artistic arrogance is damaging to artists.  How will you learn anything if you only accept the thing you “want” to accept?  Whatever happened to “needing” to accept things?  The point really, is to be intelligent about the criticism you receive.  Part of this knowledge means knowing what you were trying to communicate with the work in the first place.  If you fall into the asinine “the work means what you, the viewer, thinks it measn” mantra, you’ve lost the point of fine art entirely.

Of course, you do have the freedom, usually, to claim that the viewer – your critic – obviously missed the point entirely.  If this happens too frequently, however, be assured that there is something wrong with your work, not the public.  Well, there might be a ‘big-picture’ sort of problem with the public, but nothing that you will probably be able to repair.  But what exactly didn’t work? What did work? Listen to people, learn from people – we as artists are only as successful as the clarity of communication to the public as a whole.

I miss the critiques when we were required to make someone cry by the time the class ended.  Good times.