Monday, January 19, 2009
LINDA LUCAS HARDY: SMALL TOWN GIRL
Living in a tiny town with no professional mentors around may seem like an obstacle for an aspiring artist, but Linda Lucas Hardy reveals how any artist can still make it big in spite of limited resources.
We've all heard this story: Young woman loves art but gets married and starts raising a family instead. Art gets pushed to the back burner until the children are older. And finally she has time to focus on mastering her craft and building a career as an artist. Most such women then rely on their fellow artists and local arts organizations for additional help. But what happens when that same woman finds herself living in a town of only a thousand residents with no other professional artists to turn to for education or advice? Linda Lucas Hardy would say that it's still entirely possible for a woman like that to succeed as long as she has drive, passion, confidence, and ambition. She is that woman, and she's living proof that dreams can come true.
Reaching Out for Education
When the youngest of her seven children started school, Linda found she finally had time to get back to the passion that has held her captive since her own childhood: her love of art. A neighbor suggested they take a class together at the nearest community college, and Linda jumped at the opportunity since it was a long distance away and they needed to carpool.
A year later, a new community college opened up closer to home, which made it much easier for Linda to continue taking college courses in art. Naturally, juggling her art with caring for her family required a great deal of perseverance. Ultimately, it took her eight years to complete her formal education, but it was worth it. Along the way, Linda discovered the medium of colored pencil, which has since become her favorite. "I love the control that colored pencil offers," she says, "especially because I also love well-defined realism. I am a pencil artist, plain and simple. Now I can't even talk without a pencil in my hand."
In addition to her formal education, Linda has continued to pursue informal opportunities to learn, primarily through taking workshops with artists such as Carrie Ballantyne and Sherrie McGraw. As they do for all of us, taking workshops usually means travel, which is a sacrifice of time and money for most artists. But Linda encourages all aspiring professionals to take workshops since they offer a chance to develop and enhance skills, get other types of advice from modern-day masters, and network with peers.
Finding Her Personal Style
However, to some degree, Linda believes, all artists are self-taught in that much of what we learn is what we discover in the course of doing our own work in our own studios. Linda's methods are a product of trial and error, working with various materials, making mistakes, and learning to solve problems that then become good practices. "Mistakes bite hard," she says. "I don't like them. Nobody does. But if you pay attention, a medium will teach you." By doing her own work on her own time, she's established, for example, that she prefers to create artwork using exclusively Prismacolor wax-based pencils on fine, 800-grit UART acid-free paper.
Once, in the process of trying to disperse the wax bloom that often emerges most visibly in the darker pigments of wax-based pencils, Linda went over the pencil with an old, stiff brush. Not only did it get rid of the bloom, she discovered that the brush helped to work the pigment down into the fibers of the paper, thereby eliminating the fine specks of white that often show through even multiple layers of pencil applications. Now Linda uses a brush all the time to achieve that smooth, polished look that is the hallmark of her personal style. She starts by transferring her image with graphite transfer paper, then works each area separately from the darkest areas to the lightest values, developing each area to a fairly finished degree. A final finessing of the details and highlights followed by a coat of Krylon UV-resistant spray complete her paintings.
Landing on Still Lifes
Even when it comes to her choice of subjects, Linda feels that her small town life has somewhat limited her ambitions. "What I'd really like to paint is people because you can express so much emotion in figurative work," she confesses, "but in a small community like mine, I've found it very difficult to approach people and find models. Most people don't understand what I want from them--they feel they have to pose for me, as for a portrait, when what I want is something more candid and real."
Once again, though, she hasn't let this obstacle stop her. "I've had to learn to make do with what I've got or I can't do anything at all," she says, now laughing. "Pears and apples don't ask you what your motives are or look at you real weird, so it's been easier to work in the still life genre." Interestingly, Linda has now developed a signature series of works involving fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic bags, which are just as much about the human experience as any figurative work could be. She explains, "The plastic bags remind me of the facades we all try to hide behind. We think we're doing such a good job of masking our little deficiencies and minor little secrets, but in actuality, we're all exposed."
Over the years, Linda says, she has shot and stockpiled literally hundreds of photos that she would like to develop into paintings someday. "I'll never run out of ideas," she says. "I use this very easy and free software program called Picasa, which is available through Google, and it's just great for storing my digital images and doing a few modifications to them before I paint them."
Showing What She's Made Of
Eventually, Linda acknowledged that she was going to have to take some initiative if she was going to get her artwork into the public eye. Since there weren't any local opportunities, she cast a wider net. She noticed, for example, that the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton, TX held an annual competition. For several years she studied how that competition was run. Eventually, she entered and won, learning--much to her surprise--that she could have three works accepted instead of only one.
They say that knowledge is power, and Linda went about learning as much as she could about the art business through all sorts of varied avenues. She joined a regional arts organization, and listened to her peers there. She also tapped into the power of the Internet and the national artists' magazines to find competitions to enter. "I often didn't have the money to enter shows, but I did it anyway," she says. "I decided to enter the big money shows in particular, not because of the awards offered but because of the level of competition. I knew that if I got in, it would validate my work."
One of her earliest big goals she set for herself was to gain the recognition of her fellow colored pencil artists by getting involved in the national organization called the Colored Pencil Society of America. She was terribly disappointed when she was not accepted into the CPSA show the year it was held in Fort Worth, Texas, which was probably the closest it will ever be to her own home, but she made sure she attended the exhibition. "That was the first time I had ever seen other artists' colored pencil work!" she notes. "I was like a kid in a candy store." Today she exhibits with them regularly, and last year she won the CIPPY award and the EXXPY award--the two highest awards CPSA offers--in the same year, which was the first time ever that someone had done that. "What thrilled me more than anything was when I was invited (they invited me) to teach a workshop at Nationals," she says, still relishing the moment. "That made me cry. Somehow that validated me and all that I've been trying to accomplish."
Chances to sell her work in her own town are non-existent, so here, too, Linda has had to take the initiative to find gallery representation. She took herself down to the oldest and largest gallery in Dallas. "While I was there, I asked the salespeople if they took colored pencil art," she recalls. "They said no, but just to be polite the director suggested that I bring some pieces in ‘some time.' When I got home, even though I didn't really feel ready, I thought, well, when is ‘some time'? So I set up an appointment to take my work in the following Friday!" Linda ended up leaving several pieces at the gallery that day, only to have to wait two long months for a decision from the director. In fact, it wasn't until she tired of waiting for an answer as to whether she was going to be accepted and went to the gallery to retrieve her paintings that the director agreed to sell her work. She's been represented there ever since, and was recently invited to show her work at a second Texas gallery as well.
Learning to Fly
"Living in a small town and being virtually the only trained professional around has meant that I have had no mentor, no sounding board," says Linda. "Everything I've done, I've been flying by the seat of my pants because I haven't had anyone to guide me." Yet by paying attention, asking questions, networking beyond the confines of the city limits, and most of all persevering steadily and enthusiastically, Linda has made a successful career out of her love for painting. "I have such an amazing passion for art," she says. "I can't really explain it, except that it's something that I can't not do. I can't live without it."
Monday, January 12, 2009
Yesterday my husband and I drove to Shreveport, LA to see the International Guild of Realism's traveling exhibit titled ''The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century". Not only were we impressed with the show we were very impressed with the Gallery's permanent collection. Even though it's called a gallery it's more like an art museum. So if you live anywhere near Shreveport it's definitely worth the trip. If not you'll find the current tour schedule at the bottom of my post. Maybe it will be somewhere near you.
“The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century” is the first traveling museum show of this century to not only look at the state of Realism painting around the world, but to also compare those artworks with their historical predecessors.
Fifty-six artists are represented with sixty-five paintings from the United States, Canada, The Netherlands, Korea, Russia, France, Iceland, Romania, Norway, and Finland in this juried show organized by the International Guild of Realism. The exhibition looks at such media as oil, acrylic, egg tempera, graphite and colored pencil to give viewers a snapshot of how Realism artists are approaching their art form today.
Each artist was asked to identify one historical painting that can be used by museum attendees to compare and contrast today’s work with the pioneers of this art technique. The artists cited such predecessors as Ingres, Da Vinci, Dürer, Vermeer, Harnett, Constable, Memling and Dali as starting points for their current work as they explored still life, landscape, figurative and even trompe l’oeil art forms. In some cases, the contrast between the old and the new is startling; in other cases, one can almost see the apprentice soaking up the Old Master’s techniques for modern visuals.
Each of the sixty-five contemporary paintings can be directly compared with an historic Realism painting. Each wall label features an image of a related historic painting.
This is the first traveling museum show of this century to not only look at the state of Realism painting around the world, but also compare those artworks with their historical predecessors. Fifty-six artists are represented with 65 paintings from the United States, Canada, The Netherlands, Korea, Russia, France, Iceland, Romania, Norway, and Finland in this juried exhibit organized by the International Guild of Realism. The exhibition looks at such media as oil, acrylic, egg tempera, graphite and colored pencil to give viewers a snapshot of how Realism artists are approaching their art form today. This month the R.W. Norton Art Gallery is hosting, “The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century”, a juried collection of paintings by the members of the International Guild of Realism. The title of this exhibition cannot help but raise the simple question, why the “new reality”? What happened to the old one? The prevailing view for centuries was that art was the result of careful craftsmanship representing a heightened reality to evoke an emotional response and/or express a theme or story. Then came the Romantic Age, and with it the reassessment of the artist as less a craftsman than an (often misunderstood) individual with a unique form of expression. Artists began to take a more painterly approach to their work, using loose brushwork and bold colors to develop expressive, individualistic styles that resulted in works like Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Turner’s Ulysses Deriding Polyphemous. As photography usurped the role of replicating reality, painters like the Impressionists began to refine art to its essentials, focusing on the manipulation of color and light. The Modernists who followed them pared the image down even further, focusing on elements of form, volume, line, and color to the point of abstraction. Then, in the early 20th century, the Dadas, with Marcel Duchamp’s readymades and other innovations, refined art to the realm of the metaphysical – art was no longer about the object, or even the depiction of the object – it was about the concept in the mind of the artist and the interaction between that and the audience.
As execution became less important to the process, craftsmanship of the kind expected from artists ranging from the Old Masters to 19th century academics often fell by the wayside. However, in the late 20th century, a backlash against abstract and conceptual art began. Many artists began to embrace concepts and techniques borrowed from older masters. Thus was born the International Guild of Realism in 2002. The founders began by clarifying the number of styles they felt fit under the realist umbrella, including classical realism (ranging from the Renaissance Old Masters to Courbet) and extending to contemporary styles such as trompe l’oeil, photorealism, surrealism, and super-realism. The one thing common to all of these artists is the element stressed by Guild member Benjamin Orozco Lopez of Mexico: “The most important thing about the Guild is that we are a big group of artists who glorify the values of craftsmanship, which has almost been lost in modern painting.”
For this exhibition, selected artists are required to cite the example of an Old Master or other Realist painting which helped inspire their own in either theme or technique. However, while they may borrow their style or technique from the Old Masters, they are all determined to create an expression of their own contemporary world, including other styles of art as well. Kolbjorn Haseth, for instance, admits a debt to abstraction as well as realism in his landscape, The Colour Gray: “The massive rock on the right meets us like an abstract image, and had to be balanced with a more interesting area to the far left . . .” And while George Gonzalez’s still-lifes and trompe l’oeil paintings capture contemporary, often mundane objects, he also draws inspiration from a diversity of predecessors ranging from Mannerists to surrealists.
Other Guild artists have more allegiance to specific schools of the past. Damon Denys admits, “My first love was the paintings of the British classicists and romantics of Victorian England,” while Bryce Cameron Liston is equally clear about his debt to academic artists: “Inspired by 19th century artistic values, I traveled abroad to study first hand, the works of artists such as Waterhouse, Bouguereau, Gerome and Tadema. It is important to me to keep alive what these and other artists like them were doing.” Another inspiration for the new realists is the 17th century golden age of Dutch and Spanish masters. A still-life artist like Grace Kim echoes the concerns of the 17th century Dutch masters, saying, “Although my subjects are often what appears to be simple flowers and fruit, I always see something unique and beautifully complex and intricate in all that exists in this world.” Cuban artist Jorge Alberto admits, “My paintings spring from a life-long fascination with lighting and how light affects mood . . . I take inspiration from the 17th century painters, like Caravaggio, Velasquez and Ribera, emulating the strong use of lighting contrast so evident in the work of these masters.”
In their veneration for the Old Masters, some of the Guild artists even borrow their materials. Mark Thompson specializes in egg tempera work and etchings, admitting, “I have long been fascinated by the beauty of line and the work of the Renaissance and pre-Renaissance masters. Etchings are essentially the distillation of balance and rhythm, volume and line in a medium over 400 years old.” And artist Lee Alban actually grinds his paints from powdered pigments and prepares his canvases by hand the way the Old Masters did. Still others have learned how to incorporate the Old Masters techniques into new media. Arlene Steinberg works in colored pencil, but that hasn’t prevented her from taking inspiration from the technique and styles of Renaissance painters.
While many if not most of these artists draw from the distant past, there are some distinctly 20th century forms of realism, the most prominent of which is the one wrought by a 19th century invention – the camera. Photorealism requires the painter to create a work so detailed and precise that it replicates the effect of a photograph – craftsmanship of a very high standard indeed and which draws perhaps more than the others on the availability of modern inventions and techniques. Kory Fluckiger, for instance, “has developed his own technique of watercolor painting in which he airbrushes the background to highlight the colors in the foreground, so that the painting appears to be a magnificent photograph.” Fellow photorealist Anne Kullaf has found her work compared to Edward Hopper in its grasp of light as well as its ability to raise the mundane world to the sublime nature of art.
This is only a fraction of the artists whose unique visions and superb executions are represented in the exhibition. Fifty-six artists from nations including America, Canada, The Netherlands, Korea, Russia, France, Iceland, Romania, Norway and Finland have contributed 65 paintings to the show. While they all share a common goal, each of them has a unique vision and style in which to depict the world around them. Charter member Lorena Kloosterboer explains that while abstraction and modernism have dominated recent art, she, like her fellow realists reject the idea that their work is “unevolved”, declaring, “One only needs to visit one of our exhibitions . . . to appreciate the incredible array of exceptional Realism.”
With this in mind, the R.W. Norton Art Gallery invites you to join us for “The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century.”
Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections
Wichita Art Museum
Wichita, Kansas: April 27, 2008 through June 22, 2008
The Springfield Museums
Springfield, Massachusetts: July 13, 2008 through September 7, 2008
The Springfield Museums
Springfield, Massachusetts: September 28, 2008 through November 23, 2008
R.W. Norton Art Gallery
Shreveport, Louisiana: December 16, 2008 through February 15, 2009
J. Wayne Stark Gallery, Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas: August 9, 2009 through October 18, 2009
Museum of Texas Tech University
Lubbock, Texas: November 8, 2009 through January 3, 2010
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
Wausau, Wisconsin: June 27, 2010 through August 22, 2010
Indian Hills Community College
Ottumwa, Iowa: September 12, 2010 through November 7, 2010
Friday, January 9, 2009
(inside cabin/double occupancy. Group rate available for guests not taking workshops.)
To register or for cruise information: 1-800-253-0116