Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Good Night from New York

I packed my paint-stained chapeau yesterday in Rigby, Idaho for my green accountant’s visor here in New York to fit the part for my speaking engagement. This instant switch from artist to marketer/banker will provide a nice rest before the pressures of Telluride Plein Air kick in Thursday. What, banking, no pressure? Sure, but different.

I had some great discussions today with the “rock stars” of Web 2.0 + Finance. While Jason Knight (co-founder of Wesabe) looks more like “The Rock” than rock star Keith Richards and Colin Henderson of The Bankwatch, Michael Stipe, we got plenty of Satisfaction dreaming about the future. The web is exciting, once again! Hell, if Web 2.0 implodes like 1.0, I can always fill my days with canvas coloring until Web 3.0…or Web 2.1, or whatever.

Realizing I wasn’t far from the Art Student’s League of New York, I decided to work off dinner’s proliferoles and see one of the most historically important institutions in American Art. The halls where Robert Henri taught and wrote “The Art Spirit” (the greatest book about art ever written) were empty and closed, but hopefully tomorrow I can sneak out of work and browse the classrooms.

Leaving inspired, on my walk back to my hotel, a man asked for a quarter for a slice of pizza, and for half a second I thought that New York City wasn’t nearly as expensive as I remembered. Inspiration can cloud reality, if only for a few blocks in The Big Apple.

‘night.

P.S.

“Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable, and we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life’s experience.”

Robert Henri

“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

Mick Jagger

I hate Orbitz

I have never used my blog to rant against someone, but today’s the day. I’m that angry.

I just had the worst customer service experience in my life. I booked the Casa Sant’Andrea Hotel in Venice, Italy with Orbitz, using a $50 off coupon code. Everything went fine until I received the confirmation email, which said the hotel was in Rome! I immediately canceled the reservation online. When I went back to the site to find the correct hotel in Venice, it gave me the same hotel, and the map showed Venice, not Rome as well. Turns out the hotel I booked was in Venice, even though the confirmation email from Orbitz said “Roma”.

Okay, time to rebook and let Customer Service know what happened. I deserve my coupon back, right? I canceled because of a mistake on their end, an at best misleading email that said the hotel was in Rome. I called their toll free number. Long story short, in 30 frustrating minutes I was transfered 4 times, each time someone telling me something different. Back and forth between Customer Service, who was supposed to re-instate the one-time use coupon code because of the error, then back to Booking who said the code wasn’t valid. Yikes! To make things worst, the customer service reps where clearly out of India, so there were plenty of language problems during this fiasco.

It goes without saying I’ll never book with Orbitz again. When I told a few other world travelers about my experience, they nodded as they too had terrible service with Orbitz. Unfortunately, this hotel only books through Orbitz so I had to bite the bullet and rebook. Let’s hope when I get to Venice the hotel will be there and I’ll have a reservation.

Check out this link to learn more, from someone who is collecting horror stories like mine and organizing a boycott. Okay, that off my chest, time to think about art.

There’s no excuse…not to sketch

When I travel without my paint, I get figidity. What to do?

I just got back from 4 days in Lincoln, Nebraska for my nephew’s high school graduation. It was a great trip. In between events, I’d go for walks (wherever I was), sit down and sketch a bit. They say you should always carry a sketchbook, but I usually forget. Remembering that the purpose of ad-hoc sketching is to better your skills, does it matter what you sketch on, or what you sketch? Hey I may not be the “Master of Blight” (William Wray), but I can learn from sketching anything, including a trash can.

BTW, Katherine Tyrrell’s blog, “Travels with a Sketchbook” provides some great examples and discusses technique.
Here are a couple of quick sketches of downtown Lincoln.

Trash Can, Lincoln Nebraska NE

UNL, Lincoln, NE

And here’s Mike and I with our nephew Nick Cruickshank. Congrats, Nick!

Ed Terpening, Nicolas Ryan Cruickshank and Michael Estrada - Graduation, Lincoln NE

Seven things you didn’t know…

I’ve been “tagged” by fellow artist Katerine Tyrrell with “Seven Things”, a sort of blogosphere chain letter. Here are 7 things you probably don’t know about me, and some fellow bloggers I’ve tagged:

  1. I met my partner, Mike, on a blind date! Our good friends Ellen and Neil set us up. They both know us well, and hey, I guess you could say it worked out since we’ve been together for 18 years.
  2. I have a short attention span, for some things at least. This shows up in my career history. I’ve been a musician, software engineer, high-tech manager, marketing guy, and artist. I’m not afraid to take risks now and then and shake things up. Jumping into something new things usually doesn’t scare me.
  3. I’m a collector–not art, neccessarily (although there is that), but lots of things, like making lists, collecting data, and making connections betweeClick me!n seemingly disparate things. One of my favorite things to do is to analyze a problem with lots of variables and find interesting connections to solve it. I’ve applied this to both complex software engineering problems, as well as marketing challenges. I like to “connect the dots“.
  4. Music is important to me. It was my first artistic, creative adventure, starting at age 7 when my grandmother sent me a guitar from the Sears catalog one Christmas. She visited the following summer, and expected me to play! I did: Green Sleeves (interistingly, attributed to King Henry VIII). I’m listening to Death Cab for Cutie right now. Ahh…
  5. What book’s on my nightstand? Usually a murder mystery. Love them. I guess it goes back to “connecting the dots”. I like to analyze.
  6. I have a very famous person’s phone number (home and cell), but at risk of loosing this relationship, not going to give you the name! Turns out, this person is a painter herself (that narrows it down!) and she likes my work. I’ve helped her connect with other artists and we’ve had opportunities to just chat about art. She’s an actress. Enough hints 🙂
  7. My favorite “sin” is sweets. I don’t think I’ve met a piece of chocolate that I didn’t love. One of my favorite places to indulge is Fleur de Cocoa, in Los Gatos, CA. They make European style hot chocalate–which, I believe, is probably just real chocolate melted with some milk or cream. None of that powdered crap. My God. Drinking it takes me back to the Las Ramblus in Barcelona, where I first tasted REAL hot chocolate.

It’s time for me tag some of my favorite bloggers (I realize some have been tagged, but want to recognize them), in no particular order:

    • Bart Westgeest, “I Landscape” (Denmark). Bart is an incredibly creative, skillful artist who happens to also be a great blogger. His directness, honesty, curiosity and sensitivity makes him a regular read of mine
    • René Beeldendkunstenaar, “René Plein Air” (The Netherlands). Another talented artist who posts really wonderful work regularly.
    • Katherine Tyrrell, “Making a Mark” (United Kingdom). I think Katherine was probably my first “blogger-friend”. We discovered each other’s blogs in the early days, and have kept in touch. She’s great at transfering her ongoing search for artistic expression through knowledge, always finding the best resources, websites, exhibitions, etc. A great journey to follow.
    • Cooper Dragonette, “Tomato Can Brushes” (Maine, USA). Cooper is the most recent addition to my blogroll. His artist journey is honest and the work always fascinating.
    • Frank A. Edwards, “Painting for Life” (Ontario, Canada). Frank is a great painter: fresh color, free brush work, always interesting compositions. He’s generous with his knowledge.
    • Michael Chesley Johnson, “A Plein Air Painter’s Blog” (Campbello Island, New Brunswick, Canada). As an artist/teacher, Michael’s posts are always enlightening. He did a wonderful series of posts chronicling a workshop with Ray Roberts, as well as his participation in plein air painting events across the country.
    • William Wray, “California Painter William Wray” (Sierra Madre, California). William’s posts are terrifically entertaining and his work is original and beautiful, even if his subjects are often the blight of the Los Angeles area. He finds both beauty and humor everywhere.
    • Peter Yesis, “Daily Painting Practice” (Omaha, Nebraska). Peter is terrific at explaining his process, with step by step examples. His work is terrific.
    • Linda Blondheim, “Landscapes of the South” (Florida, US). Also a teacher, Linda ends every post with a useful “Painters Tip”. I don’t know how she comes up with so many, years of experience, I guess.

Andrew Wyeth & Composition

Yesterday, I visited the “California Impressions” exhibit at our beautiful new de Young museum in San Francisco. The exhibit had some nice work, but not the most impressive I’ve seen of this genre. I came away with a new appreciation for William Keith (1838-1911), although their collection of “Society of Six” works was a bit disappointing. I’ve seen better examples of their work at Butterfield auctions. Oh well. Don’t get me wrong, still worth seeing.Although not part of this show, I was struck by a volume I found called “Andrew Wyeth, Memory & Magic“. I’ve been thinking a lot about composition/design, and although I find going back to examples by Edgar Payne and the like are useful for a classic perspective, I’m hungry for more contemporary ideas. I definitely found that in this Wyeth book. Wow. Although I’d rather paint like Seldon Gile than Wyeth (I’m not after detail), his compositions took my breath away.Here are some examples.


Andrew Wyeth – Sea Boots

Andrew Wyeth – River Cove
Andrew Wyeth, Dil Huey Farm, 1941, tempera on panel, 22x48
Andrew Wyeth, Dil Huey Farm, 1941, tempera on panel, 22×48″, private collection
End of Olsons, Andrew Wyeth, Tempera on Panel, 1969, 18
End of Olsons, Andrew Wyeth, Tempera on Panel, 1969, 18″ x 19″

In the end, I’d also planned on painting in Golden Gate Park after the exhibit, but it was too windy and cold. I also somehow didn’t feel up for. No matter! This weekend, I’m taking Gracie to a painting trip in Carmel (while Mike is away on his Aspen ski trip). I found a “cottage” in Pacific Grove. Weatherman says sunny, so we’ll see. Hopefully some nice work of the 17 Mile Drive to post in the next couple of days.

Learning “Sight Painting”

Gracie at Lake Tahoe, CA 21-Nov-06
Gracie at Lake Tahoe, 21 November, 2006

On my last visit home, my mother presented me with a scrap book of items she kept of mine while growing up, including photos, old artwork and perhaps most telling–report cards! I remember school a bit, but reading these teacher/parent notes about ‘young Edward’ brought me back to that time.

I remember being bored in school and my teacher’s notes from kinderkarten onward confirm that. I guess I didn’t get serious about school until college, when I had more of a “choice” about what to study. The exception to the rigors of public school was the eary music education I got. This was a luxury, as from 13 on my mother raised 4 children alone. There were definite hardships, and so getting music lessons meant a lot.

BallerinaI played multiple instruments, but excelled on the Trombone, playing jazz, classical, you name it. My private teacher–Mr. VanFleet–was (is? I don’t know, we’ve lost touch) an incredible teacher. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me calling him a “hard ass”. A Marine drill-instructor to the core (have no idea if he served, but he’d be a natural), he SCARED you into practicing. If you showed up to your private lesson not having learned your assignment–forget it. Run.

One of his techqniques for teaching musing–shared by many, this is in no way unque–was “sight reading“, or playing a piece of music for the first time, “on sight” with no preparation. It was a great way to train the musician to react quickly AND think ahead, or I should say, read ahead. You’re playing a passage and always looking a few bars ahead to figure out, “where’s this going?”. He’ll hand you a piece that could be just as easily a sonota as jazz. You’re not expected to play perfectly since the point is the process, not the result.

So what’s this got to do with art and learning? Applying musical “site reading” to art (I call it “Sight Painting”) is a great learning tool. Here’s how it works: I fill my camera with random images from my huge digital library. In my studio, I attatch the camera to a TV to project the images. I then pick a random number and scroll through the camera’s images until I hit it. I set a timer, usually 15 minutes. Then I paint the image quickly. Sometimes I see great results, often not, but the painting’s not the point–the process is. You learn not to get fussy with your brush (I always use a brush larger than I think I need for these exercises, and use one brush throughout). You learn to mix color quickly and create new threads of color from old colors on your palette (which great harmonizes the painting). You think big shapes and work smaller–if you have time! Lastly, you often get an image with incredible life and passion.

Try it! If you do, send me URLs to your studies and I’ll post here. The two paintings in this post where done this way, although the sunset was plein air.

Another music to art learning analogy I’ll cover soon is playing musical scales. Just as there are keys in music, there are color keys that you can use to learn color harmony.

Art Education Goes Global, Join Us?

As regular readers of this blog know, much of my focus is sharing ideas, learnings, insights…educating. While in Chicago today, for my part-time “day job“, the stars aligned on art education, even though this is a marketing event. There really is an “art spirit” (or Karma), isn’t there?

At a break between conference sessions, stars aligned when I met Lori Heinsman, founder of HelloCreativity and then later in the day listened intently to a speach by Nicholas Negroponte, a long-time technology visionary from MIT. Lori is focusing on supporting artistic development of children (in an era of every-decreasing arts funding in K-12), and Negropante is leading “One Laptop Per Child“, an effort focused on mass-producing inexpensive < $100 laptops (hand-cranked power, no less!) for children in developing countries. What an interesting intersection! Do you see the possibilities? Imagine millions of children isolated by poverty and georgraphy sharing their artwork and getting encouragement from mentors around the world.

Hello Creativity

According to their site, “Hello CREATIVITY is a free, online mentoring program dedicated to helping children build self-confidence through artistic expression and steady, positive reinforcement.” The way Lori described the site to me, children read feedback from mentors who help their artistic expression grow through online tools, like sharing photos of work, discussion, etc.
Read this page to learn about mentoring. I started mentoring today by leaving encouraging comments…Will you? Subscribe to their RSS feed to make it easy.

One Laptop Per Child

Nicholas Negroponte opened his speach today by mentioning that he’d just met with Jeff Bezzos the day before. Apparently Bezos is a big supporter of Negroponte’s efforts to help end poverty through education. In talking about how to get the average person involved (not just billionaire philanthropists like Bezos), he suggested the slogan,”buy 2, get 1″, of course a play on the “Buy two, get one free” sales pitch–but the end result is, a person in a developed country like the US buys one, and the other goes to an undeveloped country. Neat.

Isn’t this an inspiring idea? Imagine children in villages with no running water, no electricity communicating and learning with a PC. For a geek like me, the devices themselves are fascinating enough to write a dedicated blog post, but the reason I thought you’d like to know about it is the possible impact on the arts, and how a site like Hello Creativity (among others) will make it possible to broaden our online art community dramatically.

I don’t know yet how an individual can support OLPC, but if you like this idea, get started today with Hello Creativity and mentor a child.

NOTE: The dog sketch (pencil on paper) above was created by Skylar, age 6. To encourage Skylar, leave a comment here (and remember to be encouraging, nice! This is not a critque for an adult).

Chicago and NYC Next Week

I’m traveling to Chicago 10/23-25 then NYC 10/16-29, any plein air folks in town then? I’m thinking of hanging out in galleries and museums and bringing a nice, lite watercolor kit–not my typical 50 pounds of plein air oil painting gear!

Maybe I’ll bring my MacBook and post some pics.

Come to think of it, I haven’t been in NYC since 9/11.  It’s going to  be weird, seeing that skyline without the twin towers.  Maybe I’ll come up with a painting at the site…probably not.  It must be…I don’t know, certainly not a place to be “exploited”.  Is that what we do when we paint a location?  We do, don’t we?  I guess I’m speaking as (primarily) a plein air artist that typically paints “beautiful” paintings of “beautiful” locations.  Sorry if this is…cynical.

If I feel I can capture how I feel at the spot, I’ll capture it as best I can.

Ever feel like this?

Even when I was a “full time” artist, I felt like–“when am I going to have time to paint?” I’ve got books, receipts, galleries to deal with, postcards, printers, ads, supplies to buy…yikes!

Now that I’m working part-time, the pressure to make money from art is off (hope the IRS isn’t listening…I should say less pressure). Seriously, it’s nice to not focus on galleries (I reduced my galleries from 5 to 2 this year, and perhaps one) and it’s working out well.


Click to enlarge–as if – from a favoriate blog – Gaping Void