Monday, July 30, 2012

Meet Mr. Keith

Mr. Keith is character embodied. He manages the grounds and so much more at THEARC in Anacostia. He pauses mid-conversation to pick up some blowing trash. He tells the kids from the boys and girls club that they should pick up too, because this is their backyard. While teaching one young lady about watering the garden there, he interrupts himself: "You're one of our girls, aren't you? See, she's all grown up now!" he beams. "Yes, Mr. Keith" she answers.
He is the father of ten children (including Geneva). Seven are biologically related and three joined his family when his wife's sister passed on. He attributes his solid marriage to the way that he and his wife let each other be the people that they are. They also make it a point to go out and have fun together despite being parents to a large family.
Mr. Keith believes that all religions are looking at one God. He forgives and believes that he is forgiven because God is Love. He lifts my painting bag into my car and sends me on my way with a hug.
Thank you, Mr. Keith for your words and for the witness of your example!

(This portrait sketch is one of a series of quick little oil paintings that I have been making in preparation for the eighth large portrait in my project AS IS. You can learn more about the project by clicking here.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Meet Geneva

Geneva is an inspiration! I meet her at THEARC yesterday where Habitat for Artists has set up its second studio site. She has ten sisters and brothers and was born and bred in the South East, DC neighborhood where she now works alongside her father. She believes in giving people another chance, even when they disappoint her. She has overcome and accomplished much in her life because of her winning spirit and maturity. 

Geneva, your attitude is infectious! Thank you for teaching me about strength and compassion. I wish that I could bottle up your energy and take a breath at the beginning of each new day!

(This portrait sketch is one of a series of quick little oil paintings that I have been making in preparation for the eighth large portrait in my project AS IS. You can learn more about the project by clicking here.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meet Manuella Lea

Manuella Lea is a graphic designer who stopped by my easel at the Corcoran on her lunch break. One of her jobs is to visually manipulate text on book covers so that they will look the same regardless of the language in which that they are printed. (I had never considered this before, but now I am wondering about all of the other things in our everyday experience which are altered for easier consumption!)

She celebrates a big birthday soon which has her reflecting on the past decisions she has made in her life. She wants to celebrate with a trip around the world, but she hasn't booked it yet, and besides, travel is such a hassle.

Happy Birthday, Manuella Lea! It was a joy to meet you and I hope that whatever you do to celebrate, the year will be filled with happiness and promise!

(This portrait sketch is one of a series of quick little oil paintings that I have been making in preparation for the eighth large portrait in my project AS IS. You can learn more about the project by clicking here.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Meet Saralinda and Mark

All of last week and this week, I have been and will continue to be painting quick oil-sketches of passersby on masonite panels outside of the Corcoran Gallery and THE ARC. The finished sketches are bolted to the outside of one of the HFA studios erected in front of the Gallery. When the project comes down at the end of August, people are invited to come back and take their loose portrait sketches free of charge!

Saralinda and Mark stopped by my easel at the Corcoran on Saturday after their visits to the George Bellows and Richard Diebenkorn exhibits in town. They braved cold rain water splashing off the tarps and down their backs to have their quick likenesses painted, and I am so glad that they did! It was a true highlight of the week to meet this hilarious couple! As the Director of School Programs for an art museum and an attorney representing artists, Saralinda and Mark knew their stuff in artistically, and yet kept me laughing with stories about marital negotiations over kitchen paint colors and mother-in-laws!
Meeting them confirmed again how lucky I am to have this opportunity to get to know people that I might otherwise have missed. Thanks for the chuckles and conversation, Saralinda and Mark!

(These portrait sketches are part of a series of quick little oil paintings that I have been making in preparation for the eighth large portrait in my project AS IS. You can learn more about the project by clicking here.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hot Town Summer in the City

The Habitat for Artists crew started building two temporary studios in front of the Corcoran on Wednesday. Their mission is to connect the "mysterious" artist with the public by literally taking the creative studio space to the streets. My portrait project, AS IS, is based on the under-rated importance of face-to-face interaction, and so I am honored to be one of the artists who will be working out of these studios over the next few weeks!

The last three sweltering days have been spent painting quick, loose, oil sketches of passersby in preparation for one of the large, finished portraits that I will begin late next week. Each small painting is posted on the outside of one of the studios. When HFA disassembles the spaces at the end of August, people will be free to take their portraits home. I like the idea of gifting tangible records of conversations.

 I have already met such interesting people while painting these rapid, little paintings including a diamond-diver turner limo-driver, and a South Korean student who can't get enough of typhoons! It's amazing to think that had I not been set up to be painting their portraits, I probably would have just passed by these people without a second thought. Next week, I will be posting "Meet So-and-So" posts with pictures and snippets of information about people and their portraits.

Happy Weekend to You, Friends!
Thank you to Darlene for sneaking this picture of me working on one of the sketches today. The heat broke with a few sprinkles, but people sitting for their portraits stayed dry under a makeshift canopy, and we were all happy for the cooler temperatures!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sweet Surprise!

Thank you to the talented Katarina Price for working with me to document a few of the finished urban portraits for AS IS! Since I won't officially be installing the portraits until they are all complete, I wanted to attract as little attention to myself as possible while getting a few shots of the work in context. We woke up early last week to get down to Ben's Chili Bowl, intending to be there before too many people were on the streets...but MAN! DC is full of early risers!
Including the subject!
A few people passed the painting on the street saying things like "Hey! I know him!" Still, I was happily surprised to see the man himself step out of the door to check out the commotion!

He was quiet about it, but I think he liked it.
I can't wait to leave it for him to keep.

(All images copyright of Katarina Price Photography.)

Monday, July 16, 2012


Hello, Friends. I have an announcement to make. For months, I have been working away on a project very near and dear to my heart, and it is finally time to share it!

AS IS: An Urban Portrait Project

In a world where most human interaction is strained down to its digital pulp, this project asks the question “Do we really see each other anymore?” by bringing fine art onto the street. AS IS developed out of my desire to meet people where they are, to give my full attention to them there, and to leave the experience of being noticed as a gift for their taking.

I paint large-scale formal oil portraits of strangers going about their day. These paintings are several feet in length and take between forty to eighty hours to complete. The finished portraits are then installed in the public spots around the city where I first met each subject. Next to each painting I post a handwritten sign stating that the portrait is a gift for the person it depicts. The signs read "If this is you, this painting is yours to take." Unlike my commissioned work, these portraits are intended as unexpected presents for their subjects.

I believe that while the attention that we pay to each other requires very little of us, we don’t often give it away freely. I want to tell people that they are seen. It is my hope that in some small way this project will ignite conversation about the power and the gift of notice.

AS IS has been selected by the public art project, Habitat for Artists, under whose umbrella I will be painting my seventh urban portrait! Over the next few weeks, I will be painting in studios erected in front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and THEARC in Anacostia. I'll be posting field notes here if you care to follow along.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Removing the Mystery

I was chatting with a friend the other day and the conversation turned (as it often does in DC) to our respective professions. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before she asked "But...I do you make a living?" The answer, of course, is "the way any other professional does." The life of an artist is unique to be sure, but the business isn't necessarily cloaked in mystery. Sure, it can feel like you are ignoring the gravitas of art-making by thinking about the success of your business, but if you are honest with yourself, you need to admit that maintaining a profitable business is foundational for the continuity of your process. I think that the article below outlines the basics pretty nicely.

9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People

I'm fortunate enough to know a number of remarkably successful people. Regardless of industry or profession, they all share the same perspectives and beliefs.
And they act on those beliefs:
1. Time doesn't fill me. I fill time.
Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. The average person who is given two weeks to complete a task will instinctively adjust his effort so it actually takes two weeks.
Forget deadlines, at least as a way to manage your activity. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take. Do everything as quickly and effectively as you can. Then use your "free" time to get other things done just as quickly and effectively.
Average people allow time to impose its will on them; remarkable people impose their will on their time.
2. The people around me are the people I chose.
Some of your employees drive you nuts. Some of your customers are obnoxious. Some of your friends are selfish, all-about-me jerks.
You chose them. If the people around you make you unhappy it's not their fault. It's your fault. They're in your professional or personal life because you drew them to you--and you let them remain.
Think about the type of people you want to work with. Think about the types of customers you would enjoy serving. Think about the friends you want to have.
Then change what you do so you can start attracting those people. Hardworking people want to work with hardworking people. Kind people like to associate with kind people. Remarkable employees want to work for remarkable bosses.
Successful people are naturally drawn to successful people.
3. I have never paid my dues.
Dues aren't paid, past tense. Dues get paid, each and every day. The only real measure of your value is the tangible contribution you make on a daily basis.
No matter what you've done or accomplished in the past, you're never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do the grunt work.  No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring.
Remarkably successful people never feel entitled--except to the fruits of their labor.
4. Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.
You have "10 years in the Web design business." Whoopee. I don't care how long you've been doing what you do. Years of service indicate nothing; you could be the worst 10-year programmer in the world.
I care about what you've done: how many sites you've created, how many back-end systems you've installed, how many customer-specific applications you've developed (and what kind)... all that matters is what you've done.
Successful people don't need to describe themselves using hyperbolic adjectives like passionate, innovative, driven, etc. They can just describe, hopefully in a humble way, what they've done.
5. Failure is something I accomplish; it doesn't just happen to me.
Ask people why they have been successful. Their answers will be filled with personal pronouns: I, me, and the sometimes too occasional we.
Ask them why they failed. Most will revert to childhood and instinctively distance themselves, like the kid who says, "My toy got broken..." instead of, "I broke my toy."
They'll say the economy tanked. They'll say the market wasn't ready. They'll say their suppliers couldn't keep up.
They'll say it was someone or something else.
And by distancing themselves, they don't learn from their failures.
Occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail. Most of the time, though, it's you. And that's okay. Every successful person has failed. Numerous times. Most of them have failed a lot more often than you. That's why they're successful now.
Embrace every failure: Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.
6. Volunteers always win.
Whenever you raise your hand you wind up being asked to do more.
That's great. Doing more is an opportunity: to learn, to impress, to gain skills, to build new relationships--to do something more than you would otherwise been able to do.
Success is based on action. The more you volunteer, the more you get to act. Successful people step forward to create opportunities.
Remarkably successful people sprint forward.
7. As long as I'm paid well, it's all good.
Specialization is good. Focus is good. Finding a niche is good.
Generating revenue is great.
Anything a customer will pay you a reasonable price to do--as long as it isn't unethical, immoral, or illegal--is something you should do. Your customers want you to deliver outside your normal territory? If they'll pay you for it, fine. They want you to add services you don't normally include? If they'll pay you for it, fine. The customer wants you to perform some relatively manual labor and you're a high-tech shop? Shut up, roll 'em up, do the work, and get paid.
Only do what you want to do and you might build an okay business. Be willing to do what customers want you to do and you can build a successful business.
Be willing to do even more and you can build a remarkable business.
And speaking of customers...
8. People who pay me always have the right to tell me what to do.
Get over your cocky, pretentious, I-must-be-free-to-express-my-individuality self. Be that way on your own time.
The people who pay you, whether customers or employers, earn the right to dictate what you do and how you do it--sometimes down to the last detail.
Instead of complaining, work to align what you like to do with what the people who pay you want you to do.
Then you turn issues like control and micro-management into non-issues.
9. The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.
Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go there think, "Wait... no one else is here... why am I doing this?" and leave, never to return.
That's why the extra mile is such a lonely place.
That's also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.
Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don't wait to be asked; offer. Don't just tell employees what to do--show them what to do and work beside them.
Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do--especially if other people aren't doing that one thing. Sure, it's hard.
But that's what will make you different.
And over time, that's what will make you incredibly successful.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coming Full Circle

(Drawn in order from top left to bottom right)
Yesterday, I had the chance to study these four sketches by Diebenkorn. The artist drew his military coat at different stages of his artistic development. I am fascinated by the fact that what started off as a representational depiction, lead to two different abstractions, before eventually culminating in a drawing which most closely approximates the original in terms of realism. 
That is not to say that the final drawing (bottom right) is necessarily the best. It is incredible though to consider that by recognizing the abstract content of the coat, the artist gained a new, fuller understanding of his subject.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Match

Every week I post an image of an interior that reminds me of a work of art either in its palette, composition or mood. I hope that you enjoy!
David Hick's Bahamas Retreat photographed for House Beautiful

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park, No 70

*Hello again and sorry for the storm-related absence! This week I will be spending some time at the Corcoran Gallery of Art checking out the Diebenkorn exhibit so I thought it only appropriate to feature one of his paintings. Oh and apparently coral is this season's hot color--so there's that too ;)

Monday, July 2, 2012

I'll be back...

...just as soon as I finish digging myself out of this mess. Hope you all are safe and lucky enough to find ice for a refreshing beverage or three!
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