Friday, November 27, 2009

Robert Genn - Projectors and Such

Robert Genn printed my response to his November 24 letter, Projectors and Such (scroll down), on The Painter's Keys website. Thank you Robert, and continued thanks for being a best friend to artists worldwide!

By the way the Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letters book is available for order. 960 pages, ten years of over a thousand unabridged letters including an 82 page index. Can't wait to get that!


Unknown said...

Read that this morning and thought "Way to go Nick!" Appreciated your points which were very well made without being offensive in any way. Hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. :-)

Micah Neff said...

What an interesting article. Have encountered this over the years..people want to "cookie cut" their paintings to fit precut frames.....but many times I've found that sometimes...that picture could have had just "ten more inches of space" to "breathe". I use my digital photo editing to get somewhat the same results when planning.

RH Carpenter said...

This debate is never going to go away and there is no wrong or right. But you're there, in the thick of it, and I like the idea of a painting having a perfect size - never thought about that! I know I've been thinking about painting larger...but am wondering why I would: just to be painting larger or is there something else itching to get out there?
Hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Billie Crain said...

Nick, I think you presented the fairest and most convincing argument for the use of projectors. I applaud you for acknowledging that basic drawing skills are fundamental for any artist regardless if they choose to use a projector for convenience. If they drew the original image, then used a projector to enlarge it what's the big deal? I know artists that don't use projectors for their large pieces. They use a grid and that's cause for another ongoing argument. It never ends and nobody ever wins.

Tonya Vollertsen said...

I agree with RHC that this debate is never going to go away mostly because as you read the responses, each person is actually arguing something completely different than the next person. Some think it's cheating to project anything, some think it's life sapping, others think everyone should be strictly plein air artists. Some think the photo part is the whole problem. I can remember in art school when the argument was over using photos as references period. Realism was in question as "not art, might as well take a photo!". IMO Each individual piece of art in the end, has to stand alone with no elaborate paragraphs pinned beside or to the back explaining how or why it was done or how "yes, that actually looked like that, see, here is the photo I did it from!" I also remember one of my art professors being ridiculed behind his back by some of the other art professors as "an illustrator" because he drew too accurately. They were also the ones that said "Yea, some little housewife came along and won best of show, I won't enter that show again!" I have decided myself instead of worrying about someone else's work outshining mine and making excuses that "that person just goes about the approach to art all wrong" the improvement needs to be done in my work not finding the fault in theirs. The end product has to stand alone and I don't think I have ever seen any work excel because it was perfectly drawn or not. So many other elements factor in such as design, concept, color, value, materials, style and on and on.
I think a funny and interesting tidbit is that in extremely popular and revered artist Richard Schmid's book Alla Prima, he says "You will know for certain that you have truly hit bottom the day you project a photo onto a canvas or paper and -- dare I even say the word--trace it..." He also says "Working from video images (TV and computer) is all the rage now, but in fact, TV pictures are just fancy versions of photos..." Then he goes on to disparage using photo references as well. However in his most recent videos he actually has a whole section on taking a photo of the scene he is painting and continuing the painting the next day from his computer monitor! Next thing you know he will be projecting the photos on the canvas! LOL! Sorry, I thought it was really funny especially being a big fan of Richard Schmid myself. You really have to decide what's right for you and your artistic focus and then stick to your own standards. Obviously even the "masters" can change their thinking and if you've placed your entire worth on their words, will let you down.

Nick said...

Joanne - hello, nice to meet you! No reason to be offensive on the subject, it's a certain type of artist that obsesses over what other people are doing.

Micah - I like to use the writer analogy. Can you imagine an author only writing books that are 25, 50, or 100 pages in length? Absurd.

Rhonda - don't do it for the sake of it, do it only if the picture demands it

Billie - if you don't mind me saying, I always have. Never been shut down in this debate because the naysayers never seem to consider all of the possible aspects. (and never seem to notice that I agree with them on many points) I can draw very well, done it my whole life, have used grids, etc. I know of people who can draw better than I, who are bad artists. The defense rests!

Tonya - thank you for that most interesting post! Geez i could go on for a while here myself. I'll just say that I love Schmid's work, that's an easy one. I'll also say that Segovia (one of my all-time heroes) considered the electric guitar a "blight." Neil Young, one of the musicians who has gone the farthest on the least amount of talent, went on a tirade for years about how digitally-produced music is not real music. I know of photography purists who say digital enhancement is verboten. Heck, Jon Voight starred in the best movie ever made, Midnight Cowboy, and now he's a Republican!!! hehehe QED

Nick said...

PS - I'm not sure what the point of that last part was, but I think it's kind of funny, so it stands! (he was damn good in Deliverance, too)

Tonya Vollertsen said...

Hah! I guess I got you going! Serves you right for getting me cranked up in the first place! LOL! You don't know how many times started to pull my comment for the tendency toward rant.

Nick said...

Tonya - rants are welcome here, wish I'd get more of them!

Tonya Vollertsen said...

Assuming you invite rants for the sake of discussion you might like Catherine Cartwright's thoughtful and informational blog.
Lots of discussion.

Susan Liles said...

Tonya-touche- I couldn't have said it better! Didn't know if Robert Genn would be printing the reponses, guess one of my reponses will be in the book too. Think it was on the subject of biased judging in art shows. Great response on the projector issue!

Nick said...

Tonya - checked that out, I've seen that eggshell painting before somewhere. Yeah, lots of discussion...but in the famous last words of Lee Marvin in The Killers, "Lady, I haven't got the time." Dang it, I really don't anymore, but glad to know about it and will visit again, thanks!

Susan - I've ordered the book, that ought to be a gem. "Biased judging" in art shows? Surely you jest! ha We all can claim victim to that one, and occasionally victor! But then I guess maybe "judgment" is a euphenism for "bias" in some ways. Re the projector thing - except for one who seems to have an axe to grind and a very high horse, the responses were a good read.

William K. Moore said...

Norman Rockwell used a projector - it's just another tool in the bag-o-tricks. Skilled use of a projector is evident in the finished work. Unskilled use is just as evident and there are giveaways in the work that are loud and clear.

Ana Márquez said...

Thanks for your kind comments, I like your blog too, I back often :-) A big hug for you
Ana of "With the Time in my arms"

joel said...

nick, the best movie ever made was (in fact) "Downhill Racer". i am not sure of the politics of redford, hackman and sparv and i don't care. getting a dvd of that movie still remains one of my great "quests".

i desperately want a projector of some sort, someday. i just need to project the outlines of shapes and key inter-relationships. i will take care of the color and the temperature and the interpretation from there. the ability to upshift or downshift sizes is not an artistic talent in my opinion.

i keep looking for old used projectors in op shops and on ebay - but no success. but i am not really looking to hard.

i do the majority of my "landscapes" without a single pencil mark. that may explain why i have not got a lot of control over a lot of what i do.

Nick said...

Bill - you might have said it best of all, no surprise there. Ever been lectured on artistic "essence" by a quilter?? ha ha (insert emoticon here)

Ana - I'll take that hug, but please remove the pencil! abrazos!

Joel - Downhill Racer!!! How did you know? The single best thing Bob Redford ever did, I love that flick. Hackman great, and Sparv was never more beautiful (well, maybe in Dead Heat On a Merry Go Round). I know it was on VHS because I rented a couple of times years ago, need to see if they've put it on DVD yet...I'm guessing not, from your comment.
And yes, I see how you and Nic C. appear to be drinking from the same bottle! Or is that smoking from the same pipe?

Unknown said...

A very interesting article that encourages exprerimentations and stimulates imagination !

Projector on not projector, that is the question ! I think that this kind of debate will never find any end. Some artists that are good friends of mine do not have great draftmanship as they admit it themselves, but they are such excellent colorists or they have such an excellent vision of light, space and composition that their lack of basic skills in drawing totally goes unoticed !

Nick said...

Catherine - hi and thanks for posting! As I wrote somewhere else recently, the only crime is making bad art!

joel said...

"Joel - Downhill Racer!!! How did you know?"

i grew up as a very keen skier in the 60s! that is how. i was on the wellesly high school ski team and the loon mountain ski team. the sight of the sun rising over snow covered mountains on race day still gets my tummy to hurt...

"And yes, I see how you and Nic C. appear to be drinking from the same bottle! Or is that smoking from the same pipe?"


Rodrigo Chavez said...

hey Nicholas, hi..

how are you?

well im here just because to tell you that I have discovered youre blog about 3 months ago, and im so glad to know about your work. I hope we can stay in touch because im also a watercolorist and im interested in all the activities arround the world in this theme, i see that you are so updated in this way.

maybe you can see my blog and tell me youre impressions.

i would be so grateful to be on your links list.

so, have a nice weekend and maybe meet you some day.

scuze my gramatical errors...

Nick said...

Joel - as you now know, it's on DVD, I've got it on the Netflix queue!

Rodrigo - yes I remember you, I'll check out the blog - sorry I missed this, been out of town. saludos

Jane Freeman said...

Nick, can you tell me the kind of projector you use? Also, I think I wrote this someplace else but it was good. I talked to Laurin McCracken about projecting as that is what he does and he said...the question is are you a drawer or a painter. If you are a drawer, how many drawings are hanging on your wall? If none or few...and many paintings, perhaps you are a painter and if you want to paint, then get it onto that paper quickly so you can do it! He told me he is an architect and all he does is draw all when he gets to paint, that is what he wants to do..not sit and draw all weekend...this really changed how I looked at this. Made me think!

Nick said...

He makes a good point, but it hardly addresses what the projector (with a program like PS) can really do. I get into this in workshops, and it amazes people, maybe should do an instructional DVD on it.

V. Deshmukh said...

Dear Nick,
Thank you for all these wonderful posts. They are sucha a treat to go through.
With all due respect, I would like to say something in response to Tonya's comments about Richard Schmid. I have read his book Alla Prima and also seen the video where he takes pictures of a scene for making a landscape painting. And I dont think he expresses contradictory ideas in the two. He is quite clear about the limitations of painting from photographs and how they can never substitute the real plein air experience. However he also agrees that under certain circumstances photographs can come in very handy for example when ther is not enough time to finish a painting en plein air. But its still a compromise. But its still a compromise, and that's what he says even in the video. So I dont think the two things really go contrary to each other. I do not think someone as technically sound as Mr. Schmid shall ever have to resort to tracing.
Thank you
Best wishes,

Nick said...

Vinayak - thanks very much for your post, I appreciate it. I don't want to put words in Tonya's mouth, or take a chance of misrepresenting her intent, so I'll defer any discussion there...maybe she'll have a chance to post again.

But you raise some things that I can comment on from my own perspective:

I understand the reasoning behind the plein air tradition, painting from life, etc. and have enormous respect for the people who do it as well as Schmid. (much less respect for people confusing method with message) There is no doubt the human eye can discern things that escape the camera lens, to a point,and there isn't any substitute for real life. In my case, however, this apparent advantage is somewhat, if not wholly, irrelevant, for a few reasons:

1. While many artists seem to be driven to paint what they see, I'm driven to paint what I don't see. Most all of what I do is stuff that's flitting around inside my head, not borne from real-time observation. I don't walk through a flowery meadow, for example, and think "I'd like to paint that." Could be a character defect, but it just doesn't happen to me.

2. I don't pretend to possess a technique that would necessarily benefit from observing
in real life the nuances of lighting, form, color, shadow, etc. In fact, that could even be a handicap for me, as too much information can be distracting and overwhelming. I know myself well enough to realize that what the camera omits is very possibly something that a) I don't really care about, b) I'm not good enough to reproduce or interpret anyway! So much painting I admire is a result of subtraction and simplification. I can do this on my own -- many of us do, at least to some degree -- but I also like how the camera or even a computer program accomplish this.

3. One of the most unfair indictments of the camera in connection with artists is the unequivocal notion that it can’t see what the eye sees. How wrong this is; often it sees far more! Think of all the blurred-motion photos that give us a fascinating idea about the visual representation of movement, not to mention the myriad bizarre effects the camera produces through “error” that might inspire the artist. One need not look any further than the unparalleled work of Alex Kanevsky to understand how important the camera has become in the hands of contemporary masters.

Getting back to the projector issue…knowing what I do about his work and methods, I don’t believe Schmid would have any use for such a device. Whether or not he would use something to transfer a drawing, large-scale, I have no idea. The main point I was making on Genn’s site is that there are other applications of the projector that are quite useful. But nobody ever talks about them; the moment the issue is raised, there is the typical one-dimensional, knee-jerk “purist” reaction that ignores the nuances ;-) of the subject. Most frustrating, is that I often agree with many of their points…. but they never seem to notice.

Tonya Vollertsen said...

Hi Nick, such good points in your follow up comment!
I humbly apologize to Vinayak , Richard Schmid and anyone else who might have been offended by my comment. I thought I was being clear in the part where I said:
"...especially being a big fan of Richard Schmid myself. You really have to decide what's right for you and your artistic focus and then stick to your own standards. Obviously even the "masters" can change their thinking..."
However I will try to clarify. My point was that everyone should make up their own mind for their own work personally and not get too wrapped up in specific statements from "mentors" and "masters" because mentors and masters are human and may have changed their minds and methods while those they have influenced still cling rigidly to some little tidbit or "rule" they espoused long ago or even wrote in a book.
May it be clearly noted that Richard Schmid, as far back as I can remember, has been and still is on a very short list of my all time favorite artists. He is a wonderfully talented artist to strive to emulate.
Having never studied with him in person but having read his book cover to cover (several times), studied his methods and seen all his videos, I must admit I was quite shocked (although pleasantly) when he advocated using his computer monitor to paint from. I found it wonderful that even as a master of his craft, he is still learning and tweaking his methods.
In my opinion he has softened his stance on using technology over the years although, more than likely, not as far as to advocate using a projector to reproduce a photograph for making a painting.
I have to say Vinayak, you must have really been bored to have taken the time to read that comment in the first place! LOL!