Made In USA

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Picking a name for a painting can be a daunting endeavor. 

“The right title makes a difference as to how a work is seen and understood. Not only are titles a bridge to the viewer, they are also part of the art. I’m a believer in giving your titles some careful thought.” -Robert Genn

I fully agree with Robert especially on that last bit. Sometimes I labor over the name far more than I ought to. Yet, sometimes the name presents itself midway through the piece or even immediately upon completion.

For my painting “Facing the Impasto-Bull”, I had been kicking around a few ideas in my head as I worked. I liked the idea of using a pun of some sort. “My Bull Oney” for example. During the few painting sessions  that I faced the canvas with an oversized Longhorn staring back at me, it became clear to me what moniker this one would receive. 

Let me back up just tiny bit. “Facing the Impasto-Bull” is a piece I did as a request (not a commission BTW*) for the owners of an upscale resort’s steakhouse restaurant in Austin, Texas. It was to be the only artwork on display in the overflow dining/banquet room. It would mount on a largish, freestanding wall that faced a windowed wall which overlooked Lake Travis. The subject and the dimensions of the canvas were selected specifically for this wall and this room. 

During this period I was working on several other projects concurrently. Many of which were providing me some difficulty as I faced rejection at what seemed like every turn.( e.g.; I needed a part for an installation project and was told by several suppliers and vendors that “It couldn’t be done” or “That would be too costly"). The “no’s” were mounting and the ambitious installation project was presenting itself to be nearly impossible. I was frustrated but not yet defeated. 

By contrast, the time that I spent painting the bull was easy. The colors came easy, the composition was a breeze, it all seemed to flow smoothly. Near the end of the painting of the bull I did what I always do with paintings. I sat at a distance (as much of a distance I could get from a 9’ canvas in my humble studio) and stared at it. I looked for compositional errors, tonal balance, harmonious color use throughout the painting, missed details and anything that “felt” to be missing or left out. The conclusion was, that it was done. Standing before it to get a closer look somehow gave me strength. If you’ve never been face to face with a live Longhorn, I’ll tell you, the beast is big… huge in fact. So staring at my rendering of a larger than life giant and feeling the power of the bull osmotically wash over me, I felt in that moment like I could face any immoveable object with confidence. Any improbable project, or task could be overcome by facing it head on.  This bull painting became a metaphor for my current and any future challenges. 

To bring this back to the title of the painting, I’ll add for those who aren’t versed in artist-speak. Impasto is a painting technique that gives a painting texture through the application of thick paint and texture medium. Getting from facing the impossible to "Facing the Impasto-Bull” was a no-brainer.

How do you select a title for your artwork? Have you ever purchased or not purchased an artwork because of its name?

* "Facing the Impasto-Bull” is part of the Prairie Project Collection and is on indefinite display at Masterson's Steakhouse in the Lakeway Resort and Spa in Lakeway, Texas. The original oil painting, as well as a limited number of hand signed Giclee' editions are available through the Prairie Project website.

Friday, March 1, 2013


If you ask Gamblin,  the maker of Artist's Oil Colors and mediums, they'll say "It depends on the year."

To understand their answer you need to understand the process of making paints. Now hold on! Don't get your Bunsen burners all out of shape, this is not going to get real technical or scientific. You see, Robert Gamblin believes "Pigment dust should not go into the earth, water or landfill, but into paint." 

Every Spring they collect all of the pigment dust that their Torit Air Filtration system gathered that year and they put it into a very special limited supply vintage of oil paint. As you would imagine the mix of all these pigments would favor a grayish color, hence the name Torrit Grey.  Torrit Grey is only available (free) until the supplies run out and slightly differs in hue every year. The folks over at Gamblin have started stamping each years' batch with a date to give you aficianados a reference for which you can catalog your paints. Upon the release of the new supply of Torrit Grey comes the annual Torrit Grey Painting Competition. Judged by Robert Gamblin, the entrants submit a painting using only that year's Torrit Grey and any black and white paint. Enter this year's competition here.

BTW Gamblin Artist colors and mediums are made in Portland, OR USA

Personally I think this is a very responsible and creative thing to do with what would otherwise be waste.  What do you think?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A friend of mine sent me this email:

What advice would you give to this friend who wants to get clued into local and younger artists in her (Chicago) neighborhood?
"I’d like to start filling our empty wall spaces with some stuff that we could pass on to our kids some day- not because its valuable, necessarily, but because it’s part of our family history. But my question is…how? I am willing to save up a little to invest in something we really love- but I’m not interested in (or in a position to) drop several grand on a traditional oil landscape, you know? I would love to find something a little more modern, or by a younger artist…but I frankly don’t even know where to begin. Go check out galleries in the edgy hipster part of town, where I’m sure to feel like a poser but maybe I’ll find something fun? Look online somewhere?" 

Credit: Alexander Newton

My response:

Dear Liz's friend,

First. Things purchased to match your home are decorations...not art. (My opinion) Although they could be both, most often when approached from that direction, they are not. 

Second. Please buy original art created by a person. Giclee' is a French word for Expensive Poster.  There is nothing better than having something in your hands that was created with love, passion, sweat, thoughtfulness and sometimes the blood of another person's hands. 

So with that in mind here are a few things to consider when starting your collection.

Look for original art that you can afford. There is good art at every price level. Please do not negotiate with an artist over his/her price.  There is often very little, if any profit margin built in. (Galleries are a different story). 

Don't worry yourself over what is "good" art or not. 

Look for open studios or perhaps an art fair. I'd stick to the less crafty one's. Talk to the artist. Often times there is a story that enhances the painting or helps you to understand it better or identify with it in a way not immediately evident. 

Find art that appeals to you.

If you're looking for longevity consider buying from an established artist or one who makes art as a profession, not a hobby. Art as investment requires some risk, so like with any investment do your research. A collectible artist is sure to have a sales history or the potential for one. You could be their first sale but it's not likely. 

Go to gallery openings. It's a great way to see what's out there and to meet artists and collectors. Talk to everyone. There is a tremendous markup on art at galleries but that is not all bad. The galleries establish the value of the artists work. 
Example: If Joe Artist is represented by a gallery selling his work at ($x2). That is the value of  the piece. Joe is obligated to sell other works outside of the gallery or with other galleries at a comparable price. Undercutting one of the galleries would devalue all of his work even the pieces that have previously sold. No one would buy work from a gallery that they know can be purchased directly from an artist for a fraction of the cost. This in turn would cause the gallery to sever its relationship with the artist. In most cases that would cut the artist off from access to the large collector list that the gallery holds. The lack of representation in some ways discredits the artist as well. It is in the artists best interest to maintain that relationship with the gallery.  

Now, why buy art at twice the price that the artist is paid? For that markup the gallery does several things. Most importantly... brings potential customers to the artists work. Throws a big party for him/her. Negotiates on behalf of the artist, Follows up with patrons, former patrons and much more. In most cases, depending on the reputation of the gallery, art that makes its way onto the walls of a  gallery has been "pre-qualified". Most potential art buyers admittedly know nothing about art. Gallery owners are not always the best resource for this either, however they know what they can sell and to whom. For those reasons, they take the gamble for you, somewhat reducing your risk. 

The bottom line is you have to enjoy looking at the piece. It has to affect you somehow (make you happy, make you think, make you remember something, or someone, etc). If it's only quality is that it matches your decor, then it too will soon go out of style.  When addressing your other concern of passing the collection on to your kids, consider this. Who would want to receive someone else's dated furnishings that aren't  heirloom-worthy? They are likely to be sold, trashed or given away with the aforementioned matching sofa. 

Happy shopping.

Here's an art "expert's" response to a similar question. Click here

Do you have any tips that you'd like to share? Please comment with your thoughts on collecting art and/or how you started building your collection.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Like many of you, I jumped on the Facebook bandwagon and am now bombarded with daily, hourly or even to the minute status updates. Many are from what I would dub first tier friends; people I've known since childhood or those that have become close over the years, and family. The updates range from family photos or news of a new birth to play by play updates of football games. Many are of the ilk of useless announcements chronicling the days' lunch offerings. Facebook gives us license to play voyeur, peering into other peoples lives and minds to witness some of the most mundane and disposable information ever assembled. Much of which I could survive without. Early in my FB relationship, in the interest of self preservation I decided to weed out anyone whose posts were regularly steeped in venom or negativity. Some of my "brick and mortar" friends wholly reject Facebook as veritable timesuck and a frivolous waste of precious and limited time.

Today I came across a post from a FB friend who according to FB is also friends (via FB) with four of my FB connections. I've seen her posts before and wondered how I knew her. By looking at the friends we have in common I determined that I didn't know her, never knew her and was only connected with her via Facebook's connection wizard algorithm. Nonetheless, her icon is a pretty set of eyes and she often posts music or videos that I would occasionally find time to enjoy. By her photo, she comes across as mid to late 20's. Today I caught a proxy post to her account from what appeared to be a close friend with permission to access her account and post updates. It stopped me in my proverbial tracks giving me pause. I was compelled to scroll back through her most recent posts to put the stunning update into better perspective. Paging through her timeline I came to understand that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, one that her doctor suggested would take her life soon. I read on feeling a heavy sadness for this person whom I did not even know. I began to superimpose myself into her story. Me as her... my daughter as her, etc. The sadness I felt weighed on me such that I could not shake it for the rest of the day. It wasn't hard for me to imagine myself in her position and the people I'd leave behind. I was sad for them. I was sad for me and what I'd miss of their lives. Then I imagined she was my daughter and how sad it must be for a father to live the rest of his life with only the memory of an ill-timed loss of a daughter.

The thought still haunted me as my household went through its nightly bedtime routine. My son being only 6 months requires that my wife provide most of his care whereas my daughter of almost 2 years and I enjoy a nighttime ritual that ends my day with purpose. As 2 year olds are wont to do, she sometimes rejects the notion of going to bed even at the end of the practiced and carefully orchestrated routine. First, I help her into her pajamas (jj's she calls them). We brush our teeth and settle into the rocking chair to read 2 or 3 books before turning on some nighttime music and tucking her into bed. A parting salutation and the lights go off. Most nights she curls up sweetly in her bed clutching her stuffed animal du jour donning the most beautiful grin as she awaits her goodnight kiss. Tonight however like some other nights she wriggled and whined and resisted repose. Most restless nights, I just continue out of the room reassuring her and encouraging her to lie down and go "night-night". Most nights, I'm busy to get back to work. Most nights I'm busy to just get a little me time before going to bed myself. Most nights, like most days are filled with the "stuff" we do that makes up our lives. Tonight however, with the thoughts of the day's Facebook entries still weighing on my mind, I hesitated. I decided to stay and try a diplomatic wind-down. I attempted to reason with her insisting that we had already read the promised 2 books and that the rest of the house was also going to bed and that there was nothing more to do but to get back in bed and go to sleep. Not having it... If any of you have ever seen my daughter's "don't wanna go to bed yet" face then you'd understand why we climbed into the rocking chair and just rocked at her behest. Curled up in my lap, her head on my chest her tiny toes piddling against the palm of my hand, she sniveled "rock?" As we creaked back and forth, she shifting her weight to find the most comfortable positions, I couldn't help thinking how at best, I was destined to be absent for as much half of her life. "Pray?" she muttered. We prayed for our family and for that unknown girl. Neither of us could tear ourselves from that chair. We rocked, the lullabies droning on, the sound of her slowed breathing and an occasional *sniff*, her tear soaked hair against my cheek, the weight of her body sinking into my folds... we rocked.

Today's events have me remembering that it's neither the unbelievably low price we got on a flat screen for the bedroom nor the amount of stuff we amass; It's not the level of success we've attained at our careers nor the timeliness of our holiday card distribution that matter. It's the time we spend with one another that is most important. As we rush through our lives filling our days in the pursuit of happiness through ownership we lose focus on that which is truly valuable.... time. As I reflect on loved ones who have passed, I can't help remembering how often I deferred visits due to financial concerns or the naivete' that time was abundant. In retrospect the regret of time lost is greater than the gain of whatever it was that kept me away.

Our time is finite and not guaranteed. Lose focus of that and you will lose the best part of living. When doing your holiday shopping this year, try to remember that the greatest gift of all is already in your possession and give it generously.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What's In a Name?

When the French were settling in North America, one French adventurer staked a claim in what is now Detroit, Michigan dubbing it Ville d’etroit. His name was Le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. Some two hundred years later an engineer and gear grinder named Henry Martyn Leland bought into the failing Henry Ford Company (formerly Detroit Automobile Company) renaming it Cadillac, after the French settler. The Frenchman’s family crest was adopted as the symbol for the reorganized automaker.

Leland was known for his aptitude for precision and his interchangeable gear systems that he perfected while making transmissions for the Olds Gasoline Engine Works. He brought that innovation and attention to detail to Cadillac earning the company the coveted Dewar Trophy award for the standardization of automobile parts. Continuing the innovative trend, Cadillac became the first production automobile with a push button start rather than a hand crank. This opened the way for more women to become regular drivers. Cadillac soon drew the attention of William Durant, the founder of General Motors and was purchased for $4.5 million. Leland eventually left the company to form the Lincoln Motor Company.

Cadillac continued as a pioneer in the industry introducing the first V type water cooled 8 cylinder engine to be mass produced in 1915. By the 1920’s Cadillac was offering over 500 color combinations vs the competitions single shade of Black. Stylist Henry Earl was recruited to design the 1927 LaSalle convertible coupe. The result was elegant, flowing lines, chrome-plating and a comprehensive design philosophy that made the name Cadillac synonymous with beauty and luxury.

At the end of WWII designer Harley Earl changed the profile of American cars with the introduction of the tail fin thereby making it an integral part of American auto styling for the next 20 years. Over the years that followed the designers and engineers at Cadillac introduced the V-12 and V-10 engines, the sunroof, standard power steering, thermostatic air conditioning, electric seat warmers, air bags, electronic fuel injection… the list goes on and on.

When I was a kid the name Cadillac was kicked around to mean the best of its kind. Eg: The Cadillac of (fill in the blank). Today Cadillac continues to be the mark of precision engineering, excellence and luxurious style. With that kind of history and track record, you can’t help but wonder what they will come up with next.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Made In U.S.A.

I cannot escape the notion that Americanism is adrift in a swamp of quicksand. Its legs weighted, its movements labored, measured and consequential. Now don’t get all freaked out, I’m not talking about building a red white and blue wall around the Nation’s border or any other fascist ideal. I’m referring to the lost pride in ownership that we once had in this nation that seems to have yielded to an overwhelming tone of self-indulgence.

Community and I’ll say it again Americanism seems to be racing up the endangered species list fast on the heels of Company Loyalty, original television programming and captive wild animal shows. As a nation it seems we are chipping away at our long fought for and long cultivated identity.

We are a nation built by pioneers of creative thought and adventurous trail-blazers. Not forsaking Democracy, the American spirit is embodied in the marriage of Capitalism and philanthropy. It is personified by men like John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt and by characters like Forest Gump, Rocky Balboa and George Bailey. America is the place where hard work was not only rewarded but lauded. That hard work bestowed a sense of pride and a knowing that we were an important and integral part in something larger than ourselves.

The boon of the 80’s that survived until the current economic crash set the tone for the rebirth of the “Me first” generation. The late 80’s saw everyone jumping on the “I’m gonna get mine” bandwagon that recently gave way to the “Holy Shit, how can I keep mine” generation. Which coincidentally is the same generation as the first only with a giant slap in the face from the hand of reality.

As a result we (from the industry leaders on down to the consumers) have taken an opportunistic shortsighted approach to stabilizing our individual economies. Companies do this by outsourcing for cheaper labor and materials. Individuals contribute to the mess by only measuring the cost of foreign goods against domestic counterparts at the point of sale. The workforce has adopted a do only what is necessary and no more practice. The long term repercussion and cost to the overall economic health and growth of our nation be damned, “Is it 5 o’clock yet? and I need affordable tires.”

All of this leads me to my point and the genesis of this rant. I ask you:

  • “Would it truly hurt you to pay an extra percentage or so to keep another US tax payer working?”
  • “What is the true cost of an imported good when factoring in the human cost of foreign slave labor?”
  • “What are the ecological costs of shipping goods across the globe?”
  • “How many earned dollars will you have to forfeit to support a nation of unemployed factory workers?”
  • “How long before your job is outsourced to “Region 10” (code for India)?”
  • “Are you comfortable knowing that the cheaper auto part installed in your car may fail you and cost you more than money could ever buy?”
  • “Can’t we as Americans rise up and out-engineer, out-manufacture, and out-work any of our competitors?”

I’m just sayin’

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Return of American Muscle.

While procrastinating the writing of this latest blog post, I stumbled upon this gem of an article on the beefcake of the American road. Rather than re-craft an article paying homage to this one, I decided to just re-post the original, hoisted directly and word for word from the Arts & Leisure review.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS: Best muscle car ever?

The 2010 Camaro 2SS

If we had been asked whether General Motors could pull off a muscle-car revival, endowing a thoroughly modern, well-equipped automobile with the personality of an early GTO or Mustang, we would have bet the negative. And we would have lost.

Impressed as we were with the 304-horsepower 2010 Chevrolet Camaro V-6 we drove last fall, something wasn’t quite right. Maybe it was the faintly whiny exhaust note or the silky smoothness of the automatic transmission. The ride was unexpectedly quiet and smooth, the handling crisp and agile, more like a BMW 3-Series than the 1971 Pontiac GTO we briefly had the privilege of driving back in the day.

Then, more recently, we got our hands on the new Camaro SS. Subtly badged with the familiar red logo on the right rear quarter, the sweet-looking coupe’s 426-horsepower V-8 throbs and rumbles like the 396-cubic-inch V-8 of old. The lesser Camaros have the edge in price appeal, starting at $22,680, compared with a base price $11,000 higher for the SS. And they’re not exactly underpowered. But only 20 percent of the hot-selling Camaros are fitted with the cheaper V-6 package. The people who want muscle cars want the real thing, and the SS is it.

Our 2010 Inferno Orange Metallic Camaro SS, with a sticker price of $37,015, struck us as a solid value because Chevrolet factories aren’t turning out this model as fast as they can sell it. And when you add up all of its assets — the big engine, six-speed stick shift, luxury features and overall feeling of quality — you get the impression this Camaro will hold its value if you don’t drive it too hard.

The car’s only major drawbacks are the cramped rear seat, narrow trunk opening and poor visibility to the rear. (The standard Ultrasonic rear park assist made backing up a little less stressful.) Getting in and out of the Camaro’s front seat is fairly easy except when the car is parked in close quarters and the long doors can be opened only part way. As a practical matter, however, these aren’t deficiencies; they’re part of the price you pay for owning a muscle car.

We were grateful for the opportunity to put quite a few miles on our Camaro, driving from Bethel, Conn., to Bridgeport and Southington, among a number of shorter trips. The long hood, raised in the middle, was a constant reminder of the brute lurking underneath, but didn’t really interfere with frontal vision. The style and quality of the interior appointments are at a high level, so much so that this model compares favorably with premium Japanese and even European competitors.

The Camaro SS with standard transmission is rated at 16 mpg city, 24 highway. We averaged 20.5. The Camaro uses regular gasoline.

Is this the best muscle car ever built? Aficionados of the breed would quarrel, but an argument certainly can be made for a new Camaro that breaks new ground without abandoning its storied roots.