Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I said at the Rockport Demo.


Here's a painting I made recently. I put it into a show at the Rockport Art Association in Rockport Massachusetts. I did a demo there tonight. It went OK I guess, there were a lot of people there. I did all my usual silly schtick, a couple of ladies in the front row kept giving me disapproving looks. They saw the name Stapleton Kearns and were expecting Peter O'Toole and got a paint splattered old hippie. Actually I guess most of the audience enjoyed it. I am teaching a workshop there in Sept.

Here(with bullets) are some of the things I told them. You have probably heard these before, I repeat myself endlessly, but I am always trying to drive home some of the same ideas.
  • You cannot observe good design into a painting.
  • There are three stages in a Stapleton Kearns painting. (1) I am almost done! (2) Gee, I hope I'm doing this right. and (3) This was going to be really good.
  • When my paintings fail its not because they aren't accurate but because they are matter of fact.
  • The world has lots of ordinary paintings, it doesn't need another.
  • I throw about half the paintings I start on location away. I keep those that have something special about them, something unique or captivating.
  • I get way to hung up on the way the paintings actually look. I am the same way about music, I don't care about anything other than how it sounds.
  • I am a poet and not a journalist.
  • How do you know when to quit? I can continue to work on a painting as long as I can continue to make good decisions about it.
  • Like my high school girlfriend, my paintings often look best in dim light.
  • My favorite white is Lefranc, which I get from Jerrys.
  • I always listen to music while I paint, usually rock and roll.
  • Paintings have design, that is an underlying geometric structure. Design operates below the surface and its purpose is to imperceptibly tie the painting together and to give it a human imposed order that viewers find rational and appealing.
  • For everything I say you can find another excellent artist who does exactly the opposite. That doesn't mean there are not better and worse ways to make a painting. There are different goals that painters have and they use different means to achieve them
  • When I rule the world, all frames will have to be made of wrought iron. Better hang em on a stud. I am so sick of getting expensive frames back that are irreparably damaged.
  • There will always be enough blue in a sky. Skies work because of the presence of the other colors in them.
  • Whats the deal with Alex Katz anyway?

17 comments:

tdp said...

Hey Stape, (Love your name)...I was at the Rockport demo tonight - thanks - it was very interesting. You forgot to mention the guitar player in your blog...we want to go hear him...I'm always amazed by the magic a great artist can accomplish within one hour...lovely. Wish I could have heard more of what you said....maybe RAA needs to provide a lapel mike...Thanks again
Terry (David Piemonte's wife)

Sandra Galda said...

YOU WERE WONDERFUL STAPELTON!!! i WAS IN THE FRONT ROW! I thought it was a terrific demo and loved it soooo much thank you thank you!!!

Karla said...

"Like my high school girlfriend, my paintings often look best in dim light"

LOL! That is about what I said yesterday about my last painting. It looks pretty good with my glasses off in a 1/2 lit room. It was a painting of my high school boyfriend whom I married. He's still got it! Why do men age so much more gracefully than women? At least my portrait has more depth than an alex katz.

Philip Koch said...

I loved the three stages of a Stapleton Kearns painting part:

"(1) I am almost done! (2) Gee, I hope I'm doing this right. and (3) This was going to be really good."

Can't imagine there's a painter breathing who hasn't said that to him/herself a hundred times.

As to Alex Katz, there's a rumor he was actually a space alien who was left behind by mistake when the mothership left without him. Being resourceful, he decided to take up painting. On his home planet his ultra-restrained minimalist works would be considered Baroque excess.

mariandioguardi.com said...

Watching a Stapleton Kearns demo is like trying to take a sip from a fire hose (So much information :so little time).

Stapleton you did a great job here on the blog for those of us that were away. Once again,a great summary of your very important points . Gonna print this out and post it in my studio.

Alex Katz is in another "Art" dimension and there are some of us who travel there with him every once and a while. "Art" is a mystery. That's why we have to make the best paintings we can. And we can all learn how to paint and then we try to make a "good painting", thanks to Stapleton.

Durinda Cheek, Director said...

Question: what did you mean by "you cannot observe good design into a painting?"
I am confused by the term "into". I read it first as "in a painting", but that didn't sound right either.
Clarify?
Thanks, love the painting, will see your demo in person someday!

michael said...

I was doing fine until I hit the last bullet, when the Katz comment caused me to half-choke my coffee and shoot it out my nose. There's nothing puts a burdock in the shorts of a Yankee figurative painter like the name Alex Katz. Maybe it was that time in Skowhegan, or all that Colby love. Regardless, I have come to see Katz, Kinkade and all those folks as "useful" also; in the same sense communists used the term politically, "useful idiots". Before I get any nasty reply from readers, I am not calling them "idiots"; Wiki has a good definition that explains my meaning. Here's an example; some time ago, a man came up and looked at a few of my paintings, "gee, this painting is kinda like Thomas Kinkade" says he. I bit my tongue until I tasted blood, smiled and said "thank you." About an hour later, he circled back, looked at the painting a long time and said, "you know, this is better than Kinkade," and bought the painting. I don't think Katz is any worse than Bob Ross and his "happy little trees" in that sense. All of these people who achieve fame, awards, wealth...who do it with figurative work regardless of our interpretation of the validity of that work do one important thing; they tell the public that figurative painting is not "dead"; that it IS important, respected and collectible. I'm not sure that's such a bad thing.
Wicked funny post Stapleton. But paint splattered hippie? Between military school and hanging out with all those old important painters, I had a completely different vision. Paint splattered Brahmin half-way to curmudgeon? I hope you do get to California!

Bill said...

What's the deal with Alex Katz? His work exemplifies something you talk about a lot - good design. I've got a catalog from a show of his small paintings and many of them are quite wonderful - I really prefer them to the large paintings. If you are interested in good design in painting, his work is well worth a look.

Bill said...

I have to say, I've never heard Alex Katz and Thomas Kinkade mentioned in the same sentence. For what it's worth, I was browsing through a book of Kinkade paintings at the library once, and it had a small sampling of his plein aire works - those were actually pretty good, they were quite a contrast to the schmaltz we all are familiar with. My theory is that Kinkade is very talented, but he uses his talent for evil rather than good.

michael said...

@Bill; yes, the plein air book is an old story. I am not comparing the painters, the work, or individual subjective interpretations of it. It's the same thing as putting Monet and le Page in the same sentence. It doesn't matter. I was making a bigger point beyond the easel.

Jan Blencowe said...

Hi Stape, As always a cut to the chase, straight forward, worth its weight in gold list of do's and don'ts for serious painters. No high falootin' platitudes just plain old fashinoned good advice from a master, thanks for sharin'!

DJ said...

Wrought iron sounds good to me; they'd prolly figure out a way to damage that too, though...
Have a great weekend, and hope you're painting.

Mary Byrom said...

I love the 3 stages! And Peter O'Toole ! Yes, you do look like Peter O"Toole in your tiny blog photo on the computer screen...its just in real life you don't talk like him. Maybe that's was why they were shocked.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Your painting is beautiful. How long did this one take you?

I'm sure that the demo went well, one of those on the edge of your seat will he be able to finish this affairs. Your are truly a sight to behold when you are working. Love the bullets too!

Woodward Simons said...

Yeah Stape, when I met you many years ago now - I was picturing someone with maybe a bow-tie... someone refined, wealthy and probably British.

for those of you that don't know, I met Stape while he was sitting on the tail-gate of a truck. He had one a wrinkled striped T-shirt and jeans ( think). He hopped off the tail-gate, shook my hand and said, I'm Stapleton Kearns.

I immediately replied, "You can't be Stapleton Kearns!" I was so shocked!

Woodward Simons said...

Sorry I missed the demo. I'm sure it was totally informative and entertaining.

Arborescence said...

I liked your three stages of a painting. They are very familiar to me.