Thursday, August 18, 2011

Some comments responded to and a mentor's advice

I am writing this from a motel room in Helena, Montana. I am here because I am a guest artist this year in the Western Rendezvous of Art. The painting above is my piece in the show. I had a dreadful flight here, That went on for two days but I arrived last night so tired I was staggering. Now my days and nights are reversed it is after midnight and I just woke up. I love to travel and do it a lot, but sometimes it is disorienting. Hotel rooms are a great place to write blog posts, I have no distractions and no studio in which to work. As you all know, if I am awake I am working.

I think I will tackle a couple of the questions from recent comments, comments are often the impetus for good blog posts. I was asked several times about my formula for Pornstar Pink. I use
quinacridone red and pyrrole orange and flake white. Willamsburg's Persian Rose is very close but theirs is made with quinacridone violet and zinc white, I think. My Pornstar Pink is a little more electric pink, but if you want to try this color that is what you should buy.

I also received this comment;
Thanks Stape, but must staunchly disagree with you on your art and do nothing else philosophy. I have been a health practitioner for 30 years--get balanced man!!, exercise, eat well, relax, etc. I was a workaholic, going into an early grave. Terrible cholesterol, prediabetic, etc. and I quit, began eating well and exercising and taking time off. Hope this view gets across that you don't have to kill yourself to be a successful artist. Paint 5 hours a day, do yoga, meditate, take a vacation, have a balanced life and be successful artist too. Sorry, just my point of view.
................Pastor Defenses

Dear Pastor:
Does it seem a little ludicrous to you as a health care professional to advise a successful artist on how to be one? For many, even most people that is sound advice. But there is a level of performance and ability that cannot be achieved with that level of commitment. It all depends on what you want from your art. This is incidentally true of most of life's endeavors not just painting.If you want your art to be something that you do for a fuller life or are gainfully employed elsewhere that sounds like a good plan. BUT if you want to play in the major leagues, five hours a day won't take you there. The players at that level work incessantly and you won't operate at that level working part time. If you are in your twenties and have no children and no mortgage as I did, it is possible to concentrate on getting your "chops" together. Real application at this age when learning is easier and distractions are fewer will build a foundation that allows you to concentrate more on what you are trying to say later, rather than the mechanics of saying it.

Retired people who take up painting never catch up with those who have spent a lifetime honing their craft. I know that sounds hard but I believe it to be true and not heard very often in the popular art press. If you take up painting late in life and work at it only part time you may become a strong amateur painter, but you will not become a real case hardened pro. You might even put together a successful art business, but there is a level of ability that is closed to you. If you think about it I am sure you can summon up a list of the names of those who play in the upper brackets.

I am thinking about hiring someone to do yoga for me. My body is only a shopping cart I push my mind around in. I did drop 45 pounds since May though.

I was advising a friend recently, as I mentor a few people. I recommended that they pick a favorite painter, for them it was Willard Metcalf, but it could have been almost any painter who was first rate and then learn to work in that artist's style. This is a step beyond copying a painting by that artist (which is a good learning tool also) because it makes you really understand how an artist thought. I suggested that they go to a location and try to make a Willard Metcalf out of it. My intention was not they they become an imitator of Metcalf but that they thoroughly examine one way, a good way, of doing things. That gives them a sort of baseline. When confronted with a painting problem they will know at least one approach to solving it.


mike rooney studios said...

you are so right on!nobody achieving a high degree of skill only works at it five hours a day. crazy talk! name one successful practioner of anything that got there working a third of a day. with that mentality, i guess to be "unsucessful" all you'd have to work would be a 2 hr day.
when i read the comment i couldnt wait to click "comments" to see how you were going to respond. you were dead on. what i like is that you dont sugar coat your answers and tell it like it is even if its not what the majority of your readers will want to hear. Booyah Stape!

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

Breathtaking painting, Stape! Glad to see you back. Enjoy Montana now that you have you're over your jet lag!

barbara b. land of boz said...

I can say from having taken one of your workshops that you are a worker from first light to last light. Stapleton, if only I could have a smidgen of your work ethic I would already be listed as a master. I only hope to someday work as long and as hard as you do. You just sometimes need someone to show you the way.....

"Keep on keeping On Stape" everybody needs a body to show them the way!

stapeliad said...

Stape, that's one hell of a painting, very impressive, good luck at the show!

You really lost 45 lbs? When did I see you...beginning of June? were a beanpole...go have some extra ice cream.

Judy P. said...

I'm 56, and I started painting 3 years ago; you've written this before, and it's tough to hear, but I know it's true. I've trained regularly in traditional Japanese Karate for 30 years now, so I know what it takes to work hard for incremental, gradual development. In that way all the arts are the same!
All I know is that I am painting better than a few months ago, and that if I keep working hard I will be better than I am now. Also I think it would be presumptuous to expect to reach the level of a great master no matter when I started.

Silvio Silvestri said...

Pastor defends; Please note, I never advised you how to be a successful artist but how to live life longer. Perhaps you are one of those blessed to not have heredity factors leading to heart disease and diabetes-- thats great, work your tail off and stop reading this post. Unfortunately the greatest killer in our society is heart disease. This is preventable through excersize and nutrition. I know a very successful artist aged 43 that is having heart palpitations, early signs of disease. He was a workaholic and has two kids and they may miss him if he doesn't alter his life style. I also have known numerous artists who have committed suicide. Depression is treatable. I am recommending a rounded, balanced life where one can reduce stress and related disease causing agents. If you find this offensive, so be it. My proposal is simply hard work ( and be successful) can be coupled with attention to physical, mental, and dietary components. Work ten hours a day but excersize and eat right don't supersize 3 meals a day. (and I can be ludicrous from time to time, that is okay).

Stapleton Kearns said...

Silvio Silvestri ;
Your OK Silvio. I was just riffing on your comments. Didn't mean to be harsh.I actually eat a very healthy diet these days. I do however smoke cigars.

Todd Bonita said...

Just wanted to say, awesome painting Stape! Thats a real beauty. Nice to see Mike Rooney checking in too...Hi Mike. All the best to you all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stape,
I've been painting more and more each week. The only thing is though that after a while my back, and especially my shoulder, start totally killing me and I have to stop. How do you cope with this? I suppose you are so used to it that your body has adjusted... what do you tell students in pain?

Libby Fife said...

That last paragraph was really sound advice. Reverse engineering and analysis are great ways to figure out something, almost anything really. Solutions in your back pocket, even just one or two, are important when you are stuck. Thanks again and happy traveling:)

Andre Lucero said...

Dear Mr. Stape, Is it more difficult to keep a positive attitude about working hard with the downward trend in the market for art? I do not hear many artists talking about or admitting the affects that the changes in the market have on their art. Any thoughts? Thanks, Andre Lucero

Robert J. Simone said...

Makes me feel very appreciative of the time you spent showing me around Boston last summer.....
Thanks again.

Plein Air Gal said...

Love that painting! IMHO I think it's one of your best.

Philip Koch said...

45 pounds lost since May? That is one heck of a weight loss- surely you started doing something differently to make that happen.

I completely agree there is no substitute for working long hours at one's painting. And I agree also that someone who has started out in one's youth has an almost insurmountable head start on those who take up the brush later.

But I've seen some artists friends die prematurely (including just this year) who did nothing to take care of themselves. Our bodies are part of our painting equipment and have to be handled with care. My plan (and my hope) is that I can keep going into my 90's doing paintings that will continue to grow in depth and understanding until the end. Excercise, good diet, and rest are part of the regimen as much as hours at the easel.

I'm in this for the long haul!

Richard said...

I think there is a confounding of three things:

The time "practicing" necessary to maintain a high level of skill
The time necessary to produce a high volume of quality product
The time necessary for various health-related activities

I don't think most people realize how much time one has to put in to develop high level skills in art, sports, music, etc. It's been generalized to 10,000 hours over a ten year period. That's three hours a day for ten years. This is so that at the end of this ten years one has high level skills. One also has to keep up the same level of practice to maintain those skills. A famous violin said that, if he doesn't practice one day, he know it. It he doesn't practice two days, the critiques know it, and if he doesn't practice for three days, the public notices it. Assuming you're at the top of your game, if you are not continually painting, your skill level will drop.

Having "inventory" you have discussed in several places. While the art world artist can sell paintings for millions of dollars to collectors and museums, the gallery painter is not going to get those prices from home owners and decorators. Therefore he or she has to produce more.

The above eats up a lot of time, of course, but painting out of doors lugging a Gloucester easel is aerobic exercise. I don't think there is much benefit to doing some exercise that you hate in order to be healthy. I remember one scientific study that concluded that you extend your life by exactly the same amount of time that you run for exercise. If you don't like it, you shouldn't do it.


janice skivington said...

I am entranced by this painting. It is so beautiful, I just want to look and look. Wish I could see the real thing.
i am so very in agreement with you about the work thing. I am not "balanced". I don't watch television, rarely a movie, no sports or other diversions. I ONLY want to draw and paint. I am boring company in most social areas, but that is what it takes. (I have been criticized for my attitude, and it hurts my feelings to be misunderstood, so I am glad to hear and agree with you) You put it so well.
I really wish I did not have to cook meals or wash laundry, or any of the other thousand details, but , oh well some things have to be done like brushing the teeth I guess. Thank You Stapleton Kearns. Keep up all this inspiration. After I read a post, I feel like my army sergeant has just given my marching orders and I must get marching.

Cynthia Hillis McBride said...

First Stape, let me tell you how masterful this painting is. It works in every way . . . a real show stopper! Thanks for sharing it.

This post was on the money for me. Malcolm Gladwell said it best; it takes an average of 10,000 hours of practice to achieve competence in any skill. I’m one of those poor unfortunates who could not paint full-time until I retired. I find myself up against younger artists with far more skills than I can ever hope to achieve in the time I have left on this planet. For some unknown reason that has not deterred me. I know what I want my paintings to look like (I’m not there yet, may never be) but I keep on keeping on.

It would help to have a wife to take over the cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. All those mundane tasks of everyday living that are still my lot. Be very, very thankful you have a partner in your life to assume those responsibilities. You have the luxury of being able to paint whenever you want. Few do.

alotter said...

I accept that, at the age of 71, I cannot end up at the same point where I would have been had I chosen to pursue art as a career, but I hope what I am able to achieve has something worthwhile in it that derives from perceptions acquired over the decades. If I can't hope for that, should I stop trying? I don't want to die a gifted amateur.

The painting is OK, not one of my favorites though. I prefer the drama that you bring to more ordinary scenes. said...

Work hard. Eat pizza. Eat Chocolate. Eat chocolate pizza if you have to. And when in doubt, lie horizontal.

Brady said...

Good advice. Good painting.

I'm only in my 30's and I constantly feel the pressure to catch up to those who received excellent art training in high school or right after. Especially when I compare my stuff to 20 somethings graduating from ateliers and art academies.

I wish I had been a lot more serious about learning the craft back then. I hope I can make up for it by being extra serious right now.

My3Starz said...

Just for variety: Sometimes raw talent and life's experience and passions can create a fair match for a hard working painter of mediocre talent. I know some late starters whose work is every bit as good as peers who have worked harder and longer.

Not to say they wouldn't be even BETTER if they had painted full time their entire lives, but not every talented artist is in a position to do that full time from a young age. However, it is true, I know in any career where I have succeeded-or even just maintained the bills- it has taken very long hours.

Which brings me to health. Some of us need longer lives to make up lost ground. We can't all be made of spongy kapok. But healthy food (good work eating it) takes no longer to eat than unhealthy food, and an hour a day of exercise suffices for health. This does not leave only 5 hours for painting. One day off per week if you can get it, serves to recharge. So I don't think a part time painting schedule is necessary to be healthy.

I think many varieties of work styles lend themselves to many varieties of accomplishment in various styles. No one is ever going to be the technically best renderer ever born, but there are many ways to achieve valuable expression. Sometimes painting time is a valuable privilege hard earned later in life.

The artists who paint the most hours are probably best in most cases, but lots of other people are are pretty darn good, and their work serves to put art into the world and into their souls as well.

jeff said...

Silvio, if I had the choice of being Charlie Parker and making the brilliant music he made and dieing young from abusing my body and being a healthy accountant and living to 95 I would choose Bird any day of the week.

Jimi Hendrix died at 27, he's still blowing people away. That's the power of intense effort married with talent in his case.

I'm a pretty healthy person for the most part but it's absurd to think that by eating right and doing yoga your life is in control. You could take a step off a curb tomorrow and be hit by a car or a bus. Or go for a swim and get caught in an undertow and drown. Life is fleeting, and to quote one of the sages of modern music and philosophy, Fats Waller, “One never knows, do one”.

dglenncasey said...

I heartily agree with your idea of latching onto a favorite artist and trying to paint like them. Back in my younger days, when I played rock guitar, the debate amongst playing friends of mine was whether to try to play like one of your guitar playing heroes and I was firmly in the camp of, "hell yeah, do it." My thought on the subject was that if your hero was Eddie Van Halen and you worked your tail off and got to where you could play like him, you could then play anything he could play and EVH was no slouch when playing guitar. Then you could branch out, incorporate new things in your stylings and before you know it you would have your own, distinct style. Within the next month or so my intention is to paint some of my favorite Vermeers because I would have to say he is my favorite. Once I get to where I can paint like him, I can motor right on past him and develop more of my own style.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

The FFA requirement for minimum number of flight hours for a pilot is only 1500. I think they should up that to 10,000.

Poor Grandma Moses, who didn't start painting until she was in her 70s. But then, it shows, doesn't it?

I know several painters who went to art school with the intent of being fine art painters, and that's all they've ever done. They're not very well-rounded people, in my opinion, but some are great painters.

I enjoy meeting other painters who, in an earlier incarnation were truck drivers, surgeons and real estate agents. Some of them are pretty darn good, and I don't think it would take much to push them into the almost-great category.

But they do have to do the work and make up for lost time. They pretty much need to live and breathe painting, I think. You can tell who does and who doesn't.

clarkola said...

What are you saying-really...that someone who grows up speaking a foreign language will be better than someone learning it later in life?
yeeeeessssssss....oui...como no....
Is your point that noone should try learning things after say age 35?
Do these older people annoy you? Like Parisians are annoyed with English speakers attempting their language? Come on-don't hold back-let it rip-
I'm trying to understand why old students offend you-cuz I am one of them!
HOW did you lose 45 lbs? I just was at a workshop working hours on end, wiping out piles of bad paintings, and eating giant cookies.

Rae said...

I'm banking on you being wrong, although I realize you're probably right. I know you have to put in thousands of hours to get really good, and I certainly envy young painters who went to Ateliers or got to work with Master painters. And, it is true that when you have no training you second guess yourself at every turn. I may never feel like I know what I'm doing but I still feel compelled to do it. And I've come a long way in ten years-nowhere near where I want to be, but I have to believe I can get there. At any rate all I can do is give it my best shot.I would happily spend 10 hours a day painting but real life keeps getting in the way.

David Teter said...

Yes it still takes hard work but paint because you love it. Now it's not work.

@ zeta I had a pinched nerve in my back a couple years back. The doctor said "If you want to keep painting take certain precautions... avoiding repetitive motion disorder that anyone can get doing anything for long hours and years is extremely important."

That was my wake up call.

He gave me simple exercises to do to avoid later problems, once you get certain conditions it's too late.

Take frequent breaks, even short 30 second or 3 min breaks will make a difference.
Avoid standing/sitting the same way for extended periods.
You can get more info by looking it up.

I had to develop new habits... I now loosen back up constantly, roll arms, elbows out in a circular motion to loosen and 'reset' muscles back into their proper place. I think weightlifters know of this, opposing muscles and such.

Anything... move around etc. it's really common sense and none of it takes away from painting time, I do it , now as an unconscious reaction, whenever I step back to view the painting.

I don't notice problems anymore.

Lucy said...

That painting is a beauty!

I think most artists would agree that long hours of dedicated painting every day will extend your life. And a cigar now and then can't

Lucy said...


Antonin Passemard said...

yes yes yes ! Painting in an artist style teaches you how to solve problem and see like an artist. At the Beau Art in France I spent all my time copying masters.

Clem Robins said...

tough love, stape. but as it is written, faithful are the wounds of a friend.

Michael King said...

Stape... Why the addition of white to the Porn Star Pink? Is it to make sure when you modify the greens that they are not to dark?

hmuxo said...

short but sweet!! This painting is amazing! Love it!!

Sarah Faragher said...

Holy mackerel how I miss your more frequent blog posts, but HOLY MACKEREL how happy I am to think of you painting more extraordinary pictures such as this one instead of frittering time away on the computer.