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March 2011

February 2011

"There and Back" Opens March 4 at High Desert Gallery, Bend, Oregon


I am very pleased to invite you to "There and Back" - a two person show at High Desert Gallery in downtown Bend, Oregon that opens during the First Friday Gallery Walk on March 4, with an Artist Reception from 5 to 9pm.  I will be exhibiting seven new landscape paintings, and Oregon artist Dan Tilden will be showing his beautiful turned wood vessels.  This show runs from March 4 through April 5, and there is a very nice post about the details on the High Desert Gallery blog. 


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   Aspen Grove in November, 26 x 22  


I love the High Desert Gallery space, located in a beautiful area of historic downtown Bend.  Very high ceilings, exposed industrial elements, excellent lighting, and my favorite staff - Kimberley Mathews, the Bend Gallery Director, and Myrna and Todd Dow, the gallery owners.  Despite the challenging economic times this team continues to cultivate collectors for me from as far away as Canada and the East Coast.  I am honored to be represented by them and I appreciate the work that they do.


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Unnamed Stream, 30 x 30

Some of my favorite recent paintings are included in this show, and I hope I'll get the chance to talk with you about them at the opening reception.  I enjoy visiting with people about their reactions to what I paint, and they frequently ask me how I find my ideas.  I am basically a studio painter, but I spend a lot of time on a location, often returning in all kinds of weather, "looking for the painting."  By this I mean that moment when the personality of place reveals itself, which I then try to express through what David A Leffel describes as a single concept.


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Near Mitchell, 12 x 16

Our weather here is still bitterly cold, but I hope that those of you who live in Central Oregon will put on a second layer of warm clothes and come out to support the arts community during the First Friday Gallery Walk and Artist Reception on March 4, from 5 to 9pm.  It's one of the best ways I know to meet with people who just love art.

Golden Hour, 22 x 22

If you would like more information on any of these paintings,  please call Kimberly at 1-866-549-6250. 

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A Boy and His Dog, 6 x 8

High Desert Gallery, The Art & Soul of Central Oregon™ is an award-winning fine art gallery located at 10 NW Minnesota Avenue at The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend, Oregon.  High Desert Frameworks!, the award-winning framing studio is located at 61 NW Oregon Avenue at Lava in downtown Bend, Oregon. The gallery specializes in Central Oregon Artists & Beyond™ and Stellar Custom Framing. For more information please visit: or call toll free 1-866-549-6250.


The Trouble With Easy Questions

I have been actively painting for more than a decade, and by that I mean more than four hours a day every day, often up to ten hours.  Over time one would expect a certain degree of growth, and looking back I can see where ideas expressed as a naïve painter were often clumsy in thought and execution.  But by growth, what am I really looking for? 

My efforts to answer this question have led me back to the purpose of painting.  What has it meant over the centuries?  What does it mean today?  What does the public look for now in fine art? And what aspects that go into a successful painting do I need to strengthen in my own?

Painting is a visual communication - this is an obvious observation.  Its power emanates from the artist’s ability to engage the viewer in a visual conversation that is both intriguing and fresh in viewpoint – while creating a rich and aesthetically pleasing experience for the viewer.  But lately I’ve been wondering how the idea of growth might be caught between two competing ideas, one based upon the artist’s unique expression and the other focused upon the larger realm of accepted popular taste.

That might seem obvious too, since dealing with popular taste is not new for artists.  But what has changed in the last decade is the immediacy of this aesthetic experience. With a few clicks you can access work created by artists around the world, and the consequence of this loss of artistic isolation has yet to be explored.  How does visual immediacy affect the way an artist paints?  Or the way the public responds?  And how does the contemporary artist evaluate his or her own concept when compared to such an encompassing body of work, including all of Art History?  Again, simple questions with complicated answers.  How can we compete when the focus is too broad, the forces of popularity too mercurial?  The artist too caught up in this homogenous stew of visual expression might find himself in a large and competent company, but to what end? Good ideas cast aside because they lacked the time to mature?  Potential discarded because of market pressures?

Edward, on his blog FutureModern: thoughts on painting, has written extensively on this subject.  In 2006 he initiated a conversation with a series of posts about painting, including this statement:

What becomes important again is how the artist relates to the world and his art in a personal way. The stylistic means are all out there and up for grabs, one can just look at the kinds of work you like or take inspiration from. If the "new" becomes less relevant, more of a marketing factor than anything else, then new painting must compete with all other paintings in history. Placed in a contemporary context, who becomes more interesting Caravaggio or Katz?

So how do we marry the intention of meaningful work with current marketability, which can easily be identified through influences from Art History, styles of paint application, and specific subject matter?  How do we create work that is, as Edward says, “universal and personal at the same time?”

This is the question I ask myself each time I step up to the easel. 

And while the question seems easy, the answers are not.


Sophistication Pearls

Years ago I was attending a watercolor class and the instructor paused at my table, observing.  After a moment, he said, "you know, it's considered more sophisticated to paint objects by defining the negative spaces,"  before moving on dispensing criticism like little pearls. 

I remember what he said and have forgotten other criticisms because he identified a weakness in my approach by connecting the solution to a motive (improvement) instead of an obstacle (inexperience).

When critiquing my own work I often think about this sophistication pearl, as in "how can I create a more subtle treatment of this subject."  I don't always know the answers, but I have learned how to identify specific skills and then educate myself toward finding solutions.

Part of the adrenalin rush of creating art is finding a satisfying solution to the problems we set for ourselves.  And while we are painting for a larger audience we are, foremost, painting for ourselves. For what we want to communicate, what we can't articulate in any other way.

So when you set yourself up in advance to seeing obstacles instead of motives, you aren't looking for pearls, only bits of gritty sand.

And the only thing gritty sand is good for is itching in your bathing suit or wearing away at your ambitions, neither of which suggests a good outcome. 








Create Portfolio Images Like a Pro

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 Have you been faced with preparing a portfolio to submit to a potential gallery or juried show, and wondered if there was a better way to create a professional impression? 

I recently prepared the standard artwork CD, with accompanying printed thumbnail list, and realized my options for attaching information to my printed images were limited to ball point pen or a sticky label.  Not exactly the sort of impression I wanted to make.  So I started searching for a cleaner, more professional way - which meant paying a little more attention to all those tabs and gizmos in Photoshop Elements.

I've written a tutorial that details what I do now for my own images.  It's an easy to follow process if you have the basic Photoshop Elements on your computer, and if you've ever entered your artwork through the CaFE portal  you will be familiar with the resizing process. The result will present your work cleanly, with your name, the artwork name and information all attached to the image.  This can then be copied to the CD and printed out on high quality photo paper and included in your portfolio package.

Of course it's always the artwork and not the presentation that is paramount, and no amount of "presentation" will help you if your work is technically not up to the very high standards that exist today.  That said, if you are ready to look for a way to set yourself apart, consider this approach.

I would not use this method for any standard jury process where it is only necessary to show the artwork, but more and more shows and galleries request a portfolio package and for this, it would be quite appropriate. 

The full tutorial in listed under Resources for Artists and Patrons. Here is the link to How to Create Portfolio Images Using Photoshop. 


Fluid Expectations

So I have this dog.  And you’re wondering what this has to do with art - it’s a long story, but it goes something like this. 

Last year had more than it's share of challenges - not so unique, but my challenges led to the idea that maybe I should adopt a dog.

Dogs are supposed to be good for your mental health. And there she was, waiting at the shelter.  Bella, a beautiful yellow lab, who turned out not to be three, as described, but more like an experienced, determined seven.  Who not only has no leash manners (what’s a leash?), but apparently has been trained for retrieving, a process which includes responding to things like hand signals and whistles and running like mad through the brush, 80 pounds of nose to the ground, shoulders forward, pulling the, uh, new forever-home owner along like a sandbag. 

And so now I have this dog.  And what she's teaching me is that expectations are best enjoyed when they are fluid.   When we face challenges with our art, it's natural to invest emotionally in the anticipated outcome, and then struggle when the road turns another way. We can be locked into rigid inaction (walk on the left and with me, dammit!) or go with the flow ( as in dragged through the weeds).  Or we can find a way to adjust our expectations to fit our circumstances and work toward the best outcome.

What we can't do is give up. Because human creativity can be an uplifting force in ways that go beyond the obvious. 

What you do matters.

What you have to say is important.

How old or young you are, how recognized or obscure, how much your style is accepted or overlooked, even how well you walk (or don't walk) on the leash – if you have something important to communicate through your art then you must persevere.

It doesn’t have be anything more than this.