All content copyright 2011, 2012, and 2013 by Keith Russell.

Any copying, downloading, etc. of any portion of the contents of this blog--including photographs and artwork--without written permission from Keith Russell,

is not nice...and not legal!

27 December 2010

Still Unmoving...Still

I saw a television commercial over the weekend that adverised a new digital camera with (I guess) more advanced "movie" capabilities than many of the currently-available consumer digital cameras on the market right now.

The commercial emphasized moving images over still images, and seemed intent on persuading potential buyers that still photographs are so..."yesterday".

It's certainly nothing new to want to make "home-movies" of life's special occasions; weddings, graduations, performances, etc.--but advertising a camera by suggesting that moving images are superiour to still imagery, is something I don't remember seeing before in an advertisement.

There is a place for both moving and still imagery; a place for home movies (& commercial motion pictures!), just as there is a place for drawings, paintings, photographs, and other forms of still imagery.

I'm not worried that a commercial for a consumer-level digital camera is going to cause too many folks to lose their ability to appreciate "still" imagery. Certainly, afficianados are not going to stop making and/or enjoying (still) photographs, paintings, or (still) digital imagery.

But, if the notion that still imagery is "antiquated" takes hold to the point that only afficianados remain interested in still imagery, we will have "lost" something that has been essential to artistic contemplation for millennia.

I was surprised, disappointed (and saddened) that an advertising agency would view this approach as appropriate to selling something. After all, when the new model year's digital cameras hit the stores, this commercial will be replaced with a new one, too.

But, if the idea that moving imagery is "better" than still images takes hold, it could be around far longer.

That's certainly not a good thing (in my opinion, anyway!)

At last, my new website!

Like all websites, mine is a work in progress. At the least, it it useful enough, with images, dates for upcoming shows, link to this blog and other cool places, etc.

Check it out:

Thanks, and Happy Holidays!

24 December 2010

Year's End...

I know I haven't blogged much, lately. I've been very busy finishing a commissioned piece before Christmas (and since it's a surprise) I'll be posting pictures and comments after Christmas.

I have a little more than a month to finish whatever work I'm going to show in February; a a little less than three months to get ready for the April Show. It seems like plenty of time, but (trust me), I know better!

The gallery where I'm showing in April wants to make postcards to advertise my show, and I'd like to feature a new painting, which means I need to paint something new! So, that's my second task for next month--first, I need to finish a drawing of my girlfriend's kids, promised over a year ago.

I'm hoping to have the drawing finished by the 7th.

I'm going to clean the studio over the next couple of days, and I hope to spend quite a bit of time on Sunday, working on the drawing...

16 December 2010

Features and Coming Attractions...

So, it's December 16th. I have no idea how that happened--it was mid-October just a few weeks ago!

Then--suddenly--it was much, much, later...

The commissioned sculpture is nearly done. Since it's going to be given as a Christmas gift, I'm not going to post any more pictures of it until after Christmas. But, I will post some pictures. (I promise.)

I think it's turned out well.

I met with the client Tuesday, and he was very pleased with it. (Honestly, I think he's surprised that it actually exists. I used to have truly horrible work habits; I've worked very hard to overcome them as well as I have...)

So (now that it's mid-December) I have, basically, six weeks or so 'til the February show. I had such grand plans. I was hoping to have a dozen new paintings, and several new sculptures, ready for the February opening. (Four months seems like a long time, but it's not!)


There will be at least three new paintings, plus one re-working of an older one, and at least one new sculpture. I'm still hoping to have a decent amount of work (I'm going to include two or three relevant pieces I did at school) without having to show any of the Faces that were exhibited in September.

But, the really cool new stuff will be shown in April. I want the 36x60 inch canvas done, one or two of the panels (prepared with the "Traditional Gesso") done, the three narrow panel paintings (Arachnaverte was the first of these; the other two still need to be finished) and at least one new sculpture. I still probably won't have as much work in that show, quantity-wise, as I'd planned, but (mainly) the work must be quality.

Stay tuned.

You're gonna see it all here, first!

29 November 2010

Making Progress...

I've prepared three panels, so far, with Gamblin's "Traditional Gesso". The 36x48 inch panel turned out to be the wrong proprtion for the painting I had in mind, so--since I already had heavy duty stretcher bars the right size, plus plenty of raw canvas--I prepared a 36 x 60 inch canvas, which I'll use for that painting instead.

I don't know, right now, what I'm going to paint on the 36x48 inch panel, but it's ready to go, whenever I decide.

I've started sketching out the basic composition to a new painting on one of the "smaller" (30 x 48 inch) "traditionally gessoed" panels. This is a "re-do" of a painting I started in college (seniour year, 2006 -2007) but never finished. I'm looking forward to doing it "right", this time.

So far, I'm really liking how the "Traditional Gesso" surface responds to charcoal pencil--and to erasing, too! The next step will be to find out how it responds to paint...

I've finished the legs on the commissioned tarantula sculpture. I'm going to try to finish sculpting and painting it (and the drawing of my girlfriend's children) this week. My client called last week to make sure it would be done in time for him to give it to his wife for Christmas, and he seemed genuinely pleased when I told him it would be. (Yes, it's good when people like what I do and are willing to pay me to do it!)

14 November 2010

Sun Spider finished...

This is a new painting, Sun Spider, 3x3 inches, oil on panel. I've bought a bunch of small, square frames over the past year or so, and am finally getting around to making some miniature spider paintings, which I'm going to offer in my Etsy shop.

Sun Spider
is the first of these paintings. There will be no reproductions of this painting, so its owner will have a true, original work of art.


Panel Preparation for New Painting...

This is how I prepared my latest panel: a 36x48x1/4 inch oak plywood panel.

I bought a sheet of 4x8 foot oak panel at the hardware store, cut a 36x48 inch piece from it. I mitred some pieces of select pine to "cradle" the panel. These were then glued into place around the edges, and three additional pine pieces were glued across the back for bracing.

I used a bungee cord to pull it tight at the corners (photo 1), then And it was clamped along the entire length as it was glued (photo 2), then I weighed the braces down (since I didn't have clamps wide enough to reach across the panel - photo 3.)

This photo should give you a clearer idea of how the panel was constructed.

(I have a router and several dovetail jigs, and plan to dovetail the cradling on my panels from now on.)

Gluing the four pieces of the cradle and the bracing took a couple evenings.

I had been wanting to try Gamblin's "Traditional Gesso" (titanium dioxide, gypsum, animal hide glue, marble dust) for quite some time. I had purchased some (and a double-boiler) several months ago. I decided to use it on this panel, to see how I liked it.

Last week, I mixed up one batch of the "Traditional Gesso" and applied it to the front of the panel. The gesso gets very thin and runny after heating. I ended up applying four coats, sanding with 150-grit sandpaper between the second and third coats, and 220-grit sandpaper between the third and fourth coats. Preparing the panel with gesso took three evenings.

The panel's surface is super-smooth, and very white, and has a slight "chalky" feel.

Why paint on panel? (And, why go to all this time and trouble?)

Firstl, I don't like the "give" of stretched canvas, especially when working this size. Painting on panel feels very much like painting on illustration board, which I did for many years as an airbrush artist. Second, I don't like the canvas' texture. If I want texture in my paintings, I want to put it in, myself. Otherwise, I want the surface to be very smooth, far smoother than canvas usually is.

The trouble is because I want to know what it's like to paint on "real" gesso, as opposed to the "plastic"-feeling acrylic-based stuff. I might not like it (and for that, and many other reasons, this whole painting could fall apart, and I would either have to start over, or scrap it altogether. Either way, I'll have learned something.)

08 November 2010

Nearly ready to begin...

So far, November is proceeding rather well. I picked up the check this morning for the airbrush work I did last weekend, and most of my errand-running is now done for the day. I'm hoping to work on the sculpture, a drawing of my girlfriend's kids (that I've promised her for Chanukah this year (I began the drawing on the first day of Chanukah last year!) and do the final sanding on the 36x48 inch panel I've spent the past week preparing (a process I described in my previous entry) today.

I'm planning a detailed seies of posts about the painting I'm planning for that panel, which will be also be posted as a "Work In Progress" thread in the oil painting forum at I'm going to cover every step of the painting process, and also highlight the thinking that goes into the painting: conceptually, as well as technically.

This will be my first "major" painting since graduation, and I'm really going to push myself with this painting. I'm going to try to have it done in time to show at the group show in February, but it must be finished in time for my solo show in April (along with several other pieces--including at least one other "major" painting--which I will also post here, as well.)

Anyway, enough about what I'm going to do.

Lots of cool stuff coming soon.

Thanks for reading!

(The picture is Sun Spider, a work-in-progress, 3x3 inches, oil on panel.)

01 November 2010

Deadlines and Commitments...

November begins; five months to my solo show.

I mixed up some Gamblin Traditional Gesso last night; I’m going to prepare at least one panel tonight. (You have to wait 12 – 24 hours after preparing the gesso—and it has to be heated in a double boiler—before it can be applied to a rigid support.)
I’ve been working on a new, two-figure drawing for the past month or so, and I can’t wait to get started on the painting part (but patience is a virtue). I’m hoping that this painting will be good enough to serve as the “centerpiece” for the show.

Time will tell.

I’m feeling really good right now. I spent six hours Saturday afternoon airbrushing flat colour onto four sheets of expensive, handmade paper, for a lady who does restoration work for several museums around the world. The colour I was applying needed to perfectly match the colour of the backing paper on a Chinese screen she had restored. She was pleased with my work (and a little extra money will come in very handy at the moment!)

You really can’t over state how good it feels to successfully complete a demanding task!
* * * *

I made a list of the pieces I want to create for the show in April, and I made a separate (and, honestly, rather reasonable) list of the work I need to complete this month. I’m going to pay particular attention to making sure I spend three to four nights each week, working in the studio. I wasn’t able to do that in October (for a variety of reasons), and I want to feel like I’ve “kept up” with my “list” in November.

* * * *

I have made a good start on the commissioned tarantula (see photo). It needs to be done (along with several other projects) by the end of this month, and I think it will be.

So, the month is off to a good start, and my main “task” is simply not to lose any momentum.

25 October 2010

I haven't been in the studio (to actually work) in several days.

We spent this part weekend at a very enjoyable and informative seminar, but it kept us away from the house Friday night, pretty much all day Saturday (we arrived home around midnight) and again 'til the late afternoon yesterday. Last night, we got together with friends for dinner and a (DVD) movie.

It's fun, and I don't begrudge our friends a bit, but I'm feeling very "out of balance".

And the week isn't looking good, as far as having much time to spend in the studio.

Tonight, I did finish the basic assembly of a large panel, which will become my next "major" painting. I've been working on the drawing for several weeks, and I'm nearly ready to transfer it to the prepared panel, and really start "finishing" the drawing--but I probably won't have time to prepare the panel, this week.

I have completed the armature for the commissioned spider sculpture (see photo) and I have started work on two other paintings.

But I have a great deal of work to do before November ends, in order to really feel "caught up".

I hope I make it!

30 September 2010

Another show!

Well, liora and I went to the gallery last night to remove my paintings, and there's a "sequel" of sorts ("Love Life 2") scheduled for February. The owner of the gallery wants the artists who showed there in September, to show again in February.

So, I guess it'll be a "preview" of the new stuff, before the solo show. I'm not going to show nearly as much work in February (even though I'd better have tons of stuff ready by then), but I do plan to give folks a "taste" of what I've been up to.

And, I'm going to have flyers there promoting the solo show. (I mean, I know lots of people, but the owner of this gallery knows everyone, so if I can get a few of the folks who show up in February to come to my show in April, too, well, more is better.)

But, it doesn't look like I'll be getting much sleep 'til April!

29 September 2010

Endings & Beginnings...

I'm bringing the paintings home from the show tonight, and I have mixed feelings. The show was really well-attended, lots of people saw my stuff, and it feels really good to "officially" be part of "the art scene" in Kansas City (again).

Still, I'd hoped that more paintings would sell. I did sell one piece directly as a result of this show (and someone else is very interested in one other piece.)

And, a friend commissioned a small sculpture of a spider last week, which will be fun to do. He wants something a bit more "naturalistic" than the spider sculptures I've made in the past, and the ones I'm going to make for the show in the Spring.

I have six months (October, November, December, January, February, & March) to get new pieces ready--and I have a ton of art I want to make. Six months seems like enough time (barely) to create a decent body of work, but I work rather slowly--and I want this to be a really fun, really cool, show!

In the next six months, I'm planning to make three "major" allegorical paintings (each of which will be fairly large), three other paintings (slightly smaller), and about a dozen (or so) much smaller paintings of various sizes, and three to six (relatively small) sculptures.

One painting and one sculpture are ready, and three more paintings are under way.

But there's still a long way to go...

16 September 2010


I visited the gallery again last Sunday. I had hoped to make some real progress on a new painting, but the windy day combined with a sputtering airbrush, and I wasn't happy with the results. At one point, I even borrowed a can of Montana Gold spraypaint, but although I loved the coverage, it didn't adhere to the panel the way I wanted. The paint stayed on the surface (almost like a layer of pastel dust), and was easily wiped away, leaving nasty, thin streaks where intense, velvety colour had been.

After only a couple hours (having intended to stay for three or four), I started packing up my gear, feeling upset that I hadn't accomplished anything, and starting to feel that the afternoon had been a waste. I said good-bye to everyone, and the owner of the gallery stepped outside to invited me to come back and paint again next month.

He also told me that he was interested in buying one of my paintings, and he was bringing some out-of-town friends of his through the gallery this coming weekend, to see the show.

So, it looks like two of the paintings in the show are "spoken for".

And, the trip to the gallery was not a waste, after all.

05 September 2010

The Show!

This past Friday was First Friday, the day Kansas City galleries have the opening receptions for their new exhibits. This was my first time exhibiting at a commercial gallery (a gallery dedicated solely to exhibiting and selling art), and my first time exhibiting during the First Friday festivities.

My girlfriend, Liora, and I (pictured--Liora made me the silk shirt I'm wearing, the day before the show) set up my paintings Thursday night. Hanging the nine paintings took longer than I expected, because the spot set aside for my work, was different than I originally thought. The new spot was a better location, but I couldn't use nails there. I had to suspend the paintings from fishing line attached to a bar that ran along the top edge of one wall.

I didn't know what to expect the night of the show. Liora and I arrived at the gallery around 5PM. I had one last painting to hang, and I helped a couple other artists hang their stuff. We had a chance to walk around, see each others' work, and visit a bit.

The show ran from 6:00 'til about 9PM, and after about 6:45, 'til about 8:30, the place was packed. We had a DJ spinning some discs, and a rapper joined in later in the evening. The beats were a bit too loud to allow casual conversation inside the space--but the weather was perfect, so stepping outside to chat with someone wasn't a problem.

Lots of friends and family stopped by; many had not seen any of my recent work. (Eight of the nine paintings were completed within the past year.) The reactions were all very positive. Everyone really liked the spiders, but really would like to see the next ones made larger. I'm hoping to be asked to show again at this gallery, soon. (But not too soon; I need to get some new work going!)

I didn't sell anything opening night, but three people approached me, sincerely interested in my work. The work will be hanging for the next few weeks, so anything could happen.

03 September 2010

Another finished painting!

I've been working on this for a couple months, or several years, depending on how you look at such things.

I painted a "background" on this panel back in 2005, but never did anything else to it. About a year ago, realizing that the original background was "weak" (and quite dusty), I re-painted the background.

A couple months ago, I repainted it again, making it more "dramatic", then began working on actually painting something (other than background) on the panel.

(Given that oil paints become more transparent over time, in about fifty years or so, this thing ought to look really spectacular, with it's dozens of layers of green and blue paint!)

So, this is Arachnoverte, oils on panel, 9x27 inches.

It's going in the show tonight, at 1809 McGee Street, about three hours from now!

19 August 2010

Coming soon...

Strangely enough, I've been feeling a bit scattered lately. I'm still not finished with the photo-retouching project, and I really want to be done with it, so I can get to work on the pieces that need to be finished for my show.

There will be photos (and a blog-entry) about the photo-retouching, showing several views of the piece as it progresses. I also have some photos of the progress on the new spider painting--and I'll upload those soon, as well.

I spent about two hours last night retouching the photo, and I'm probably going to spend another hour or so this morning, and hopefully I can finish it tomorrow night. (That would give me exactly two weeks to finish everything I want to have ready for the show, September 3rd).

I hope that's enough time...

16 August 2010

Finally...a SHOW!

Since the first of the year, I've felt--two or three times--like I was very close to setting up an exhibit of my work, and it didn't pan out. I was honestly starting to wonder if there was something wrong with me, my work (or both).

Earlier this year, a local artist I know was trying to help me line up a show. He suggested a couple galleries he thought would be a good "fit" for my work.

I contacted the first gallery he suggested within a day or two after he mentioned it. But, by the start of their next opening, the place had changed hands, and the new owners weren't sure they would continue operating the space as a gallery.

At another gallery my friend recommended, the contact person quit the day after I emailed her.

So, last week, another artist friend of mine told me that the place where he's exhibiting in September still needs more art, to fill their space for their First Friday show on September 3rd. It seemed like a real possibility--but I knew better than to get my hopes up.

I talked to my friend today, and he was stopping by the place tonight, and he said the gallery owner would be there this evening, too. So, I stopped by after dinner, and took three of the "Invented Face" paintings with me. The owner of the gallery was very complimentary, really seemed to like my work.

So, I'm in!

I'll be showing 9 - 12 of my new paintings at the Mod Gallery, 1809 McGee St. in downtown Kansas City. It's a cool gallery space, across from two other galleries, and a couple of shops away from a popular gourmet chocolatier. I expect that the show will be well-attended.

The show opens Friday September 3rd, at 5:30 PM.

On the way home, my step-daughter asked if this was my first show. No, it's certainly not my first show.

But, it is my first show in a commercial gallery (yes, ever!), and my first "serious" show since graduation (more than two years ago, kind of pathetic!)

I'm very excited, and have lots of work to do!

13 August 2010

Four Days of Fun and Frustration...

It's often really difficult to find a comfortable "balance" between socializing, "everyday life", and making art.

Yesterday was the second of four very busy days--days I'm not going to be able to spend much time (if any) working on my own paintings. I plan to spend quite a bit of time in the studio Monday--and I will be working on my own stuff, at least some of that time..

I worked on the photo-retouching project Thursday during the day, met with my client that afternoon. (He likes what I have done so far--a relief, not that I was terribly worried, but--and he wants the finished piece early next week.) Thursday night was spent at a surprise birthday party for a good friend. Last night, we had dinner with a friend, after which I took my stepson to see the movie The Expendables. (He leaves tomorrow for a week in Detroit with his father, so last night was our only chance to see the movie 'til he returns.) Tonight, Linda and I are going out with friends, and tomorrow night I'm teaching an airbrush class.

So, starting Monday and over the rest of next week, I'm going to really try to say "No" if I'm asked to spend more than a couple evenings away from the studio.

I need the coming week to be very productive!

07 August 2010

A "Time Management" Epiphany...

Some friends came over Thursday night and I showed them the new spider painting. They were very positive about it--which always feels good. I wasn't really surprised that they liked it, but I guess I wasn't exactly certain that they would, either.

But they did.

We're getting together with these same friends again this coming Thursday, and it struck me that a week should be enough time to finish the painting.

Usually, I think of my studio time as "time"--I plan to spend an hour, two hours, four hours, five--working in the studio. Most of the time, I feel that my studio time is "hemmed in"; that I have a certain amount of time before I have to stop working, in order to get to work, or head to an event, or stop working in order to get enough sleep.

It struck me the other day, as I was thinking about getting the new painting done before this coming Thursday, that this might not be the best approach.

I'm going to try giving myself a tangible goal in the studio, and worry less about time. Rather than spending two hours, then stopping no matter how much (or how little) I've accomplished, I'm going to try setting more tangible goals; to finish a portion of a painting or drawing, no matter how long it takes.

I want to be more productive, and finish the "Face" paintings, the three new spider paintings, and produce the drawings that will be the basis for the next series (or two).

Maybe this is the way...

02 August 2010

Birthday weekend...updates.

We're celebrating my birthday tomorrow; going to see "The Girl Who Played With Fire" in the afternoon, then out to dinner. I think I'm ready to be 44--but there are numerous things I want to accomplish before I turn 45. (The clock is ticking...)

I worked on the photo-retouching project for a few hours today. A friend I've known since the 8th grade dropped by this afternoon, and kept me company while I retouched the photo. That brought back some very old, good memories of times when he and I used to stay up late, with me airbrushing on the floor in my parents' basement, while he and I chatted about life, women, philosophy, women, politics, art, music, women...good times!)

After he left, Linda and I went for a relaxing swim, then I went back to work in the studio after dinner. (A declicious homecooked dinner, by the way!)

My studio is gradually getting more organized. I found several things today that I'd misplaced--including some parts to a shelf that I needed, so I could get some more CDs off the floor, on the shelf, and sorted. (With nearly 2,000 CDs, keeping them organized is essential to finding what I want to listen to, when I want to hear it!)

I spent quite a bit of time last week working on one of the "Face" paintings, and the photo-retouching piece, and the new spider painting. (The photo is a detail of the new spider, taken a couple days ago. The photo is shown approx. actual size. It's a little further along, now. I'm hoping to finish it this coming week, once the photo is fully re-touched.)

I have six prints uploaded to my Etsy site; I'm not going to offer any more prints for sale, until some of the current listings sell. The next piece I'm going to upload to Etsy will be a small original painting, probably of a spider, a small caricature, or perhaps a new spacescape.

I have two dozen or so small, ornate frames that I'm going to use to frame numerous small, original paintings. These will be offered for sale at Etsy. I won't be having these photographed, so there won't be any prints of these, anywhere. Anyone who buys one of these will have a true original, one-of-a-kind painting!

23 July 2010

Photo-retouching in the Age of PhotoShop...

For several years, back in the late '80s, I did quite a bit of freelance work for a local commercial photography studio, retouching photos that needed (for whatever reason) a bit of "help", with my airbrush. Of course, within a few years, everyone was "correcting" their own photos, via the computer and programs like PhotoShop.

Still, every now and then, someone has a photo that needs some work that cannot be done with a computer! If a photo has been signed, or someone has written a dedication on the back of the photo, etc., scanning the photo into a computer, retouching it with software, then printing it out only produces a corrected copy. But, only the original--not the copy--has the actual signature, dedication, etc.

I was recently asked to retouch an old photograph by a guy I met at work. He's spent quite a bit of time re-touching it "by hand", but the client doesn't have the budget to pay for much more of his time. I believe I can bring it to a reasonable amount of "finish", using the airbrush, and much faster than it could be done by hand. (We'll see.) If my client likes the results, I'm hoping to be asked to do more work of this type in the future.

12 July 2010

Another new spider (in progress), and other stuff...

It's been a couple weeks since my last entry, and a busy couple of weeks its been!

I finished another one of the Faces, and I'm planning to finish at least two more by the end of the week. Over the last week or so, I started feeling a little bored with the newer ones--the ones I'm still working on--thinking that maybe the most recent ones weren't as interesting as some of the earlier ones.

I need to keep focused on that fact that most of the people who are going to be seeing them, won't know which ones were painted first, next, or last; everyone will have their favourites, no matter how good they all are.

I just need to finish them, and stop worrying about how "great", "good" (or "less than great") any of them might seem to me.

I started working on a new spider painting last week (pictured). This is being painted in oils on oak panel, about 12 x 28 inches. I have two more panels built, the same size, for two other spider paintings...coming soon.

I picked up a little extra freelance work this week as well; I taught three beginning airbrush students this afternoon, and I'll be working on a photo-retouching project over the weekend and into next week.

03 July 2010

Another three day weekend!

It was a really long week; I worked nearly forty hours in four days, and that after camping last Saturday to Sunday. We met with several friends for dinner Wednesday night, and visited a couple close friends last night--but I did spend some "quality time" in the studio Thursday night (working on the final egg-tempera layer of the "Mische Technique" painting).

We're going out tonight, and have been invited to a party tomorrow afternoon, so I'm planning a full day (and night) in the studio, Monday.

There never seems to be enough time! (And I'm sure I'm not the only artist who has ever said that!)

I've decided to stop looking for a gallery at the moment, and concentrate on getting the Face pieces finished. Maybe that's what I should have been doing all along, but I have felt like I'd be more inclined to push myself, if I had a show (with accompanying deadline) already lined up.

Honestly, considering the "commercial" distractions (plus moving in April!) I've been pretty good at staying focused in the studio, and working on these paintings. Actually, I think I'm getting better at it, and am more productive now, than I was a year ago.

There are numerous paintings and sculptures I intend to make, far more than I can complete in a reasonable amount of time. Being more organized (and staying that way!) will become more and more crucial.

23 June 2010


I've felt really "lost" since the last time I posted an entry. I'm not even sure when my last post was--I didn't look. (I know I could have; I just didn't.)

I started reading Immanuel Kant's "Logic" earlier this month, then lost my copy of the book. I started working on a drawing of my girlfriend's kids (again, it was actually started last fall) then misplaced my references. I've been wantning to take lots of pictures this summer: of clouds, spiders, and a couple local (Kansas City) landmarks--and it rained every day for more than a week.

Anyway, I'm starting (over the last couple of days) to feel (just a little) more "balanced". I taught an airbrush class last weekend, and it went well; I worked in the studio for nearly three hours last night (and it was a very productive three hours!) and I'm going to do more work there again tonight.

I found the references (and the drawing is coming along nicely!)

And, I found my copy of "Logic", and am (slowly) working my way through the introduction.

Now it it would only stop raining for a day or two...

10 June 2010

Adding some tags...

I was told about "labels" today, and I've added some labels to some of my recent posts, in the hopes that maybe more people will check out (and perhaps "follow") this blog.

Yes, I'm writing this primarily for me, but it would be nice to have some feedback, or know that at least some of what I'm up to is interesting to someone.

We'll see...

03 June 2010

Another New (Nude) Drawing...

This is from a couple weeks ago, the weekly life-drawing session that I attend every couple weeks (or so). I'm hoping to get to another one of these a week from tonight (and, I'm also hoping to attend a different drawing group this coming Sunday. More on that, if I actually do attend...)

The pose lasted about an hour and twenty minutes (not including breaks).

Approx. 16 x 20, charcoal on toned paper...

31 May 2010

Another older drawing...

This was drawn directly from a bust of "Lucius Veros" (Marcus Aurelius' son, in real life--not in the movie Gladiator).

This image is the drawing about 2/3 complete. I went back to the museum at least one more time, and completed the hair, shadows in the neck area, etc. I'll try to take a photo of the finished piece, and post that, soon.

I really should get this framed. (It would help to find it, first, though I'm sure it's around here, somewhere...)

Charcoal pencil on Canson paper, 12 x 16 inches.

29 May 2010

More "Mische" Technique...

With the second oil paint layer (yellow this time) dry, I began work on the repainting of the "Thin-faced Man" night before last, and continued working on it last night. One of the articles I read about this technique emphasized that its best not simply to "re-paint" the image each time with egg-tempera, but to refine the image each time; to "perfect" it (to use a word-concept that is rather out of favour, especially in artistic/aesthetics circles, these days.)

I'm almost finished with this egg-tempera layer, the second--and looking forward to applying the final transparent oil paint layer, which will be blue (either Indianthrene, or Ultramarine--although I have some Daniel Smith Genuine Lapis-Lazuli...hmmm, now there's a thought!)

I'm going to make good use of having all three days off this Memorial Day weekend. I have five of these "Invented Faces" completely finished (well, except for applying a final varnish). The "Thin-faced Man" makes six. And, I have two more very nearly done--and I'm hoping to finish both of them this weekend. That would give me a total of eight, meaning five more to go.

I've started three more of the faces (I posted one of them with the entry for 10 May) but I'm not terribly pleased with any of them. I am considering drawing five new faces, and see if I like them better than the three that are barely started.

(I'll post those drawings when I have them, and post their progress as I work on them, as well...)

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

25 May 2010

Detours on the Highway...

The last few weeks have been crazy; lots of distractions vying for my attention and my time. I'm fighting to stay focused, though--and doing pretty well so far!

I never heard back from the owner of the truck. After visiting with him one more time, he seemed very hesitant about my designs (which he had glowingly approved earlier in the week), and he seemed even more unsure about whether he really wanted to have the dashboard painted at all.

Well, the money would have been nice! But, painting the dashboard would have been at least two or three weeks working on something other than my own stuff. (Yeah, gotta look on the bright side!)

I spoke with a gentleman the weekend before last, interested in having me teach his entire staff to airbrush. He seemed very serious, and I gave him my card. He hasn't gotten back to me yet, either. (If I had a dime for every time the possibility of something that seems like it'll get me a decent "art paycheck" doesn't materialize.

Oh, well.)

Honestly, lots of folks are being super-cautious right now--financially speaking.

So, I'm back hard at work on "my own stuff"; spending eight hours in the studio on Sunday, and another three hours last night. I'm heading down there in a few minutes (after I finish this blog entry) tonight.

Lots to do.

I'm on it...

16 May 2010

"Mische Technique" update...

I've been working on another painting over the weekend, while the layer of Rembrandt Permanent Madder Deep, applied over the grasaille of the "Thin Faced Man", dries.

I painted the first egg tempera layer last night, which will be overpainted with a layer of transparent yellow tonight, followed by another re-painting in egg tempera, then--

--well, I explained the process in a previous entry.

I made some slight changes (refinements, actually) to the image as I re-painted it with egg tempera, and I'm sure that this refinement will continue; I have two more layers of egg tempera to do, before the painting is "finished" with transparent oil paints.

This is the way it looked last night, when the first egg tempera layer was almost done...

10 May 2010

The Limits of Photography...Part One

The question of using photographic references only affects those artists who create imagery that (to at least some degree) resembles something else. So, the following essay may not apply to artists who are relatively unconcerned with any sort of visual verisimilitude...

In several of the on-line art discussion forums in which I hang out, artists frequently question the validity of using photographs as the basis for drawings, paintings, digital imagery, and other types of art.

Some artists argue that there's nothing "wrong" with copying, tracing--with more-or-less duplicating--any photographic reference image from any source. (Of course there are copyright concerns when using photographs other than your own, but I think there are significant aesthetic reasons why virtually copying a photographic image--even if you were the photographer and thus own the copyright--isn't a very "good" idea.)

Other artists argue that one should only ever work from actual people and objects; that visual artists should never use photographic refrences, "period".

I'm going to try to argue for a more philosophical approach to the question of photographic references; as I find the opinions at either extreme, rather limiting.

First, there are several reasons why photographic references are a very useful tool for visual artists. There is certainly no question that visual artists have been facinated by photographic imagery since the birth of photography (which can be dated to either 1827 or 1839, depending on whether you consider the first photographs to be the eight-hours-plus exposures produced by Niepce, or the later slightly-longer-than-one-hour exposures created using Daguerre's process more than a decade later).

The early photographic experiments of Edward Muybridge (1830-1904), which captured the intricacies of animal and human movement in strobe-lit stop-motion sequences, are only one example of how photography is able to reveal subtle information that the human eye cannot easily perceive (or may not be able to perceive at all) For example, Muybridge's photographs revealed for the first time, that all four of a horses hooves leave the ground during a gallop. Numerous early works of equestrian art were thus revealed as "flawed".)

Second, even artists who aren't interested in extremely-short, or extremely-long-duration events, can benefit from photographic references. Portrait artists (and/or figurative artists in general) understand that figure models cannot hold certain poses for more than a moment or two. (Other poses are too difficult to be held for more than a few seconds.) "Action poses"--such as running, turning, or jumping--cannot even be "held" at all. Photography makes it possible to see the details of human and animal bodies-in-motion that were virtually invisible before 1872.

Third, using photographs is far easier than arranging a photo-shoot every time an artist decides to create a drawing, painting, or sculpture. Photographic reference images are available in books, magazines, newspapers--and even more readily available on-line.

Of course there are numerous advantages to working from actual objects, or people, rather than relying on photographs . Photographs are two-dimensional, and reveal an object or scene from a single viewpoint. Human beings, though, have stereo vision; we see objects far differently than cameras do. The edges of rounded objects often appear fuzzy, because both eyes can't focus on the same point along the curved edge. In photos, however, edges often appear perfectly sharp, and it's difficult for artists who only work from photos to learn to compensate for the differences between the way cameras "see", and the way human vision actually works.

For artists creating portraits, still life imagery, product illustrations, etc, it's best to work "from life"--from the actual object in the actual environment being depicted, again because "reality" provides far more information, as well as direct ineraction, with the subject, than a photograph (or photographs) can.

(I know I rarely see a photograph that "looks like me"; a portraitist working from a photograph of me, is at a definite disadvantage, before the painting even starts!)

Of cousrse, working from actual objects and/or living models isn't always possible. An artist might be asked to create a portrait of a person who is no longer among the living, in which case the artist would have no choice but to rely on photographic references, taken while the person was alive. Further, imaginary objects and scenes can't be photographed unless they are first made real; built or constructed somehow. Its much easier to draw or paint something than to actually create it (and much less expensive to work from photographs of the Sphynx, than arrange a trip to Egypt!)

While all of the above seems quite sensible to me, none of it touches on what I believe to be the best reasons why I believe simply copying from reality--whether directly, or from photographs--is far too limiting.

For me, the key is imagination...

To be continued.

More new stuff...

Here are a couple more of the "Invented Face" paintings. The 'thin man' face is currently a grisaille--an underpainting--that I'm going to paint using the "Mische" technique, in which the entire painting is painted using successive layers of transparent red, yellow, and blue oil paint. After each oil layer is painted, white egg tempera is used to refine the image, redefining the highlights, to further "model" the forms. After the third (blue) layer has been painted, and the image is again (for the third time!) repainted, redefined, and refined using white tempera, the painting is finished using "regular" transparent oils.

The other face will also have some additional layers added, using both opaque and transparent colours, again paying careful attention to the modelling of form.

(I need to count how many of the Faces I have started so far. I'm sure that four of them are completely done, at least three more are nearly finished, and--including these two--the number is either ten or eleven.)

These are both 12x16, oils on canvas.

06 May 2010


I've always had very mixed feelings when it comes to collaborations, mainly because I've rarely had what I could call a good experience--let alone a good result--when I've collaborated in the past.

I have a friend who would really like to have me work with him on his graphic novel project, and I'm...resisting...'cause I've been down this road before.

Several years ago, I met a writer who looking for an artist to do the "graphic" portion of a graphic novel he'd written. We met, and I liked his ideas for the story, so I started designing characters, working on the basic layout of the book, and creating some finished drawings, using a copy of his script as a guide.

The next time we met, he had re-written some of the portions of the story that I had already illustrated, and most of my finished layouts, and some of the finished drawings, were now basically useless.

Over the next few months, every time we met, he had made signifcant changes to the story, and I increasingly felt that I was wasting my time working on his project--instead of my own stuff--only to find out that this design, or that character, or that section of the story, had been "cut".

I finally quit the project.

Now I know that there are collborations that "work", and artists who work very well together.

But, for whatever reason, I'm not one of those folks.


01 May 2010

Business cards ordered...

I ordered My new business cards yesterday. I haven't had business cards in way too long. I had postcards printed several years ago, basically as advertisements for an upcoming exhibit, but actual business's probably been a decade or more.

I think they're going to look really good, and I can't wait to start handing them out...

29 April 2010

Blast(s) From the Past...

Night Must Fall
, 1999, 20x30 inches, airbrushed acrylics on illustration board.

I'm going to be launching my new website soon, and there will be an "archive" page (of some sort), which will feature some of the airbrushed science fiction paintings I was making more than a decade ago--

--this kind of thing. (This painting was based on a photograph that was from photo-shoot I arranged years ago with a lovely young lady who was studying nursing here in Kansas City. My best friend had just moved into a new apartment, and his furniture hadn't yet arrived, so he, my ex-wife, and I spent the afternoon setting up various shots of our lovely model, at his new place, against the bare white walls...)

Another funny thing about this painting; my chiropractor saw it, and mentioned that it seemed that the model might have had scoliosis as a child (which, of course, she did!) Yeah, I was a bit flattered that I apparently painted this accurately enough that an accurate diagnosis could be made, just from my painting!)

Ironically, the portfolio that I submitted to the Kansas City Art Institute included mostly these airbrushed sci-fi pieces, but it was my experiences at KCAI which led me to the paintings I'm making now...

25 April 2010

A Change in (Studio) Tactics...

I keep a lot of stuff in my studio: reference books, photos, and models; CDs, drawing tools, paper, raw canvas, paint, etc. The last couple of times that I've moved, I've spent a great deal of time, after moving, re-arranging my studio until everything is in its place. Organizing all this stuff kept me from doing any actual artwork--sketching, drawing, painting--'til I was satisfied that everything was in its proper place.

This time, I decided that being able to make art should be my priority, and if that means leaving some stuff unpacked--in boxes or piles on the studio floor, or in the garage--for a while longer, so be it. So, I've been able to work on several new sketches, which will hopefully become new drawings before too long, over the last several evenings.

Tonight, I'm going to do some painting...

15 April 2010


Eight wonderful friends showed up last Saturday to help us move. In one day, we were able to move most of our belongings to our new place, including all of the "large" furniture, tools, and other such bulky "stuff". Two of Liora's friends, in particular, were instrumental; we couldn't have done it without their generous help.

I'm thinking of starting to blog on some sort of regular schedule, perhaps posting a new blog entry over the weekend, and definitely on an art-related topic.

We still don't have the Internet hooked up in our new place, yet. We were supposed to have it installed last Saturday, but they wanted to install the satellite dish in a way that did not please our new landlords.

So, for now, I'm blogging from work. (I know, I'm a BAD boy!)

I will definitely have an "Art" entry for this coming weekend, though (and since I'm off this weekend, I'll try to post it tomorrow...)

05 April 2010

Moving, plus the new stuff: "a preview" (in words)...

I had forgotten (or, more likely) repressed, just how much work moving is. I had Friday, yesterday, and today off, and I've been moving about four carloads of stuff (on average) each day, over to the new place. About half of the floor of the room that will be my new studio is covered in boxes, and I just finished disassembling the drafting table, and putting most of it in the car.

I'm hoping to have it reassembled and set up, in the new studio, tonight--

--but I'm getting tired. It's been a very long weekend.

I haven't heard from the guy about the truck, which is fine--plenty of other things to do. But, my fear is that he'll call asking me to start work on it right away, without any advance notice. That'll be a problem because I'll need time to have the supplies purchased and delivered; I only buy automotive paint when I need it. If he doesn't allow for that plus the actual painting-time, I won't have time to do a really good job, even if there's enough time to meet his deadline.

But, I haven't heard from him, so I'm not going to worry about it right now.

I've been thinking--a lot--about my next three paintings. All three are basically new versions of some paintings I began working on while I was at school, but wasn't able to fully realize to my satisfaction, within the restrictions necessary in a classroom setting.

Of course, they won't simply be copies. I'm hoping to avoid many of the problems I had with the earlier versions--including the fact that they were never actually completed!

For each painting, I'm going to create a "tight" (finished) fully rendered drawing (including all the values from highlights to shading) before I start painting. And I'm seriously thinking of creating my next three large paintings using the "Mische" technique, using alternating layers of transparent oils, each layer following by repainting the underpainting using white egg-tempera, and finally finishing the painting using additional layers of transparent oils.

These next three paintings are going to be large paintings, at least 36x60 inches. I have the panels already built, and the first one is primed and ready for the first drawing to be transferred to it--once the drawing is "finsihed".

I've started the drawing...

28 March 2010

I met with the owner of the truck (again) last Friday. I had thought that he had scheduled the embroidery of the door panels for last weekend, but it's supposed to get done this weekend. So, I have a little extra time to figure out what paints to use, and put together a tentative budget, and a shopping list.

I was really hoping to get started on the truck right away, but it looks like I won't be moving forward on the actual painting until after 10 April.

My studio is slowly--but surely--being dismantled. We picked up the keys to our new place this morning. I have romorrow off all day, and we are planning to move Liora's and my studios this weekend.

So often, it seems difficult to know how best to use my available time. I probably "lost" (spent) at least two weeks working on the fishing lures, time that could have been spent working on the "Face" paintings. And, I spent another week working on the designs for the truck dashboard, and that--too--was time that wasn't spent working on my own stuff.

Whatever happens, I want to get the "Faces" finished by the end of May, or shortly after that...

21 March 2010

Very, very busy!

Every time I think I'm as busy as I can possibly be, reality finds new ways for me to become even busier!

I met with the owner of the truck last week, and I've been working hard on the redesign of his dashboard. He and I were supposed to meet this afternoon to look over my designs, but they're not ready yet. (I want to show him some really wicked designs--and wicked takes time!) I changed our meeting to Tuesday evening, and I'll need to really push this afternoon, tonight, and tomorrow, to make sure I have some killer designs to show him Tuesday night.

If he likes my designs, I'll have about a month to prime and repaint all twenty-six parts of the dashboard--

--and, all while we're moving!

Our landlord recently notified us that our rent would increase by about $100.00 a month, starting in May. So, we've been looking around to see if we could find something nicer/larger--and we did. We found a very nice three-bedroom duplex, close enough to our current address so liora's daughter can stay in her school disctrict, and the bedrooms, living room, and kitchen are much larger than our current place.

The basement is subdivded, so liora and I will no longer share a studio space (which I'll miss), but it will be nice having actual walls where I can hang my reference/inspirational images.

We take possession of our new place on April first, and we've promised to be out of our digs by the end of the day, April eighteenth.

So, if my client asks me to paint the dashboard, I'll be working on that project as we're moving out of our current address, into the new one. (I also need to research the types of paints I can use, as well as the types of primer to use on the dashboard material, so that whatever paint I end up using, will adhere properly. If all goes well, I'll have a really nice piece of automotive art I can use to advertise for more of that kind of work...)

Busy? No. Busiest!

15 March 2010

Progress is relative...

I met with another potential freelance client yesterday. He owns a customized "show truck", and he wants to re-do the interiour. So, I'm going to spend part of this week sketching possible colour schemes for the dashboard, and meet with him this weekend to discuss whether he also wants me to do the actual painting.

(Yes, I'm going to get paid for the sketches.)

If he does ask me to paint the new dashboard, I'm going to have to talk to some automotive painting guys, to find out what sort of primer--and paints--to use on the vinyl dashboard parts...)

He also wants a mural painted on the truck's bed-cover, but there isn't enough time for him to get the interiour re-done, and paint the bed-cover, before the truck show season starts at the end of April.

So, that may be a project for the fall. (I certainly hope so!)

I worked in the studio for a short while yesterday, and I'm going to head downstairs and get some more work done tonight.

My art seems to be going so very slowly these days. I don't like it...

10 March 2010

A Sense of Accomplishment

I finally finished the fishing lures Monday night (actually, it was about 1AM yesterday morning!) I returned them to their owner last night, and he seemed quite pleased with them. Even though I don't have as much "invested" in a project such as this, as I do in my own original paintings, I still feel that these shiny little things are out there in the world representing me.

So, I wanted them to look really good, and I'm glad my client was happy with my results.

Now I have to straighten my studio, put away the rotary tool, sandpaper, MSA varnish, etc., so I can get back to oil painting. I'm busy this coming weekend, but next week I will be hard at work on the small paintings, and starting work on the drawings that will be the basis for my next series.

(And, the next series may actually turn out to be two separate series--with lots in common!)

Another of the new paintings. This is Isobel: 12x16, oil on canvas. (Copyright 2009 by Keith Russell.)

06 March 2010

A Wonderful Evening...With Art!

Liora and I attended Kansas City "First Friday" last night. Art galleries all over the city have their opening exhibitions on the First Friday of each month, so it's nearly impossible to visit more than a few galleries over the course of a single evening. (Most of the galleries are only open from 7 until 9 PM for First Fridays.) I chose to start our evening of gallery-hopping by visiting two of the three galleries that have been recommended to me as places where I might consider showing my Face series when it's ready.

The first gallery we visited seemed like a nice enough space; snacks were laid out nicely, and there was even a small bar (complete with bartender). And, the place was packed--always a good sign! I was handed a beer, and turned around to see a good friend of ours. (First Fridays is great for running into people you know...!) Our friend quickly informed me that it was this gallery's final exhibit; the space has been sold, and it isn't certain--yet--whether the new owner will continue to run the space as a gallery, or not.

Across the street was another gallery that had been recommended to me as one I should check out. Stepping inside, I realized that this gallery actually consisted of several different rooms. There was a refreshing "mix" of artwork, and some of the pieces would nicely "complement" my own stuff.

We did wander to a couple other galleries in the vicinity, and enjoyed some amazing sweets at a nearby cholatier. We saw some very nice figurative paintings, some really cool sculptures, and some edgy (and delightfully fun) erotic photography.

About 8:45PM, we ran into another friend, who recommended a show at a gallery we hadn't yet visited last night. We walked the three blocks as quickly as we could, but we arrived just as the place closed. I'd still like to catch the show there, which should be possible; most of these exhibits stay up for a full month.

03 March 2010

Several Different Irons, in Several Different Fires...

I posted an ad to Craig's List a short while ago, hoping to pick up some airbrushing jobs. I've had emails from two people so far; someone who wants a design airbrushed onto the side of his jet-ski, and another person who wants a motorcycle custom-painted in time for spring.

I've sent quotes to both people, and I'm waiting to find out if my offers are accepted.

I always feel conflicting emotions about doing this sort of work. The money would be nice--we can definitely use some extra cash right now! Plus, doing these jobs would almost certainly lead to more work, meaning even more money over the summer.

Not a bad thing, but--

--it's not always easy to find time to work on my own stuff while I'm working on commissioned projects. (It's not always easy to find time to work on my own stuff, regardless!) My latest paintings have already taken longer than I expected them to, and the "fishing lure" project has set them back another couple of weeks, if not longer.

No matter who we are, we only have twenty-four hours in a day.

Better make the most of them!

02 March 2010

Another life drawing...

I'm hoping to attend another life drawing session this Thursday. (I want to have the majorit of the commissioned project finished by then, or I'll have to stay home and get more airbrushing done this Thursday night, same as I did last week...)

I haven't been to life drawing in a while (only once this year so far) and I'm still hoping to average twice a month all year--twenty-four sessions: twenty-four drawings!

There are lots of reasons I recommend that artists find a local life drawing gorup to attend: it's valuable practice, sometimes I can use the drawings as reference images for paintings, I've sold some of my drawings, and I've donated several of them to a local AIDS fundraiser. (They make great gifts, too!)

Every now and then, I leave the session with a drawing I feel is nice enough that I want to keep it for myself.

Such was the case with this one (if I may say so myself) Caroline, from a few years ago...

11 x 14, charcoal pencils on toned paper. (Approximately one and a half hours.)

28 February 2010


I spent a decent portion of yesterday in the studio, working on the fishing lures. I finished four of them, including clear-coating them; I've been asked to re-paint sixteen of them, total, for the client. I'm using Golden Hard MSA Gloss Varnish as the clear-coat, as it is supposedly a very tough, durable (and, water-proof!) finish. I'm applying it with a very cheap brush, but I'm cleaning the brush with distilled turpentine. I've been able to keep the brush clean enough that it remains usable.

So far, so good. (I'll post pictures of my progress, later this evening.)

I'm a bit less than halfway done with these things. I had hoped to have them finished yesterday or today, but that isn't going to happen. I'm going to spend a few hours tonight working on them, and I will be able to get them all done later this week.

They're looking good so far (in my opinion, anyway), so I hope my client isn't too upset that they're not quite done yet.

These are commercially-made fishing lures, made of styrene plastic. (I didn't sculpt them.) I was hired to repaint them, since the original "factory" paint jobs had become very worn, through heavy use.)

25 February 2010

And this, too...

Jack, (copyright 2009 Keith Russell) 12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas...

And this is...

...Carol (copyright 2009 by Keith Russell) 12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas.
My girlfriend has been naming each of these, usually coming up with a name once I get the basics worked out.
She thinks Carol still needs eyelashes; I'm not so sure. (Comments welcome.)

23 February 2010

This is the new stuff...

I began working on a new series of paintings last Spring, hoping to have the series completed in a few months; by the end of last year, at the latest. (I've always been a relatively slow painter; I should have known that making thirteen relatively small pieces would take me longer than that--although I'm actually pleased that I've been discipined enough to continue working on the same series for an entire year!) I now have seven or eight paintings of the paintings finished, three or four well under way, and another two "off to a good start".

My goal is to have the thirteen-painting "Invented Face" series ready to exhibit before this Summer starts. I'm calling these "invented faces", since I'm using multiple references to start each one, but finishing them from imagination. They are portraits in a sense, but not of actual/specific people.
Anyway, this is Adam (copyright 2009 Keith Russell): oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches.

22 February 2010


I haven't worked with my airbrushes in a few weeks. I taught a private lesson in January, but I've been working in oils since then. I've just been given a small commissioned airbrush project, and I've just finished getting the objects sanded, and was all set to start airbrushing. Now, I knew that one of the two tanks of nitrogen that I leased was empty, but I thought the other one was still full, or at least mostly full.

Turns out, it was empty too!

I was really hoping to start airbrushing tonight, having spent the last several days sanding them. I'm working a full day tomorrow, so I'll have to swap out one of the tanks, and get started on the airbrushing, Wednesday evening--two days later than originally planned.

Since I'm working all day Thursday as well, I'll have to work on them Friday, and Saturday. I'm hoping to get them back to their owner on Sunday.

I was feeling really good, like I wasn't very far behind, and would actually get them painted without having to feel terribly rushed.

Not any more...

19 February 2010

Let's get some ART up in this beast!

I applied to the Kansas City Art Institute in 2003, as a "non-traditional" (read: "older") student. I was 37. I knew that I wanted to major in painting, so I was asked to submit a the standard "painting" porfolio, which (the school had indicated) should include 12 - 18 photographs, 18 -24 paintings, and 18 - 24 life drawings.

While I had taken plenty of photographs (including a couple that had won some local awards), and I had photographs of plenty of my paintings, I owned only a couple of my life drawings at that point. So, in the two weeks before my application was due, I joined several local life-drawing groups, and spent most of those evenings making the life drawings necessary to complete my portfolio.

Two weeks later, in the Spring of 2003, I met with a young lady who would start her seniour year at KCAI that fall. Apparently, some people who return to art school late in life have not continued to regularly make art, because before we sat down to look at my portfolio, she asked me if I had brought any "recent" work. I told her I had pieces close to two decades old, plus one piece I had just completed the week before--and plenty of artwork completed throughout the time between.

She was visibly relieved to hear this, and we had a nice conversation about my work, her work, and the school. On her recommendation , I was accepted to the painting department as a sophomore (and awarded a partial scholarship).

This is one of the life drawings from that harried, two-week marathon of life drawing: Krystle : 11 x 14", charcoal on toned-paper, approximately one-and-a-half hours.
(copyright 2003 Keith Russell.)

I'm having this piece framed, and it will remain in my private collection.


17 February 2010

What's the best colour?

Asking me certain questions causes my mind to grind to a halt. I don't like it, and I'm certainly not proud of it, but it remains true, all the same. Certain questions simply have no answer, and it always strikes me as...odd...that such questions are asked at all--

--and yet, such questions are asked!

An artist asked me yesterday which brushes are "the best". Even if she had asked, "which type of brush is best for acrylic painting on canvas", or something equally specific, the question is truly unanswerable. Artists have asked me occasionally which brand of paint is "the best", or which colour is "the best" for skies, or--worst of all--which colour is "the best".

I tried talking about this to another friend, last night, but I don't think I was very effective in getting my point across. There simply is not a "best" brush, not even a "best type" of brush. Folks who know what they're doing, can achieve far better results with a "medoicre" tool, than a novice will, using a relatively "better" tool.

And, so much of what a person likes about a given material is based on very personal preferences: the way the person works, the other materials they use, and how their materials--as a whole--interact with how that person uses those materials.

What this means is, there is no "best" in any objective sense. There is only what is "best", for you. And, you have to find out what that is, for yourself. No one else can find it for you...thus, to ask someone else, puts that person in a very awkward position.

At least, in my opinion.

PHOTO: My old glass palette, at the old place. The new glass palette is slightly larger than the entire table in all directions! The paints are still arranged with "warm" colours on the left, "cool" colours on the right...

16 February 2010


I found out today that I'm not working March fifth. First Friday. Time to visit some galleries! There are three places I'm hoping to visit--all recommended to me by other artists--that might be a good "fit" for my latest series of paintings. I don't know how close to each other the three galleries are; I might not be able to visit all three of them in one evening. Still, I should be able to check out at least two of them on 5 March.

I'm looking forward to finding out what the art there looks like. Are they exhibiting art similar to my own work? What are the prices like? How is the work displayed? How do these galleries support/promote their artists?

I'm still not sure how to go about actually contacting a gallery, if it turns out that I think I've found one that "feels" right for my work. Finding one that seems like a "good fit" is the first step.

The Face paintings are coming along (although I'd hoped to have all thirteen of them completed months ago). I have four of them completely finished, three others very nearly so, and three others "well along"--leaving only two that have yet to be started. Not bad. Tonight, I'm going to work on a painting that isn't so far along; try to bring it pretty close to being finished.

(And I need to work on the commissioned project, too.)