Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You are as good as your team!

The longer I paint, the more I value the great craftsmen/artists/purists who help me do what I do best.

 I recently had the rather stimulating encounter of New York- based paint maker Robert Doak, To describe him as a mere paint manufacturer, would be an understatement and injustice. 

Hell, he was just featured in The New Yorker as being John Currin's paint supplier. Now, if you don't know who Doak is, I forgive you. But if you don't know who John Currin is, as a portrait painter, well, you should....let's just say Google him ASAP! And study his work. Because he is a master and his paintings sell for gazillions. He his young, uber-hot, (has been since he was a toddler I suspect) and already in museums aplenty.

I first contacted the somewhat gruff-spoken Doak ( charming in that East Coast coffee-twalk bagel and lox  kind of way)  after hearing about him through super-talented, award-winning master painter Adrian Gottlieb, www. adriangottlieb.comwho was kind enough to do a slide show I arranged under my role as CA Co-State Ambassador for The Portrait Society of America.  Gottlieb was wonderful as you might expect and clearly knew his stuff, not gruff at all, so I called Doak right away.

 Doak, put me on the spot. Didn't ask if I was student or professional as it made no difference to him. What! I used Permalba White! Was I out of my mind!  Almost hung up on me I think at that point. What! I didn't know the difference between this and that paint/medium/glass fragment-infused toxin.. You get the idea. 

But I sensed this man was a passionate purist with some considerable years of research behind him who knew things far outside of my Windsor and Newton versus Old Holland kind of realm. Few and far between. And I REALLY dig that although I am not sure I stretch as far as glass fragments in my paint. Adrian, you must tell me more! Sorry Mr. Doak! Don't hold it against me now, will you? I have much to learn. One day you can call me a Currin-ish-Gottlieb-ish Spinks.

I made my first order. It arrived immaculately and lovingly packed. Hand written labels. A delight.  No art store/warehouse slop here. I was very impressed. It made you want to rush off and paint something really good to do it all justice.

I then somewhat daringly sent him an email announcing a recent award. I was gob-smacked when he called personally congratulating me, telling me why he liked the painting and why he didn't. Well, of course. But Doak did mention that my painting reminded him of Velazquez! Well, I had just returned from The Prado in Madrid to see Velazquez, a life-long painting dream, so this sent my into "I LOVE DOAK" mode.

And of course Doak had a specially prepared pamphlet about hard to find Velazquez technique, which was mentioned, not as a hard sell, but just something I might just like. It arrived and was a gem.

 So, needless to say this guy is on my team. Doak says it as it is, from his perspective. One should listen to him and put the art ego aside.  I know I did. He will turn you on to a whole new world of paint. And of course his paints are wonderful. Highly pigmented. As gooey as the best cake. Delicious. Although I didn't care for the Raw Sienna but that is maybe just me. You do of course have to work out what YOU like. Can't copy Currin or Gottlieb, as no-one should.

Another person who is on my team is Tim Giles from New Tradition Art Panels, . Doak might not approve as he had his own advice on panels which is really like an encyclopedia.  But I really like these linen panels and have been using them on most of my big commission sizes. I had sleepless nights, and anxiety, almost needing prozac,  using linen canvas that wrinkled and warped due to humidity. 

I paint by the damp beach. Not good for super kiln-dried stretcher bars or the best Belgian linen. Trust me, I did my homework and wasted a lot of time and money on things experts  said would work driving MILES to find the framer who would work best, paying top dollar for the linen that was sturdy. Then these paintings would go into air conditioned homes on the West Coast...grrrrrr. A year later the client was calling me perplexed. They didn't get the 'trying-to-sooth' comment that all  museum canvases are all like this. They were too busy to go to The Getty. They just wanted it right. And let's not forget, they spent good $$$$ and you just wanted them happy.

Problem solved with these linen mounted on gatorfoam boards. Takes a bit of time to get used to the non-bounce of canvas and the weave you like. I found the portrait grade way too smooth but the landscape grade, C15, perfect. And you do have to do your sketch first to make CERTAIN of your composition size. You can cut them down but what a drag. And you certainly can't add. 

But, once again, a fine product that has made my life a whole lot more headache- free. These hand made linen boards arrive quickly, super well-packed, and they always get it right. Light weight to ship to the client too. So thanks to Tim Giles, the maker, who is an artist himself.

And yes, in case you are wondering, all this stuff does cost a bit more. Actually, if I am honest, quite a bit more than Windsor Newton and Fredrix. But I feel I have an obligation to my client to get it right. These portraits are supposed to last for lifetimes. And on top of that I don't have to worry and lie awake at night. Or take Prozac which is expensive in itself if you are a self-employed artist without corporate health insurance. And I feel good about what I am doing, knowing I have gone the extra mile. Good karma right? Velazquez painting through me for sure. 

So thanks to the superb craftsmen/women out there.


Peggi Habets Studio said...

What a fascinating entry. First of all, I didn't know about either of the names you mentioned so, a little embarrassed, I googled them and spent an hour or so finding out more. Thank you! Also the information about the linen board was very helpful. I recently started painting in oils and have been experimenting on different surfaces. Thank you!!!

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

YOu are welcom Peggi and thanks for posting. Have not heard back from Doak. Hope he is still speaking to me.

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

YOu are welcom Peggi and thanks for posting. Have not heard back from Doak. Hope he is still speaking to me.

Laurel Alanna McBrine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurel Alanna McBrine said...

Hi Johanna!

I just discovered your blog! It was nice to see you at the PSA conference.

I also like New Traditions panels, although I tried the C13. I do find it a bit slippery, so I will try the C15 next.

It was cool to see the finished painting of you by Mr. Kinstler since I was privileged to witness its birth. I have a couple of posts about the event on my blog too.

Rejection from juried shows is ubiquitous so don't let it get you down - as you know, what is chosen is very subjective and prizes are sometimes won in different shows by otherwise rejected paintings. You have won plenty of prizes too, proof positive you are doing things well! I actually wrote to Mr. Kinstler about similar experiences I have had and he said to me, "Just keep painting". I am sure you have heard that too!

Keep up the good work!

June 15, 2008 6:32 AM