I spent the summer with artists from around the country discussing the direction their works have taken, technical challenges they face, and ideas they are developing into paintings. I attended the National Portrait Society Conference in Atlanta, GA, where one of our painters, Thomas Reis, took an honorable mention.
I also attended the National Oil Painters of America Show at Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, where we were fortunate enough to have more painters represented than any other gallery in the United States and the Weekend with the Masters Conference in Monterey, California, hosted by “American Artist Magazine”. I also was fortunate enough to spend 10 days painting in a workshop held by Scott Christensen in Victor, Idaho.
There was great ferment among several of the painters in regards to the merits of painting solely from life, life and photography, or just photography. It is the consensus of many among the gallery artists that life is best, followed by photo reference and or studies, and straight from photography as a difficult last resort.
I also spent a great deal of time talking about developing connoisseurship and what that means among experienced collectors, as opposed to the general public. I was reminded by Richard Schmidof the rarefied air I breathe in this world of realism. Schmid said that when he wandered through the airport he wondered of anyone even knew we existed, much less cared.
It is always a topic of intense debate whether or not any merit is to be found in exposing the “great unwashed public” (my term from Lord Henry Peter Brougham)(Wikipedia). Since most of our culture is completely fixated on consumer goods consumption or pop culture images driven by self interested hijacking of museums by their own board of Directors.
As much as I love being in the gallery with our collectors, I find the time I spend out with the artists layers invaluable information onto my perception of their works, and that watching them paint and taking their workshops enhances my appreciation of their incredible skill and vision.
Over and over, I heard artists talk about the vision of what they want to communicate when they start a particular painting and that without a central idea the painting falls apart. Unlike non-skilled based work produced in the last two centuries, which focused solely on concept or ideas, the painters we deal with in the world of Novo-Realism. require a baseline of competence and years of training in order to facilitate delivery of their ideas with maximum impact and beauty.
It has occurred to me that although the incredible richness we can deliver in beautiful, technically competent works of art are obvious to the small circle of collectors and friends of the gallery and its peers throughout the world of realism, there is an entire majority who never had the privilege of an art history class, and if they did, have no idea that the traditions and expertise of the centuries of art knowledge continue to be built upon, enhanced, and discovered anew in contemporary themes. It is as if I spent the summer with the Bouguereaus, Rembrandts, Titians, and Michelangelos of our time.