Monday, November 17, 2014

"No Art, Just Start" - An Interview with Jim Harris

When I first saw Jim Harris's work - those shapes, those forms, those colors, music on a canvas - I knew what had to be done. A Pinterest board must be created. Check.

The more I stared at his 620+ works on Saatchi Art, the more I wanted to know about Jim.  Where does he live?  How in the world does he make music with a paintbrush?  Once again, I knew what had to be done.  Plead with Jim for an interview.  Check.

Colony 1
by Jim Harris
Let's chat.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Purple Shirt, a White Beard, a Life Change: An Interview with Cristina Surplus

Cristina Surplus.  Such an evocative name.  A warehouse bulging with paintings and painting supplies, masterpieces slightly outside of the building as even the windows give way.  What is all this?  Surplus, of course.  

Cristina's Web site, "Inspired by David", gives full credit to her friend and mentor, David Hickman, for her artistic development and career choice. And she showcases the work of artists she admires.  Cristina's generosity knows no bounds. Surplus.  

My favorite works remain the first works of Cristina's I saw, her New York series.  Color so bold it takes your breath away.  In fact, one might say there is a surplus of color.

Let's chat.
The West Village (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus

Friday, October 3, 2014

Less of a War and More of a Party: An Interview with Tom Kelly

Thomas ("Tom") Kelly caught my eye when I saw his painting, "Harry's Bar, Venice" (see below).  At once serious and comic, the image evokes a bygone era of casual elegance, when smoking was cool and not fatal, when men opened doors for women and women were not offended. Yet these well-dressed sophisticates are coming out of a bar.  Not a fancy salon, a bar called "Harry."  There must be more to this story.  Notice the open door where you see the mirror image of the word "Harry."  Oh, Tom Kelly, I am on to you.

Turns out, Harry's Bar was first a dream and then a reality for Giuseppe Cipriani.  The bar really is in Venice.  As in Italy.  According to Giuseppe: 
In those days [post World War I], the most popular meeting places for the young Venetian and European aristocracy were the bars in the luxury hotels, like those at the Europa, the Bauer, and the Grand Hotel ...
After a loan from a young American named - wait for it - "Harry," Giuseppe opened his dream bar.  The first guest book included:
... the signatures of Arturo Toscanini, Guglielmo Marconi, Somerset Maughan, Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplin, Barbara Hutton, Valentina Schlee, Orson Welles, Truman Capote, Georges Braque, Peggy Guggenheim . . . and a host of others.
During the winter of 1940-1950, Hemingway dropped in so often he had a table of his own.

And that's only part of the story of just one Tom Kelly painting. 

Harry's Bar, Venice
by Tom Kelly

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monsters and Airplanes - An Interview with David French

Remember memorizing state capitols, birds, mottos, etc.?  I was always grateful these lists did not extend to cities.  However, if there was ever such a thing as a "city artist," it would be David French of Charlotte, North Carolina.  David is the most collected artist in Charlotte (confirmed by the artist) as he lovingly chronicles Charlotte landmarks. 

Charlotte's 50th Festival in the Park begins September 19th.  David, of course, will be there. And if you think I'm exaggerating David's connection with the city, the online exhibitor's page begins David's bio with:
"David French's 225+ paintings of Charlotte cover every corner of the city that resides in our hearts ..."
2001 Central Skyline (Charlotte)
by David French
Let's chat.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crayons and the National Gallery: An Interview with Annie O'Brien Gonzales

Next spring, I'm going to say goodbye to my favorite nurseries and hello to Annie O'Brien Gonzales's beautiful flowers.  My garden will be the envy of the neighborhood, populated with Annie's floral images.

Let's chat.

Might as Well be Spring
By Annie O'Brien Gonzales


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Master of Ekphrasis - An Interview with Joost de Jonge

Last week, as I obsessively pored over my Pinterest notices, my eyes came back to the same e-mail over and over.  "Joost de Jonge has repinned two of your pins."  Such a familiar name.  Sort of.  And why those two pins, out of the 29,000+ available?

Ah, of course, he chose the two pins of Joost de Jonge's work on my overloaded art board.  Now I know 1) he's a living artist, and 2) he has a Pinterest account.

One click and I discover he lives in the Netherlands, two clicks and I find myself on Joost's Web site, a magical world of color and movement.  This art looks like music.  As if Charles Ives' Concord Sonata hopped onto a canvas and Thelonious Monk decided to follow.

Color, color, color.  Evocative movement.  These images sing to me.  There must be a word for this.

Ekphrasis.  And I have just stumbled upon its Master.

Let's chat.
The Talisman
by Joost de Jonge

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Linear Thinking Run Over by a Truck - An Interview with Eva Folks

Enter Eva Folks' world and you never want to come home. Chickens drive coupes; giraffes rubberneck; well dressed pink poodles cruise in convertibles with one paw on the wheel; homes and offices tilt toward and away from each other in an engineer's fantasy world of gorgeous colors and rule bending.

Eva is good Folks.

Let's chat.


Q1.  What is your first memory of art?

A1.  Sitting under the dining room table with my crayons and drawing all over the bottom of it. My parents weren’t too happy about it at the time, but they didn’t clean it off. The table was around until a few years ago and my childhood scribbles were still on it.

Urban Forest
(Eva Folks)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

To Paint is to Breathe – An Interview with Barzaga

Although her dad introduced her to art, it’s Barzaga’s women that first caught my eye.  There’s a timelessness about them; they live in the past; they live in the future; they live, live, live. Outer beauty tempered with a single tear, a certain melancholy, they celebrate joy with music and friendship.  They wear their sadness well.  And I love every one of them.

Let’s chat.

Note:  In honor of Barzaga's Cuban heritage, 
questions and answers appear in Spanish 
beneath the English version.

Q1.  What is your first memory of art?

A1.  Spending time with my dad who introduced me to painting.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

An Orange-Haired Doll and a White-Haired Man - Meet Luon St. Pierre

When it takes nearly a full line of text for an artist's name, you know you are talking to someone special.  Or with 24 great-aunts.  Or both.

Luon Marie Amanda Isabelle Camille Rose St. Pierre creates furniture that makes you want to throw away everything in your house and start over with rooms full of her wildly colorful, eye popping, dance in your socks, impossible to be depressed around, furniture.

Her friends, by the way, call her Lulu.

Luon St. Pierre - Cupboard

Monday, April 21, 2014

ADD and Ancient Chinese Secrets - An Interview with Scott Bergey

Scott Bergey is a man of few words and tons of ideas.  Last time I checked his Flickr photostream, the image count was somewhere around 5,230.  Even if only half of those images are original works of art, this is a man with a fertile imagination.

Let's see if we can coax a few syllables out of him.

Scott, with a selection of his art at RAW
(Riverdale Art Walk in Toronto, Ontario) 
Not sure there's a tent big enough for the whole collection.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wake Up Your Joy - An Interview with Renie Britenbucher

Renie Britenbucher says she lives in Northeast Ohio but don't you believe it.  Renie lives in a wondrous, whimsical world that is at once hilarious and peaceful.  I dare you to bring any negative emotion to Renie's Web site.  When you find yourself humming "What A Wonderful World", you'll know you've entered Renie-land.

And you'll never want to leave.

Let's chat.
Field of Poppies
Q1.  What is your first memory of art?

A1.  I know I was very young. I remember being attracted to pictures in magazines and tearing them out. I don't think I had a concrete understanding of art yet, but loved pictures and images.
Colorful Yellow Chair
Red Poppies Still Life

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dancing From Canvas to Canvas: An Interview with Jen Noren

Jen Noren can paint a picture of a lonely street and make you want to live there.  She paints a blue guitar with a red background and you think, "there's my guitar", even though you never owned one.  Her love of life is writ large across every canvas.  You want to see what she sees; the world in technicolor.

Let's chat.
Paper Route

Q1.  What is your first memory of art?

A1.  I have a lot of early memories of art, because a lot of people in my family painted for fun.  But I think my earliest memory of art was when my big sister got in trouble for painting her baby cradle with my Mom’s red oil paint.  It’s a pretty vivid memory of being up in the attic in our house in Ashland, [Ohio], the house I was born in.  I was probably around a year old, I bet.  [Interviewer's note:  My first conscious memory is from age 13.  Some of us are late bloomers.]  I remember my Mom yelling at my sister Wendy, and seeing the wooden baby cradle smeared with red oil paint. Red is still my big sister’s favorite color.  I think, to Wendy, the cradle must have looked beautifully transformed!

I remember thinking it smelled really bad, like a skunk.  [Interviewer's note:  Hahahahahaha] I also remember seeing the oil painting that my Mom was working on.  It was a snowy, old fashioned horse-and-buggy church scene, with a big red church that had a tall steeple.  This painting hung above our fireplace mantle in my childhood.  I don’t know where it is now.

Wendy still paints furniture, lol! After writing this, I think I should gift her with a red cradle. Mom yelled at her then, but it's been a family joke about Wendy's artistic expression ever since.

Rt. 55

Friday, April 11, 2014

Slippery Visual Slopes - Gianna Commito

Discovered the work of Gianna Commito today.  Luckily, Artsy Forager already did the hard part - describing these incredible pieces in artsy terms.

Turf, 2010
As for me, all I can say is they took my breath away and who can ask more than that from art?  If I forced myself to think sensibly, I suppose terms such as "controlled chaos" might come to mind, or "a riddle wrapped in an enigma sliced into geometric pieces."

Stall, 2010

But I'm not going to force myself, because I would rather inhale the raw beauty than try and impose woefully inadequate words upon these striking works of art.

Track, 2010

Wing, 2009

Moth, 2009
Where, you ask, would a person capable of creating such intricate slippery visual slopes reside?  Excellent question.  According to her bio on the Rachel Uffner Gallery Web site, Gianna Commito, although born in North Carolina, lives and work in Kent, Ohio.  Ah, Kent; the bucolic town sporting a University of the same name from which graduated "Bonnie Turner, writer/creator of 3rd Rock from the Sun and That 70s Show" and "Dav Pilkey, Children's author best known for Captain Underpants."  Should have guessed.

Brig, 2012

All images above courtesy of Gianna Commito's Web site, with the exception of "Brig", courtesy of Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vastness, Seclusion and Solace: An Interview with Robert McAffee

Robert McAffee joins us today to talk about his childhood; his pre-art career(s); inspiration and motivation; and his trailblazing uncle, Jack Reid.

I am in awe of Robert McAffee who, for all his insightful talk of art and controlled anger toward the treatment of the First Nations children of Canada, manages to maintain a childlike quality of playfulness and joy.

OK, I adore him.  Let's chat.


Q1.  What is your first memory of art?

A1.   Six years old and my mother taking me to visit her brother, the late and very well known landscape artist, Jack Reid. The visit inspired me from that young age to be an artist one day. He continued to be a mentor and friend until his death in 2011.

Click here to see my dedication page to Jack Reid.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

No Wrenches - An Interview With Dana Irving

Dana Irving is a Vancouver-based artist/singer/songwriter, whose works can be found on her Web site or at the Ian Tan Gallery. Ian Tan describes her art in a way that would make the most seasoned art collector perk up:

Her style; a marriage of Emily Carr, Lawren Harris and
Dr. Seuss [Editor’s note: italics and bold are mine],
is a visual testament to the force of the
sublime natural landscape in the
Pacific Northwest.

As I write this, I’m listening to snippets of Dana Irving’s Smilin’ CD (one minute teasers available on Dana’s site).  I’m tapping my feet and feeling better by the minute, half of my brain trying to decide if this is blues or country or both when a song titled “No Wrenches” begins and I am knocked off my feet. I haven’t heard vocals like this since Joan Armatrading sang Down to Zero and broke my high school heart.

Let’s chat.


Q1.  What is your first memory of art?

A1.  I grew up in a small town in northern BC [Interviewer's note for Americans who think Iowa and Idaho are the same state - "BC" stands for British Columbia], Canada.  I hate to say it, but when I was young, the place was pretty artless.  A logging town full of practical people doing practical things.  My mother knew I needed something ... so at four years old she took me to ballet classes at the home of this lovely, eccentric Norwegian lady. She was passionate about dance and she was a great teacher.  I remember being dazzled by her and her house full of paintings and antique furniture.  Everything about her was inspiring

Thursday, April 3, 2014

10S - The Rise of Graffiti in Saigon

Graffiti, which has run the gamut in the US from police chasing kids armed only with spray paint, to upstanding citizens painting over these scary defacings of public property, to Banksy stalkers waiting for him to finish so they can carefully knock down the wall and sell it for a gazillion dollars.  The market has spoken.  And, in so doing, nearly destroyed the purpose and beauty of this underground grassroots movement.

Smithsonian Magazine, in an article written by Will Ellsworth-Jones and appearing in their February 2013 issue:
It could be said that Banksy’s subversiveness diminishes as his prices rise. He may well have reached the tipping point where his success makes it impossible for him to remain rooted in the subculture he emerged from.
Americans have become jaded about this art form.  Which is why I was so happy to open my latest missive from the Wooster Collective this morning and see a country with no tradition of graffiti (other than graffiti left behind by American soldiers, but that's a story for another day), beginning its tenuous journey with graffiti and the talented artists behind it.

The country is Vietnam, the city is Saigon and the graffiti artists call themselves "10S" (short for 10 Seconds Crew).  10S recently celebrated their 5th anniversary as a group by painting their largest surface to date - a 100' x 16' wall.

Daos (10s)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Vandals Took The Handles

Rob Dobson graciously agreed to appear as my debut Riffs post.  Rob is a singer/songwriter/artist/philosopher. His first album, containing all original material; and recorded, produced and (eventually) distributed independently, is due out in a couple of months. The album cover, of course, is a gorgeous Rob Dobson original painting. 

An interview with Rob resembles a jam session. So much to talk about. We’ll try and stay with Rob The Artist but I cannot rule out cameo appearances by Rob The Musician, Rob Who Grew Up in South Africa and/or Rob The Philosopher. 

Hang on and enjoy the ride.

Q1.  What is your first memory of art?

Rob:  It's hard to say because I have all these memories and I'm so visual ...  I remember at my grandma's house when I was really, really young there was this pond with Koi in it and that's the first thing that came to my head.  But I didn't consciously think of that as art.  And that's not what my art looks like.

Swimming Under Water, 2013