Monday, December 30, 2013

"Back to the Drawing Board", #1

From The Studios of Garin Baker
Blog Post
December 30th 2013
6:45 am

" Sara Reclining" Charcoal on Canson Paper, 14" x 20" 2013

From time to time the need comes from an inner place to take stock. 
Busy, busy bees, we all are. So for just a moment I stopped on this second to last day of 2013 to glance around and see.

I'm not coming from a place of stature, success or lack there of,... or where one fits in the scheme of things, since in many cases these are the sad benchmarks we judge ourselves by.
I'm talking about an inner voice of personal growth and creative pursuits and the mark we have made in our lives and on the lives of others...... so far.  

As "artists" we all toil away along a path, hopefully filled with passion and commitment towards one's vision and work, asking questions as to the relevance of it all.  For love, money, "likes", simple nutrients of the soul, an attempt to express something awe inspiring or a quiet whispering voice in the back of our minds.

In the next several posts I plan on going inward towards discovering what truly is meaningful toward my own pursuits in the hopes of reaching out to others, artist and creative thinkers alike, hopefully shedding some light  along the path.  The drawings I plan on posting are reminders of what I use on a regular basis, going to a calming place in my mind that allows me to stumble upon the purest of form, using the simplest of means  towards straightening my path, discovering...... thereby choosing what might be ahead.

Check back and check in;  allowing yourself to comment below on your own struggles. successes, and in general personal stories and experiences that have helped shape your life, perceptions, loves, desires, hopes and dreams.

"Compilation of 5 min poses" #1, Charcoal on Canson Paper, 7" x 14" 2013 

Let's begin the conversation!

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Monday, December 9, 2013

"Wipe Outs and Glory".
Easton Plein Air 2013

From The Studios of Garin Baker
Blog Post
December 9th 2013

"A Buck Twenty A Bushel" Oil on linen, 18" x 24" 
Plein Air Easton, 2013 Grand Prize winning Painting 

This year I traveled to several Plein Air events through out the United States including Maryland , Vermont and California. Quite wonderful to be juried in and invited to these amazing locations to paint in the open air for a few days and participate in various competition, exhibitions and sales.  

In the old days we called it  "painting out doors" and it was primarily an exercise towards a greater understanding and study of  light, color and atmosphere.  Many of these studies upon returning to my studio were strewn on the floor to be swept up, tossed away or painted over.  So it wasn't until a close friend of mine invited me a few years back to a plein air event  he was organizing as a fundraiser for a local arts organization, that I began to learn more about "The Plein Air Movement", which has become quite popular over the last decade or so. 

Known by many as the premier Plein air Event, Plein Air  Easton, in Maryland is heralded as the best. Now in its tenth year, I entered in the prior 3 years and was rejected each time.  It's ferociously competitive.  Only fifty artists are selected each year and a number of the slots are taken by the previous year's award recipients.  The fortunate ones make there way to Easton, Maryland during the searing heat of July, to paint along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in one of Washington, DC's most affluent suburbs.  This amazing event is sponsored by The Avalon Foundation and is recognized by art collectors and plein air connoisseurs as the best invitational, boasting record breaking sales, year after year.  Each artist is offered housing in the most amazing properties and homes in the area and treated to an array of gracious invites and wonderful activities.  This past year I was fortunate to be juried in and invited to stay at a magnificent property with a fabulous guest house.  Upon arrival I met  all the other artist.   A bit intimidating,  I must say.  A cornucopia of talent, having seen many of these artist's works from past years as I sat on the sidelines.  

My first day there  I felt like a lost puppy driving around trying to find something to paint.   Eleinne Basa, a wonderful artist and friend, in addition to Plein Air Magazines, 2012, 1st place prize winner, toured me around showing me some amazing vistas and harbor scenes, worthy of starts .  And that's just what I did,....starts.  The first couple of days I began several paintings and wiped them all out.   Watching artist like Ken Dewaard attack the landscape with bold confidence, devouring  rich colors off his, trademark, hand held palate, was inspiring.   I came across  Steven Griffin one afternoon, with  cigarette ash dangling, he painted bold compositions with energy and purpose, using pure rich colors that I would never dream could work as harmony.  He glanced over as I watched, basically saying without words, what are you doing watching me?, go paint!.  In my head I was saying,  what am I doing here", these artists are in their element, I'm just practicing.

One morning painting alongside Ken, he said "go down to the end of Chew Street, the morning light there looks like a Maxfield Parrish".  So there I went . The reflections in the water and the boats at the end of the dock were marvelous.   The light was wonderful, a beautiful vista in the distance.  I painted their all morning and was finally on to something special, or so I thought. 

'Eastern Shore", Oil on linen, 16" x 20' 2013 c.

At about noon a young man came off one of the boats and started walking towards me down the dock, I was focused, so I paid little attention.  He came along side and said, "What are you doing?"   As I turned to say, I'm painting, he said "cool", as he looked over my shoulder.  I stopped to say "thanks" and was struck by this young weathered 20 something year old who was right out of a casting call for "Deadliest Catch".  Perfect character for an interesting painting or study of a young fisherman, I thought.   I asked him his name and what he did.  He said "Dustin, I'm a crab fisherman", and I said, "of course".   His attitude seemed to change as he took a step back.  I wasn't gonna waste time with pleasantries,  so I just blurted out, "hey, would you pose for me".  He took another step back.  I said, "no, no, No, I'm a professional, I'll pay you" !.   He paused for a moment and said, "how much"?  I said, "$20 bucks an hour.  I need you for 3-4 hours".  He thought for a moment and said........"sure , OK".  We made arrangement to meet the next day at the same spot.  I wanted to finish what I was working on and he said he was working the next morning. 
Now I'm in my element, hoping he would be there? 

The next day at the end of Chew Street I finished my painting. (imaged above)  Dustin was not on the boat and I thought dam, he was blowing smoke.  As I was putting away my paints  a pick up truck pulled up and Dustin jumped out.  "Didn't think I was coming?" and laughed.  He said his captain on the boat was cool and offered to help carry my gear. Awesome!

The painting done  of Dustin, an Eastern Shore "Waterman", they're called, depicts on a bright sunny day, shaded by his canopy, a classic back view of a young crab fisherman.   He was incredibly generous and sat for several hours, with only a few breaks,  His captain joked and jeered him in addition to telling the most hilarious stories about the lives of Maryland's Crab Fishermen.  

I could not imaging a better way to spend an afternoon while gaining this most human insight into the lives of hard working "Watermen" as they labor and raise their families, offering up the most the most delicious maryland crabs for our tables.  This was reward enough in addition to competing along side some of the most respected artist in the US during the week's end exhibition and sale. The Avalon foundation and all of their hard working volunteers put on the most incredible events through out the week.  The Museum quality exhibition is of the highest caliber raising the art and the artist involved to pedestal level.  Most definitely what sets this event apart from the rest.  

The juror for selecting the winning paintings was Donald Demers , one of the most acknowledged and respected contemporary American landscape Painters.  Here's a video link, (below) where he graciously and eloquently expresses his reasons for selecting my painting "A Buck Twenty A Bushel" as this year's Grand Prize Winning Painting.

Also a link below to this past year's Collectors Party and Award"s Celebration.

Video Link, Don Demers Awards Juror 2013 Plein Air Easton

Video Link, Plein Air Easton, Collectors Party

Hoping you enjoyed my story of "Wipe outs and Glory" at PLein Air Easton 2013 
and don't forget to sign up for my "From the Studios of Garin Baker" Newsletter at:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Denmark Mural Project
Celebrating the Helsingor Ship yards
Created and installed Summer 2013

From The Studios of Garin Baker
Carriage House Art Studios
November 1st 2013
Helsingor Mural to scale

30 ft. high x 25 ft. wide. Helsingor, Denmark, 2013

I think it was late December of 2012 I received an e-mail from Elisabetta Saiu, artistic coordinator for the Kunst og Byrum, "Helsingør commune", in Denmark about creating a mural celebrating the Shipping Industry of this amazing small town about 60 miles north of Copenhagen. I thought wow, what a great subject, but knowing practically nothing about this area and its history, I was about to embark on quite a journey.

At first when Elisabetta's contacted me with her enthusiastic accent, being from Sardinia, Italy, it threw me off a bit.  I thought she was saying "chipping industry" during our initial conversations. What I was about to learn was that The Ministry of Culture in Denmark creates a wide array of Cultural Arts Festivals every year inviting artists from all over the world to come and create works of visual and performance arts in their small country of a population of 5.5 million.
Very cool!

At first I would be required to create using some amazing historical source material, provided by Elisabetta a rendering and design for the eventual 30 ft. high X 25 ft. wide Mural that would be installed in the center of Helsingor directly across from what once was a huge ship building factory that has now and is presently being transformed into a Museum, Cultural Center as well as a Business Incubator project.  Also very cool!

I was amazed to learn that as a working factory for over 100 years, employing at it's hight, more than 20 thousand men and women building the worlds most celebrated freighters and luxury yachts. Also these workers had an amazing heritage and history of ship building stretching back several hundred years to the Viking Age.  I also learned that these Viking ship builders were well advanced of their European neighbors and for a time dominated and perfected global navigation with their light weight wooden longships.

In relationship to the Mural which would feature recent history of the Helsingr Ship Yards, here are a just few of literally hundreds of amazing reference shots I was provided by the Museum through Elisabetta.

I then set about developing my rough design and wanted to create from a human point of view a heroic sense of these laborers combined with the monumental task of building huge vessels larger than human scale. This would prove quite challenging. Having been familiar with some imagery available and with the help of a fellow artist Kevin Ferrara, (who has a treasure trove of reference material on great artists their artworks) he enlightened me and sent me great works done by Thornton Oakley and others. With this reference, combined with many other sources, like the inspirational work of Muralist Frank Brangwyn and Joseph Sert, I was able to decipher through tons of reference material and boil things down to a composition I felt was quite strong given all the parameters. What was also quite important to me was to show the faces of the workers, which I notices in many other renditions on this subject matter is avoided in order to demonstrate the scale of the work being accomplished. So I altered the composition several times in order to create a point of view and composition from eye level. 

Here are some of my initial rough sketches for the project.

Rough abstract design

Design within wall scale

Free form design

Thornton Oakley tracing.

figure studies

Brangwyn figures

At this point I felt the composition taking shape and the strength of the design and compelling power of my intentions coming through.  I begin to work it out in two different directions.  Both rough sketches were presented to the Cultural Organization and Committee Members back in the Early Spring of 2013.

Rough Sketch #1
Rough Sketch #2

Feed Back from the Committee was quite positive and I was secretly hoping they would select sketch #1, but you never know.  So in this case I boldly said to Elisabetta that sketch #1 is the one I wanted to paint.  Luckily that's the one the Committee had shown a liking to anyway. They just wanted to make sure I included the amazing and world famous Kronborg /Helsingor Castle.

So I was set to begin the full rendering. 
I worked it up on several joined together sheets of (felt gray) Canson Paper using black and White Generals Charcoal Pencils. This is the most crucial stage in large scale Traditional Mural Painting.  All your proportions and design elements must be placed just right since things don't get better when you go large.  The incorrect aspects and miss alignments in the drawing tend to incorrectly multiply and look quite out of place when done without compositional planning and accurate draftsmanship.  I also wanted to create a design and composition that included the interior and exterior aspects of the shipyard. This proved an interesting design problem.  So I decided that a literal depiction of space would be sacrificed in order to create a montage of elements but combined them in a way so they could be seen a one scene without being a typically dated montage composition.  

Here's the finished Rendering.
Helsingor Mural Rendering, 48 "x 64", black and white charcoal on Canson paper.

With the Rendering now approved in the later part of the Spring 2013, it was time to begin the Mural painting execution stage in my studio in New Windsor NY.  Quite a bit of planning and Skyping was needed since my only trip to Denmark would be to install the painted Mural.  The exterior side of this 4 story building, which would receive the Mural had to be measured critically in order to decide it's final size and dimensions. We decided that a symmetrical placement under the building's existing architecture would work well, so the final dimensions of the painted Mural would be 25 ft. wide x 30 ft. high. This would also allow me to work on (parachute cloth).  A cotton woven light weight fabric that can be purchased in 5 ft wide rolls. Simple math calculations would determine that 15 sections would be needed, each 5 ft wide by 10 ft. high.  The paint I used is manufactured by Nova Colors in California, and is a light fast heavily pigmented acrylic paint made specifically for muralist and other artist paintings.  It works incredibly well on 2-3 coated gessoed (parachute) cloth.  Over the years I have set up my studio to complete this process as I have done several projects using this method as well as oil paints on gessoed canvas for primarily interior mural projects.  Working in sections is very similar to the way many Traditional Murals were done even though many believe and they look as if they were painted directly on the wall.

Here are a few shots of me working on several of the sections in my studio. 

Mural section laid on the floor to double check, making sure all the seems line up just right.

After 5-6 weeks of climbing, mixing, panting and organizing the process, all the 15 sections,  (each 5 ft. x 10 ft. sections) were completed.  All the sections were rolled into 3 tubes containing 5 sections each and along with a small amount of touch up paint and brushes all was shipped to Elisabetta in Helsingor, Denmark in mid July 2013. 

Arriving In Denmark in late July of 2013 I was greeted at the Copenhagen Airport by an enthusiastic and completely welcoming Elisabetta.  I asked if I could rent a car to get around and with a puzzled look on her face she said, "no car, we take train" OK? A quick and short connection to the train and a pleasant and smooth 40 min ride followed.  We arrived in Helsingor. Wow, incredibly easy!
My hotel was within walking distance to the Mural site and the small town of Helsingor was as quaint, well maintained and laid out as one would expect of a well managed European small city to be. Beautiful and very,very sweet!

The Site where the mural would be installed is quite wonderful. A large faced stuccoed building standing 4 stories tall with a large parking area in front. It faces a main road just across the street and commuter rail line from the huge shipyard and factory where thousands worked over many generations building the worlds most amazing ships.  On the other end of the courtyard/parking area is another building where two other artist, one from Spain and another from Italy had been working on scaffolding doing a large mural for the past several weeks on site. 

The Install: 
Prior to my arrival Elisabetta had made arrangement to have all the lift equipment and two wonderful assistants made available to the project.  Jasper and Simon were both young men in  their early twenties, very well versed in arts and music in addition to many other interesting subjects.  They spoke multiple languages and even tried to help me with my crude attempts at danish.  Both struck me as extremely mature for their age and were completely motivated to help me in this process.  I was utterly impressed.  Having trained several young artist in US and not that Mural installations are rocket science, these two young men were incredibly fast on the uptake.  So much so, that on day one, we were able to, with a small amount of tutelage, adhere a good portion of the Mural to the wall.  
Using an Acrylic palmar glue similar to Gel Medium, applying it to the face of the wall and the back of the parachute cloth sections, starting with a level line across the top, we started glueing the section to the wall.

Lunch break from the back of Elisabetta's auto.

End of Day One.

Day two of the instal was a continuation of the first but I knew once the figures started to appear on the wall, passers by would become more interested and slow our progress with questions about the project.  Almost all were quite pleasant and enthusiastic about what we were doing and thought a fine addition to the side of this blank wall in their town.  Some were very curious about the project having had several generation and family members whom worked at the shipyards and on a few occasions thought they had recognized some of the workers in the foreground. Very Cool!

The Local Press would soon find us and published several stories about the project.

On one occasion a local resident found his grandfather in the Mural and the media followed up with several stories about "Who are the workers in the Mural?"
Very cool! 
As an artist bringing these images back from generations long gone by it was an amazing feeling.  Back to life, these stories of workers and simple folk having spent their lives toiling away at the Shipyards. Now a new generation of readers and viewers would know from what and how this town sustained itself for hundreds of years.  In one way shape or form it's a great success when art can initiate timeless human stories from one generation to the next through expressed experiences and imagery.

With day two completed were had accomplish quite a bit. All the sections of the mural were installed and only remaining were some minor touch ups.  This was completed on day three and the following day four we were able to apply 2 rolled coats of a protective clear gloss acrylic varnish.  A few days later it was dedicated and a huge crowd attended, including dignitaries, speeches and beer. 
We're in Denmark, Of Course!
Very, very cool and thrilled to have completed such a wonderful Project!

Images below of the completed installed Mural including a hi res image.

Sorry for this long post, but it was a great project that I hope brings much enjoyment to the people of Helsingor for many years to come. 

Thank you Elizabetta and Helingør municipality,"Helsingør commune" and The Culture Chef for the Helsingør Municipality  Jørgen Sprogøe Petersen in Denmark for making and enabling me towards creating this project and making it such a wonderful reality!

Thank you for taking the time hope you enjoyed your visit.

Garin Baker
November 2nd 2013