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October 3, 2018

Sept 2020: I’m putting this page on hiatus for a little while, as I’ve started some time consuming projects in the studio. In the mean time, here’s a list of my most informative posts.  Take care everyone!

You can still reach me at https://www.marctaroholmes.com/contact.

Gear_Easel (2)

Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with your drawing and painting!

~marc

Degas and Cassat in their own words

September 5, 2020

“Art is vice. You don’t marry it legitimately, you rape it.”

“I should like to be famous and unknown.”

“Boredom soon overcomes me when I am contemplating nature.”

“You have to have a high conception, not of what you are doing, but of what you may do one day.
Without that, there is no point in working.”

“If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color”

“The first sight of Degas’ pictures was the turning point of my artistic life.”

“Sometimes it made him furious that he could not find a chink in my armor, and there would be months when we just could not see each other, and then something I painted would bring us together again.”

“I will not admit a woman can draw like that.”

“I, marry? Oh, I could never bring myself to do it. I would have been in mortal misery all my life for fear my wife might say, “That’s a pretty little thing” after I had finished a picture.”

“A picture is a thing which requires as much knavery, as much malice, and as much vice as the preparation of a crime. Make it untrue and add in an accent of truth.”

“Apart from my heart, I feel everything grows old in me. Even my heart has something artificial. It has been sewn by the dancers in a soft pink satin purse, like their shoes.”

Edgar Degas 1834 – 1917

“There is only one thing in life for a woman; it is to be a mother.
A woman artist must be capable of making primary sacrifices.”

“It is as well not to have too great an admiration for your master’s work.
You will be in less danger of imitating him.”

“I have not done what I wanted to, but I tried to make a good fight.”

Mary Cassat 1844 – 1926

Art in the Time of Corona Virus

August 26, 2020

[ Model with Medical Mask, From Life, 20 Minutes ]

The virus situation in Montreal is currently in a lull. My napkin-estimate is 1/200 people walking around spreading. That’s assuming it’s 10x worse than tested-numbers, and, that all of Quebec’s infected are in Montreal itself. (In other words, a cautious estimate, but not paranoid).

That seems not too bad? On a given subway trip, the odds are only one person is a carrier.

And so, I went out for the first time in a long long while to a figure drawing group.

I don’t know why, but I was surprised the group was well attended. We were all masked, including the model of course. In a way, that’s disappointing, but in another way it makes the sketch a record of this time.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

August 22, 2020

[ The Heart of an Irishman is Nothing but his Imagination, 30×30″ Oil on Panel ]

One of the very first paintings I ever made en plein air was a portrait of a tree.

It was a pine, with orange-red bark. Probably it was the light on the trunk that grabbed me. I thought, Wow! – If I paint that, it’ll feel just like being here in the forest.

This was probably 30 years ago, and the painting was a terrible failure. I had no idea what I was doing at the time.

More importantly, I didn’t really understand what the landscape had to offer as a subject. The whole thing about tree paintings is a misunderstanding of why we paint landscape. The idea that I would paint a view – as I might do now – just – the view itself – just looking off towards the horizon and painting the sense of space and vastness.

At the time, that simply did not compute.

My brain was saying; There’s no focal point! What’s the subject of the painting? It can’t just be a picture of the hole in the air in front of you! (Which, of course – it can.)

What I was looking for, instinctively, was a portrait, or – a figurative subject.

Something to put smack in the center of the painting, like I had done with hundreds of figure drawings in classrooms.

(Aside: I also didn’t understand what post-modern critics were on about – the idea that academic figure painting objectified the model – but of course, this is exactly what they meant. The model (let’s be honest, the naked girl) was supposed to just sit there and look pretty. Like a vase full of flowers. As a younger man, it didn’t occur to me that this might be a shallow expectation for a work of art).

As a consequence of my early failed paintings of trees, I simply don’t do it very much any more. Paint a singular tree, trying to make a portrait of it.

But every so often we will go out walking in the woods and I will return to that idea of a painting that makes you feel like you’re in the forest.

I really do want to make one of these that works for me. This one is getting very close.

Do you remember those old photo wallpapers in the ’70s? You could make your room into a redwood forest? I have a strong memory of one of those rooms – I can’t imagine I really had that. My parents would never install such a thing, but maybe a school-chum had a room like that? It’s a very clear memory for me.

That’s what I want out of a good painting of trees.

It actually is about space.

Not the vista of a landscape – but something closer to a domestic interior.

You should feel that enclosed space, inside the forest, under the canopy, surrounded on all sides by tree trunks. Hopefully it conjures a lush, green quiet, that gives you the contemplative feeling of a walk in the woods.

That sense, on entering a sudden clearing, of discovering a magical place you’ll never find again.

That’s I think, the real purpose of a painting of trees.

[ Branches Hung With the Weight of Inspiration, 24×24″ Oil on Panel ]

-<0>-

[ Winter’s Bones, These Dry Branches Carry a lot of Weight, 30×30″ Oil on Panel ]

New Works, and Playing with Titles

August 4, 2020

“I painted this place. It’s mine now.”
”So – you can go there whenever you want?”
”Well, not really. I have to look at the painting.”
”But what if you sell it?”
“I guess I have to be ok with that.”

10x10x1.5”, Oil on Panel, 2020

My usual process is to product a batch of paintings all in one go. They tend to share some colors. (When I’m mixing paint, I like to keep adding to the same mounds).

I like to focus. If I’m painting, I don’t like to do anything else that day. If I’m writing, same thing – that’s all I do that day. That’s one thing I like about the out-of-house-studio. Once I’ve made the trip, I tend to stay a good 10-12 hour day.

Fresh paintings go up on the wall wet. I have all my blank white-primed panels hanging on the wall, so that I know there’s a hook for them to go back to when they’re painted. I like the effect of all the white panels getting filled with color. It’s kind of motivating. Like checking off a to-do list. I stick a bit of tape with the date on them so I know when they’re probably dry. It can take quite a while. Months even for some of my thicker pieces.

During this phase I like to look at them and think.

When we’re eating, I face the gallery and compare new pieces with the best of the old ones.

Sometimes I bring them back down and repaint a bit. I might ultimately decide I don’t like a painting. These offending ones go into a closet to dry out of sight. Eventually they get sanded down and painted over. The paint is so thick on these, I actually scrape them aggressively with a BBQ scraper, and then smooth with a wood rasp, and THEN sand them. Otherwise it takes all day and uses up many sheets of sandpaper.

So if they make it through the ‘watching and waiting’ period, after a few weeks I’ll do the titles.

This time around, for some reason I was playing around with these little dialogues. In the place of your normal short title, I have instead a snippet of imagined conversation. One day I want to see these on a gallery wall, with the stories printed on little white cards below. I think people would enjoy that kind of show.

“If you pull back far enough, it looks like a painting.”
”Ok?”
”But if you look really close, it’s just paint.”
”Right?”
”Cool hey?”
”Ya!”

10x10x1.5”, Oil on Panel, 2020

-<o>-

“This was as far as the ladies went.”
“I can see why! Does the road get any better after this?”
“Everything was so simple for those ladies.”
“At least they built a nice tea house here.”

10x10x1.5”, Oil on Panel, 2020

-<o>-

“I’m just saying – there was a time you could live off the land.”
”But what kind of life was that?”
”We might be about to find out.”

10x10x1.5”, Oil on Panel, 2020

-<o>-

“What if there was a place where everything goes with the flow?”
“Could anyone go there?”
“Sure! Let’s all go live there.”
“Naw, you’re going to have to keep that place to yourself.”

10x10x1.5”, Oil on Panel, 2020

I Wonder – How Many of You Are Readers?

July 24, 2020

Do you read for entertainment?

Because – I’ve recently put together a collection of my own original fiction, Snake Eater and 29 Other Bite-Sized Stories. < affiliate links, thx ]

It’s a slim volume of thirty stories. Some are tiny – what you’d call micro-fiction. Others are traditional length short stories.

They cross an odd set of genres, maybe best labeled contemporary fantasy. Maybe a touch of horror, definitely spiced with some dark humor. Oh, and they’re written for adults. But nothing I wouldn’t let my mother read. (You don’t know my mother. That might not be saying much).

I’d love to hear what people think!

If you’re interested, I can send you a PDF copy by email. Free of charge. Details below.

But!

I’d love it if you were willing to make a purchase – because that gives you the option to leave a verified review on Amazon.

Which is kind of an incredible favor for a writer. The best thing you can do for us, and it only takes a moment. A great many of you did this for my drawing books, The Urban Sketcher and Direct Watercolor, and those reviews are still putting bread on the table as we speak. (For which, you have my heartfelt thanks).

So yes! You can buy Snake Eater in eBook format at a special price of $2.99. (US and CA, and something close to that in other currencies). Or, if you prefer, you can purchase the paperback for $9.99. (The regular everyday price).

The print experience is my personal favorite. I very much enjoyed doing the page design. Typography is kind of nerdy, but so satisfying to get it right.

Also – I should be clear – even though I’m an artist, this book is not illustrated. These are stories that work best with imagination.

You have my thanks in advance for purchases and reviews!! Or, if you want to take me up on a free PDF version (readable on screen in Acrobat or a web browser, or you can print it out yourself), email me at marc(dot)taro(at)gmail(dot)com with Snake Eater in the subject line – and I’ll send it right out.

Thanks everyone,
~Marc Taro Holmes

New Paintings Up on Etsy.com!

July 12, 2020

[ All Creation in the Palm of Your Hand, 5×5″ watercolor on cotton rag – SOLD ]

Just a quick note about new work on my ETSY.com gallery!

I’ve posted up my Miniature Landscapes from our recent #30x30DirectWatercolor event.

These 5×5″ and 3×3″ original watercolors are on 100% cotton paper, and will ship to you double-matted to 9×9″.

If you’re interested – last time we did this, they sold quickly – so you might want to check out the site today! < yes! quite a few sold day one! but there’s still some nice ones left :) 

[ Listen to the Grass, 5×5″ watercolor on cotton rag – SOLD ]

Thanks! As always – your support means a lot to us here in Montreal.

~marc


[ We All Go Toward the Light, 3×3″ watercolor on cotton rag – SOLD ]

[ Flash Flood, 3×3″ watercolor on cotton rag ]

2020 Society of Canadian Artists Elected Members’ Juried Exhibition! <I’m In that!

July 9, 2020

I’m excited to announce my painting “You Can Still Go There Though” (10×10″ impasto oil on panel) was chosen for this year’s Society of Canadian Artist’s members show!

Just a note: This piece is available through the society  SOLD! at my old price of $275.00 – as it was entered into the show before our recent lively discussion on pricing :)

Open question about pricing?

July 2, 2020

Lately I’ve been thinking about what will happen after the pandemic.

You know, assuming that’s going to happen. The Spanish flu lasted three years so, you never know.

Still – I’m hoping in a few months I’ll be able to return to gallery-seeking behavior.

(I’m still looking for representation for my oil paintings.)

But in the mean time, I’ve been selling a few online. Mostly my smaller works, the 10×10” sized pieces.

They’re very practical for shipping, and of course, the smaller the work, the more affordable they can be – and frankly that seems to be important for online sales? – But – I could be wrong!

These happen to be my favorite pieces. I actually prefer to them to the larger work, because the scale of the impasto is more dramatic, and the ‘gallery wall effect’ – when you stand back and see the image resolve at a distance – is easer to experience in a typical living space.

My favorite place to hang these is in the dining room, so I can look up from the breakfast table and chose which landscape to mentally visit that morning :)

So – here’s my question! To anyone who feels like responding!

What do you think is a fair price for these 10×10” oil paintings on 2″ deep gallery panels?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d really like to know!

Thanks,

~m

Day 27 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Crossing the Finish Line

June 27, 2020

So here we are at the finish line!

It’s been quite an experience. Now I’m ready to just play for a bit. I’ve spent the last few days of my marathon, taking it easy with 3″ and 5″ miniatures.

Sure – I have more street photos, and more people-in-complex environments – but I’m sitting here not painting them.

Possibly – there’s a limit to how much you can learn in a single push?

This has been a huge full circle, through the various kinds of travel sketching I’ve been doing in the last ten years, and back to the abstracted landscapes I’m painting in the studio. But maybe? I’ve come a little ways?

Every time we stretch, reaching for new goals, we add a little more to our toolbox. There’s a little more depth to the well, a little more gas in the tank.

I’m looking forward to taking some of these miniatures and painting them up full size. But that’ll be after the dust settles on this year’s #30x30DirectWatercolor.

I’m ready for a break, and to enjoy hanging around the group and watching everyone else cross the finish line in the next few days.

Thanks everyone for participating in this year’s #30×30 – and I hope to hear some great stories from what all of you have discovered from your own marathons!

Please post your success stories or your trials and tribulations. We all want to read what it’s been like for everyone else!

~Marc Taro Holmes

Day 26 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Market Day in Siem Reap

June 26, 2020

Day 26: Market Day in Siem Reap.

After the last two found photos, I felt ready to take on these market scenes from our trip to Cambodia.

The combination of the dark silhouettes and the jumbled complexity of the environment – I felt like this would be great material for design abstraction – while telling a good story at the same time.

I’m posting this on day 26, but in reality Uma and I tried to get our #30 done in two weeks. (17 days for me to finish).

At this point I’d struggled with my chosen subjects – fully light-to-dark images with dramatic contrasts. I’ve chopped through some busy, (impossibly busy) scenes. I’ve given myself quite a workout :) But I can say I’ve never tried to paint something like this.

And don’t get me wrong – it’s not a great painting. It’s not something I’d ever hang on my wall. It might look like a scene out of a graphic novel, but it’s certainly not a good painting.

But! – after two weeks of this, I can say, I’m hitting darks in one stroke. I’m seeing silhouettes and welding shapes when I need too. I’m controlling sharp vs. soft edges – and I’m making some artistic choices – this one turns out to be a painting about light through a plastic bag.

Or possibly it’s a painting about this silver bowl. This is one of my favorite silver bowls I’ve ever painted :)