Painter Anthony Benedetto is better known as crooner Tony Bennett. His painting “Central Park” depicts the New York oasis in autumn.
I am almost 59 years old and have been drawing and painting from the time I was able to hold a pencil. However, I ended up getting a degree from an art school specializing in music and didn’t go back to painting for a while.
In the mid-eighties, I began a career in the arts and crafts field and subsequently worked as a blacksmith, a knife maker, an ethnic-style jewelry maker and eventually a fine jewelry designer, which is the trade I stayed with for twenty-six years.
I came back to painting in 2005, prompted by creative boredom. Although I had seven awards for excellence in diamond jewelry design, I still had to commercialize my designs in order to sell. This didn’t appeal to my creative side.
I began, in my free time, to paint oils on hardboard. Through trial and error (and a lot of reading) I began to improve my painting and developed something I felt was my style. I then started painting on canvas.
I like painting in a relatively large scale—100 x 120cm is my average size. For my method, use spontaneous paint application and I like to add a lot of texture. Ten years later, I switched from oil to acrylic as it was easier to paint large works and wasn’t as harmful to breathe in.
Acrylic on canvas became my media of choice, as it is for many artists. In 2016, I held an exhibition in Albemarle Gallery in London together with my brother Rado Kirov. There, I presented my series of abstract works I call “Gemstones.” The response I received from this exhibition made me really think about the idea of painting for a living. Easier said than done. I am working on that dream, but still making the jewelry that pays the bills.
Why do I paint? I guess I have the need to share the visions of my inner reality. I believe that most of my fellow artists are trying to do the same. I believe that everyone has a different inner reality, although on the surface our reality looks independent of our thoughts and visions.
For the past twenty years, I’ve been blessed to have lucid dreams. Any time I have one, I feel a very strong urge to share my experience. Not an easy task. In a lucid dream my consciousness creates scenes of unparalleled brightness and grandeur, underlined by ever-present mystery.
Painting is probably the most appropriate media to try to convey these dream images—or at least it’s the medium I’ve found to be the one that seems to give me closer results. My latest series of paintings are attempts to present a glimpse to this bright, lucid reality.
I was recently asked if I felt sadness when one of my paintings sells. My answer Is no. I actually feel a great deal of satisfaction and pride that someone, often on the other side of the world, understands and appreciates what I want to share to the extent that they are willing to spend a substantial amount of money to own it and enjoy it.
by Carolyn Edlund
Art communities come in different forms, ranging from studio/living complexes developed through creative placemaking, to in-person artist salons, to online platforms that bring hundreds or thousands of people together.
There are plenty of advantages. Communities engage members who are serious, with common interests and similar goals. There is widespread moral support and encouragement. Discussions ensue, offering answers, feedback and critiques. Opportunities may be offered and collaborations started. Other artists in the group may act as accountability partners or even mentors, and often become friends.
Mitch Bowler is the founder of Pencil Kings, a website designed for aspiring artists to build their skills and engage in a community of like-minded people from around the world. I asked him to share some insights on how to successfully grow a group like this.
Bowler started working with online communities 24 years ago during the early age of the internet and has extensive experience with different groups. The online community at Pencil Kings is private, and run by a manager who directs members to resources, makes recommendations, and keeps things flowing, somewhat like a librarian.
“Facebook will always naturally be the biggest discussion platform,” Bowler says. “People are used to it and tend to gravitate to social media platforms. At first, people in an online art community might not participate. I’d say that 10% are posting, and 90% are lurking. They may lack confidence because they haven’t gotten a formal introduction into the community, or they might not understand how to post or interact.”
What is the most important thing a manager can do? “Getting people to speak, interact and connect is the key. Once that happens the network can grow exponentially,” he responds.
Bowler recalls a conversation with a strong online community organizer who focused on building connections between members. “If someone had a question, instead of answering it, he would recommend they talk to another community member who had just dealt with that problem themselves and could explain how they got past it,” he says. “Even though he knew the answer, what he did was form a bond between two people who formerly had no bond. He knew that the more connections he could create, the stronger the network would be, and that this would grow a really thriving community. And it did. I think the organizer’s job is to form these connections.”
The Pencil Kings community is diverse and includes people from all skill sets and disciplines. “We opened it up to anybody, although we focus on digital and dry media, like pencils and pastels,” says Bowler. “They help each other out, and post what they are interested in. It’s free flowing and organic.”
Planned activities in the community create a structure that facilitates conversations. Members can post their artwork or visit the watercooler area for general topics. There is also a discussion group specifically for critiques. Members are encouraged to share their sketchbooks and participate in themed monthly challenges.
Bowler explains, “We organize people with monthly challenges that focus on core fundamental skills. Each month is a different challenge, developed with the thought that people are there to improve their art. There are exercises, and we share resources. You can see everyone’s work as it progresses, which is really cool. Some people compare themselves to see how they are doing, while others just share. But, members can see that they are not the only one doing the exercise. The proof is that other people are posting.”
Prizes are given out for Pencil King monthly challenges, but they don’t encourage artists to compete with each other. “As far as being on a quest to be the best, I’ve seen that 80% of artists are not in competition with others. They want to make their own art, and let others make their art,” he explains. “The other 20% feel they are in competition with the world and want to be the best. I feel this is not the best way to approach art, especially with beginners. The biggest hurdle I see with artists is that they are just not putting in enough time. So that’s what we reward in the challenges. Everyone who completes the challenge is put into a draw for the prize. We give away art supplies, books or courses related to the challenge. Everyone is eligible to win, but they must take action. From my standpoint as an educator, competition is not the enemy. Inaction is the enemy.”
Online communities can help form strong relationships, but in-person meetings can enhance them. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, where the virtual comes to life through a handshake or hug, conversation, and bonding. Live events can be a perfect complement to an online presence as a networking tool and a way to cement friendships.
Bowler recalls being the art director for an online video game league that hosted a live event. He says, “When I finally met some of the people from that community in person, it was amazing. Everyone referred to me by my community ‘gamertag’. I’ve had that experience again and again, when you have a relationship online and then be able bridge that, is where things get taken to a whole new level. That is the power of live. You can foster relationships in the online world, and strengthen them through live events. It can be worth it to people will drive three or four hours just to attend a live event and to experience that.”
Happy Sunday to You! Besides being a religious date for many, it is my birthday on April 21, 2019. I share the day with Queen Elizabeth and Iggy Pop, which completely covers the gamut of my desires to be both a king and a wild man with a lust for life. The last time my […]
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If you didn’t get a chance to purchase one of the Crucible curved card scrapers, you can make your own with a dry grinder and an existing card scraper. It takes about 30 minutes.
Download and print out the following template. It’s a hand-drawn version of Chris Williams’s scraper, which is where our design started.
Cut it out and affix it to your card scraper with the help of spray adhesive. Or make a cardboard template and trace its shape on your scraper with a permanent marker.
At your grinder, set the tool rest to 0° – parallel to the floor. Dress the wheel of your grinder (we use an #80-grit wheel, but a #60 or #100 will also do) so it has a slight convex shape. This convexity in the wheel makes the scraper easier to shape.
Get a bucket of water and put it by the grinder.
(Hey wait, where are the step photos? I’m in a hotel room that’s 400 miles from my shop. You are going to have to use your imagination.)
Place the scraper on the tool rest and start grinding the excess metal away. Don’t work on one part of the scraper for more than a few seconds. Keep moving around the perimeter. After 10 or 15 seconds, try to pinch the scraper with a finger and thumb. If….
… you can pinch the scraper with no pain, continue to grind.
… your fingers reflexively jump away, cool the scraper in your water bucket.
… you smell bacon, also cool the scraper in the water bucket.
Once you have ground down to your line, you will have become pretty good at grinding flat shapes – congrats. Now you need to remove the grinder marks from the edges.
Use a block of wood to hold the scraper at 90° on a coarse diamond stone and stone the edges. Remove all the scratches from the grinder. Then move up to a #1,000-grit waterstone (or soft Arkansas) and then up to a polishing stone. Then you can proceed with normal scraper-sharpening procedures.
This is exactly how I made all of our prototypes. I promise that you will become emotionally involved with your scraper after putting all the work into it, and you might not ever want to buy one of ours.
So be it.
— Christopher Schwarz