Friday, December 9, 2011

Artists Can Get Their Art On T-Shirts At

I recently discovered a different kind of  t-shirt company that prints fast and affordable t-shirts from artists' designs. The company, ooshirts, is a quality custom printer with principles that I can respect.

They take deadlines seriously, pay attention to details, provide quotes and reviews before printing and, if needed, conversations with live customer service folks. I especially liked that the design and ordering process was so simple. I was able to design and order my shirts in 5 minutes. You can't beat that.

Consider ooshirts for a high-quality and affordable way to advertise your art.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Summer Book

For many moons I have wanted to combine my two creative joys, writing and image making, into book form. My ignorance of complex design software and the cost of printing hundreds of copies always stood in the way of my book goal.

The internet and digital revolutions have given rise to various print-on-demand companies (POD), which are able to economically print one book or hundreds of them. The clincher for me happened when these companies began offering software so simple even a tech troll like myself could use it.

Even so, my summer project of producing a first book has only now gone to press. Titled Fear of Flying, the small book is a compilation of line drawings illustrated with short prose. When I allow myself to think about it, I realize that life is strange and even absurdly funny. The book is a result of giving in to the joy of odd.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How I Fed The Fridge

Writing inspiration comes from many places and can happen at the most unusual of times. Ideas pop into my head while taking a leisurely walk, while driving in rush hour traffic, or in the case of my latest story, while listening to the refrigerator.

The ideal sound of a fridge should be no sound at all and, barring that, an unobtrusive ambient hum is acceptable. My last-year's-model ice-box has gone one step further. At certain times of the day, it breaks the semi-silence with odd mechanical groans that seem almost human. I imagine at those times that the poor thing is not feeling well or is hungry.

The latest outburst came several weeks ago while I enjoyed my version of Thai coconut soup. The fridge's groans came in short staccato exclamations. It seemed to be saying, "Feed me! Feed me!"

My first thought was the carniverous plant in the classic film "Little Shop of Horrors." I decided, however, to write a more humorous children's version featuring a hungry refrigerator.

The resulting story, Feed The Fridge, has been chosen to compete with others for publication by Winners will be chosen by readers' votes and anyone reading this story may vote for Feed The Fridge by clicking on this link. Thank you in advance.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are There Any Questions?

Standing before a blank canvas is a lot like watching a Woody Allen movie, but without the humor. Poised there with paint brush in hand, the artist gets a dreaded sense of the daunting task ahead. As with Allen’s movies, there is always the big question, the existential huh – “What does it all mean?” quickly followed by “What can I say that hasn’t already been said?" Rendered immobile by unanswerable questions, artists are often stopped cold before they even begin.

I have read that throughout his career, Allen has been able to disregard his outer and inner critics and rely on his own instincts. The results have been a collection of truly marvelous films and a few that were just average. He made mistakes along the way but was able to put them behind him and move on to the next project.

The biggest challenges for any artist seem to be the courage to begin and the courage to begin again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

John Whipple At Antieau Gallery

I probably became aware of John Whipple’s art at one of the Gasparilla Art Festivals in Tampa years ago. I say probably because Whipple images have been stuck in my brain box so long, I forget when they first imprinted there.

I was also a sidewalk artist and used early Sunday mornings to see the shows for myself. With only so much time and 300 artists to check out, it became necessary to filter out all decorative, derivative, functional and cute art.

Really important art like John’s doesn’t just call to you; it whacks you in the back of the head. At some point, I had a hot prickly sensation that someone was staring at me. Turning, I saw a booth full of medium-size dark portraits. Moving closer, I realized it was they who had been staring. I could not walk away, but was drawn into their private world and John Whipple’s.

“Merde, but this guy can paint!” I said to no one. But more than technical bravura, John’s art snags us first with humor and familiarity and only then do we get a glimpse of the edginess. It’s like a black comedy when a guffaw suddenly sticks in the throat.

Of course, the mastery is that we recognize something human in those odd characters - our own foibles and shortcomings. We identify with them and we laugh.

John’s art is now in exhibition at Antieau Gallery in New Orleans. Titled Misfits, the show opens Saturday evening, November 19, tonight.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Congratulations, You've Been Selected To Pay Us A Large Amount Of Money

The e-mail subject line first got my attention – “New York Gallery Representation.” I scanned the letter with rising expectations, past the parts about ‘your wonderful art,’ ‘fantastic opportunity to exhibit in New York,’ and ‘chance for a solo exhibition,’ to the sender’s identity, a well known pay-to-play Midtown gallery.

Knowing well that traditional galleries don’t use such teaser tactics, I was still a bit disappointed. I clicked on the gallery link anyway to learn the details of their ‘offer.’ Full gallery representation with group shows, post cards, magazine ads, museum introductions, would cost $3450.00 a year. In addition, the gallery would collect a 30% commission on sales. If I qualified for a solo exhibition, the costs would be higher. Inquire with the sales manager for rates.

I could not find a section that listed exhibiting artists. Perhaps that list would go on for pages. Looking at past exhibitions confirmed my suspicion that the gallery believed cash to be more important than quality. The art proved to be not terrible but certainly uninspired.

For years, the art community has looked down its nose at vanity galleries. Deemed money grubbing and gauche, their tiny ads were stuck in the back of art magazines. Galleries soon learned there could be big bucks in offering representation to artists willing and able to pay hefty fees. Judging from the numbers of them and their splashy presence in the media, vanity galleries now have a certain amount of creditability.

Two questions popped into my head as I hit the ‘delete’ key. If I pay up, will the gallery guarantee at least one sale? When my gallery run comes to an end, would I list the gallery on my resume? No and no.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Luddites Unite

Excellent animated video by Gerald Scarfe for Pink Floyd's World Tour 1977. I love grainy old style drawn animation, which has now been surplanted by slick pixilated versions.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


It was just one of those simple Facebook tasks, something I had done hundreds of times before. But this time, when adding my comment to a lengthy and serious discussion about who died first, Richard Nixon or his dog Checkers,* this time, as I typed in the friend's name, a drop-down box opened and Facebook tried to enter another slightly different name. Each time I deleted that name, Facebook would re-enter it.

The site seemed to be attempting to anticipate the friend's name before I typed it. Oh my God, Facebook was trying to read my mind! Finally, exponentially, those billions and billions of Facebook algorhythms had achieved the ultimate state of consciousness- human sentience.

My mind quickly flashed on the film, 2001, A Space Odyssey. Hal the devious FB computer has just taken over the space ship. "Now Denis, you don't really want to type Donna Rensfield, do you. You really want to type Donald Rumsfeld, don't you."

In this version of the film, I am Commander David Bowman trying desperately to shut down Facebook Hal before it eats my lunch and empties my bank account. Over and over I keep mumbling, "Sing "Daisy, Daisy," dammit!"

* Richard Nixon passed away April 22, 1994. His beloved Cocker Spaniel Checkers preceded him in death by 30 years.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Whole World Is Watching

We here at Denis Gaston Art have reason to celebrate. Recently, in the last day or two, someone, somewhere out there, has become the twelve-thousandth person to visit this blog. That's twelve-thousand visits from 120 different countries. Oops, make that 121 countries.

Compared to, that may not seem like many visits, but we think it shows a respectable world-wide interest for our contemporary art related content.

We tip our berets to all those world-wide viewers and look forward to the next twelve-thousand visits. And thanks to our twelve-thousand and fifty-seventh visitor from the Republic of Seychelles.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Moving In And Drawing Out

In this the hottest day of the hottest month, workers have decided to show up to continue some much delayed home renovation. This Old House this is not and the sound of hammers and saws is often followed by long stretches of silence. Peeking out the window, I discover they've left without a word. Will they be back today, tomorrow?

This sort of home invasion has continued for over a week and my only sanctuary has become the drawing room. In a distant corner from the clang and bang, I start by letting my pen do some walking around on the paper. Later, as a rudimentary image begins to appear, I take over and guide the drawing to completion. This peculiar drawing method has produced a bestiary of critters, two of which appear above.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Craft Is Art

"Persian Jar," wheel thrown. altered Raku fired vessel, Michael Simon
Craft art has always seemed like a second sister in the contemporary art world. It never strove for the cool or cerebral status of Pop or Post-Modern Art, the two movements that, after the excesses of Abstract Expressionism, came to dominate the mainstream art scene. And, horrors, craft art delighted in showing the hand marks of its makers, a technique strictly avoided in the slick and calculated popular art styles.  This alone was enough to land the tradition in the category of amusing artifacts.

But the tradition of fine craft thrives in diverse settings all across the country. This astonishing creative diversity bursts forth in Craft In America, a six part PBS series. In gritty industrial inner cities, in off-the-track Appalachian enclaves, in North West Coast communities and the arid South West, artists are carrying on handed-down traditions, and most refreshingly, many are bringing their craft into the modern art world.

Using technologies unavailable to their ancestors, these craft visionaries are expanding the boundaries of the hand-made traditions and in the process enriching the lives of those willing to take the time to appreciate it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

10 Most Famous Unfinished Art Works

Some artists are so gifted that even their unfinished works are considered strokes of genius. As with any project that requires intense focus and a large sacrifice of time, achieving art perfection can become an arduous task, making it seemingly impossible to follow through on an ambitious plan. The following pieces are more remembered for their beauty and meaning than their unfinished states — the artists who created them are hardly considered slackers, as each poured their hearts and souls into all of their works. Read story here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Art For Our Sake

c. Jonathan Hillyer Photography Inc.
courtesy High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Deep into the dog days of Florida's summer, afternoon finds me momentarily at odds with my calling. I should be painting but the drip-dry heat chases me from the studio. My inner editor advises catching up on art books but workers arrive to install a back door. My last refuge for today becomes the computer screen.

One of the first things to jump out at me is how call to artist sites have changed. Scanning an updated list of shows on the Cafe site gave me a chalk art show in El Paso, an exhibition celebrating Edgar Allan Poe in Boston, a photography show about the Flint Hills in Kansas, a ceramic cup competition in Kansas City, an energy conservation art exhibition in Seattle and a competition celebrating Latino, African and Asian heritage.

In my quick glimpse, only one show made a call to contemporary painters - the Portland 2012 Contemporary Biennial. Unfortunately, the exhibition is limited to Oregon artists.

Even at the local level, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of thematic and multi-media exhibitions. Some of the themes have included dogs, tea cups, tiny art, and psychological states. And it is no longer de riguer to attend just art exhibitions. There must also be something interesting going on - a poetry slam, a charity auction, wine tastings, music concerts.

Pity the poor person who stumbles into a gallery of beautiful and challenging paintings and has nothing but the silence of her thoughts to fall back on.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Whose Art Is It?

"untitled", George Sugarman, 1992
Hard times and economic woes continue to decimate art funding at national as well as local levels. The Pinellas County Arts Council, oldest in the state (1976), officially ceased to function this year.

Scratching for ways to make further cuts, some county governments have decided to suspend requirements that new government buildings spend 1% on public art. Hillsborough County has ended this program and Broward County is considering similar cuts.

As sad as this turn of events seems, there is a segment of the population who will applaud these decisions. For this small but vocal group, the spending of tax dollars on what they deem frivolous and even vulgar public art is a travesty and waste of money. Art funding agencies have sometimes capitulated to the demands of a few self-appointed art critics.

Of course, art is where you find it, and it would be most difficult to reach consensus on the merits of a work of art. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was derided by citizens as a piece of junk when first erected. It is now the unofficial trademark of the City of Lights. Picasso's iconic woman sculpture in Chicago faced mountains of scorn, but has since become a photo op for tourists and locals alike.

What changed in these two instances? First, city governments refused to cave in to nattering nay-sayers. They firmly believed that public art belongs to everyone, even art that some believe is provacative. Secondly, with time and open minds, more and more citizens came to, if not love, at least tolerate these public works of art.

Public art has a future in our visual landscapes, but only if it is allowed to be what it is - creative, visionary and thought provoking. Much of what I see passing as public art is actually landscape and building decoration. The public deserves to experience the full range of artistic expression of which artists are capable.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Planet Art In Gainesville

Gainesville Solar Walk,
 Elizabeth Indianos, 2002

Last Monday I made a zippy trip up to Gainesville with my road buddy Casandra.  One hundred and forty-four miles fell away in a blur as Casi juiced her Mazda to the limit.

Arriving in town with time to spare, we went all Jamaican, man, and dined at the Reggae Shack Cafe on West University Avenue. Best curried tempeh I ever ate.

On the way back to her mom's house, we took a small detour and discovered the planets. This collection is a 4 billion to 1 exact scale public art project by Tarpon Springs artist Elizabeth Indianos.

Stretching nearly a mile along NW 8th Avenue, the Gainesville Solar Walk includes the Sun and all the planets in the solar system. At the very end, all by himself, stands Pluto. Downgraded to a planetoid a while back, he seemed at odds in this miniature tableau. 

Next time I will begin my solar walk from NW 22nd Street. From that direction, Pluto will become the numero uno planet or planetoid in the solar system.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Scene One
(Inside the Bungalow home of Todd and Cindi Bowers in an old retro-chic neighborhood.)

Todd:  "I’m going to Bartlett & Adams for potting soil and picking up Jason at Quidditch. Have you seen the Prius keys?"

Cindi: "They’re by the zither where you left them. Oh, can you stop by that new Indonesian market and get fresh cilantro. Melissa and Eric are coming for dinner tomorrow and I want to surprise them with Pod Scum Dass."

Todd (irritated)  "I am so over those two. Ever since Melissa got implants, she’s been acting holier than thou. And all Eric does is drone on about his latest iphone app. (over his shoulder as he exits right) Ok, see you in a couple."

Cindi (goes to the door and calls loudly) "Todd, wait! We’re out of art! Can you stop by Art-O-Rama and get a couple of new pieces. You know how much Melissa loves art."

Scene Two
(Todd and Jason enter sprawling Art-O-Rama store.)

Todd: "We can’t stay long. Mom wants us home for dinner. (looks down aisle of framed paintings) That’s odd. Action paintings used to be here. Ask that stocker where they moved them."

Jason (to stock boy) "Excuse me, where are the action paintings?"

Stock boy (without looking up)   "Aisle 15. Next to analytical cubism."

(in aisle 15 Todd quickly selects two paintings. He and Jason hurry through the express lane and just make it home in time for dinner)

Scene Three
(dinner over, Cindi goes to the multi-media room to hang the new art work)

Cindi (agitated voice) "Honey, they’ve shrunk the art! Come look! (Todd joins Cindi) See what I mean…these action paintings are a full two inches shorter than the last one we got."

Todd: "And look! There’s even less paint on them and only six colors. I paid $6,000.00 for these. What a rip-off!"

Cindi (looking worried)   "We have to do something. Melissa will see it right away. You know how discerning she is. She’s been to MoMA."

Todd (scratching head) "Maybe we can hang the impressionist landscape that’s in the laundry room."

Cindi: "No, it won’t do. Artists who paint nature as they see it are living a lie."

Todd: "How about the Chardin still-life in the garage?"

Cindi (irate) "No, no, you idiot! French genre art is so passé. It has to be ‘50’s action painting, New York School, painted by someone who drank at the Cedar Bar. Now take these back and exchange them!"

Scene Four
(later that evening Todd returns from Art-O-Rama with one huge painting. Straining under the weight, he drags the piece into the multi-media room)

Todd (leans the massive painting against the wall and smiles broadly) "We’re in luck. The Art-O-Rama manager himself waited on me. (points at the signature) Look! Mikhail Gorky! Arshile’s brother. He once got into a fist fight with Willem de Kooning. Cedar Bar. 1952. Lots of action. And it only cost $15,000.00!"

Cindi (hugs Todd excitedly) "Mikhail Gorky! Oh Todd, I’m so excited! Just wait ‘til Melissa sees this. She will have a kitten!"

How Cool Is This

In a previous post, I wrote of the art mecca that St. Petersburg has become. Along with the Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection & Morean Art Center, and the Museum of Fine Art, add numerous galleries and art studios. The Downtown 'Burg is a one-stop shop for viewing and purchasing art in all media.

This weekend add one more stop on your cultural itinerary - The Cool Art Show. Now in its 23rd year, the, dare I say, venerable show will again spotlight some of the most creative art in the state. It's free, it's indoors in the remarkable Coliseum and it's COOL.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Artist Finder

A new web site has been launched that promotes Florida artists and their studios. It is called Artist Finder and will use a combination of web site, YouTube and Facebook to promote artists and their work.

One of the most important aspects of the site is to encourage studio visits and purchases from patrons. As outdoor shows have proven, patrons love to talk directly to artists and gain first hand knowledge of how and why artists create. The added feature of studio visits allows patrons an opportunity to enter the artist's world and view the totality of their work.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jerry Uelsmann At Harn Museum of Art

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)  Untitled , 2003
Gelatin silver print
19 3/8 x 15 in (49.1 x 38 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann
In 1965 I arrived at the University of Florida ready to shock and awe the masses with my art making ability.
It did not take long, roughly one semester, to realize I had seriously overestimated my talents. Mostly, it was a couple of hippie graduate students who quickly showed they could paint circles around everyone.

The other person who brought me back to earth was Jerry Uelsmann. It was me in awe from the first I saw his rich darkroom creations. How did he get those elegant images? How could I achieve such feathery chiaroscuro? It was then I discovered that photography could also be art.

What I learned most from Jerry was how to really see the world around me - not just cursory glances, but focused observation. I learned to use my eyes first as a viewfinder and only then look through the camera. A personal design sense would come later, gradually. It helped tremendously that I was able to observe first hand the photographs of a master.

Now through September 11, The Mind's Eye, 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann at Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hidden Lake By Marjorie Greene

Here is an excellent example of the printmaking technique of artist Marjorie Greene. Marjorie is also a gifted painter and teaches at St. Petersburg College Clearwater campus. These prints, titled Hidden Lake, are reduction wood block prints, which means that after each color is printed, that part of the wood block is cut away.  At the end, very little of the block is left. Thereafter, no additional prints may be pulled.

The editions are small with only six prints of each image. The size is 24" x 41" for the outside two and 18" x 41" for the center panel.  The prints will be on view at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art on the St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs campus in August and September.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Re-Birthing By The Bay

Last Saturday, in one fell swoop, a friend and I completed the trifecta of downtown St. Petersburg art museums. First we viewed the shimmering glass creations of The Chihuly Collection, took a gelato break and later joined tourist throngs at the new house of Surrealism, the Dali Museum.

Those ultra-chic edifices have joined with the Palladian style Museum of Fine Art to make St. Pete a first class art mecca. Every year the city ranks as one of the primo art destinations for mid-sized metro areas. Not bad for a place formerly known for its shuffleboard courts and early bird specials.

Walking along Beach Drive it was easy to see the positive changes that have transformed the downtown bayfront. Sidewalk cafes vied for space with new art galleries and trendy clothing shops. Muscle boys, fresh from a run in Straub Park with their dogs, nursed Perriers while sneaking looks at passing glam girls. If not for the absence of Deco hotels, this had all the feel of a mini-South Beach look at me parade.

If you want to investigate the reasons for such visionary changes in this city, look no further than art. The Chihuly Collection would not be here if not for the encouragement and hard work of the Morean Art Center and its patrons. The Morean Art Center exists because of early and constant efforts of a group of area artists. Artists were and are the catalysts for creating cultural capital.

I go out of my way to tell people that sunny beaches didn’t do it. Condo mania didn’t do it. And baseball certainly didn’t do it. It was art folks.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts On Arriving

Waiting for the paint to dry.
Waiting for the light. Waiting for excuses.
Waiting for insight. Waiting for a sale.
Waiting for nothing else to do.

Cy Twombly At The Tate Modern, 2008

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Artist Profile: Denis Gaston - Pinellas County Cultural Affairs Interview

Here is a studio interview from a few years ago. I just now learned how to convert it to YouTube.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is Art Art?


The question of what is art and what is not art remains a hot button issue and has resulted in much debate and even name calling in internet chat sites. Volumes could be written about the differences, but the single most important factor in determining art has always been the maker's intent. In the three examples above, only one was intended to be an art work when it was created. Over time, all three have become regarded as works of art. That raises the question, "What is the value in calling something a work of art?"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Florida Artist Group Exhibition

City Soaring by Patton Hunter
Last evening I attended an invigorating exhibition reception of the Florida Artist Group. Held at the Beach Art Center on Indian Rocks Beach, the show highlights the diverse work of Area 4 FLAG members. FLAG is a statewide organization and the oldest artist run group in Florida.

Cheryl Anne Day-Swallow
Area 4 President
talks with visitors
These are not simply Sunday painters but bona fide professionals who create art Monday through Saturday, and yes, even Sunday. The level of vision and competence is extraordinary and I'm proud to be a member.

(photo courtesy of Jim Swallow)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Art And Change

In late summer 2007 Jenny Carey of Flair Magazine interviewed me for the Magazine's October issue. She and  staff photographer Will Staples spent nearly two hours at my Dunedin studio talking about  and  taking photos of  many different art pieces.

The pictured works were two new pieces that made the final cut for publication.Two months later they were all gone when a horrific fire swept through mine and other artist's studios.

Looking back now, it seems a perfect example of how life can change quicker than a brush stroke.

(top: Clouds of Vincent, mixed-media/burlap, 2007. bottom: Falling Man, mixed-media/wood, 2007)

Monday, June 20, 2011

En Plein Aire as Anywhere

First of all, let us phase out another tired cliche, "local artist." The term, when used in the media, has come to infer that the artist is not quite ready for full artist status.

In that way of thinking, artists live in cities like New York, Paris or London, while local artists toil away in Podunkville longing for the big leagues.

Even cities that promote themselves as art meccas still freely use the pejorative moniker local artist. Most art museums would never consider mounting an exhibition of a local artist.

In the all inclusive sense of the word, we are global artists. When we stand at the easel, artists tap into a creative spirit that cannot be limited by other imposed boundries We derive our inspiration from world events as well as the back yard.

"Local" comes from the Latin word locus which means "place" and for artists, our place is the world.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Drawing Without Borders

In 1964, as it became apparent American kids would be going to Viet Nam, I made the easy decision to go to college instead. In the following weeks I slogged through mind numbing courses on logic, calculus, and earth science, more than once wondering if I had made the right decision.

My first art class, Basics of Drawing, promised to be a piece of cake by comparison. After all, I had been drawing since first grade, so how hard could a beginning course be. There were seven of us in the class, all veterans of excellent high school art programs.

Our smugness that first day lay thick like gesso. Our air of superiority lasted all trimester. Exercises on contour drawing, gesture drawing, value drawing, and shapes were no match for the Magnificent Seven.

By trimesters end, all of us felt certain we had aced Basics of Drawing. But, instead of accolades came the unwelcome news that there would be a final exam. After much rolling of eyes and grumbling, some decided it might be smart to hit the books the night before. Book knowledge, it turned out, would not prepare this group of over-achievers.

Next day, Mrs. Bedeau, a no-nonsense and usually punctual woman, strode into class ten minutes late. And as if to heighten the growing suspense, she said nothing, but looked at each of us in turn. A faint smile crossed her face.

“Your final exam today will be a drawing assignment.”

Turning away from us, Mrs. Bedeau placed something carefully on the drawing stand. Then standing aside, she pointed down at the small object.

“I want you to spend the entire two hours drawing this.”

Before anyone could respond, she was out the door and gone.

All of us moved in to get a better look at that mysterious object. We gazed in astonishment at that which would determine our final grade in Basics of Drawing. It was an egg.

Mrs. Bedeau, in her wisdom, had picked the perfect object with which to deflate a group of art prima donnas. Designed by nature to make life easy on the hen, the egg is neither a circle nor an ellipse, but a combination of the two- a spheroid.

I took one look at that little ovo and knew I was screwed. None of the failsafe methods we fell back on would suffice this time. Outlines would not work for there were no lines. Texture was nowhere to be found and contrast existed only as a subtle difference between egg-shell white and the off white drawing stand. I could not detect a single light source since the room was bathed in an irritating ambient glow.

Nothing would do but to start all over, first by simply looking at the object, in this case an egg, in a new way. After a while, I began to notice minute tonal shifts on the egg’s surface. I found what I thought were the points where the circle and ellipse joined, the lightest area. And that is where I began drawing.

Two hours later, my finished drawing looked stiff, awkward, and altogether un-egg like, but that was the exact moment when I began learning how to draw.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Letters From Home

Silent Sentinels, enamel on wood panel, 1969, Kandauer
  My father, Richard Gaston, a cartographer and publisher by trade, took up painting in the late 1940's. He especially loved the German abstract painters and invented his nom d'artist Kandauer, combining the names of German painters Wassily Kandinsky and Joseph Bauer.

After I moved away from home to make my own mark in the art world, Dad gave me one of his favorite pieces called Silent Sentinels. The work seems to say a lot about the artist - a person with deep and complex roots, but silent and closed off to the world. At least that is the feeling I had of him, perhaps reflecting some of my own cloistered insecurities.

Silent Sentinels has been a companion ever since, moving with me many times and becoming a featured piece in my growing art collection. Recently, some old letters from my father resurfaced and forced me to reconsider my ideas about him. Written in masterful cursive, the letters reveal the hopes, dreams and doubts of a man and an artist as he confronted himself and an often indifferent world.

The letters covered a brief time frame when I struggled with acceptance and my own sense of identity. Rereading them after forty years gave me a shiver and brought me closer than ever to a man I wished I had known better.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Artist Lynn Whipple on Creativity

Artists talking about the creative process often try to impress us with high-faluting art speak. Others babble on too long about how great their art is. Here at last is an instructive and funny look at art making and getting unstuck.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Waiting For The Paint To Dry

GlobeStalker, oil on canvas, Denis Gaston
    "Waiting for the paint to dry" could be a metaphor for the many times I am not painting, whether seeking out inspiration, thinking about what to paint or simply cleaning out the studio. These are all important and necessary precursors to the desired goal of putting paint on canvas.

     They may also exist as thorny obstacles to that becoming thing - the lonely challenge of creating something from nothing. Today and yesterdays seem as if the paint will never dry.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Seen And Not Seen

"Winter Storm Approaching"
oil on panel, 2011, Denis Gaston
Looking at art is different from seeing art. Looking at art can be a casual glance as when one scans the environment while walking, taking in the barking dog, the mailman and passing traffic.

When a person enters an art gallery, they quickly look all around until a certain piece catches their eye. Standing before the work, the process of seeing can begin. The painting’s content, color and composition actively engage the senses. Questions may arise and some kind of appreciation begins forming at a subliminal level.

If a certain art work affects us in a profound way, there can even be a physical response.

Jackson Pollock’s paintings take our breath away. Renoir’s color drenched pieces convey joy and contentment. Seeing art in this sense, is analogous to understanding it, not in some bookish intellectual way, but as a more personal and satisfying experience.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Curly Lights

In April I'm having a large one person exhibition in a hair salon. But not just any hair salon. Main Street Hair Salon and Dunedin Fine Art Center have for some years been showcasing area artists. The retro funky space is right downtown on Main Street next to the Pinellas Trail.

The show opens on Second Friday, April 8, 5:30-8:30 and businesses, restaurants and galleries will be open late. This will be a great venue for me to exhibit some new girlie paintings. Above is an oil on canvas titled Curly Lights.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heavenly Shades of Night

"Water Lily Pond"
Claude Monet
The past few evenings I’ve had reason to be thankful for the nation’s official time keepers giving back the hour they yanked from us last fall. The extra minutes at day’s end give such a blessed opportunity to be still and wrap myself in twilight, becoming more the observer than observed.

Watching the long slow fade outside makes me wonder about the reality of perception. What looked at first like oak trees and oleander bushes against a cloudless sky gradually became shifting patterns of greens, grays and blues.

I am fascinated trying to pinpoint the exact moment the oleander leaves turn from olive green to forest green to gray black to lamp black. Did I miss it?

It was these fleeting color shapes in which the Impressionists immersed themselves and in so doing changed the course of modern art. Art critics scoffed at them for sacrificing the true nature of things for a chaos of color blobs. After twilights like today, I am certain that Monet and his friends were opening wide the doors of perception.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dear Artist,We Like You But Your Art Stinks

People who choose to be artists and stick with it long enough come up against a seeming contradiction – on the one hand, the need for an unshakable belief in the importance of one’s art and on the other hand, the ability to disengage from the work long enough to see it in the context of a vast and passive world community.

This play of opposites often becomes a precarious balancing act. Just when the artist becomes certain of the rightness and power of his art, the world out there serves him up a slice of humble pie. Most of us have at one time submitted for review our most profound new work, only to later receive the dreaded “Dear artist, We’re sorry to inform you…..” letter.

Somewhere between our self-assured feeling as we click ‘send’ on the application and our getting back a rejection letter, there ought to be a time-out of our ego; a time of hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst. It helps to realize that one rejection of one piece of art is not a guilty verdict of us as artists. And perhaps there is no real contradiction between feeling strongly about our art and, secure in that feeling, being able to accept rejection of it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Temple Beth-El Art Festival

I began exhibiting at Art Festival Beth-El in the early 1990's and the Festival has always been one of my favorites. At no other show have I seen a more enthusiastic community effort at showcasing and selling exciting contemporary art.

This year's show marks the 38th Annual Festival put on by Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg. The Festival runs January 29, 30, 31 and features over 150 national and international artists.

Pictured above is a new oil on canvas piece titled Game Changer. It is one of twelve pieces I will be exhibiting this year. Click here for more information on the Art Festival.

Monday, January 17, 2011