Thoughts on Conventions

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So #Pace16 is now a memory. A really good one at that. I travelled to another planet really in that the Arizona landscape is up there with the strangest topography and accompanying  flora and fauna that one can imagine.

Pam Springs-285 copyThe only other place that I felt this same way was in Joshua Tree State Park where it looked like the Play-Doh playground of giants.

I was treated to an amazingly well planned convention experience that included an full line-up of some of the worlds best Plein Air Painters. As attendees, we got to watch them on the main stage demonstrating an incredible depth of artistic talent. From the calligraphic flourishes of Jove Wang to the straight forward and wonderfully humorous demo by Matt Smith. There were several others (I think the faculty was in the 70’s) and these were all a treat to watch and try to absorb through pen and paper instead of brush and paint. The paint outs were great in that I tried (along with 899 others) to translate the rushed scribblings in a notebook onto the canvas in some of the most beautiful and inspiring landscapes I had ever seen. Only one of the four painting I did, was anything close to successful. I met some great people and have to say the sheer volume of like minded people was energizing.

Would I do it again? – Most likely not.

As I sat at the dinner table with my friends Pamm and Paul on the night before I had to leave, we began discussing all the wonderful things that had happened and how exhausting it all was at the same time. I began to realize some of the things that I didn’t really like about the experience. As much as I was talking the talk about how fun it was, there was a part of me that kept raising it’s small finger going “um, um” and “what about?”

So, here are the thoughts on what the Party Pooper had to say.

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I had just spent the better part of $2200 to attend this event. The Main Stage demo’s were interesting but nothing I couldn’t get from a well produced video that most of major artists put out. The only thing I would miss was watching it in a large room with hundreds of other people.

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The next big benefit was going on the paint outs where a couple of dozen instructors went out as well and had red hats and green flags and a sign so you could identify them. The sad part was that, unless you stayed in the parking lot or less than a 3-5 minute walk from parking lot, you never saw one so they could never help. I didn’t realize just how many people were tailgate and trunk painters.

The Expo was great fun to walk around and have a look at the latest and greatest gear but I have some pretty wonderful art stores here in Calgary. I did pick up a Shade Buddy Umbrella which turned out to be invaluable in the sweltering heat.

Don’t get me wrong, the convention was a blast and an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life thanks to my wonderfully supportive wife Stephanie. But I found it to be much more about the bonds and friendships that were made and less about REALLY learning anything that was worth $2200. It was vacation and gathering for the converted. A place to chat and reflect on the days events and works which was wonderful.

But…

If I have say $2500 to spend on professional development, I would rather do this:

Purchase videos by my favourite artists and watch them at my leisure  $50-$100

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Min Ma

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Mike Svob

Sign up for workshops by some of my favourite artists which I could target to my style $500 – $1000. Depending on where I take them. The true beauty of the workshops is that I can direct my funds (laser like accuracy) to the exact learning style and most importantly, learning environment that benefits me most. One instructor, 3-5 days and a small class comparatively. This I believe is where those bonds are formed and valuable lessons learned.

Did I have fun at the convention? I sure did, but I have to be smart with our money.

And I think the smart money is in targeted learning.

 

 

#Pace Day 7 – Harley and I.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE ENTIRE TRIP – MEETING UP WITH HARLEY BROWN

IMG_6826-1It was a beautiful Wednesday morning in Tucson.The sights and sounds of the convention gave way to the quiet of man in an Airstream Trailer getting ready with the nervousness and anticipation of a teenager before his first date.

The truth is – I was about to go to meet up with a man who decades ago gave me words of encouragement regarding a still wet painting I had brought into a gallery in South Calgary – rubbed his finger through the back edge of a house, and showed me in simple words and a small very precise blending stroke of his finger that being an artist was what I wanted to do.

Harley Brown

Harley Brown

His name is Harley Brown, who is an icon in the western art world. An incredibly talented portrait artist and a member of the The Tucson Seven which included Duane Bryers, Donald Crowley, Tom Hill, Kenneth Riley, Bob Kuhn, and Howard Terpning – many of them hanging on the walls of Settlers Gallery, a Tucson legend unto itself.

I hadn’t seen Harley in oh, 38 years and and as I waited in the gallery, that encounter so long ago was about to be brought full circle. I was nervous, I’ll admit it as I really didn’t know what to expect and I only had one hour before I would have to leave to catch my flight.

 

I waited anxiously pacing around the gallery looking at the magnificent works and then, through an opening in the back of the gallery he appeared.

“Grant” He walked toward me, hand up.
“Harley” We shook smiling and after the normal niceties, and how are you’s, began to get reacquainted.

I won’t go into detail about the next hour but suffice it say we talked nothing but art. The great works on the walls of the gallery, his history, and my reintroduction into painting after a 28 year hiatus. I chose photography, my second passion as I didn’t feel I could make a living as a painter. 
Terpning BookHarleys BookDuring our conversation, Harley mentioned how he liked to write and that he had written four books and also how he was the author of a book about the art of Howard Terpnings. Before I left, he had given me his signed Confessions of a Starving Artist book which is Harleys “How I did it” as well as Terpnings book. It was very gracious and I didn’t know what to say. Thank you obviously among many other things.

FullSizeRender-3Sadly, the hour had passed far to quickly I had to go. After getting a photo with Harley it was time to say goodbye. It started with a handshake and a deep heartfelt thank you. Harley bowed his head and I could feel myself getting emotional. I told him how much this meeting meant to me and I could feel the meeting I had with him so long ago connecting with the present – a full circle. I started to really get emotional (not full out blubbering but tearing up) and Harley noticed and gave me a hug and simply said to me “Friends” I couldn’t speak and the moment seemed to hold for a very long time although it was most likely only a few seconds. I gathered myself and thanked him again wishing I could stay then headed out to the car to begin my journey back to Calgary.

I often find that there are events in our lives that don’t fully reveal how influential and important they are to us at the time they occur – somewhere in a place deep within ourselves these events resonate in ways that we may not fully realize until what has stayed hidden reveals its nature and insights just when we need them most.

It’s important that we encourage these encounters. Get out and meet people, take chances and understand that no matter who you are or where you are in life, that simple innocent exchange in a dry creak bed in Arizona or in a gallery in Calgary or a Walmart Parking lot may plant a seed that someday you’ll look back on and realize what a wonderfully simple but powerful gift was given to you.

My visit with Harley so long ago like I said earlier, had a deeply profound effect on who I became as a creative, and my latest visit with Harley has had a profound effect on who I hope to become as an artist.

Thank you so much Mr. Brown!