Portfolio Link

Should you be interested in viewing a more "formal" portfolio site, please visit: http://www.carlverster.com

Thursday, January 28, 2010

As promised ...

So ... I promised an opinion on nudes (Art! What did YOU think I was talking about?). Opinions can be boring, so I'll keep this short and sweet.  I fully realise that this has the potential to be a very controversial topic ... not among artists as a rule, whom I think generally, with a few exceptions, concur on the difference between art and pornography (and lets face it ... the only reason people ask or talk about this is because there are those who view paintings depicting people without cloths on, as porn), but among the viewing public. Be warned ... this is me blabbing on in the middle of the night, half asleep and probably not as erudite or logical as I can be.
Let me state, right up front, the very obvious.  Clearly I don't have a problem with painting nudes per se (previous posts baring evidence to this.... yes yes, the pun is intentional). 
In my humble opinion there are two important questions to be asked when it comes to the subject and formulating an opinion on the nude.
1. Is it art?
2. Is it moral?
Both of these questions are answered, I believe, quite simply by asking two more questions. I'll give you a clue ... to me, it's all down to context and intent. 
So, is it art?
It would be a foolish person I believe, to argue that a painting or sculpture is not art simply because the subject lacks cloths. Equally foolish to argue that every nude picture is art. So, how does one judge?
I have little difficulty in determining whether a the picture of, for very random example, a tractor is a technical diagram or a work of art! Why not? ... because of the context and intent! Both are usually quite obvious ... if it's an annotated dissection in a textbook, its a technical diagram ... if its a painting of a rusty tractor in a field with unusual lighting and angles, hanging in someones lounge, one can assume it's art.
Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" or "David"? Medical study? Pornography? Art work? Were they produced for medical study reasons? Hardly practical! Was it produced to titillate? Inconceivable!
See my point yet? Likewise, a photo in an 'adult 'magazine is clear in it's intent. The examples may serve to over-simplify the discussion, but I'm sure you can see my point. If the context is wrong and if the intent is not 'artistic' in nature, it isn't art.
But is it moral? 
Again, context and intent.
Nude paintings cannot in themselves be immoral. If the intent of the artist is purely to sexually excite the viewer, I'm sorry, I don't care how technically good the piece is, it is pornography. If the focus is form, light and highlighting the beauty of organic lines, well, then it's probably art. Be careful here not to confuse the reaction of the viewer with the intent of the artist. If the artist's intent is to display the beauty of form and light and the viewer is inadvertently aroused by the painting, that, in my mind doesn't disqualify the piece.  It may still have both artistic merit and be moral.  After all, if a sexual deviant who is turned on by say, high heel shoes, is aroused by a painting of a shoe, the viewer is the problem, not the artist.  It's all down to intent. The same shoe painting in a fetish magazine ... tada! ... immoral! Why? Intent to sexually arouse! Context? Obvious!
The human body is beautiful ... male, female, fat or toned like a gymnast, the lines are incredible and the organic form fascinating.  Our bodies are something that unite us and define us all ... they represent our transience and our connected humanity. Personally I can think of few subjects more noble, more rewarding or more empathetic for viewers than the nude. If it was good enough for the masters to paint, it's good enough for me!

So you tell me ... which is more erotic, Venus de Milo, or this?

"Bygone Era 11: Better Than Sex"
Oil on Canvas
20cm x 20cm

Like I said ... sleep deprived ... deal with it!

"There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, - light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful. " - John Constable

Friday, January 22, 2010

How I'd love to show you Clarens ...

Man, I really need to get a decent camera!  The photo's that I post here are dismal ... there is no better way to describe them and I apologise.  The big issue I find with photographing the work is the reflective nature of oils.  As I am generally photographing in the middle of the night, I need to use a flash ... and unless one can bounce the flash one is doomed. Cheap digital cameras are just not up to the task. I will have to invest in an SLR again one of these days.  Anyway, enough about my photography woes. Suffice it to say that I'm sorry the quality is shocking!

This weekend I head to the Free State; the beautiful Golden Gate area, home of orange sandstone cliffs, big skies, black faced sheep and poplar trees. And in the middle of all of this is the tiny, sandstone art haven of a village called Clarens, home of what must be 30 art gallerys. From the first moment I visited Clarens I wanted to have some of my work hanging somewhere in the town ... that was a looong time ago!

Time passes and enter Mercia Deale.  I met Mercia in December when I popped into her then 1 week old gallery in Clarens, Essensual Art. It's a rather unique little gallery, focusing on celebrating the human form and selling original works including nudes and semi nudes, oils, acrylics and sculptures.  Now a gallery like this has the very real danger of drawing attention to the sensationalism of the subject and away from the art, being obscene or lacking class and seeming tacky rather than tasteful. Mercia has managed to create a stunning and classy little gallery with a niche focus - the human form. It's all about the art for her.
I have not done much figure painting (although the human form is one of the most rewarding subject matters to paint), but I asked Mercia, on impulse, if she would be interested in seeing my work; and now 3 weeks later I find myself heading up to Clarens  to drop off nine pieces for her gallery (she offered me her guest cottage for the weekend).  What a delightful lady! I really hope the pieces sell for her.  I have attached a few for you to see. 

From top to bottom, left to right:
Chiaroscuro 5 - The Beach (Oil  20x20cm)
Chiaroscuro 6 - River Bed (Oil  20x20cm)
Chiaroscuro 7 - Just Meat (Oil  60x45cm)
Chiaroscuro 9 (Work In Progress) - Following Hamlet (Oil  120x50cm)
Chiaroscuro 8 - The Gorge (Oil  20x20cm)

I'll post her site URL when she has built it ("it's coming soon Carl!"), but in the interim you can visit her FaceBook page at Essensual Art.

Obviously related ... I've been asked a few times what my thoughts are about the nude as a subject. Hang tight. I'll share those thoughts in a future post.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Every One Counts

I was approached by a fellow artist, Lara Mellon some time back to ask whether I would be prepared to participate in a project she was about to undertake.
Lara is an avid supporter of Shepherd’s Keep, a home for abandoned babies, mostly new borns who have been ‘discarded’ down latrines and pits, forsaken in deserted fields and increasingly and shockingly … left in black bags on highways. The 2010 FIFA WorldCup is expected to have a dramatic impact on the numbers. Her feeling is that just one unwanted baby and just one abandoned was one too many, and that finding new born babies sometimes ant-eaten, starving and traumatized to the point that for the first couple of hours they are so stressed that they are unable even to feed … is one too many. The Every One Counts project was born ...
So she will be inviting ONE thousand artists from around the globe, each donating an artwork of 30cm x 30cm collaborating in ONE exhibition where each work will be sold for ONE thousand rand, no more, no less … where regardless of status and standing, the value of ONE life will be celebrated.

As either a member of the public, or an artist I encourage you to participate. Please go to http://www.everyonecounts.co.za or the FaceBook page EveryOneCounts

This was my contribution: "Just One Child" Oil on Canvas 30cm x 30cm.
Should you wish to purchase it (a mere R1000!), please contact Lara via the above addresses.

"The artist is the opposite of the politically minded individual, the opposite of the reformer, the opposite of the idealist.  The artist does not tinker with the universe, he recreates it out of his own experience and understanding of life."  ~Henry Miller

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Medium? Oil and tears.

I have two quotes for you:
"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary." (Pablo Picasso)
"Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish, ... How could I seek the empty world again?" (Emily Bronte)
What is it about art and suffering that seems to make them such comfortable bedfellows? For me there is a definite relationship between my emotional state and my productivity as an artist. I have discovered that two emotions drive me to paint in particular ... love, and sorrow.
I have had my share of both. Love started me painting in earnest; inspired me and sustains my ongoing activity. Sorrow DRIVES me to paint. Without a canvas to drain that ever filling well I am sure I would have killed myself a long time ago. Some people go to counselling, I head to my studio.
And personal opinion ... the greater the love, the greater the anguish, the better the work. My art IS a diary. Granted, probably only I can read it, but there is not a painting I have done that I can't look at and not know exactly what I was feeling, thinking and going through at the time.

See if you can work it out from this obvious one. If you get this right, I'll graduate you to a zebra ... that'll keep you guessing! ;o)

... and seeing as I am in a quoting mood, I'll leave you with this.
"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures."(Henry Ward Beecher)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Lunatics are Running the Asylum

Am I a real artist?  No ... seriously. Am I?
Is it just me or does everyone have the perception that you are not a real artist if you a) are not a full time artist, relying solely on your art for your livelihood, b) are not or have not starved at some point for your art c) have had multiple exhibitions all over the country / world d) don't hang out with other artists, dress eccentrically and smell funny.
Okay, maybe not so much the last one, but my point remains.
Even I tend to believe these things for some reason.  Socialisation?  Brainwashing?  Is there some evil full time artist conspiracy using psychological warfare to keep emerging artists from breaking into the market?
a) No question I rely on art for part of my income, I wouldn't survive if I didn't ... but I also love my day job, and wouldn't give that up!
b) Starved for my art? No.  Suffered for it? Definitely!
c) Nope, nope, nope. To be fair to myself, I have sold my work quickly enough to have battled to accumulate enough work to exhibit effectively.
d) Um, well ... err ... um.
Not that my being labelled as an artist is really important to me ... Frank said it best. I am what I am and I'm not particularly fussed about the title that goes along with it. But there is a part of me that still does a double take when I'm referred to as one (an artist that is).  I still feel uncomfortably unworthy of the title for some reason.
When I started out I thought I would feel worthy of the title when I had received enough compliments on my work; or when I had sold my first piece, or when I had first hung in a gallery, or received my first commission.
Maybe my first solo exhibition?
Worthy of the title or not, I am an artist. What makes me an artist? - I am an artist because I feel compelled to paint, to create and to share that with the world.
Does that make me a GOOD artist. Definitely not.  My art is to be judged by the viewer, the collector, by the critic and my peers ... they can decide whether my work has merit. I can choose to listen and learn or go on regardless, either way I remain ... an artist.

Latest submissions for a new Gallery in Clarens that will be hanging my work (Yes, you're right ... "maybe if I have art on display in Clarens I'll feel ..." ) ...
Phantasm - 25cm x 25cm - Oil on canvas

Mrs Brightside - 25cm x 25cm - Oil on canvas

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Thomas Crown Affair

Well, for the first time in my life I am taking legal action against someone.
A handful of my paintings have been hanging in limbo (the very occasional sale resulting) in these peoples place for just over a year.
Back in May they informed me that they had allowed one of their interior decorator clients to take 4 of my pieces so they could see if they wanted to buy them for some lodge or not. I wasn't happy about that at all, but what could I do, it was already done. I never got paid for them and never got them back despite months of asking and pleading. The situation is aggravated by the fact that I had several real offers for the missing works during that period! Their attitude throughout frankly stinks, so ....
I'll let you know what transpires ....

Anyway ... painted these two this weekend.
Skeleton - Oil on canvas 20cmx20cmx4cm x 2

Where Are You Now? - Oil on canvas 20cmx20cmx4cm x 2

Monday, January 4, 2010


My brother came to stay for a few days. In the evenings when I usually paint alone I offered him his own canvas and a corner of my studio and walked him through painting two small 20 x 20 oil paintings of his own (which I REALLY should have photographed!).
Anyway, these are the two paintings I quickly produced in the background while he went to war with oil and brush.
It was a joy to see the pleasure he got from the process and the pride with which he displayed his work to his wife. There is something within us all that takes pleasure the creative process; that feels the need to create and to have that creation recognised. I wonder if this is part of our being made in God's image ... whether in some way our creativity is a faint echo of the ultimate Creator?

In any event, he's a quick study my brother. I'm sure that his paintings are far better than my first paintings were. Unfortunately for him, he, like me, is horribly impatient, as well as being a perfectionist. He finds the inability to produce an instant masterpiece terribly frustrating. I also learned that I'm not half bad as a art tutor. (I have probably taught him a number of bad habilts that would make a qualified art teacher shudder!)
(Top: "Baptism"; Bottom: "Division")

Mad at the World

Umm ... oil .... 80cm x 60cm x 4cm (31.5 inches x 23.6 inches).

This is actually a WIP shot ... I did another hours work on it before selling it. (It went the day after completing it, so I never had a chance to take another photo.)

I really struggled to sell this painting. And I mean that literally; I struggled! It wasn't that the painting wasn't wanted. On the contrary, it was booked before I'd finished it; but the actual process of selling it made me incredibly uncomfortable. I wonder if all artists suffer with the same crises of faith (in myself, my work and it's worth) that I seem to wrestle with every time I have to deal with the business end of art. I simply battle to a) put a price to my artwork, b) convince myself that it is worthy of public purchase and then c) find the enthusiasm to name my price and if necessary negotiate.
In this instance it was all the worse because the lady who bought it was wonderful to deal with and responsible for me having sold a number of other paintings. She asked for a price and I resisted telling her the price for some innexplicable reason. Long story short I sold it for 25% of it's worth ... happily, but puzzled as to why I couldn't approach it as ruthless business.

I wonder to if that is why so many artists would rather deal through a gallery than go it alone. It removes the personal from the transaction ... the gallery doesn't care what you charge (the more they get the happier they are), and they are emotionally distanced from the work. Having a middleman deal with the 'conflict' and keep the world one step away is convenient, and arguably worth the 30-40% commissions they demand.