Birds to Boats

The water flushes of the deck after being covered
The water flushes of the deck after being covered

Growth can happen in strange ways.  I was painting White Birds of Paradise en plein air. I packed my wooden paint box, easel and survival equipment in a backpack and looked for a natural setting to paint my desired object. Now it’s getting a little hot outside, but for a while the weather was ideal to do this. I feel that painting outdoors is very spiritual, as the ceiling of the universe gives a feeling of limitless possibilities. Mostly when I go home after such sessions I am tired but I also am fulfilled, as if somebody gave me a precious gift.

I chose the White Birds of Paradise from my subconscious mind as it goes with most subjects. The events that followed were probably also designed by my subconscious mind because they surprised me. I found the flower cut off when I went a third time to capture it in oil paint. To me this was a sign that I needed to go to the studio, stay inside and paint more loose and colorful variations, especially after a client said she’d like to see this style of painting.

I made a series of large semi-abstract paintings, not knowing where I was going with the idea, but enjoying it. Somebody told me that this was the kind of work that could get me into galleries and I wanted to get into a gallery to sell my work. With high expectations of some success in this direction I called photographer Heidemarie Burke who documents all my work. I decided to get the pictures, put them in a magazine and spread the word about this new and exciting course of events.

web j-class-52On Sunday she called off our session for the first time ever. Staring at all the paintings I wondered why this happened. I looked at the work again and thought, “This is not finished yet, that’s why”. I started reworking the paintings until dusk. Than, at the very last moment I saw something in the abstract shapes that looked like a reflection of a building I had seen long time ago in St. Malo. I heard a voice loud and clear asking me, “What do you really want to paint?”

I thought of my love for classic sailing boats and especially the new J-Class series that stole my heart in St. Malo. When I looked at some photographs of the yacht “Rainbow” I saw the resemblance to the shape of the Birds of Paradise, the same curve, the same pointed nose.The petals could have been the sails. I thought, “Maybe I really want to paint these boats”

The next day I started painting sailboats and I haven’t stopped since. All the rejections from potential buyers, jobs and other forms of income made sense to me now. When doors keep closing, there is a reason. All these failings are telling me I am supposed to paint sailboats. My world immediately expanded, because this is a niche that not only has defined buyers, it has universal wisdom, romance and beauty. There are galleries devoted to this subject and I can talk easily with potential buyers about my experiences at sea. When I was young I photographed offshore races for major magazines. I am familiar with classic sailing destinations like St Malo or the Azores. It felt like a bridge between where I am and the world I feel I belong to. I am combining the art world with the world of high class adventurers.

It may sound easy and logical, but this caused a deep personal crisis. I realized that in my search to find my niche I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. There were legitimate reasons why I always had rejected the idea of being a marine painter. I thought it would be boring to work from photographs, copyrights would cause trouble and there is a lot of competition. Many talented painters dedicated their whole life to marine painting. And yet, I believe I can express my own unique style painting this subject. It’s expansion and I’m excited.

Where is the Michelangelo of our time?

Rich artists

I am following artists online who design programs for other artists on how to become wealthy. One is called The Abundant Artist. While I am watching this I think, really? There are many different ways to get attention. You can write, you can scream, you can socialize, you can laugh at everything and you can also say… I can imagine.

I started painting The Dream Weaver in Indianapolis. It was winter and every week I would haul a carload full of wood for my fireplace to keep me warm. I would grill steaks digging a path through the snow to my Weber, sometimes hip-deep. You think -20 is only a number until you have lived it.

Finding my purpose

I was also trying to figure out what the role of an artist was for myself, and in general. It was not only about me. My question was, how can I enrich the world with the richness I feel inside? Does anybody want this beautiful world? I studied great artists from long ago and from today and everywhere I found that they were rich inside, even if financially challenged. Sure, there are some artists who make it big in the world by giving the public whatever they want. Some were great at marketing. Why do you think copying Mickey Mouse paintings sell for millions?

Watching this made my stomach churn. An artist who copies another artist just to make money loses their integrity. Walt Disney invented the strip characters. Greatness does not flourish in copying a master. Greatness flourishes in imagining your own next step. The world needs authentic thinkers. Therefore to follow a person who tells you what steps to follow so you yourself can become rich and famous is ludicrous. It is already done.

Of course there are skills we artists need to learn. Marketing skills, technical skills – we all learn from the ones who were before us. That is a universal law.

The Dream Weaver

The Dream Weaver is about a person weaving the dream of the tropics. I was in the Stutz Building in DownTown Indianapolis on snowy nights with the orange light shining through the ice on the windows. I was painting my dream. Now I live in the subtropics and I love it. This is where I want to be. I don’t really know how I got here. (I think I drove a Penske truck.) But it doesn’t matter as this is how imagination works. You visualize, you paint and the next thing you know you live it. This is how the artists of the Old World painted their vision of an airplane, of a canon, of a ship. They visualized it and then they built it on canvas and paper.

The power of an artist is unbelievable. I teach basic drawing skills only. By learning to draw you tap into the right side of the brain and you stimulate creativity.You don’t have to become an artist. Our society is focused on using the left side of the brain. I don’t believe this linear thinking can solve the problems we face today. The situation in the world is almost unbearable for me to watch. The destruction caused by this kind of thinking is devastating. You don’t need to splash paint around to start thinking from the right side of the brain. Drawing triggers the imagination.That is all and it is powerful.

Where is the Michelangelo of our time? Where is the artist who is strong enough to stand up and create a different reality? It never is about growing polarity in politics. Creating a good life is not about politics. It is about who can create a satisfying reality for the inhabitants of planet Earth. It is the Great Master of our time who is making the path of the independent thinker who takes risks instead of trying to stay safe at a cost to others.

Hundreds of years later the drawing of the Flying Machine was picked up by the Warner Brothers, who were stimulated by the imagination of it.

More portraits

Art critics are bored with landscapes and portraits. Here are some comments.

Michael Archer,
“Why does mention of portraiture make me snort with derision? For the sitter, to have one’s portrait painted is to indulge in a preposterous bit of self aggrandizement, while to be a jobbing portrait painter is to exercise the lucrative employment of one’s skills in a manner that has nothing to do with contemporary art…………The figure in history is what matters. As with landscape, portraiture becomes pertinent when it breaks out of its straightjacket and offers something more than a tastefully composed and skillfully executed representation of someone”

There you have it, another miserable critic who likes Mickey Mouse better than classical portraiture. However several things can lead to a portrait becoming an important piece of art.
a) The painter becomes famous,
b) The subject becomes famous or
c) The portrait is placed in a bigger context as the one I have shown below.

The portrait had become a pixel in another picture. Bonded by fate we all have our part in the bigger picture.
Each portrait (16×16 inches) becomes a pixel in another picture. Bonded by fate we all have our part in the bigger picture. Individually we are one drop, together, we make an ocean.

I came up with portraiture as a way to know the people around me better than I would by having small talk over a glass of wine. I feel it is the most sincere way I can bond with people. A painted portrait of a person adds additional value to a moment in time because it is seen through the eyes of an artist. I am not only looking at your features but at the many colors of the life you have lived, the sorrow as well as the joy. This third dimension is only possible through the use of paint. It might not be as accurate, but it has a lot more life than a photograph. My goal is to let your soul shine through the (marked) surface.

These days it is hardly ever done, but there was a time when wealthy people have had their portraits painted by famous artists. Now it is seen as a self-aggrandizing attempt to immortalize a human being. I however, find it rewarding to bring the people I know together, into a bigger picture. What you have in common is that I know you.

Do you ever feel that your life has passed you by without you ever having been part of something bigger? This can be a depressing thought. Just being a grain of sand in the desert is not how we like to think about ourselves. On the other hand, most of us can not envision our image captured on canvas, wearing exquisite clothes, staring out from a museum wall.

My idea of painting the portraits and then putting them in a larger piece of art was to uplift each of us to something that matters to society as a whole, maybe even to mankind. Together we have more value. Think about the possibility that the artist Jacobina Trump will be famous one day, You added to that fame. Imagine that you yourself will be famous one day. You now have added value to all the others who share space with you in the Bigger Picture.

Each portrait will be numbered, documented and will go into history like a brick in a wall of a great building. Why not be a part of it?


November 30th 2015

Testimonial D.Hahn,

Thinking about a portrait vs. a photo: A photo can be very realistic, sometimes unforgivingly, and a real portrait in any medium can be costly. 

                 I have had several family photo portraits done over the years, we have gravitated to well known portrait photographers, but honestly the occasional “lucky” photo shot is almost as good, even with the retouching and so on.  But a painting is different. 

                Photos have really no value in today’s world. Since every phone has a camera, and selfie sticks are under $5, if you want a photo of yourself you can have hundreds for practically nothing. If you find some you like, just pick out the one you want and print it.  Or pick from a pile. Take a look at Facebook. Everyone has photos, they have become a cheap visual diary.  

               A portrait though, in my mind, has value, it can be/should be an heirloom and passed from generation to generation.  I have a portrait gallery in my home, portraits of my grandfathers, one grand mother and even great grand mother. I have photos of my parents, and of course my living family, but at some point, portraits are my choice of heirloom images. I am hoping to make (paint) a portrait of my father (who died in 1975) in your class from photos I have of him. If it comes out, then maybe my mother whom I lost only several years ago at age 92.

               Do I see the “big picture”?  I get the concept. But it’s a huge idea and I think you will need more than the 120+ images you mentioned.

December 1 2015

Testimonial G. Leadbetter

In this modern era a portrait is so unique, as everybody has photographs.  A well done portrait has character and conveys a message, which no photograph could ever do.  The message that you perceive  may not be real, but that only adds to the enjoyment.

    The uniqueness of  a portrait creates interest together with the desire to have one.nA well done portrait is an excellent heirloom to be enjoyed by all members of the family.I don’t believe a single portrait will add to community cohesion, unless the subject is well known and admired in the community. On the other hand a piece of art featuring many members of the community will definitely add to community cohesion. Everybody in the art work will be proud to have had the opportunity to participate.

December 5 2015

Testimonial M. Leadbetter 

The painting is an expression of the painter’s insight into the person.  It conveys a deeper meaning than a photograph. A photograph is accurate depiction of the person, but not as flattering.Painted portraits are usually done of well to do people and folks with an artistic bent.  Having your portrait done is normal for famous people. For many of us, it was not even a consideration. I like having the paintings in our great room. It makes the room look richer.


The value is to the person and his or her partner.  Others may see a work of art and enjoy paintings. I do.  Art enriches peoples lives and bring pleasure. I understand The Bigger picture but don’t know.

How to sell Art

“Write a blog about how you sell your art.” a friend suggested the other day.

10x10 inches, oil on linen
10×10 inches, oil on linen

“You have been living from your paintings for five years now, I want to know how you do it”

Tossing and turning in the middle of the night, I thought about this question; “How do I sell my art? What is my business model?” Watching the early morning mist over the neighbors Christmas decorations, I realized I have no business model.

I’ve written before about how every time I needed money badly it seems to come to me out of the blue. There was a phone call from a woman  in Nebraska, mail from a man in Wisconsin and a knock on my door from a neighbor who wanted to buy a painting he had seen. Once in awhile I get a Facebook text from Joyce de Jonge who owns a furniture store in the Netherlands asking me where to deposit the money for a painting she’s sold.

10x10 inches 25x25 cm, oil on linen
10×10 inches 25×25 cm, oil on linen

Not having a business model does keep me up at night because if I don’t have a plan about how to generate income, it is just a matter of praying and believing, which does not equal financial stability. To be more specific, every plan I thought would work out, did not. It was always a surprise when money came in, so I also want to “know” how to sell paintings.

I’ve had a client come over by private jet from Indianapolis, purchase a large  painting and then leave with, the rolled up canvas in the cockpit. I also had a client who came to my studio after seeing a painting of mine he liked in a local store. He had a penthouse up for sale in Sarasota and needed something on the walls and bought five paintings!. Another client has bought 25 pieces over the past two years  to decorate her new house. Everybody came from totally different places. I didn’t “plan” for any of it.

20x24 inches, oil on linen
20×24 inches, oil on linen

Then there’s the collector who only buys from Facebook.  She knows the value of my work and likes the way I handle her orders.  The most recent sale was to a German gentleman who I met at a seminar about personal growth. I mailed him photos of my work. He liked it and paid in Euros.

Here is his reaction,…..You see I haven’t showed it to many people but everyone who has seen the original is quite impressed. Congrats! WELL DONE. SUCH A GREAT PIECE OF ART. For me this is such a great experience because I learn to trust my intuition and my taste for quality! I look forward to see the painting at it’s real value. I won’t sell it below 50.000 euro. And at this price I’d only sell it to see the increase of value and help creating more increase of value. I think art can best increase in value If it changes owner from time to time. 

This is how  my “ business model” works, with no rhyme or reason. But If I dig deep in my subconscious,  I believe  I had a picture of what I would like to have happen in a certain circumstance. When I put an effort in a pop-up gallery, I did meet my most devoted client. I had a vision. It was my deepest desire and I knew I only needed one person who would really appreciate my work. When I send messages out on the Internet I know I only need one person to fulfill my desire. So now at home I envision selling my inventory to one collector. I have seen it, so now it is a matter of waiting for reality to catch up.

Seagrapes in Spring, oil on linen 10x10 inches,
Seagrapes in Spring, oil on linen 10×10 inches,

Is this a business model? Not one that I would recommend to anybody else, I think it might just be mine.

Lucian Freud

Man with a Blue Scarf

Portrait painting is fascinating to me. I have been doing it for many years although never with the purpose of really dedicating myself to the process. Over the years I have been drawn to portraits as a means to discover the soul of humans, the story they reveal about themselves with or without words. For a while, I painted my ancestors with their wealth stuck to their heads in ornaments of gold.

A couple of years ago I read a book about portrait painting written by an art critic. Lucian Freud, perhaps the world’s leading portrait painter, spent seven months painting a portrait of the art critic Martin Gayford. I want to share this with you because it provides insight to the details of the process. Man With a Blue Scarf,  by the way, became the title after the model lost his scarf. His wife suggested he buy another one, which Martin did. The color was not exactly the same. The painter noticed immediately that this was not the same piece of fabric.

A review about the book states the following; “Gayford describes the process chronologically, from the day he arrived for the first sitting through to his meeting with the couple who bought the finished painting, and he vividly conveys what it is like to be on the inside of the process of creating a work of art.

As Freud completes his portrait of Gayford, so the art critic produces his own portrait of the artist, giving a rare insight into Freud’s working practice. Through their wide-ranging conversations, the reader learns not only about Freud’s choice of models, lighting, setting, pose, and colors, but also about his likes and dislikes, his encounters and experiences, and the ways in which he approaches his relationship with each portrait subject. The book is full of revealing anecdotes about the people Freud has met in the course of his long career, including Max Ernst, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, George Orwell, W. H. Auden, Greta Garbo, and his grandfather Sigmund Freud.

“As he works – shielding his eyes, a quiver of brushes between his fingers, dabbing the canvas “like a person making contact with something hot” – Freud mutters and sighs, criticizing the latest mark, goading himself onwards. This could be any portrait painter at the easel; indeed the painterly process from charcoal underdrawing to claggy conclusion is the least interesting part of the book, partly because how they are made is so evident in the paintings.

As for the old masters, Freud’s insights are piercing and astringent. He cannot love Vermeer for the “curious way his people just aren’t there”. He believes every good painting contains, indeed requires, “a little bit of poison”. It is a pity he doesn’t give more examples, but the poison in Titian – his god – is a sense of mortality; precisely what people see in Freud himself.” – NAME of BOOK

Dr Tiger or No Man’s Land

48x48 inches, oil on linen.
48 x 48 inches, oil on linen. (For Sale)

This is the original text of my speech about the exhibition at the Conservation Foundation in 2015;

The Dutch are rich and created most of their own landscape. One of the seven wonders of the modern world are the polders and dikes of the Netherlands. They have for Centuries gained land from the sea instead of going to war. They don’t like confrontation and are tolerant as a culture. To this day they remain universally acclaimed for their marine engineering. Because of this half of the country is below sea-level as a nation they are sensitive to landscapes in any form. The Dutch painters from the Golden Age became famous by painting their environment. Their legacy is part of the greatest masters in European Art.

Rich cultural inheritance

That is where I come from. It is my rich cultural inheritance. When I go out in the woods to paint, the spirits of my ancestors follow me and show up in the wind ruffling through the palm leaves. They hold my hand and from the mysteries of the earth and sky, the paintings are being born.

The art of landscape painting is to contain the majesty of the ever changing earth upon a never changing piece of board, linen or canvas. I believe is is a noble occupation, a serious occupation and a difficult occupation. Making art is not a trivial pursuit.

Art is rich

Art creates cultural cohesion. Without art society cannot share its symbols. I dare to say that the non-verbal communication is stronger than the words we hear and speak every day. It is felt in architecture and in music. Landscape painting uses the order of architecture and the silence between the notes of music. This form of Art makes us mindful of the beauty around us waiting to be recognized. The visual arts have always functioned as an instrument of power.

Rich sunset over the Gulf Of Mexico

Be Rich

The theme of my exhibition is Be Rich. I don’t refer to rich as monetary wealth since a stack op paper gathering dust in a dark place is not inspiring to me. We all need financial security, but in the abstract, finances in itself are dead and boring. What is interesting to me is the richness nature brings, a late glow of the sun on a dead leaf: the moving of a cloud through a stark blue sky. I believe I am not alone in my love for shapes, forms, colors and textures of this earth we call home.

The origin of the title “be Rich”  is found in the road called Bee Ridge, when you drive up North on I-75 to Sarasota.  It refers to Bee Ridge road where at its eastern end is an old landfill, now covered with grass. Behind the landfill is a park called Rothenbach. That is where I found my inspiration for the paintings. One day when I went to a plain air painting class of Kevin Costello, I discovered it. In the car I was repeating the name Bee Ridge over and over again as to not forget where to take the exit. Once I saw where we ended up I changed the mantra fast in “Be Rich” since the most enriching authentic Florida landscape unfolded for my eyes. Five dear looked at me with their trusting eyes. Spanish moss was hanging from old Oaks entangled with vines like garlands at a party.

Manasota Beach Club

I came to this area through the Manasota Beach Club, an old Beach Resort in Englewood. They made me Artist in Residence and I accepted the offer because all I wanted to do is to escape the hectic life in Miami and be quietly surrounded by nature. The idea was to bring color into the cottages through paintings in exchnage for a stay. The soul of the landscape did not reach me, at first. I could not see any color in the grey-ness of dead palm fronds or the barks of the trees. It was totally disappointing and a huge challenge to come up with something colorful. I simply started copying the world as accurate as I could, using a stack of magazines about how to paint. Over time studying the vistas of this part of Florida, I opened myself up to the mysteries as they were unfolding before my eyes.

Learning to paint enriched my world. Be Rich/Bee Ridge is the result of years observing Floridian landscape. But there is no value in the work if it not shared with others. It would be like giving a kiss and nobody to receive it. It disappears in mid air. Who would want that? The result of years observing the Florida landscape with love therefore is  in this group of paintings and my love to all of you that share this feeling.

Rich landscape of Sabal Palms and Native Figs.In teh Back is The Palm House, my office.

PS.Inspiration during painting was “A Land Remembered” by Patrick Smith

The Vision

The portrait idea

Sometimes I wake up with a clear picture in my mind of an artwork I need to paint. I make notes, or I just start the process, even if I only have a little time to work on it. Sometimes I just cut out some reference material as a reminder that I need to work it out.  It is not as if these ideas lead to masterpieces because they are coming from the subconscious mind. When I paint them and they look exactly like my vision, they open my mind  to a different viewpoint. They lead to a move beyond my consciousness.

Involve many people

Last week I woke up with an image so strong that I had to act upon it. It was small in steps and involved many people, but the end product is huge on a scale. I will not tell you too much about this, although I am very excited and would love to gather people to support my idea. It has to grow a little bit more so it can survive criticism and questioning. It needs to settle firmly in my reality before anybody can see it. I have to bond with it first.

A section of this large-scale artwork is a simple portrait, just me, the painter, and a model. I was hesitant at first to ask models to sit for me as I thought nobody has time these days to sit. Even retirees are busy these days.  I was wrong. Once people stepped out of their “busy” schedules and posed for me, we discovered a true connection on a deeper level without the spoken word to interfere. So far my models have been pleased with the time spent together.

Meditative state

Did you know that when somebody sits quietly, the face has the tendency to droop slightly? Because the muscles are relaxed it looks like they are sad. One of my early attempts to make an interesting image of a model’s face was met with, “Don’t make me look so sad.” The model went back to the same position adding a big smile. That works for photography although even then it is hard to make a smile look real. It always to me seems frozen and eerie. If you say “cheese,” only the best portrait photographers can make it look like your smile is coming from your heart. I found an article on the subject.

One rule many portrait artists follow is to never paint their subjects smiling, especially if the smile is wide enough to reveal their teeth.  These artists generally feel that since a smile involves muscle contraction, it produces uncomfortable tension in the portrait.  A fully relaxed face, they feel, allows the viewer’s gaze to wander over and appreciate the subject’s features.  Some portraitists contend that only the unsmiling face can have lasting appeal across many years.  The wonderful contemporary Dutch portrait painter Rene Tweehuysen wrote, “A broad smile (showing of teeth) is not really to be recommended, and in the long term can lose its appeal.”  American Bart Lindstrom said: “Great art is about subtlety. That’s why, when I paint portraits, I prefer the quiet, timeless expressions of a relaxed face over one with a large smile.”  – Timothy Tyler.

My job is to make this happen – and it is not an easy job, requires full concentration from the model as well as the painter.

More from Tyler, ….  “If we have a more pleasant smile or contemplative look, that they will be drawn into the eyes, the mood, the moment of the painting” 

That is what I am aiming for. I like the challenge. I like to work from life because it creates an extra dimension that you don’t get when  working from a photo.

Please follow my process, because the result will be huge and I am taking small steps toward it. I found a worthy ideal and the trick to success is progressive realization of this worthy ideal. Feel free to contact me if you want to be a model. I need at least 112 different faces! I told you it was “huge.”