Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More random thoughts...basketball

Basketball is almost the perfect game. Compared to other big time sports, basketball is a terrific blend of team play and individual talent. The team that plays together the best usually wins, but an individual can dominate within the team. Football is much more of a team sport. No individual can dominate a football game without a LOT of help from his team mates. Baseball in almost all individualism--each play hinges upon individual effort, and a pitcher can dominate a game almost completely. Soccer is a great team sport where the individual can shine, but soccer doesn't utilize the whole body like basketball. Hockey...well, hockey is too specialized, in that you need ice to play it!

I never played organized basketball other than a few adult three on three tournaments. I was too short, and too unsure of myself, to make my junior high team, and just never tried again. But I've played basketball all my life in pick-up games. I had a goal set up at home when I was a kid and spent untold hours shooting, mostly by myself, on that goal. When I was attending the local junior college, I skipped class all the time to play pick-up games in the gym. I roomed with two other guys when I went away to college, and we were always going to the park or the rec center looking for a game. After I started teaching I'd stay after school to shoot around and play with the students in the gym, and I'd go into the local park to play whenever the weather wasn't too bad.

Once I started doing artwork for a living, I sought out local guys who wanted to play nights, reserved a gym, and began to play one or two nights a week. When I was about 40 years old, I got together with a bunch of guys, all but one of us over 40, to play two nights a week in a small local gym. The only under-40 guy was the law partner of one of the founding members of our little group, so we made an exception for him. That was 17 years ago, and I'm still playing in that group, but the cast of characters has changed. Over the years, we probably had at least 35 or 40 different guys playing with us at different times, but many moved away, some were injured, and others just decided they were too old. As the original group aged, we kept recruiting younger guys to play with us, but it seems it's pretty difficult to find anybody over 40 who wants to play anymore, so we've been allowing younger and younger players over the years.

Now, there are only two of the original group left. I'm well over 57 years old now, and the Karl is pushing 60. Some of the others playing with us these days are well under 40, and we have a few semi-regulars that are teenagers or young adults. It makes the game challenging, to say the least.

Over the years I've been fortunate to not have suffered many basketball injuries. I've torn tendons in the soles of my feet, I've strained knees and ankles, jammed a wrist, and now my biggest problem is a chronically sore shoulder, apparently a rotator cuff disorder. It hurts a bit to shoot three pointers, which really sucks because that's a big part of my game these days. I used to be one of the quickest players in our group--I had to be because I'm still only 5' 8". Now, I can still beat some of the older players off the dribble, but mostly I sit outside and shoot threes.

Who knows how much longer I'll be able to play. But I still love the game, and the exercise gets ever more important. I'll play as long as I can get up and down the court without totally embarrassing myself, I guess.

I've often said that one of my biggest regrets in life is that I wasn't 6' 4". Which, in a way, is the only flaw in the game of basketball--on higher levels it's a game for tall people.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Random thoughts

North light...conventional wisdom has it that the perfect artist studio MUST have north light, a big window or two facing north. North light is never direct sunlight (well, at least it isn't direct sunlight in the northern hemisphere, I guess) but is clear, clean light that gives one true color rendition.

Hmm....

The problem I see with that theory is that the painting, once completed and exhibited or sold, will probably never be viewed again under north light. At best it will be viewed under color-corrected lamps. Back when we did a lot of art shows where we had a booth with paintings hanging, our lights were either incandescent or halogen. Incandescent lights especially are very warm, and make reds really pop and blues really weak.

So...what is better, to paint under perfect light and then have the painting look entirely different once it is hung, or to paint under some kind of light that will be fairly close to the usual light in which the painting will be viewed?

Jim Hautman, one of the Hautman brothers famous for winning the federal duck stamp multiple times, once said to me, only half joking, that he painted all his entries under a 60 watt bulb because that's about as good a light as they would be viewed under by the judges.

Another thing that really gave me fits back in the heyday of limited edition prints was the fact that paint on paper or canvas reacted to light very differently from printing ink on paper or canvas. The printer would do an initial proof under their high class color-corrected lights, with the original right there under the same lights for comparison, and it would look great to them. Then they'd send it to me (this was when I was with a publisher in Minnesota who had their printing done in Minneapolis, so it didn't make sense for me to be there at the printer's). I'd look at it under the lights in which I painted the original (not color-corrected) and the two images would look totally different. Thing is, there is at least a chance that an expensive original would be hung under color corrected lighting, but practically no chance a cheaper print would be...they'd all either be under incandescent, or fluorescent lights. So I figured they should be proofed under incandescent lights. It took a while for the printer to get used to my insistence that they check the proofs under an incandescent light before sending them to me.

Chances are that, due to their environmental impact, incandescent lights are on their way out. Which now brings up even more of a problem. The fluorescent lights that are phasing out the old incandescents are not only not color-corrected and not exactly the color temperature of incandescents, but also vary considerably in color temperature. It's enough to make me pull my hair out if I dwell upon it.

So my solution in the studio is to have a variety of light sources. I've got east light, which is almost as good as north light after lunch (!). I've got south light that is okay in the summer but I have to keep the shades down in the winter when the sun really slants in. I've even got a little west light. I have a couple incandescent bulbs shining around. I have compact fluorescents in two different color temperatures. I figure I've got just about every possible light covered, and the overall light is a pretty good average!

Keeping time...

I have one of those calendar books that have one month for each two page spread, with room on each date to write things down. I've kept one of these each year as a "daybook" of sorts since 1994. In it, I write down all the time I spend doing art-related things, in several different categories. One is actual painting time, the time I spend with the painting in front of me and the brush in my hand. Another is development, the time I spend working up ideas for paintings. A third is lumped under miscellaneous, and that includes everything from straightening the studio to framing and shipping to filing photos. And then I keep a record of days spent in the field gathering reference, days spent at shows and seminars, days spent doing business-related things away from home. And...days spent fishing, in which I write down the highlights of my fishing trips.

At the end of each month I list the paintings and other artwork I did that month, how many hours I spent on each piece of art, the medium used, and the final size of the image. I also add up the different categories. And at the end of the year I add everything up to give me the total working hours and days I spent that year.

It's interesting that those total hours don't really vary all that much from year to year, even though I don't keep "regular" painting hours.

If a person works a 40 hour week for 50 weeks a year, that's 2000 hours of working time. In my case, if one doesn't count the days spent at shows, gathering reference, etc., my actual time in the studio averages something around 1200 hours per year. So I guess I don't work very hard!

Actually, though, it isn't so easy to quantify "working time" when there are a lot of snippets of time I don't count, such as the time spent in the evenings reading about my subjects or about art, thinking about paintings, and even doodling ideas on scratch paper. I also haven't counted the time spent typing this, even though it certainly qualifies as art-related time!

More random thoughts later...