Logo for Art of the Carolinas 2010




Thursday, Nov. 12, 2010: I  checked into the North Raleigh Hilton only to find my room had a toilet that took a full three minutes to flush. Cue the ominous music, and within three hours there was a small lake in the room. The Hiltoners "fixed" it, and when I told them we still had the three-minute thing going on, they found another room for me, despite the crowd of AotC attendees.

After a very early dinner at neighboring Bahama Breeze (consistently good food, plus I got take-out for my dessert so I could have that after class), I attended my first class, which was Dan Nelson’s “The Two Fundamental Skills of Great Painting.” Amazingly, there were only 5 people in this class.

This class required 9 tubes of paint (plus an optional additional 4), 2 canvases plus small ones for practice, a number of brushes, turps and such, reference material, etc. Before class I joked with one student that over the years I’d discovered that the workshops that required the most supplies were the ones that used the least. We wound up using one brush, one tube of color and (the back of) one canvas.

Doofus brushstrokes on an otherwise blank canvasWe did get a very nice lecture out of it. Dan is obviously practiced at giving solid classes for a variety of skill levels, and I'd be very open to taking another, longer class from him. He taught at a college level and gave us college-level ideas. (And I figuratively patted myself on the head that I didn't correct his spelling.)

Behold the great painting I got from this workshop! All except the nervous mass at the very top are "incorrect" brushstrokes. That's one color of paint, one practice canvas. We also used a couple of sheets of paper that he handed out to scribble with.

I had sorta planned concentrating on brushstrokes in the coming year, so this class was good. I was reminded to vary my brushstrokes and shown how to loosely blob (instead of “block”) in my compositions. But was it worth $90? Oh dear, I don’t think so. Maybe I'd have paid $40 for it and thought I got my money's worth.

Long lines at checkout
When you take all your tickets from the various booths to check out, make sure the classes aren't between sessions or you'll have to stand in line a while. Say, is that my step-grandma Strick in line? Sure looks like her (but she passed on years ago).

Jerry’s Artarama sponsors this excellent art event, but Jerry’s seems to get in Jerry’s way. At least that’s what it appears as over the years, the Jerry’s display on the trade floor takes up more and more room. Their huge store is four blocks down the road—just a short limo ride during AotC. (That's a short ride in a long limo.) (It was at AotC that I discovered stretch limos have zero head room. Why do people lust after them so?) I’d rather look at what the other folks have to offer that I don't see in such detail when I shop Jerry's, find the new products and such. Sure, the mountains of canvases and cheap frames are great and something the regular store doesn’t stock in such huge numbers (and fabulous prices), but everything else seems already to be down the street.

Whenever you attend a Jerry’s workshop, the staff give out goody bags in the Registration area. Sure, they often contain leftovers and discontinued items, but there’s usually some very interesting something in there.

If you attend a sponsored workshop at AotC, you’ll probably go home with the sponsor’s goody bag, which contains samples designed to hook you to that sponsor’s brand. Yes, it works. (And no, this year I didn't get any of these. Boo!)

In the past, Jerry’s has given registered people an impressive goody bag. There have been mugs, collapsible water holders, brushes, liquid graphite (!) and such. The show almost always has tee shirts on sale.

This year the tee was part of the very small goody bag. Actually, the bag itself was the only other goody. It’s a nice bag, but not nearly as nice as last year’s. Last year's was fabulous, almost a great as the 2005 RWA Nationals bag, which I still use daily.

But they didn’t have any tees in my size. I looked around the line at Registration and saw many people who are about my build. No tees for them, either. Why doesn’t Jerry’s ask for tee size when they sign us up, so as to be assured there’s a tee for everyone?

As the show continued, I noted that the small and medium box remained fairly full. Oh well, I grabbed a tee for myself and determined that by next year I’ll be able to wear it without bustin’ through.

Aw, I'm just grousin' because Jerry's has spoiled us in the past. Still, it'd be nice if Jerry's put their AotC design up on one of those GOOD (may I repeat: GOOD, as in don't sell cheap stuff) online do-it-yourself tee shirt places so that those of us who didn't get a shirt can buy one.

People standing in a long line waiting to pick up their packages from the Jerry's area.







Jerry's pickup has a line

These are lines in the Jerry's area. You go around to the various booths of the trade floor, or in Jerry's case, to their portion of the floor, and pick out what you want to buy. Then each booth makes out a sales ticket for you, and then bags and stores what you want to buy. You then gather all your sales tickets and go up front to the cash registers to pay and get your tickets stamped. Then it's back to the booths to pick up your stuff. In Jerry's case, they have a back room where you get in line to pick up your items. Between classes, I saw the pick-up line stretching a good fifty feet.

Aaand the great luck continued. Got up Friday morning very early after a cold night. As usual in this Hilton, the temperature of the room tended to vary: cool when you wanted warm, and vice versa. Changing the thermostat didn't seem to affect anything. It had a mind of its own. Later in the day I discovered the way to control temps. Too cool? You turn the thermostat up to like 80 degrees and the heat actually kicks in. Turn it off before the room becomes an inferno. Too hot? Turn it down to 60 and the A/C comes on. The trick is to kick the machinery actually ON instead of just the perpetual fan, and then turn it off before your room hits that mark.

Ambled down the street to Denny’s and had a very nice omelette with spinach and other veggies. I never understand why people want to serve grits or some kind of potatoes with a breakfast that already has toast (or muffin), but this came with that, and I chose non-grits, non-hashbrown red potatoes, thinking: baked pieces. Instead what I got was pieces that had been deep fried and salted. French fries in a different shape. French fries for breakfast?!!

Anyway, I came back to the hotel, got a bit of NaNoWriMo writing in and still had time to mill around before the trade floor opened. Wait, did my afternoon class start at noon or 1? I checked the schedule.

It had started at 9. After sixty extremely long and torturous seconds of asking myself if it was truly okay to miss a $90 class, I grabbed my things (phew! I'd pre-packed!) and ran downstairs. I decided my best course was to hide behind a bald-faced lie and explained to the teacher that I’d had an awful emergency and was only now able to make it into class.

He only seemed 10% ticked off, mainly because someone else had come in right before me. I've taken his classes before. I slapped on a basecoat and faked my way through the india ink drawing that he insists people do. (I can’t stand doing it that way, first and foremost because the ink dissolves when you put paint over it and it is a mess. Ick.) (You don't do the ink thing in his painting knife class, which is why that class is fun.)

This particular teacher is a pure plotter. I say that because, in writing, there are plotters and there are pantsers. Pure plotters will write a 100-page plot outline before they begin to write a word, and their writing will never stray an iota from that outline. Pantsers will sit down in front of their computer and ask themselves, “What will I write about?” and write a book.

The vast majority of people fall between the two extremes. Most tend to swing back and forth along the scale as the book progresses. I need to know my ending, turning points and characters before I begin. Then I’ll write, then I’ll change my turning points and characters, then I’ll write, repeat, repeat, repeat. At no point will I have an outline that can’t be charted on one or two pages maximum. To do more than that destroys the joy and discovery of writing, imho. Your mileage may vary, to each their own, whatever works for you, etc etc.

This unnamed art teacher is a reborn old-school painter, who, after laying down a flat underpainting of that awful “Mat” acrylic paint that is only good/great for underpaintings, then does a detailed grisaille ink painting, upon which he begins to layer his oils.

I caught up with the class (what WERE they doing in the entire hour before I arrived?), and having less than two hours left, proceeded to dash paint onto my canvas.

Now, this particular teacher wrote an entire book on water-soluble oils. I was confused as to what additives we should use to overcome the shortcomings of the medium. What he taught in class: use water, unless you want to use a drop or two of linseed oil, in which case you have to keep using it in your paint until your painting is done.

No mention about all the techno-liquid additives mentioned in his book, designed to make the paint do all kinds of things.

My painting: a mowed farm field with lots of treesAnyway, I think I was one of the two people who actually almost finished their painting. So coming in late didn’t do me any harm.

Note: this class was “all materials included,” which garnered an extra fee. What we got: about nine small glops of paint on one tear-off page from a paper palette, a non-impressive paintbrush, and of course, a large canvas (12x24) since there was so little paint to go around. It’s always like that.

So here I was, working with the water-soluble oils and thinking, “This is crap.” Not the painting; the water-soluble oils. But at one point the teacher left to track down some real yellow for us, and as soon as the door closed behind him, a lady across the room said quite loudly, “This stuff is crap.”

Everyone, and I mean everyone, then echoed her sentiments.  “Crap! Awful crap!” The stuff doesn’t go down well and once it’s down, if you go over it with another layer trying to deepen the color because the first layer was globby crap, the first layer coagulates and comes crappily up on your brush.

It’s being hyped as the best thing to take plein air painting (among other uses) because it won’t dry out as quickly as acrylic.

I say: give me my acrylics and shut up. Water-soluble oils still have some R&D to go through before I’ll work with them on anything near a steady basis. (I bought a set a couple years ago that I’ll try to use up with some knife paintings.) (On the other side of the medium tracks, interactive acrylics also have problems that need to be solved. The theory is that you can go into them after they've dried and rework them. Ha!)

One thing I discovered at this AotC which has not been like previous ones (though I didn’t take any oil classes last year so it may have started then): turps weren’t supplied for the classes. We had to bring our own.

Perhaps the incident two years ago when Caroline Jasper tried to drink Gamsol instead of the water that was in a lookalike glass on her table, made Jerry’s think twice about possible insurance problems. (Ambulance arrived promptly, Carolina had spit out most of it once she determined that it had a funny taste, and all was well.)

(It was this that made me start using Gamsol. If it was that odorless, it was something I wanted to use. So much better than breathing turp fumes! The company should use Caroline's experience in its promotional material.)

The entry hall outside the larger trade floor, filled with shoppers and booths.

Diana L. Coldan works on a pastel painting on the trade floor.




Diana L. Coidan works on a pastel painting on the trade floor. Jerry's advertised that they'd have about 20 artists demonstrating various techniques and materials each day.




Mike Rooney does a demo in front of his class

Friday 5:00, final class: how to simplify your paintings, taught by Mike Rooney. (above) Got there early, had all my supplies. Actually, I had more than enough, as we were told to bring our own complicated photos that we could learn to simplify. Instead, we used the teacher’s photos.

One was of several ships in harbor and all the darks blobbed into each other. Yeek. The other was a boring city scape with similar problems in the darks. How I wanted to take these images into Photoshop and slide that Levels lever to the left to lighten those shadows! It's bad enough to work from a poor photo, but when the photo shows things like boats where I'm not familiar at all with how boats look and thus can't fake my way through a shadow area, it's worse. Eyestrain! Brain strain! Huge frustration levels!

My painting of a boat.My painting of a city scape.Oh well, got them done for the most part, and learned that 8x8 panels are really cute to work with. I bought a bunch.

At one point an older lady student asked Mike a question about something. He asked, “What medium are you working in, oils or acrylics?” The woman didn’t know. I think everyone in the class deserves a big gold karma star because, though EVERYONE gasped softly at the “I don’t know,” no one even so much as tittered. (Btw: She was using acrylics.)

And don't tell Dan N., but Mike R. had us doing bad brushstrokes ("fill in the shapes") to get our job done. Bwah wah WAHHHH! (Okay, I snitched to Dan, and he got a huge laugh out of it. He very much likes Mike's work.)

Trade floor: people shopping at booths








Another trade floor shot




Afterward I headed back to the room to collapse. It’s amazing how the body screams after a few hours of sitting in anti-ergonomic chairs or standing in one spot, trying to peer over everyone else’s shoulders so one can see the teacher’s demo.

Back in the room I was reminded: hotel cable is awful. They only have network shows and fifteen flavors of ESPN. I don’t watch network shows (there are two exceptions) or sports (unless it’s the Olympics). Plus they didn’t have any kind of program guide.

Good thing I’d brought a stack of Wonder Womans for research purposees. Because my NaNo novel is a non-fan fic Wonder Woman novel whose primary antagonist is the White Magican, and where the (slight) romantic interest is Micah Rains, I’m rereading the William Messner-Loebs era, where these two characters were introduced (and left).

WML started off awkwardly but soon got the hang of Diana’s voice and attitude. He managed to bring myth into a mundane world and incorporated magic well, even placing a few rules upon it here and there. (I hate undefined magic!) (And yes, the magical demons got a bit repetitive after a while.)

Then Christopher Priest subbed for two issues. I found this quite illuminating. Priest excused WW’s surge of ferocity—needed to save a kidnapped child—as a bout of madness. Hm. If WW had a penis, I doubt if he’d even entertained that angle, but would rather have celebrated the size and durability of her accompanying reproductive organs. The “if WW had a penis” concept comes to me a lot when rereading WW. For example: in the current JMS era, if WW had had a penis, she would have had her rebellious thoughts long before she was shown to. But since she’s a woman, she has to be meek and follow orders or there’s something horribly wrong with her.

Priest’s issues were followed by an about-face for the book, still under WML. DC’s PTB had instructed him to dissociate the book from Perez’s Volume 2 version. Apparently sales had been falling, and this was seen as the only way to "save" Diana.

So we got the crazy Hippolyta, always-angry but mostly unclothed Artemis, and Diana as Biker Chick. The book became T&A.

Ugh. But fascinating from a historical perspective. From the start, WML cut Diana’s powers to a very dramatic level, one that I liked enormously. He gave her some knowledge of magic, which is just logical. And he made her powerful not only within her power level but in how she functioned.

No longer was she nicey-nicey, but she was nice but able to scare—terrify!—criminals when she set her mind to cutting through a terrible crisis. She also had a great sense of humor, as did her frirends. And she reached out to help anyone every chance she got.

Drawbacks during the good WML times? He opened scenes without introducing who the characters involved were. This confused me; likely it confused the heck out of new readers. (The problem was compounded by the not-so-great art.) Also, whenever Diana got together with anyone on a social level, it was always with a group of women. No men were allowed. I've always disliked the absolute separation of genders within WW, and think this is a major reason why her numbers aren't higher. She's a men-are-bad girlie book in a medium where most readers aren't girls.

More people shopping on the trade floor

Dan Nelson works on a large painting (from a photo) in the hotel parking lot.

(left) Dan Nelson works in the parking lot on a large Raleigh scape (from a photo). Look at those brushstrokes! The result was absolutely breathtaking. He only did details at the center of interest. Everything else was a riot of outrageous brushstrokes and glazed transparent colors. You can see behind him on his tabouret his bottles of glazes, which he mixes 1:10, paint to glaze. PS: He uses the fancy rug to keep his area clean.

Saturday: What better way to start the day than ordering room service? Last year my Hilton breakfast had been awful, but I had faith.

This one arrived on time. Denny's cooks their breakfasts better, but this was acceptable—except that it was stone cold.

Room service meals arrive with a dome-ish-covered plate. What good does that metal cover do? Is it heated? It's got a big finger hole in the top so the heat can funnel right out. Why don't hotels instead use those thermal bags that pizza delivery places use, or the bags you can get from QVC or Walmart to transport your food in either a cold or hot way? Some of these systems even come with microwavable/freezable bags you can insert with the food to help sustain the right temp. Hello, Hilton? The 21st Century is calling...

This was the final day for me for the show. I took my shopping list to the trade floor, and there found the Gessobord people. I wanted a small stack of 8x8’s, which are so very cute. By sheer chance, I checked my pre-receipt as I walked out of their booth and the math part of my brain was still functioning.

“Excuse me, but three times seven is 21, not 67,” I returned to tell the clerk. He looked mortified at the mistake, so I forgive him. He had done the figures on a calculator, so I’m not sure how it happened (though later he saw me passing by and said he’d multiplied twice by the price. Or something).

Picked up an entire box of canvases, a multipack of 8x8’s with edges, and a shitload of paint. ($7/bottle!!!) Plus a few brushes. It was supposed to be buy 3, get a fourth free, but they gave me two free. AND carted my canvases out to the car!

Went to the Lukas area because Mike R. had been raving about the quality of their paint (and it did seem nice), and found huge squirt bottles of professional-grade paint for el cheapo, the aforementioned $7. So I grabbed 11 bottles. I paused at the Alizarin Crimson. Alizarin is a non-permanent (but gorgeous) color unless it’s called something like “Permanent Alizarin” or “Alizarin Hue.” (Okay, "hue" is used when they're substituting for either a really, really expensive color or a poisonous one. Ex: Cadmium is toxic, so you'd buy Cadmium Yellow Hue instead of Cadmium Yellow.) This was not "Permanent Alizarin." And it only had two asterisks on the label, rather than the others, which had three.

“What’s the permanency on this?” I asked the clerk while pointing at the asterisks. Eventually we tracked down the expert on acrylics for the company. Yes, the asterisks indicated it was non-permanent, he told me, but it wouldn’t start to fade until long after I was dead. (Apparently he doesn’t think I’m immortal.) Okay, good enough. I’ll let the museum curators/archivists worry about it when the time comes.

Ca-ching! Ca-ching! My AmEx card began to smoke.

Most of us at the show saw familiar faces and got together enough to gloat about the great deals we were getting. I think this year is the least I’ve spent on materials, and yet I feel I got an awful lot of stuff. Good stuff that I'll actually be using. Next weekend I’ll see about cleaning up the studio to make sure everything fits.

But still, I have GOT to bump that studio out! The patio that was poured last month comes right up the edge of where I want Future Studio to extend.

See you at Art of the Carolinas 2011!