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Community Enthusiast News & Media Professionals

Painting the Place Between

We are having one of those truly Minnesota weeks where we transition through a wide range of seasons in short order. Just days ago I moved through three different weight coats in one afternoon. By the end of today’s lunch, I had shoveled my sidewalk twice. What was falling from the sky on my way to Wet Paint wasn’t really snow or sleet or rain or hail. If we lived in Iceland or Greenland or Sami country, we would have an exact word for it. And the meteorologists are bracing us for sub-zero temperatures by the weekend. So we figure out how to navigate through our new landscape and still get back and forth to work and get all that holiday shopping done.
Looking at snow I like to focus on the shadows. Years ago, Art Graham added Ultramarine Violet to his watercolor paint line. It seemed odd to me he would add this one color. He told me it was for painting shadows on the snow. Holly Swift’s paintings, currently at Macalester’s gallery, have these haunting violet iridescent passages which remind me of the same unexpected coloration that you don’t see in the landscape until you really look, and then you do.
By Friday we will be in our seasoned Minnesotan zone, ready to weather it all to the Fitzgerald Theatre in downtown Saint Paul to attend the premiere of “Painting the Place Between.” A documentary film by artist Kristen Lowe, it features four of the Twin Cities’ finest landscape painters, Betsy Byers, Jil Evans, Holly Swift and Andrew Wykes. From the video clip I can tell these are the stories of real people weathering their life, their art and their craft in the Minnesota landscape. They split their time between the plein air and the studio with finished works that approach the abstract but are true to “the place between.”
You can still get tickets for Friday’s premiere. Before the showing, there will be a reception with the artists. It should be a great landscape of a weekend.

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Community News & Media Professionals

Why Wet Paint loves Greg Graham

Greg at the paper counter at Wet Paint
Greg at the paper counter at Wet Paint

Twenty years ago I hired this guy not just with an artist’s attitude but a New York artist’s attitude to boot. I never imagined Greg would turn into a long term employee and be so devoted and committed to Wet Paint, our employees and customers. Greg has grown into a key manager at Wet Paint, keeping the front of the house well stocked and staffed. He is passionate about art materials and loves to share his extensive product knowledge with staff and customers. I am constantly amazed to hear Greg speak of a customer and the products they use; how they use it, and where they are showing their work.

"In Progress" enamel on panel by Gregory Graham
“In Progress” enamel on panel by Gregory Graham

And now Greg’s clientele has the opportunity to view his new work at the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center’s Atrium Gallery. The show includes 60 paintings (yes, 60) ranging in size from 4”x4” to 8”x10” (yes, inches). As a true art supply junkie, they are enamel over acrylic on Ampersand panels. He is currently using the Princeton Select 3750 series of brushes.

So join Greg at the reception for his show this Friday evening, October 4, from 6-8 p.m. I know he will love to see you and talk shop.

Check out his website www.gregorygrahamart.com

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Why Wet Paint stocks Masterpiece Canvas

Display of Masterpiece canvas in Wet Paint
Display of Masterpiece canvas in Wet Paint

I have had about 50 years personal experience with canvas as a painting support. The first 20 as a painter, the next 30 mostly as an art supply retailer. Some of the historic canvas prep techniques I learned in school aren’t taught anymore and many of the materials used aren’t readily available. There are a number of reasons for these changes. First, many painters want to spend their time creating rather than preparing. Second, many don’t have the access to tools and space for stretcher building and canvas stretching. Third, pre-made stretched canvases are now available at a much higher quality.

Wet Paint staffer, Meg Nelson, holding one of the small size canvases
Wet Paint staffer, Meg, holding one of the small 6×8″ size canvases

Since 1965, Masterpiece Artist Canvas has been improving their stretched canvases to earn their reputation for professional quality today. Artists used to build their own stretched canvases so they had control over the end results. Masterpiece has built into their everyday production the features that artists could not find in “ready-mades” 20 years ago. They offer 3 profiles of bars, all of which keep the canvas surface away from the wood so it doesn’t show through one’s paintings. All the stapling is done on the back so the edges are smooth to be painted or for ease of framing. Corners of the canvas are folded and not cut so the painting can be taken off the stretchers, rolled, shipped and easily re-stretched. They also automatically add cross braces to canvases 24” and larger to keep the wood from twisting and surface from warping. Masterpiece’s stretched canvas range includes 10 different canvas surfaces to give the artist the right ground, weight & texture for their medium and technique. And they offer 130 sizes from 4×4 to 72×96. All in all, that means that artists now have access to over 3000 different stretched canvas options.

Wet Paint staffers, Chris and Justin, holding a giant 48x72" stretched canvas
Wet Paint staffers, Chris and Justin, holding a giant 48×72″ stretched canvas

Masterpiece is also the only company I know that is obsessed enough about stretched canvas to offer artists dimensions that employ the golden ratio. The golden ratio (or, as in the case of canvas, the golden rectangle) has been used in art and architecture throughout history (DaVinci, Dali and others) to achieve what is believed to be the most pleasing proportions to the human eye. So you may want to try an 18×29 rather than an 18×24 canvas and see if it makes your painting more pleasant. Of course, now that you no longer have to spend your time stretching your own canvas, you have time to paint both an 18×29 and an 18×24 to compare the two.

I know somebody out there is tsk tsk-ing that many artists don’t prep their own surfaces, but there’s a lot to be said for pre-stretched options. Come in and we can talk about how much fun it used to be to prepare rabbit skin glue and apply white lead with a painting knife. Come in and I will to tell you about the 6 canvases I stretched during a tornado (they always had a life of their own.) The bottom line is, most artists stretched their own canvases because it use to be the only way to get the size and surface that they needed. We have a lot more options these days thanks to Masterpiece Canvas and that gives us lots more time to just be painting.  Until July 3rd, all Masterpiece Canvases are 50% off MSRP!