One of my more enjoyable learning experiences was my three trips to John C Campbell Folk Art School in Brasstown, North Carolina. This is a serious college to teach folk arts. You spend most of the week on campus enrolled in a class. My first class was a watercolor class over 20 years ago. Then I did woodcarving, good thing there was a Doctor in the class, and finally a dulcimer playing class. Leah took two classes in basket making and one in dulcimer playing with me. John C Campbell is a site on the Craft Trail so they have a lot of visitors who are free to see what is happening in the classes. So if you are in the area make sure to visit. Most people spend 8 to 10 hours a day in their class making their project. At the end of the week there is a show of all the work produced which the general public attends. Then there is a big jam that evening by local musicians and visiting musicians. They have a great gift store stocked by local crafts people. They are famous for the Brasstown wood carvers. They have a museum stocked mostly by donations from their famous students. They generally have a short performance everyday by their artist in residence, and there are three field trips to craft studios. We saw an instrument maker, a wood turner, raku firing, blacksmith, etc., and you are free to visit the other classes to see what is being done. The area has become a craft colony with local stores owned by the crafts people selling their wares. They have discovered UPS ships anywhere so they can sell their wares anyplace. And it is an old farm and incredibly green and beautiful. You can get a catalogue from them with their class schedule. Gardening, cooking, painting, weaving, art, blacksmithing, basket making, knitting, jewelry making if it’s a folk art, they teach it with well known teachers. These are two of the watercolors I did over 20 years ago. I really want to go back. I wasn’t as serious an artist back then. But I still do watercolor.
As many of you may know I am self taught meaning I have no college degrees in art. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had art teachers. In the next few posts I’m going to share some of my more enjoyable learning adventures in art. A great treasure in LA County is St. Andrews Abbey in Valyermo. They have Artists Retreats twice a year. Not much instruction but a wonderful, peaceful, beautiful place to make art and meet other Artists. I am fortunate to have gotten to go to one. I am signed up for the one in November but it was moved from the Spring one because of the Virus. They are the home of the famous ceramics. A wonderful used book store and a gift shop. You do not have to be Catholic to go but you do have to obey rules like silence for part of the day, no pets, no drugs, etc. You are welcome to attend Mass or not. The food is wonderful and you eat with the Monks and Priests. The Bobcat fire parted and went around leaving it unscathed but heavily burned around it. The Devils Punch Bowl was burned completely. You in the past could go from the Abbey there to paint and draw. It always sells out so if COVID ever leaves us sign up early if you want to attend. And it is very reasonable. Sharing two sketches I made.
As many of you know my Father Edward Levitt was a Disney and Peanuts cartoonist. He taught me art. I have these two serious paintings he did. They are on the right. He did them in the sixties or early seventies. They were still life studies. He used a pallet knife and oils. He told me they were not finished. I have chosen to do my own versions of these. They are pastels on colored paper. I was paying him homage in my own way by completing them. I remember he often gave me advice. One was to strive for museum quality. The other was that all colors go with one another. He never showed his serious work. He said he didn’t want to compete with Artists that needed the money. He made a good living from his cartooning profession. He was my biggest fan. He came to as many of my openings as his health permitted.
Some of you may already know I am also a musician. You probably have seen me playing my Mountain Dulcimer at Openings or parties. What you may not know is my BA from Cal State Northridge is in Viola. I for many years played classical Viola in many Symphony Orchestras. I started playing the Mountain Dulcimer when I was a teenager. My brother Dan and I ordered a Mountain Dulcimer kit and put it together. I also can play the guitar, banjo, Irish penny whistles and the balalaika. However in the last few years I have been concentrating on my art. So it is only natural that through the years I have done music themed art. The first image features the Treble Clef and Dulcimer Tab. The second image is of my brother Dan playing the bass which I do not play. It also has a Mountain Dulcimer, a viola and a banjo. I come from a musical family. My Mother sang and my other brother Paul plays the drums. My brother Dan also is a potter and maker of musical instruments. My brother Paul is a Photographer. And of course my Father Edward Levitt was a fine Artist and Cartoonist for Disney and Peanuts.
We all love paintings of flowers and I love to paint flowers. However let’s face it, this is a subject that has been done to death. So when I paint flowers I try to give them a touch that makes them contemporary. By this I mean it has to be flowers and flowers are by definition beautiful. So what do you do to make flowers beautiful and modern and interesting. Here are a few of the flowers I have done. As you can see I simplify them and abstract them. I use vibrant colors or I tone down colors. But I make sure they are always recognized as being flowers. I paint and draw bouquets that either we have or I see from life. I bring in a flower or flowers and make it into a painting. As a last resort I use photos I take when I don’t have time to paint them. I have spent a lot of time in Hotels doing paintings and drawings of their beautiful flower arrangements. Enjoy them.
When is an art work done. With me it can be a long time. I always let my art set and visit it periodically to see what it needs further. One time I forgot I had entered a piece in a show and had changed It radically before it was accepted. Fortunately the show never materialized and I didn’t have to figure out what to do. This piece illustrates my point. After looking at it I decided it needed dancers. So dancers were added. I’m not the only artist who does this. Bonnard was often caught in museums doing touch ups to his work. When I was younger I would have an idea and get it executed and move on. Now I realize that work needs to be continually improved until you get it right. Artists are no different than writers in this respect.
As an Artist it is always a challenge to get inspiration. I am now working on this piece. I saw some interesting graffiti (?) On the side walk and took a picture of it. Then I took a 24” by 18” piece of green paper and used charcoal and conte crayon to produce this piece. I wanted to give it the Oriental feeling of the writing. It is so successful I am going to make a piece using this drawing on either canvas or board. As an Artist I often try to turn the mundane into a thing of beauty. Oriental paintings are known for using simple techniques and elements to produce beautiful art. Sometimes less is more. Am thinking about sharing the progress of this piece in some way.
Well I have been in self isolation for months now. However it has not been necessarily bad. I have more time to just create work. I have also been in more shows online then I have ever had in brick and mortar galleries in the same time frame. I have even done my first Zoom Artist Talk for UC Riverside San Diego. Many of my works are now dealing with COVID but I have a whole new series that just involves beautiful paintings. These new paintings involve the harmony of images and colors. I think COVID has made me want to just produce art that will make people feel good upon seeing it, and other times I want to document what is happening by using bicycle signage and portraits of people and their masks.