Red and white acrylic fish painting


white fish artwork acrylic

“The Playful One” 9 x 12 acrylic on canvas_2004

by Robert Conway

This red and white fish in the painting was quite an entertainer. When my wife and I used to go hang out at the bench by the pond at night, this little fellow used to put on quite a show for us. He would swim around the koi pond very fast, doing these crazy figure eights and when he passed by us he would flick his tail, giving us a little spritz. The others would make their appearances silently, gradually revealing themselves from the the shadowy depths just to see what we were up to. One creature who never liked to show himself was this huge frog that I named Goliath. I have only seen this creature about five times and only very briefly. Every time I went out to the fish pond at night I would here this load splash, like someone threw a brick in the water. It appears that he too liked to hang out at the bench and when we showed up he would take this six foot leap back into the pond. The only times I could manage to get a look at him was when I had been out there for a while and my would eyes adjust to the dark. He would be hiding among the rocks motionless, staring, just pretending he was just another rock.

May 8, 2014


Artist Lena Quagliato guest stars on TV’s “Pawn Stars”

lena artist paintings canvas

some of Lena’s earlier paintings: “Trust” (left) and “The Dotted Line” (right

Tune in to the History Channel on April 10th(air date could change) to check out painter/artist and fellow wordpress blogger Lena Quagliato who will be featured on the reality TV hit Pawn Stars. She informs me that the details of the visit are a surprise but I get a feeling we are going to see some new original artwork from her. I have never met Lena in person, but we have been in contact over the net for a while brainstorming art promotional strategies so I am as curious as heck, also I  watch that show all the time and to see someone I know pop up in it will be a real hoot. As Rick Harrison, the owner of the pawn shop says “Everything has a story and a price” so stay tuned.
You can check out Lena’s amazing artwork here, or go like her on Facebook here.
lena Quagliato on pawn stars

on the set

April 3, 2014

The Hamptons painting, the most difficult one to finish


Taming the beast

by Robert Conway

I found this article in my archives from when I had this other blog. This post deals with my attempts to finish my most difficult painting, thank goodness this ordeal is over, however I might add that I am pleased as punch in the way it all came out . . .

This one is so close to being finished, but as I go in for the kill, I keep finding these little things to fix, I am in the extra innings with this project. Now my wife, who usually never comments on issues dealing of my nocturnal hobby, is saying that it looked fine enough like a month ago and it looks finished. I am being referred to now as “the painter of sticks’, a subtle hint that I have been obsessing over this Hamptons vine painting for far too long. But to my defense, I need my obsessions, it just keeps my mind off what is happening in the real world which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Anyhow, I am going to have to lose this ‘stickman stigma’ in my house as soon as possible, so musical theme from this point on is of course, Momma Said Knock You Out.

It is not helping that my source material is an actual size blow up from a blurry cell phone shot which means I have to make things up and make my lines appear sharper than what I am seeing, even photoshop could not help me out with this. At least I am down to the tiny brushes now, so I am not too worried about totally screwing up. Words to live by: big brushes, big mistakes, little brushes, little mistakes.

This is a whole new painting for me. Quite a few of firsts in this one, lots of detail, a realistic style and most importantly my first painting with actual lines in it. I also broke one of my old taboos about never having any man-made objects in my paintings. Yep, out of the comfort zone with this one, most of my past work has been my koi paintings which are colorful and have very soft edges, I wouldn’t  even call them lines. There is a certain level of discipline in this new work with the dynamic composition, strict attention to detail and hard lines that really make the whole process a tight ass venture, not that I am not happy about my results, its just not as fun to paint as my previous artwork. Also, my computer system has been down in my studio so I am without any of my music, this makes me uptight right there. I miss my headphones and my twentieth century bar chords. I am really itching to get back to painting something that is fast, loose, colorful and not so darn serious. However, just let me say that I have always wanted to do a canvas like this, I have always loved japanese sumi-e ink painting and I always wanted to capture that tense, dynamic energy of say a coiled vine or the branch of an apple tree so i definitely think I got my fill as far as that is concerned. Also, painting the deep contrasts of shadow and light and experimenting with the levels of depth in this composition has been and an extremely rewarding venture.

Here are a couple things that I am going to do to finalize everything:

I believe that the whole war will be won with this painting when I can make the 3 elements on the right side of the composition (the white window frame, the dark barn wood siding and the faded sign on the top) connect convincingly on the same plane, instead of it being just 3 separate pieces. My plan right now is to first darken the shadows of the white window frame, that element needs to be pushed back from the foreground, there just needs to be more depth in this area. Second, I need to lighten up the barn wood and hit it with some long highlights. Third, I need to slightly darken the white sign in the upper right and work it out with a longer more convincing grey gradation over the entirety of this element. I hope that these moves will make these elements work together with each other and that this whole right plain looks like a real solid wall. The part of the vine in the foreground that reaches diagonally through the middle of the layout also needs to be modeled more, it needs to feel more rounded, it is very busy in this area but I am enjoying it, that branch looks yummy enough to eat, I just have to smooth it out more. Then I need to do a just a general examination of everything and hope that I don’t add any more things to fix on my list.   Hopefully after all that, I can put this horse out to pasture and start painting something else, sometime thing more fun. Can’t wait to spray this thing, I love putting that final finish on the worked canvs, sealed for all eternity in a UV coating, now that’s closure!

April 1, 2014

Painting Fish with Acrylics while on Meds

orange fish white carp art

just can’t think of a good title for this painting

by Robert Conway

Yep, I took the plunge, I don’t want to delve into anything serious not on this blog, lets just generalize it and say that ‘old man winter was giving me the blues’. Why not? the rules have changed, everyone is crazy now, crazy is the new normal. Anyhow, my old 20th Century brain needed an overhaul, a little outside assistance getting through this mind numbing hassle festival that we call modern times, just a little tweak was all that was needed, a low dosage, nothing major, like the mayor of Toronto or anything, I am not starring off into space and drooling or something like that. That was a big concern, but the stuff they have now is different than it was when I was growing up, I think back then they gave everyone Thorazine to keep them quiet so everyone else could go about their day. So for years there was always that stigma in the back of my mind, my greatest fear was that I would become a total zombie, a total zombie who didn’t want to paint! but that did not turn out to be the case at all, in fact I have just upped my game, I am at a different level with my painting now, more focused in my execution and more confident than ever that I am improving with my progress at being a painter.

It all started the third day I started to take these pills, I was at work(as a digital retoucher) and I found myself writing the most eloquent emails about the most mundane work stuff, even my boss was like “I didn’t need a novel Bob, a simple yes or no would of done.” That’s when I realized that I was concentrating better, better than ever, I have always been easily distracted it is probably ADHD but we did not have that term in my day. I was always a poor student and If I had this stuff in high school I know I would of avoided that purgatory like stint at that community college. But I digress.

So along with the heightened concentration and the easing of distractions I am also finding that the extreme highs and lows that I have always experienced while I was painting have kind of melted away and has been replaced with a steady sense of quiet confidence and a little more optimism. If you have read any of my other posts you know that I am all about avoiding panic and ignoring self doubt these are the two culprits that had impeded my progress in my earlier experimental days and I am done with them, don’t let the door hit you on the way out fellas!

I would say also that I was greatly concerned that my desire paint would be diminished from taking these things which is not the case at all, the act of painting has become less of a struggle now so I am enjoying putting brush to canvas even more than before.

March 16, 2014

Trying to emulate other artists can spoil your painting journey


The Portal” _ oil painting on canvas _ 2004 _ sold

by Robert Conway

Once I have my finished my layout for my next painting its a done deal, i’m sticking with the plan. I am going to try my best to not only recreate that image into a painting, but make it better. If you have already started your painting and say go to a museum and get inspired with the way a certain artist renders clouds for example, maybe this is something you might want to experiment with down the road, but not with the project you are currently working on.

The post modern notion that everything has been done already can be a blight on your creativity. In this culture of continuously recycled ideas, I refuse to adhere to this notion, vehemently. As someone who grew up at the during the tail end of this country’s golden age, where there seemed to an abundance fresh ideas and this thing called ‘optimism’, it pains me to see how America has panned out. Even the stupid people are saying the movies are stupid. This focus group mentality that permeates our society is the enemy of individual expression and all that is special and fun and spontaneous. I am tired of everything being a remake, so as a rule, I never study anyone else’s art when I’m developing an oil painting, never want to emulate anyone else. All those great artists of the past, the Florentines, the Venetians, close the book on those guys, that is all so intimidating it will make your head spin right off your shoulders. This is a journey you will be walking alone, so why follow someone else’s path, when you can make your own? You really don’t want anyone describing your paintings to someone else as “Oh yeah his work is a lot like Miro’s, but with day-glow” or “Her stuff is kind of Gauguin-esque”. Anytime you get that suffix ‘esque” describing your work, its like the Scarlet Letter.

Reasons why you should not to emulate other artists:

1) They did it first and better, it’s a battle you will never win
2) Make up your own rules and you won’t have to answer to anyone.

I learned to let go of a lot of these ‘tricks’ in my technique, that I used to obsess over, that would always lead me to the same brick wall, where I would end up eventually destroying the piece. Getting hung up on technique can lead you away from the emotional quality of your work, and it is this quality that separates you from everyone else in this land of remakes. One thing that you should understand is the fact that there is always going to be people out there with better technical skills than you, why fuss over it? Some of these photo realists out there have unbelievable skills, that should be marveled over, but as far as an emotional impact they can be a lot of the time quite sterile, and where is the fun in that?

I used to cling to my detailing trick, because I knew going into one of those ‘critiques’ in college, I always had the detail going on my side and no matter how much a professor ripped into one of my works, I would get a star for detail. Well, I was on my way to taking my first painting classes the next semester with some of the same professors, I mean it was intimidating knowing that I was going to be learning this serious craft from these judgmental people who only saw things their way and no one elses. Don’t get me wrong, these were good teachers and I did learn quiet a bit from them, but everything changed when I went to the faculty art show at the college and saw what those guys painted, I was really taken back at how bad their work was. I mean one professor’s work was all blatant rip-offs of Mark Rothko’s, even the titles of the paintings were not his. And there was this other professor’s paintings that were exaggerated, cartoon-like pictures of himself in his underwear with his tongue hanging out, chasing young under dressed women around this room. I mean this guy gets paid to teach young girls all day! red flag! I’m sure the tuition-paying parents might have been a little concerned about this good time charlie. The third professor’s paintings were so all so boring they were hard to look at, he would paint a wall, a plant, a window, a wall socket, some wall molding all very flat and shockingly uninteresting. I overheard him talking about one of his works, “Aren’t you interested to know that the wall socket is exactly 8 inches from the houseplant and the wall moulding is only 4 inches from the same plant? . . . .” maybe if I was at Home Depot this would have some relevancy to me, but at that moment I was deciding on what to change my major to.

Anyway, what I am saying here is that people can lead you astray sometimes, and you will pick up on this more and more as you get older. Especially in the art world where everything is so subjective, its all up in the air really. there is no way to ‘measure’ it, or have statistics printed out about it, it deals with individual tastes. So nobody is really right and nobody is really wrong, and in this type of environment a lot of ‘experts’ can thrive. I am not saying bad people necessarily, but people who may not have your best interests at heart, every one has their own agenda now, don’t they?

February 15, 2014

Beware of changing your light source when you are in the middle of a painting


this is a detail from oil painting I did a while back called “Who goes there now?”

by Robert Conway

Now being a self-taught acrylic painter means that you have had to learn a few things the hard way, and I am no exception. In my early days, I on more than one occasion had to change my light source or move to my operation to different location while I was in the middle of working on a piece and every time this turned out to be a total disaster. I would find that all of a sudden the painting I was working on that previously I had thought was going to lift me up to such lofty heights had suddenly turned into some mediocre piece of crap. Now how could that be! Was I just delusional the whole time I was working on it and then one day I wake up and suddenly I perceive everything differently? With my delusions of grandeur snuffed out, I began to question everything about myself, how could I convince myself into thinking that I was on some quest to create some great work of art when in reality my output was just some run of the mill layers of paint on a canvas? Have I changed? am I normal now or was I before?

Here is the series of events that would always follow suit:

• First I would curse my old self for being so short sighted.

• Then I would go into damage control mode, like an artistic version of CPR, I would end up repainting the whole composition on top of the old one at a fast and frantic pace.

• When this did not work I would then end up destroying the artwork and then throw the painting in the garbage.

• This of course would lead me to the conclusion that I just could not paint at all and I would not take work on any more art for very long periods of time.

Sometimes years, sometimes decades.

The answer to my problem of course was that I did not take into consideration was the change of my light source (which I had never gave a second thought to) would dramatically effect the way I was seeing my painting. Different light sources cast different qualities of light, fluorescent light can run on the greenish side, incandescent bulbs cast more of a yellow light which flatters the hotter hues, but is not so great with the cool ones, halogen is more of a white light which can rob your work of intensity and natural light changes during the hours of the day. These different types of lighting are going to alter the playing field of your acrylic painting in some way with what you are working on, the impact fullness and the intensity of your original composition is going to change and probably not in your favor. Not only are you going to see the variation in the colors you choose, you are going to see a difference in your lights and shadows and that is the whole ball game as far as I am concerned, that is your foundation. Right now I am using a combination of incandescent and halogen lighting while I am painting which I am somewhat happy with, but I am still experimenting, still taking suggestions, at least now I have the good sense not to change my horses in mid stream, If I am going to make any lighting changes now, I am going to wait until I start a new painting.

March 8, 2014