Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Greetings

It’s been a very busy couple of months since my last blog post --- with the artist reception at the Sarasota Orchestra Harmony Gallery Solo Exhibition, preparations for hanging the Players Theater Featured Artist Exhibition, the Players Theater  artist reception, creating and delivering a commission painting for a client, and doing some plein air painting as well.

This past year has been an exciting growth period for my art career here in Sarasota, FL. Moving here 2-1/2 years ago from Pennsylvania has been one of the better decisions that I’ve made in my life. This morning, as I write this note, I see that it is 14 degrees in Philadelphia and while it is starting out at 66 degrees on its way to 83 here.  It has not only offered plenty of opportunities to paint outdoors year-round with the Light Chasers Plein Air artist group but also has presented me with great new friends and colleagues.
My family and I feel very blessed.

 I wish you all a very happy holiday season.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Re-Working an Older Painting

As my tastes change and my experience increases, I get the urge to pull out an older painting and re-work it. Of course, there's always the possibility that I will absolutely ruin it, but I'm usually willing to take that chance.

This is a painting that I did years ago and was never really satisfied with it -- it seemed too dull to me.

So, as Tim Allen -- the "Tool-time Man" would say, "I re-wired it and gave it more power."

I wanted to add more life and light to the painting and create a warmer feel throughout. Using Sap Green as the base green, I added layers of Cad Orange, Cad Red, and Cad Yellow Deep to portray the warm glow of the morning sun.

Misty Morning by Alan Zawacki - 20"x40" acrylic
on canvas (available on Alan Zawacki Fine Art on Etsy)

I don't know what you think but I like this painting a whole lot more -- it makes me feel happy -- and that's why I paint.

Have a great week,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sarasota Orchestra Harmony Gallery Solo Exhibition

For those in the Sarasota area, you are invited to stop by the Sarasota Orchestra Harmony Gallery from now through October 31 to see my solo exhibition, Tropical Blues. The gallery is at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center - 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota and is usually open Monday-Friday 8:30AM-4:30PM and whenever the building is open to the public. You are also invited to the artist reception on Tuesday, October 22 from 5:00 - 6:30 PM.

You will see a collection of oil and acrylic paintings with the tropical theme of "blue" ocean and sky.


Have a great week,

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Split Personality

I have been working on two paintings at the same time. One is a large oil seascape (Solomon Bay - St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands) and the other is a large acrylic seascape (a commission). I am learning how to shift my technique back and forth when using oil and then acrylic. There are pros and cons to both so I find that it's a matter of adjusting my thought process and my technique. When I find that I need a break from one painting, I load up the other on my easel and change out my paints.

In a way, it helps me to stay fresh and also provides the opportunity to try something that I was successful at when painting with oil and apply it to my acrylic painting and visa-versa. The result often turns out great (much better than expected) but occasionally it leads to a not-so-wonderful result. When that happens, I have also learned how to recover from a mistake in both mediums. Experimentation is initially a little scary, especially on a large canvas, but ends up being a lot of fun!

I am currently putting the finishing touches on Solomon Bay - 30" x 40" oil on gallery wrap canvas).

And, I am half-way through my acrylic commission seascape painting (an as yet an untitled 24" x 72" acrylic on gallery wrap canvas).

Have a great week and experiment a little!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Appreciate Each and Every Moment

For 30 years, my previous life revolved around human resource development and career development. I have always been passionate about helping people discover and follow their own passion in life. Most importantly, appreciating and enjoying each and every day that we live.

For this blog post I would like to reference a little story excerpted from my book, Choosing a Life Well Lived: How to Recreate Your Career and Your Life Through Value-Based Choices, that illustrates the idea of appreciating the moment – before it is gone forever.

The Fisherman and the Businessman
One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf.  He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was relaxing on the beach with a fishing pole in the sand instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. "You aren't going to catch many fish that way," said the businessman to the fisherman, "you should be working rather than lying on the beach!"
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, "And what will my reward be?" "Well, you can get more poles and catch more fish!" was the businessman's answer. "And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman, still smiling.
The businessman replied, "You will make money and you'll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!" "And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman's questions.  "You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!" he said. "And then what will my reward be?" repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. "Don't you understand?  You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!"
Once again the fisherman asked, "And then what will my reward be?" The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, "Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!"
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, "And what do you think I'm doing at this moment?"

                                                               -- Author Unknown

Have a Great Week, Everyone!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Completed my WATER Series

I completed the third 30"x40" oil painting in my series about WATER. You may notice that I slightly changed the composition of the second painting. It was pointed out to me (and I agreed) that the starfish was a distraction to the overall composition. Thanks for that advice, Barry.

The third painting is my take on the view one has while paddling out to catch waves. The composition shows a close-to-the-surface perspective as the white water of a small breaking wave approaches.

So far, I have tentatively titled these paintings, Water #1, #2, and #3. If you have a suggestion for more appropriate and creative names for these 3 paintings, please leave your suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Water #1

Water #2

Water #3
Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Appying Finishing Touches to Water #2

I am in the latter stages of the second in a series of paintings about WATER; warm, crystal clear tropical beach water. As a member of Ocean Futures Society, an organization founded by Jean-Michel Cousteau, missioned to preserve the cleanliness of our oceans, I wanted to bring attention to the beauty and fragility of our oceans.

I have been a water person for my entire life -- riding waves first with a blow-up raft when I was little, then transitioning to a surf board, and now, since the knees are a bit beat up, to a boogie board. And, every trip to the Caribbean includes great snorkeling adventures.

Consider joining me in support of future generations having cleaner ocean water than we have now.

This second 30"x40" in my series, using a large amount of glazing technique, is almost complete. I still need to even out the glossiness with a varnish once it cures, so I guess I'll begin painting #3.

Have a great week!

Water #2 by Alan Zawacki -- in progress

Water #2 by Alan Zawacki -- close up detail

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Glazing My Way Through a Seascape

I am currently working on several 40”x30” canvases for an upcoming solo show in December at the Players Theater in Sarasota, Fl. In addition to my existing paintings, I am creating a series of water paintings using a glazing technique.

Although I had created paintings that incorporated some glazing in the past, these will be painted primarily through glazing many layers of blues and greens to try to achieve a translucent feel to the water.

The following are several progress photos of the first painting using this technique. I began with a grisaille (monotone under-painting) and then layered a glaze of color each day, letting it dry overnight. After six layers of various glazes, I am now in the later stages of adding highlights and modifying areas that still need some adjusting.


After 2nd glaze

After 4th glaze

After 6th glaze

After 2nd application of highlights

It's a very challenging way for me to approach a painting since I have to force myself to be patient with the day-to-day process. I still have some work to do on this yet but I can now see it coming together in these final stages. Then, on to the next.
Have a great week everyone.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Finished Oil over Acrylic Painting

I told everyone in my last post that I would let you know when I finished the Chapel and Flowers painting - a 24"x24" oil over acrylic on canvas. So, here it is.
This is an actual hillside chapel in St. Thomas, USVI, on the property where we usually stay. This painting was originally done in acrylic and I have over-painted the original with oils. Since I had the chance to slightly modify the composition, I made the painting a bit truer to the real-life scene. I'm enjoying the added brilliance and vibrant colors that I get with over-painting in oil. A photo of the original acrylic is on my previous blog post.

Have a great week!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Evolving and Experimenting with Oil Over Acrylic

Let's face it. An artist evolves. As a matter of fact, everyone in every line of work evolves in their knowledge and skill level. I look at this evolution with great excitement and anticipation. It's darn fun!

So, I've taken on an experiment to see what I can create. I have pulled out some of my older acrylic paintings; ones that, for one reason or another, I didn't feel were up to par with what I intended to create. Using these paintings as an elaborate "under-painting," I have revised the compositions and colors by over-painting it with oil colors. As I learned quite a while ago, one can paint with oils over acrylic but not acrylic over oils. The difference is in the drying characteristics of each. Oil dries much more slowly so it can dry properly on top of acrylic but not underneath.

Using oil over acrylic is a common practice for some artists but this was new to me. The results are very pleasing to me -- and based on comments of others, pleasing to them as well. I am finding that the acrylic under-painting provides a platform for more brilliance and reflectiveness of the oil paints.

Here are two paintings using this method. The first is completed and now drying, Late Afternoon Sun - 12"x36" oil over acrylic on stretched canvas.

The second painting using this method is still in progress but here is a photo of the original version in acrylic and then the "almost completed" oil version.

Acrylic version
Oil over Acrylic

I have more work yet to do on this painting but I already like the brilliance in the colors over the original.

I'll let you know when it's finished.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My New Online Etsy Shop

Over the past few months, I have been doing quite a bit of plein air paintings. For those who may not be familiar with this term, “En plein air” is a French expression which means "in the open air," and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors or "from life." I am therefore, rapidly creating an inventory of smaller canvases and canvas wrapped boards. Many artists have large studios or sufficient storage space. I have neither – maybe one day.

Following the example of a well-known artist, I have set up an online Etsy Shop as a way to make available my small plein air studies rather than letting them accumulate too quickly.

In some cases these are studies for larger paintings.  Others were created in the field as a way to quickly capture that special moment in time and place. You will also find small to medium-size studio paintings that I created in a one-day session to satisfy a moment of inspiration. These are mostly unframed canvases; however, some may be on gallery wrap (no frame needed) or have been framed to be able to exhibit in shows.

These field studies and studio paintings are smaller original paintings, painted in either oil or acrylic and are being made available at very affordable prices. Most of these paintings are for sale unframed unless otherwise noted. This allows the customer to frame the painting to fit their specific home decor.

The name of my Etsy Shop is Alan Zawacki Fine Art on Etsy.

Here are a few of the pieces that I just recently posted on the Etsy site... to see more information about them, please click on my Etsy Shop link:  Alan Zawacki Fine Art on Etsy


Until my next post, have a great couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Never Stop Learning

My motivation and inspiration for painting not only includes the joy of sharing my art with others but also the experience of personal growth in my skills as an artist. Last week I participated in five intensive days of group instruction with internationally renowned plein air artist, Morgan Samuel Price.

The week included daily demos and lessons by Morgan during the mornings. The group then applied the lessons-learned in the afternoons by painting at various Sarasota locations. I have to say that the week was both exhilarating and exhausting. What a week!

Before transitioning to become a fulltime artist, my primary career for the past 30 years revolved around corporate employee training and adult education. I guess once an educator always an educator, since I continue to be fascinated by the human learning process.  Last week, I experienced a perfect demonstration of a teaching and learning process that I used many times during my adult education career. It’s called, “behavior modeling.”

In a very simplistic nutshell, the behavior modeling process consists of:

1. An Explanation or Overview - The instructor discusses the objective and importance of the skill module and the specific behavior or critical steps of the activity to be learned.

2. A Demonstration - The instructor effectively utilizes the skill as the trainee observes.

3. Practice - The trainee practices the skill as the instructor observes.

4. Skill practice feedback - After the practice session, the trainee receives feedback from observers and the instructor that emphasizes things done correctly. Where the behavior or skill could have been more effective, alternative positive behaviors or skills are suggested.

When conducted well, this teaching and learning process is a very comfortable and effective fit for both the teacher and the student. My challenge now is to take the mound of information and skills that I picked up during that concentrated week and begin to apply it to my new works. As I continue to do that, I hopefully will experience something called "skill transfer" or in other words, personal growth.

Below, I've included one of my “almost completed” plein air studies of a garden sculpture that I painted on the grounds of the Ringling Museum last week. Since I usually spot a few things that I’d like to change once it’s back in my studio, I’ll be touching it up just a bit before it’s available for sale.
Have a great week, everyone, and keep on learning!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Milkshakes on the Rocks at Magen’s Bay

After a hearty breakfast, we gather our towels and lotion and head to the beach. Since I’ve always been a beach lover, I can’t say enough about two of my favorite beaches. The first and most famous St. Thomas beach is Magen’s Bay Beach. This beautiful crescent-shaped beach has hosted thousands of weddings. Walking along the beach to the left, you encounter diving pelicans searching for their fish dinner. As you walk to the right and pass the concession stand you can then walk in the water next to the rocks for quite a long way out because it’s so shallow.

Magen’s Bay Rocks -- 20"x40" acrylic painting on stretched canvas (unframed) available on my Etsy Shop page Alan Zawacki Fine Art Etsy Shop

If you want a tasty treat after spending the morning soaking up the sun on the beach, make a milkshake run to Udder Delite. This dairy facility/hut, just a half mile from the beach, serves great milkshakes and even a whole menu of alcoholic milkshakes. Yum!

Quiet Day at Secret Harbour

My second favorite beach on St. Thomas is Secret Harbour.  This little gem is  an intimate and relaxing stretch of water and beach tucked away on the east side of the island. It has great snorkeling and very calm water. I spotted my first barracuda one day while snorkeling there. We both just stared at each other for a few seconds before he swam off to find a fish more his size. They are generally very safe to be around unless you are wearing a shiny fishing lure around your neck.

Secret Harbour -- 12"x16" oil painting on stretched canvas (unframed) available on my Etsy Shop page Alan Zawacki Fine Art Etsy Shop
St. Thomas has a lot to offer, shopping, beaches, food, and great people. It also serves a convenient launching point to the other US and British Virgin Islands (coming up in future posts).

To view or purchase my larger paintings, please visit my website at Alan Zawacki Fine Art

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Being in the Zone

Have you ever been "in the zone?" I recently came across two different blogs that discussed the condition of “being in the zone.”

The first blog (Exact Sports) wrote about the zone as it relates to athletes and the second (John Pototschnik Fine Art) about artists.

I assume that many of you have experienced, at one time or another, the feeling of being in the zone. I know that I have. I remember times when I was surfing or boogie boarding. For hours, the only thing that I was aware of were the ebb and flow of the waves. No other problems or thoughts entered my mind. I was fully absorbed within the blanket of nature. I have also experienced this feeling as an artist.

Occasionally, I find that hours have passed without my awareness as I have been working on a painting. I can only assume that I have been in the zone for that period of time. Either that or a time warp from space passed over my studio. I became totally lost in the creative process.

In 1999, a team of scientists and sports psychologists conducted a study that identified 10 essential elements of “the zone.” They are as follows:

1. Balance of challenge and skills

2. Complete absorption in the activity

3. Clear goals

4. Merging of action and awareness

5. Total concentration on the task at hand 

7. A sense of control

8. No goals or rewards external to the activity

9. Transformation of time

10. Effortless movement

Some of these elements are referenced by a couple of well-known artists as they describe "being in the zone."
Ken Backhaus, the famous painter, said, “Being in the zone is like a well-oiled machine, you are performing without hesitation, no distractions, and can push yourself and you respond, the challenges that are present or come up during the painting process become solved. The traditional sound principal and foundations guide your skills that you have acquired over the years. Confidence directs the eye and the hand. Everything within you and around you is in harmony.”

Marc Hanson, another premier artist, said, “It's easiest for me to find myself "in the zone" when outside on location, painting 'en plein air'. Almost every time that I paint outside, I'm there, in the zone. I think that's partly why I feel that is the most honest place for me to be painting. Having the time constraint of plein air painting, and the lack of any outside interference, except for the occasional passerby, makes it the ideal situation for me to find myself in that zone.”

I’ve come to understand that it’s not always possible to put yourself in the zone. It happens or it doesn’t happen. But, I've also been told that continual emersion in your practice, whether it be sports, music, carpentry or painting will provide more ability to focus and therefore create more opportunities to find yourself in the zone.
Whenever it happens, though, it feels really good -- doesn't it?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Light Chasers (the Sarasota chapter of Plein Air Florida) will hold it's 2nd Annual show from February 28 - March 28 at the Art Center Sarasota.

I have been associated with this great group of artists for quite a few months now and enjoy our weekly paint sessions immensely.

I will have one of my recent plein air paintings in the show, South Lido Morning (9"x12" oil on canvas wrapped board in a gold plein air frame - $320).

This painting was completed in a morning session at the south end of Lido Key (Sarasota, Florida). I wanted to capture the light hitting the building on the opposite shore as well as the various blue shades of the sky and turquoise green of the water. As the morning progressed, the wind came up and began to whip up the Gulf a little.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a February morning!