All posts by chris ludke

I'm from Ephrata PA. I went to art school at York Academy of Art where I had classical training in the ways of the old masters. I live in Virginia Beach and I like to work in plein air. I find endless inspiration in nature. It's good for your health to draw and paint outside, and I think my skill is improving every year, because representing nature is always a challenge. I go to the same place at the same time of day and work on my painting for 2 or 3 hours. There's no need to rush to finish a painting. I finish them in weeks or months. I'm excited about what I'm working on. I don't use photos for reference. I draw freehand. Sometimes if the weather isn't good to paint outside, I work on figure drawing, collage, folk art or another genre of art. Here's a story from my youth about a teacher that greatly influenced me, but neither Fitzkee or I knew it at the time. The time I put a teacher to the test. Boy was he mad. I was raised to question authority. I'm a rebel against the establishment. I went to YAA mainly because they didn't require SAT scores, because I hated high school and never took the test. I was in the first class at YAA that could elect to major in fine arts. They also taught interior design, commercial art, illustration etc. Basically it was a trade school where you could earn an Associates degree. For every project we had a critique. Our teachers didn't care if they hurt a student's feelings. I was having so much fun at the time, no harsh critique made me upset. Around 1/3 of the students dropped out in the first year, though. Our teachers pushed us hard into drawing and painting in the ways of the old masters. The use of a photo for reference was strictly forbidden, since the old masters could draw without a photo. One project was to paint a still life. I didn't want to do it. I thought a still life would be boring. I was rebelling. I said, "I don't want to paint like an old master, I want to do sculpture." (when I think about those sculptures today, I can see how horrible they really were.) Fitzkee once again said no photos and I asked him why not. He said, "Because I'll know." which seemed like a lame reason to me, and I decided to find out if he would actually know. So I did my still life from a photo and he blasted my painting straight to hell in the critique. There was no point in lying about it, he really did know I cheated. This is some of the things he said. A camera is a tool for a photographer. For you it would be a crutch. A camera has 1 eye, you have 2 eyes. A camera distorts perspective and color. a photo is a little flat thing and if you work from a photo your paintings will come out flat. He said he didn't need a camera and neither do I. He went on and on, this is the basic part of it. He didn't have much hope for me ever being a very good artist. finally I said, "okokok, I won't do it no more!" One time our water color teacher, Faulkler, (not sure about the spelling) took us out to paint in plein air. I enjoyed it so much but didn't try again for another 25 years or so, since my time was tied up with the job, family, exercise etc. After the plein air class I thought I'd enjoy painting like an Impressionist. Who doesn't love the Impressionists? And I asked Fitzkee about painting wet in wet. That's what they called it back then. now it's alla prima (like something I had in an Italian restaurant.) So this is what Fitzkee said about painting wet in wet. We're teaching you how to paint like an old master, why do you want to paint like millions of artists? Fitzkee told me Monet had the same training I was getting. He told me artists like Monet, when they get commercially successful, they sell out the art world. When an artist paints the same thing hundreds of times they develop a formula. He said Monet did the art world a disservice by making it look fast and easy. He told me, "Don't even try." He said my colors would come out muddy. You can't paint detail into wet paint, so Impressionists can't paint detail. After my other experience questioning him, I said ok. I'll stick to painting like an old master. Little did I know that in the future I'd be EXCLUDED from the plein air group in Richmond because I'm not interested in painting like an Impressionist. (or maybe it's just because the group didn't like me personally, you never know in Richmond) Now I find that I like the slow pace of building up layers of glazes. Now when I see the impressionists rushing to finish a painting in one day, I think to myself that it looks like they're on an art treadmill. They worry too much about the changing light. I don't care about the changing light because I can go back tomorrow and for as many weeks or months as it takes me to finish a painting, and the light will be the same at the same time of day. Plein air doesn't mean you have to paint like an Impressionist. It doesn't mean you have to capture a moment. (remember the Kodak moment?) Plein air only means the artist is working outdoors in natural light. ok, I hope you enjoyed my story. Now you can see how I came by my attitude honestly.

dragon update

His head is unfinished and not stuck on the neck. The tail, body and neck are connected but not joined to the base yet. He needs legs and wings too.

I asked the teacher about underglazes because I thought it would be impossible to glaze with so many undercuts. I’d have a lot of white spots because I couldn’t get a paint brush all the way around it. She told me to get Speedball underglazes in the 2 oz. size and they had it at Jerry’s Artarama so I’m glazing it as I’m building it. When it gets fired the first time this will color it and then I can put a clear glaze on top and fire it the second time or maybe keep it a matte finish. I don’t know yet.

You need to put 3 coats of underglaze on it so doing the base took hours and it’s weird stuff to paint with. I need to put green underglaze on the body before I join it to the base. Then I’ll still have to do touch ups. Everything takes longer than you think it will. I was hoping to make more than just one dragon in this 6 week pottery class but now I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do all I planned. This is a slow process. I’m controlling the drying with plastic and making it moist sometimes. If it dries too much it won’t rewet but if it’s leather hard it can be rewetted and another piece joined to it.

I took this pic last night and the warm indoor light makes it look this color as opposed to the top pix which were taken with the natural sunlight in my apt.

I laid him on the side after the clay started to harden so I could work on the bottom of the tail. I tried to keep it an unjoined open tube but as I was working on it I could tell it was closing up the gap so I went back in and dug out a groove in case any air got trapped.

The plastic is wrapped around it where the legs need to go. I’m trying to keep the clay from drying there. I guess I’m over half way finished but I might have to wedge another ball of clay so I have enough ready for wings and legs. I feel like wedging the clay is what gives it the great elasticity to make tubes and bend them. A new block of clay is stiff and needs a lot of water so I try to add water as I’m wedging it. That makes it slippery and harder to wedge until it gets worked in and the process of wedging dries it a little so it needs even more water.

the base for my dragon sculpture

It’s an odd looking base isn’t it. That big lip around it is hollow. I think it will be ok for my dragon because he’ll be tubular too. This could be his nest.

When I made a dragon long ago I didn’t make a base and should have taken the time to do it because the dragon’s talons got broken. This time I’m going to make him fit inside the dimensions of the base. 8 x 12. That way nothing will get bumped off since it will have feet with claws, tail, wings and head that might be in danger otherwise.

I turned it upside down to work on the bottom. You can see a foot on the base which won’t get any glaze to keep it from sticking to the shelf in the kiln. That much I remembered from my pottery classes long ago. A pot needs a foot. And you can see holes I put in the fat lip for air to escape. That will keep it from exploding in the kiln. Trapped air expands in the kiln when it’s hot and if it can’t escape it will break the clay. Also, I wedged the clay for around 20 min off and on to get any air bubbles out. That might sound like too much time wedging. I bet no one else wedges that much because its tiring but I feel like if I’m taking the time to make a sculpture I should take the time to wedge the clay to be safe.

I’ll put another 15 or so air holes in the dragon and between the dragon and the base as I’m building it. 4 air holes in the base is more than it needs. I could fit a finger inside that tube its so hollow.

Today I’ll wedge some clay for the dragon and I can probably get it done this week.

clay slab rolling hack

I’m working on a piece of particle board that I saved from years ago and took along every time I moved because I knew I’d work with clay again eventually. I used the same board to stretch watercolor paper too. It’s a heavy board, slightly absorbent and not splintering or warping.

When I was planning how to make the base for my dragon sculpture I had to decide, would I make a better base by trying to pinch an oval pot for it or should I try to make a coil pot or what would be the easiest to make a base as symmetrical and even thickness as I could? I decided on slab strips. You can make an even 1/2″ thick slab using a rolling pin and two yard sticks on either side. I thought that up all on my own but I wouldn’t be surprised if others are doing it to make clay sculptures.

If you need a thinner slab use only one yard stick on each side. If you want a thicker slab use 3 sticks on each side.

What’s more annoying than politics? This bot showing up in my “reader” feed 10 times.

I’d like to slap that smug look off his face.

The religion bots are after me. WordPress isn’t giving me anything to read, only this crap and I’m not clicking on it. It’s on the daily recommended posts and if I scroll down another day it’s there again and again going back for a week or more! There’s at least 10 pix of this a–hole. Make it stop, WordPress, or else I quit.

first pottery class / a 3 pot mess

The first class was about wheel throwing. The second class will be about how to use the extruder or whatever things they have for hand building pots. Whew!. Wheel throwing is hard. I didn’t really want to do it because I know how much practice it takes and I don’t want to put in the time to get that skill. I decided to go along with the class and gave it a try and the photo is my 3 attempts which I smooshed because they were sooooo bad.

The teacher was the best! When I tried wheel throwing years ago I don’t remember the teacher helping me as much. These still flopped but she was a big help with centering the clay.

I asked about the size and number of pots they would fire because on their site I saw something about 6 pieces that the dimensions add up to 24″ and she said there are no rules. I was glad to hear that! Now I can plan a larger dragon. I’m getting started on the base which is kind of worked out in my mind as an oval arch shape (picture an upside down boat) with a half round border on the bottom as a lip and decorate the lip with the Celtic design. If I can get that done by the next class and show it to the teacher, see what she thinks of the start, that would be good. Maybe I can get started on the dragon soon.

This is the 3 pot mess of clay that I started wedging. The teacher said it’s not necessary to wedge the clay off a new block but that’s not what I heard before.( Either way, you’d have to wedge the clay to use it after smooshing the wheel throwing disasters.) Clay is made up of microscopic plates that slide over each other. When you add water they slide more and that gives clay its stretchy feeling. When you wedge clay you’re trying to get the air out and compact the tiny tiny plates into a spiral seashell type thing by pressing down and folding over a bit of it with the heel of your hand, give it a slight turn and repeat until you get tired. You can see an air bubble breaking under my hand in this pic. I wedged this ball for 7 min and needed to take a break but it needs more wedging. I’ll keep going until I don’t see any air bubbles breaking for a few minutes. Then it will be a stronger clay to work with, no air bubbles, less cracks when drying, stretchier, safer from breaking in the kiln. They should teach wedging first but I’m no teacher or pro potter either. I always loved playing with mud even as a kid.

A plan for my dragon / Celtic design

I’m excited to start my pottery class tomorrow! YEA! I’ll be able to make a dragon to replace the one I gave away 30 some years ago! And this time I’ll do it better! I’ve been thinking about this for weeks off and on.

The first dragon from long ago came out good but the claws broke off somehow and I glued them back on. This time I want to put my dragon on a base to protect his talons so I thought a half round pinch pot base would work to support the dragon. I couldn’t decide, should I make 2 pinch pots, one for the front legs and one for the back legs? I decided to make only one base and put all four feet on it. A pinch pot base would be stronger than a slab. A boxy slab base might cave in when its fired, I don’t know, but the arch shape of a half round won’t cave.

Then I was wondering if I should decorate the base. I decorated pots in the past with Celtic knots. I have a great design book that teaches you to do the patterns and I adapted a few to fit previous pots. This is one of those designs from long ago that I saved and I think I can adapt it a little more to fit what I make for the dragon.. And I need to put a lip on the base around the bottom edge to make it easier to pick up for loading the kiln.

This is only my plan for the first step. I’m still working out how to build the dragon and how to glaze it.

Since two of my favorite places to hang around have too much construction going on around them which makes it a hassle and risky for my tires, I’m looking forward to doing some pottery and probably less painting in plein air. I still have an unfinished painting and the weather has been too windy for plein air on days when the tide is right. I can’t do both pottery and painting because I only have space for one at a time.

The AI writes blogs / boring as hell

Do you ever click on reader and scroll down through the blogs you follow and find blogs you never heard of that are on your reading list from WordPress listed there as something you might be interested in? I look at them sometimes. It can be annoying, though.

If a blogger puts a like on one of my posts and I look at their blog but the subject is something I’m not interested in I might put a like on their post anyway. What if the other blog mentions God and I’m not interested in their views of God but I gave that post a like? The next few days, all the recommended posts listed daily under the ones I follow are about God.

This is the second time I noticed this new trend of boring posts that I’m pretty sure are written by an AI and reposted by at least 10 bots. It seems like the bot blogs really want me to read this post because it shows up again and again. It is so boring. It’s a description of a seaport. nothing is happening. No people are interacting.

I’m not worried that the art AI will steal my work. It can’t take any money away from me or replace me. I just want to say to my writer friends out there, the AI is sofa king boring you don’t need to worry about it. It has no imagination and can’t write dialogue.

sock puppet for my granddaughter

That was a fun easy project for today since it’s raining but it wasn’t easy to get the photo with it on my hand. I kept it simple because my granddaughter is 18 months old. I guess she’s too young for sequins. If this one is a hit with her I’ll try to make a more elaborate one in the future. I was thinking of making a baby sized sock puppet so she can fit it on her own hand. I used the other sock to make the ears and a piece of ribbon for the tongue and a scrap of red print inside the mouth with shiny button eyes.