Mardiclaw Dances to the Beat of her Own Drum

“The Big Queen”, Acrylic on Canvas

Mardiclaw, the “Big Queen” of the Krewe of SkinzNBonez, is definitely a creative force to be reckoned with. Her art is at once folksy, whimsical, mystical and bold.  She captures New Orleans’ special relationship with Voodoo and renders it with brazen strokes in fantastic colors. Her images catch your eye and pique your imagination. Mardiclaw’s energy can be felt in the art she produces as well as everything else she touches.

EM: Where are you originally from?

Mardiclaw: I’m originally from Portland, Oregon. I was born and raised there. I started art school at the age of 6 at the Portland Art Museum.  From there I went to Seattle and the Seattle Art Institute and then back to Portland.  I attended Long Beach State and the University of Oregon. Kinda up and down the West Coast a lot!

 

“Frida”

EM: How old were you when you started making art? Was it earlier than art school at 6 years old?

Mardiclaw: Yeah, my mom really pushed me. I was her youngest child, the only girl. My mom, who is now 91 years old, was older than my friends’ parents. Her generation didn’t have the opportunities that women have now. She insisted that I never get married ‘til I’d found everything I wanted, and just pushed me really hard because she was living vicariously through me I guess.



EM: Do you have any other artists in your family?

Mardiclaw: My mother is also a painter, but didn’t start (painting) until much later in life. She never really painted when I was a kid.  We’re very different artists – my Mom does landscapes and is very good at what she does. Back when I was in Campfire Girls as a kid, she crocheted and did all the craft nights. She’s very crafty, but never actually started painting until she turned about the age I am now.

“Purple and Green Bull Terrier”



EM: What led you to be a professional artist as opposed to art being just a hobby?

Mardiclaw: My best friends in high school and grade school now say, “You are the only person I know who wanted to be something and actually became it.” I always wanted to be an artist. Always. Never a doubt in my mind. I’d done a lot of paper mache’ stuff when I lived in Arizona but I didn’t really “break out” until after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. That’s when I really felt the need to express myself, because there was a story that needed to be told.

“Mariachi”, Acrylic on Canvas

EM: We have heard that from a lot of artists that Katrina was a big turning point for them as professional artists.

Mardiclaw: Yeah, in November after the storm, these guys who lived down the street from me nailed a huge canvas to a pole that said, “Please don’t steal our dogs from our home”. So I knocked on their door and asked, “What’s that all about?”



“Well, somebody broke into our house and stole our dogs and held them for ransom.” And I go, “Well, somebody’s gonna steal that canvas off of the pole. Can I make you a new sign and you give me the canvas?” So I made them a new sign, and they gave me the canvas. I took it home and painted this skeleton with a saxophone blowing water all over the city with flames coming up. And that’s kinda how it started.

“Blackened Chicken”, Acrylic on Canvas

EM: What brought you to New Orleans?

Mardiclaw: I came to Mardi Gras and thought, “Man, this is great! I’m moving here because I can sell art here. I can be creative.” I never got to work on floats and Mardi Gras stuff until I started my own Krewe. Now that I’ve found out what artists get paid to work on floats (not much), I’m not too upset about it.

“Pot for Potholes Hbo Treme”

 

EM: How would you describe the genre of your art?

Mardiclaw: After Katrina, I called it: post-Katrina de la Muerte. Nowadays I’m like,‘come hell or high water, I’m a NOLA daughter’.



As for the skeleton thing, I’ve been doing that since back in high school, from back when my dad died. Actually in my high school year book there’s a skeleton I did. My dad died in 1990, and I lost 28 friends that one month! I was really depressed. It was AIDS, it was murder, it was drugs, it was cancer. Then one day, I walked into a store and saw some (Mexican) Day of the Dead characters, and I was like, “Why do we here in the states have to be so morbid about it all?” And so, I brought myself out of it by painting it and making it joyful.

Mardiclaw holding “Til Death”, Acrylic on Canvas

I just went to the Day of the Dead in Mexico, and I was in my element! On the last day, everybody’s drinking, the altars are up. There’s nothing like walking into a square with a thousand people dressed as skeletons.

 

EM: Who’s work inspires you the most?

Mardiclaw: Skeleton-wise I like Posada. I’ve always liked Posada because he was revolutionary. He did woodblock prints, and I did a lot of woodblock printing when I was younger. His work just has very different physical element.

Of course I also like Frida Kahlo. But even more Diego Rivera. I can stare at his stuff for hours and just go into another world. He’s very much like Posada, somebody who’s got something to say.



While at the Detroit Institute of Arts I stayed in the Diego Room for 4 and a half hours, I couldn’t walk away. I thought to myself: “No wonder Rockefeller had a issue, this guy had somethin’ to say!”

“Spanish Oaks”, Acrylic on Canvas

EM: What medium do you work in the most.

Mardiclaw: I work in a lot of acrylics. I’ve done oils but prefer acrylics. They’re a lot cheaper and you can seal it and make it look like an oil. I would like to get into oils, but that’s a big investment. Oils sell for higher prices and are more profitable, but I like for my art to be affordable.

“Dog Day Afternoon”

EM: How do you differentiate your art from other art out there on the market?

Mardiclaw: I’m really loud and colorful where other artists’ aren’t. I’m not afraid to use color! It’s so loud! I live very colorfully at home, as well.



Plus, my subject matter is contemporary and recognizable. People look at it and go, “Oh, yeah, that’s Divine!” or “Oh, that’s my friend’s dog.” or “That’s so-and-so in the parade.”

You know, I was told for years in school that I’d never be a commercial artist. ’Beg to differ!  Telling people they can’t do things is not something a teacher should do. One once told me, “Oh, you have glitter in your painting, that ruined it!” So I asked, “What do you for a living?” “I’m a teacher”. And I go, “Oh, there’s the problem; You’re a teacher, who says I can’t put glitter in paint. I’m from New Orleans. I can do whatever I want!”

“Cinnamon Black”, Acrylic on Canvas

EM: What do you think is the most challenging part of being an artist?

Mardiclaw: Learning to let go of stuff you painted that you really like. The other would be: “Oh my God, I can’t finish it! I can’t finish that!” I’ve had pieces sit in the house for two, three years, and then I’ll go back to one and I’ll finish it in like two hours.

EM: Isn’t that a great feeling?

Mardiclaw: Yeah, it is great feeling, but that’s the hurdle artists have sometimes, “I can’t let it go,” or “I can’t finish it”.

“Northside Skull N’ Bone”, Acrylic on Canvas

EM: Since art is subjective in nature, how do you handle negative criticism? Especially if it hurts deep down in your soul?

Mardiclaw: I’ve had negative things said to me, and I just let it wash over me.  I don’t know, I don’t get upset by it.

EM: Has anybody ever said your art was “cliche”?

Mardiclaw: I’ve had people go, “Oh, you’re stealing”.

And I’m like, “Yeah, and you don’t know me.” If you want to talk about where I came up with that (art), then let’s sit and have a conversation. If you’re just going to be negative, I don’t have time for you. The biggest thing I learned in Mexico is,“Better get busy livin’ man!”



Life’s too short. Everything’s a learning experience. Every painting gets better. Every stroke gets better.

“Blue Girl”, Acrylic on Canvas

EM: How do you come up with, a profitable pricing structure for your art?

Mardiclaw: That took a long time, but I show year around, I’m up year around, so I have this ever evolving tourist trade coming and going. And if stuff starts selling too fast, I go up 5 bucks on everything. And if it’s still selling, I’ll go up another 5 bucks, and then when it gets to a balance, then I stay there. Tourists want something they can put in their suitcase, something that’s affordable, and if it’s too big, they’re not gonna buy it.  But that doesn’t keep me from doing big pieces. I prefer to do big pieces.

EM: Could you pick a favorite thing that you’ve done with a favorite piece of art?

Mardiclaw: Yeah, La Guerrera, is what I called it, of a woman with her Day of the Dead horse. One of my best friends bought it before I was even done with it.

EM: What do you think is the coolest piece of advice you’ve ever received about making art?

Mardiclaw: Don’t care about what other people think.

EM: Have people ever asked you for advice?

Mardiclaw: When other artists ask “What do you say when somebody wants a discount?”, I look at them and say, “What do you do for a living?” If, for example, they work on cars, then I’ll say, “So if I ever bring my car to you, do I get a discount? No? Well, then why would I give you one doing what I do?”

“Tamborine”

But the best advice I have to support other artists is this: if you don’t want to sell it, then overprice it, because it’ll be worth it if you have to. Yeah, if someone is willing to give you a million dollars, then do it…

EM: where can people see more of your art?

Mardiclaw: I’m in both locations of Surrey’s and at Twisted Hair salon. I’ve also been at Velvet Cactus. Crescent City Brew Pub for French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest. I also do Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, I do pretty well there. I wanna gear myself towards more festivals, like 4 a year, that are not here in New Orleans. I’ve also been showing some art markets over in Bay St. Louis (MS). I’m gonna show all my Mexico paintings there.

I’m gonna go back up to Seattle, I think in this next year. My friend Chris Cornell (from Sound Garden) died this year. I really want to do a portrait of him.

 

EM: So, where is the best bet to find your stuff online?

Mardiclaw: Online, Fine Art America (https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mardi-claw.html) or just my web page (www.mardiclaw.com) or Facebook. But at this time, of year we’re coming into Mardi Gras all I’m gonna be doing now is paint, paint, paint, paint.

 

 

 

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Iam Bennu: Artist and Warrior Monk

“African Wedding”

Iam Bennu (Ben) lives in the house that his grandfather, Frank Wyley, built in the 9th Ward of New Orleans and is best known for posters he designed for the Krewe of Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Ben is in the process of renovating his treasured family home, the place where this understated man finds creative inspiration and communes with nature. We interviewed Ben at this location last October to learn about him and his art.

EM: Where did you get your start in art?

Iam Bennu: I have always drawn. It just came naturally to me. My grandfather was an artist. He painted and that talent came from him. Its something that has been a part of me.

I didn’t always plan on being an artist. It was just something that I did. I actually wanted to be a scientist because I love science. Then I hit Calculus and the number crunching was just too much. So once I got out of school, I decided to focus on art. I started making graphic art when I was about 25. I’m 55 now.

“Throw Me Something”, Oil on Canvas 24″x20″



I started painting with acrylics when I was younger, and thought it went okay. But then I took a piece to my grandfather and he tore me a new one. Nothing was right on that painting.

E.M.: Did your grandfather paint with acrylics?

Iam Bennu: He painted with oils. He studied the masters – he wasn’t playing! He knew a lot and his criticism was perfectly right. One of the tips he gave me is that no shadow is black. There’s always reflective light in there.

I didn’t start painting with oils until I was well into my 30s. I spent my career doing graphic arts here and there until about 30. Then Zulu found me.

“The Ambassador”

Louis Muse was his name and he became my muse. Zulu was commissioning posters from an artist every year and they had one for me. The first one was for the 1994 season and it was called “The Ambassador”. I did this big parade image in a comic style because I was really good with line work and color separation.



After he saw The Ambassador, Louis said you’re going to do another, which was great for me! There was a list of twelve characters and Zulu wanted a poster for each. Next one on the list was the Witch Doctor. After that he just wanted me to finish out the program, 9 posters altogether. Louis died later on in the program, but he was a great muse!

Zulu Witch Doctor
“King Zulu”

I painted an original for only a few of those posters (Which is crazy!). Most artists do an original and then break it down to a color separation. I would go to the printers and they would ask, “You don’t have an original?”, and I would say, “No, we are just going to have to do it right now.” So each one became the original. It worked really well. For me, painting was a step up from a color separation. There are only a limited amount of colors you can use for a color separation, so it made sense to me to do the color separation first and the painting after.



 

“King Louis Armstrong, It’s a Wonderful World!”

This started my “deconstruction process”. During that period of time, I decided that I wanted to live a different way. I began to sell everything. I went from using a light table and doing color separation on different sheets to using parchment paper with lamps underneath with pen and ink. And then I’d ink each layer (7 layers) on top of one another. It worked out well and I was able to do new things that I hadn’t done before. I used a lot more cross-hatching.

“Blues Man”

I also did a lot of personal commissions, some paintings for myself, and a few sculpture pieces because I like that. It wasn’t until very recently that I had my first one-man show.

“Millenium Baby”

EM: Did you attend art school? Or are you totally self-taught?

Iam Bennu: All self-taught. If I needed to do something and didn’t know how, I read about it. Basically a lot like my grandfather had done it. I’m able to gather enough from reading and doing it. I watched other painters too. It’s all about what tools you use, the strokes you make with them, and how you can manipulate that.



EM: What other artists influence you?

Iam Bennu: I like the masters and I like early Sci-fi work because of the paint it covers. I like Norman Rockwell and the way he painted children. I also love the Surrealists and I put a lot of Surrealism in my work.

“The Big Shot”

I have a natural eye for realism. I’ll take something that isn’t real and make it look real. These days you have computers that can do that. But the thing computers can’t do is stretch out creativity and bring concepts together. The idea is even more important than the rendering.



EM: What digital programs do you use for your art?

Iam Bennu: I just use Photoshop. Photoshop works for me. It gives me everything I need in one place. I have actually used it to create some graphic novels. Doing a graphic novel was always on my bucket list. I’m currently on my fourth one, which is called Sunhawks. Amazon is publishing it.

EM: Did you write the stories too?

Iam Bennu: Yes. I wrote and illustrated them. I paint everything.

EM: That takes a lot of time.

Iam Bennu: It does. it’s like having a child. But it’s a labor of love.



EM: How do you advertise these graphic novels?

Iam Bennu: I just use social media through lots of groups. I also have a good friend named Sean Jackson who I am currently collaborating with. Sean was two years behind me in high school and we started out as artistic rivals as kids, but we became best friends. We had a shared goal of getting a book published. Sean became a lawyer and eventually a judge in Houston. The, a few years ago, he came back and said, “No matter what else I’ve accomplished, if I don’t get that done, it all means nothing. That’s where my ‘happy’ is.”

So now we have a book coming out together. He is writing it and I am drawing it. We’re going to get it published and then we’re going to the comic conventions together.



EM: How do you differentiate your style from everyone else?

Iam Bennu: My style is intense and tends to be over the top. There is a lot of emotion in it. It’s the kind of art that my artist friends look at and say, “Yes! I get that!”. The average person might not get it, and my work is not necessarily going to hang in their house because of it’s intensity. It’s almost like I make art for other artists.

“Soulful Warriors”, Oil on Canvas 48″ x 36″

I’ve recently done some portraits that are different from what I normally paint. For example, an African Woman and Child that was bought by an art dealer. I also painted Ruthie the Duck Lady. I will probably paint some more portraits like those.

“African Mother and Child”, Oil on canvas
“Howard and Ruthie”, Oil on Canvas 24″x20

EM: How do you handle negative criticism?

Iam Bennu: Never happens! I experienced it when I was younger. Art is as subjective as dating. It’s all relative. No artist has ever made something that everyone is going to like.

“And Yet I Sing”

My problem (as an artist) has always been determining the definition of art. My grandfather said that art is the process and not the end result. What you end up with after this process is “after art”. Art is the process of doing something, like tying a shoe. You tie your shoe over and over and eventually you learn to tie your shoe really well. The art is not in the finished bow, its the process of tying.



EM: Did your grandfather sell much of his art?

Iam Bennu: He never sold anything. He painted brilliant art every weekend. We had art in every crevice of this house. But he wouldn’t and couldn’t sell a piece because he knew that as a black man he wouldn’t be able to sell it for what it was worth. So instead he made a living being a porter, which meant he just cleaned and swept.

EM: Are there any of his pieces still left?

Iam Bennu: Yes,  absolutely. A few were lost during Katrina, but we have the majority of them. A lot of them were restored. He kept everything. There are also some things that are at the Amistad Research Center. They found us and took the whole collection for awhile, but we haven’t found a permanent home for all of the work yet.

That is why this house is important to me. It has energy to it. My grandfather was a big fan of Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond. He identified with Thoreau’s idea of stepping out of civilization and into nature. When I was young, he gave me a copy of Walden Pond to read. My goal is to put a pond in here the back yard and have the pond supply the house with water. That pond too will be christened “Walden”.  I really love this place.

Family Portrait

EM: How do you come up with a price for your art?

Iam Bennu: I kill a goat! No just kidding. It is always hard. I usually factor in my hours based on what I charged for my graphic art, which is usually at least $40 an hour plus materials. That usually gets me reasonably close to where I want to be. The rest has to be the overlay of design and the sentimental value.

Some pieces just have a lot of sentimental value. For example, there is a small piece I did after Katrina of a guy in an attic and the water is coming up. All of his life is floating around him. The canvas I had (which someone gave me) had two little canvases attached to it, so on the two smaller canvases I made windows. One window is the neighborhood pre-Katrina and on the other you see him in the Superdome. Turned out to be a nice transition. It has a lot of emotional value.

EM: Where can people see more of your work?

Iam Bennu: Right now online. I have a website. And the graphic novel is on Amazon and it is called Sunhawks. I also have a Facebook Fan Page.

 

 

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Greg Creason Finds Inspiration in Artistic Process

“Felicitous” 48″x48″

Greg Creason’s Gallery and Art Supply is located in a wonderful old building only a stone’s throw from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Over the last ten years Greg has established himself as a popular artist with a very loyal clientele here in New Orleans. He has also befriended many local artists by providing a much needed art supply and art printing business in the heart of the French Quarter.

When I first met Greg, I was amazed at how well he can shift from creating art to selling to potential customers who saunter into the gallery. Not many artists that I know of (successful or otherwise) can maintain this type of focus. But Greg seems to thrive in this environment.

EM: So I understand that you are not originally from New Orleans. Tell us where you started out.

Greg: No, I’m originally from Flint, Michigan. Born and raised in Flint. Went to high school there and graduated in 1982. Then I went to Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids. Then to California, then to New Orleans.

EM: What part of California did you live in?

Greg: San Jose during the “dotcom era”. Then I came up here.

“Anisoptera”, Acrylic and Foil on Canvas 48″x60″

EM: What made you decide to become a professional artist?

Greg: I graduated with an illustration degree and high hopes of getting into the industry as an editorial artist. I went to Chicago to discover that Chicago was offering more product illustration type of work. And that wasn’t really what I wanted to do.



After that, I didn’t really start working for another artist until I got out to California.  Out there I worked for Thomas Kinkade for years doing all different kinds of jobs. I started in the Highlighting Department.

“Lown” 36″ x 48″

When I started with Kinkade there were 60 people working there. By the time I left, it had climbed up to 3000, probably the first time for an artist to achieve what he had achieved. I was able to do many jobs there, from quality control to returned merchandise inspections. As such, I spent a lot of time with merchandisers around the country.



When I was in the Stretching Department, a department of 85 people working in three shifts, we produced anywhere from 1500 to 2500 canvases a day. It was an extensive workload. I’d started out as a temporary person and ended up in management. Then I finally got up into a position where I was traveling around promoting Thomas Kinkade’s artwork in galleries throughout the country. It helped me understand how to work with people in galleries. I’m naturally more of an introvert, and this brought me out of my shell.

“Fenestra” 20″x 20″

After that I was able to go from Thomas Kinkade all of the way down to the line workers, out to the galleries, and all of the way to the customers. I even dealt with frame and canvas manufacturers. Kinkade changed the industry in lots of ways.

“Diachronic” 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas

EM: What mediums do you work in?

Greg: Oils, acrylics and encaustics. I’d worked in oils for a long time, but when we opened up our art supply store it allowed me to experiment with other types of mediums. I started painting with acrylics and found that I really enjoyed them a lot. They give me a lot of freedom. I use a lot of water in my work.



I also started using encaustics, which is a beeswax process invented 2500 years ago by the Egyptians. I dabble in other kinds of different processes, but those are the three primary mediums.

“Flittiraries” 48″x48″ acrylic and foil on canvas

EM: Whose work inspires you the most?

Greg: You know my wife asked me that the other day. And I don’t really have any one particular person that I follow that stands out or I get excited about. It is hard for me to answer.

Untitled 48″x72″ Acrylic and foil on canvas

EM: How do you differentiate your art from everyone else’s?

Greg: I don’t try to keep up with what other people are doing. I’m aware of what other people are doing, but I really try to stay focused on what excites me. My wife calls me ‘eclectic’ when it comes to art because I get sidetracked very easily and lose interest in a style or process I’m doing at the moment. I understand you’re supposed to stick with one style if you want to be recognized by people as an artist and advance in your career.  But I’m more interested in the process of doing the work than I am about the subject matter. I haven’t found something that’s excited me longer than 12 to 15 pieces.

“Just a Little Bit”. Acrylic and Foil on Canvas 18″x84″
“Proclivity” Acrylic and foil on canvas 15″x 30″

I did a series of abstracts for about three years. My style was growing and changing during that period and after a while I just lost interest. The new style that I’m working on now that I call, “People, Places, and Things” gives me broader subject matter. It’s challenging and more interesting to me.

“Abby” 48″x48″ Oil on canvas

EM: What did you find was the most challenging part of moving to New Orleans? Did you have a hard time getting established here? How long have you been here?

Greg: I have been working as an artist here for almost ten years. When we moved here, I began working as an Electrician. My wife encouraged me to open up a gallery. I was real skeptical, but it was a great time then to get in on Royal Street! As everybody knows, it is very difficult to get on Royal Street. From what I understand, you usually have to know somebody to get on Royal Street.

“Opposite”, Acrylic on Canvas 36″x48″

I took an opportunity to go into the gallery with one other person and that person wasn’t able to hold on. The first spot was at 831 Royal Street and then we moved down to 532 Royal Street, where there was a lot more foot traffic. Then I started bringing on more artists. I think I had up to 15 artists in my gallery at one time.

But then our landlord raised the rent on us and it was just not affordable. We were paying about $10,000 a month. It was just not practical. So we moved to our current location and we also opened the art supply store because we found a need. I had printers for myself, for giclees and stuff, and I found that other artists were looking to do that as well. So that also turned into a business.



EM: So you have a printing business, an art supply store, and a gallery?

Greg: It’s a lot for one person. And I’m trying to produce videos on my website about how I got started, how I became a gallery owner, and how you can do both.

“Thamaturgy” 30″x40″ Acrylic on Canvas

EM: Are you happier here in New Orleans than the other places you’ve lived? Do you ever get homesick?

Greg: I have a personal pact that I made to myself the day I left Michigan. I promised myself that I would never go backwards. The world is too big. I stay in one spot for about ten years and then I am ready to go somewhere else. Life is not long enough to experience everything, but I’m going to try to experience as best I can. When I moved to New Orleans, I immediately felt that there was more acceptance here for art and artists than most other places where I had lived. It’s exciting to live in a place where you are accepted as an artist.

It’s much harder to be an artist in California where I lived because it is more conservative.  I’m not talking about Los Angeles. I was in the Carmel and Monterey area, which is very conservative. You usually need a long sheet of accomplishments and references to get on the map over there. And I just didn’t have that.



So coming here allowed me to develop all of that. It has been exciting for me because, in the process of doing this, I have gotten to the level of artwork that I’m doing right now. Opening up the gallery forced me to push myself.

“Veracity” 44″x56″ Acrylic and Foil on Canvas

EM: How do you deal with negative criticism?

Greg: Art is not for everybody. A lot of people come in and say, “I’m not an artist and I don’t know anything about art.”

And I usually say to them, “Well you like what you like. That’s all that matters. There is no rhyme or reason to what you like and why you don’t like it. It’s whatever appeals to you.”

“Aureate” 24″x30″

That kind of determined how I started painting for myself. I don’t paint for anybody else. I paint for myself. I find that important. A lot of artists have found a niche that works for them, but then find themselves getting a pigeon-holed and unable to branch out and try new things.



“Rosebud”
7″x7″ Encaustic on board

EM: How do you come up with a way to price your art?

Greg: Basically you can start high and go down, but you can’t go up. So a lot of times I throw a number out there and it is usually a starting point. Over time, I have been able to establish a certain level. But I usually put like a 30% buffer on everything to cover the basics. Something I can afford and everyone can live with.

For other artists who I represent, we do a 50/50 split. They know that going in and that is what determines price.



Currently I am basing prices on my work by the square inch for more uniformity in our pricing structure. But again, it varies. The key thing in negotiating your artwork is not to have huge price differences. I have a client base out there and want integrity as far as pricing goes.

“Our Path” 24″x36″ Acrylic on canvas

EM: If you had to pick one favorite of all of your work done, what would it be? Could you even do it?

Greg: No, because I like the reactions that I get from people on the pieces I do. Don’t get me wrong, I do get excited about the work I’ve done. There are some pieces that I favor. But nothing is more exciting than finding something that pushes you to the next level.

Sometimes I struggle with a painting and fight with the paint. Or it just doesn’t go the way I want it to go and the image I’m working with doesn’t cooperate. In those situations my interest level fades. Everybody else is like, “Oh! That’s beautiful!” But to me, I can see all of the flaws. I’m always trying to find a way to push myself up a notch. What helps is constantly keeping your eyes open. I get exposed to a lot of different artists a lot of other people who come in here off of Jackson Square. This is a fun environment and it helps influence my artwork.



 

EM: What painting from your “People, Please, and Things” series has excited you the most?

“What’s to Become of Us?” 36″ x 48″ Acrylic and foil on canvas

Greg: The eagle that I painted probably got the biggest reaction from people. I did a little boost on Facebook and it got over 1,000 likes and 184 shares. There is a little story to it that I put with it, which basically says that the eagle represents us as a very young country, still alert and sharp. As a people we are ready for anything. However, the flag is backwards, which represents how we are a little backwards, and the stars are kind of fading away. Still, it’s about our spirit as a country.

You can see more of Greg’s work at his gallery in the French Quarter at 831 Chartres St. in New Orleans, Louisiana. His website is www.creasonsfineartgallery.com.

 

 

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Sean Friloux Paints Light and Shadows

Decatur Street Scene, Watercolor

Sean Friloux is an artist whose unique style sets him apart from other artists in New Orleans. He is a formidable landscape and street scene painter who also happens to produce amazing charcoal portraits of people. Sean’s palette is darker than most of his contemporaries in the local art scene, but it is also softer at the same time, which gives it a very dream-like quality.

We interviewed Sean this past October at his studio on St. Charles Avenue in the heart of Uptown. When you walk into his studio, it is apparent just how focused and organized he is at producing great art and taking his career to the next level.

EM: Did you go to art school?

Sean : I’m mostly self-taught as far as fine art. I studied graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and in Community College.

 



 

Snowy Mississippi River Scene, Oil on Canvas

EM.: Where are you from originally?

Sean: Destrehan, Louisiana. I’m a local.

EM: What led you to become a professional artist?

Sean: I was a graphic designer for about 13 years in Pittsburgh. Then I started illustrating more and painting watercolors. I worked for an engineer for a while when I got back here, then I started doing art in Jackson Square. That was over over 5 years ago. I started getting more customers and building a steady client base.

EM: How would you describe your art?

Sean: I used to think I was an impressionist painter, but not anymore. Now I think I’m more of a scene painter. I paint light and shadows. My work is atmospheric, moody, and soft. I’m not a big fan of hard edges. I like everything to be soft and airy, like putting air into shapes. I don’t like the word fuzzy. I like artificial light in a scene. I like artificial light bouncing off of a car. Sunlight is also great, but sunlight always makes a really hard line. Night scenes always have a nice glow or orb to them.

Mixed Media 15″x22″

EM: That’s hard to paint!

Sean: It’s very hard to paint when you are getting away from linear work.



EM: It has a dreamlike quality to it. The nightscapes and urban landscapes are like another world.

Charcoal

Sean: I am a fan of J.M.W. Turner because he painted that way. He and John Constable were painting landscapes. But Turner was ahead of his time because he took away the lines. Once he did that, light and shadow became the image itself.

EM: Would you say his work inspires you the most? Who are your role models as an artist? Are there any other besides him?

Sean: Sargent is a big one. Also filmmakers like David Lynch. I like to look at the pieces like movie scenery sometimes. Kind of Film Noir.

Watercolor

EM: When did you start working with oils and watercolors?

Sean: I’ve painted watercolors a lot longer. Maybe for six or seven years now. Oils are very new to me, only about one year.  I started painting oils for Gallery Orange. I’m still discovering and changing styles. Sometimes I’ll post a charcoal sketch or a stretch of watercolors (on Instagram). The charcoal is really fun for me to do. Its different. That way I’m not getting burnt out doing one type of medium.

Industrial Canal

 

EM: That is amazing that you managed to master oils so fast!

Sean: Turner and Sargent both painted in oils and watercolors. A lot of the masters looked at watercolors like a sketch. I’ve painted 8 foot watercolors. I use rolls of paper.



EM: What type of paper do you use?

Sean: I use Arches 40 lb. rough paper. You can’t do a quality piece on lesser paper.

Galatoire’s Watercolor

EM: Any certain paint that you prefer?

Sean.: I use all of the artist’s quality paints. There is no really specific paint that I like to use.

EM: Do you mix any of your own paints?

Sean: No, I don’t do that. I don’t make any of my materials. I’ve stretched raw canvas and gessoed them. But that is about it.

EM: You are the first person I’ve ever met who’s managed to do so well with oils in such a short period of time.

Sean: Yes, they have done well! I had my first solo show in April. That went really well.



EM: How do you differentiate your art from everyone else? There is a lot of art on the market these days. What do you feel makes yours truly unique?

Sean: I try not to look at anyone else’s work. It is hard because I see a lot of art that I like that has a New Orleans theme or subject matter.

EM: Have you tried painting in another city?

Sean: I’ve painted in Seattle, Idaho, Mississippi, and California.

EM: How did the light “out west” effect your palette?

Sean: The light out west is great with the open air and sunsets. Usually when I paint another city, I like to do a plein air painting.

EM: Do you prefer plein air?

Sean: I do a little bit of everything. I do plein air, I take pictures, and I use old photographs.



EM: What do you wish you’d known about oil paints before you got started?

Sean:  It took me a while to figure out the recipe for the medium. I don’t paint straight out of the tube, so there is always the right mixture of this and that to consider. I like to do glazes. I like it to dry quickly so I can come in the next day and do another layer. For me its all about layering.

EM: That’s how you get that luminous quality in oils, by building up the layers.

Sean: Yeah, and I do the same thing with watercolors.

EM: How young were you when you started making art? Or was it something you picked up once you got older?

Charcoal Sketch

Sean: No, I’ve always drawn since I was a kid. Then I got into commercial art. I wish I had started painting younger, but I got into graphic design.

EM: Are there any other artists in your family?



Sean: There are creative people in my family, but no one can call themselves an artist. There is talent in my family. My dad is very talented, but he isn’t an an artist. It makes you wonder where I got it from!

Watercolor 6″x12″

 

EM: Did you grow up around a lot of art?

Sean: Not at all. It was just something that I liked doing. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I learned a lot about art.

EM: What brought you to Pittsburgh?

Sean: My dad’s job. I was just starting high school.



EM: As you know, art is very subjective in nature, I’m sure you’ve received both positive and negative feedback. What do you do with negative feedback?

Sean: I guess its part of being an an artist. You have to deal with it. I believe you’re really a painter when you paint for yourself, painting what you need to paint.

Yeah, I get bad comments on my work. Sometimes someone might say, “Oh! These are too dark!” But you know that’s just their taste. I may do a day scene, but that’s still just going to come out moody, like its under a lens or something. I just have to take the criticism and keep painting.

French Quarter Rooftops

EM: Considering the look of your work is so “soft”, how long does it take you to finish a painting?

Sean: If I’m in the studio it will be like a week. When I’m here I can work for a whole 8 hours. Art is my 24 hour job. I try to paint every day. I’ll even bring my son with me to the studio. It’s a second home. I can’t go three days without making art. Vacation is hard for me. It’s an addiction.

EM: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your art?

Sean: That just started when I was in Pirate’s Alley. I’ll figure out a price, but that prices increases if there is more time involved for me. Also with more people handling it, sales reps and advertisers, the prices tend to go up. I do like to keep loyal to my supporters though.



As I get further along in this business, it gets more expensive. For example, if you want to have a studio on Royal St., oh my god! People are spending $12,000 a month there for rent. So your prices have got to reflect your work.

EM: What gets you the most exposure as an artist?

Sean: Right now I would say Instagram. It’s great for artists. Sometimes I’ll redirect people who see art I have in the gallery to look at the Instagram gallery.

EM: Does pricing something higher scare you sometimes?

Sean: Sometimes there is a well-executed piece that means something on multiple levels and I don’t want to give it away. There have been some pieces I’ve sold that I would’ve loved to have for myself. I got really attached to them. But it’s hard to hold onto these as a working artist. I have to sell!

Also, I photograph everything I’ve done for use in self-published books. The last one I did was a lot of work. I took orders online and did everything myself.

EM: Are you represented professionally?

Sean: I’m representing myself for watercolors and drawings. My oil paintings are sold through Gallery Orange. I do sell out of my studio and do a lot of self-promotion here. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook. I’m not shy about posting whatever I do, and I keep it entertaining!

You can see more of Sean Friloux’s work  on his website (http://www.seanfriloux.com/) and Gallery Orange  (http://www.gallery-orange.com/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dapper Bruce Lafitte and the Grittier Side of Art

My Daddy Did Not Love Me
Boxing 3

Over the last ten years, Bruce Washington (AKA Dapper Bruce Lafitte) has experienced the kind of success that most artists can only dream about. As a fellow artist, it would be easy to be jealous of his success were he not such a likable person. Bruce’s personal story is simply engrossing. He comes from humble beginnings, and throughout all of his newfound fame and success, has never lost touch with his roots here in New Orleans.

Bruce grew up in the Lafitte Housing Development in the 6th Ward of New Orleans. This community has inspired his art so much that he has taken the name Dapper Bruce Lafitte to acknowledge its impact on his life. This inspiration is also apparent when you view Bruce’s vibrantly detailed drawings chronicling his life in New Orleans. While Bruce is not shy about tackling the gritty subjects of poverty and racism, his art also documents the joyful parts of his life here in the city.

When we interviewed Bruce in early September at his New Orleans studio, he was hard at work on his newest collection.

 

Boxing 1

 



EM: You once signed your art with the name Bruce Davenport, then started going by Dapper Bruce Lafitte. You also use the name Bruce Washington. How should your fans know you: Bruce Washington, Bruce Davenport, or Dapper Bruce Lafitte?

Dapper Bruce: Dapper Bruce Lafitte! Washington was my given name, then my dad came in when I was 13 or 14 and changed my name to Davenport. So Davenport was going to be my sacrifice. He was going to be led to slaughter. Something was telling me, “Either you give up your talent or give up that name.” So I gave up Davenport and picked up Dapper Bruce Lafitte. That’s the name I put out there to let people know I had evolved. I’m into my 9th and 10th series of Dapper Bruce Lafitte.



As Dapper Bruce Lafitte, I’m national now. I did the dirty work to promote Dapper Bruce Lafitte, but also the Davenport work is going to be more expensive and collectible because there’s no more Davenport!

 

NOLA Streets
Boxing

As Dapper Bruce, my work is more focused on history. I’m drawing about the slave trade, WWII, the gangs.  A grittier side of art. International affairs as well as in the 50 states. I’m going to tell the children: “You can be somebody! I made two people famous, Davenport and now Dapper Bruce Lafitte. You can do it too!”

Angola Bound

As Davenport, I was learning the game. Green as a blade of grass. Learning the business side of it too. I learned who I needed to talk with and deal with to to get the work in certain collectors hands. Then Davenport became drained, suffering. Now as Dapper Bruce Lafitte, it’s all different and I’m happier.

 

LaSalle-N-Third/ Uptown NOLA



Bria Monet

EM: How long have you been working as a professional artist?

Dapper Bruce: I’ve been a professional artist since 2007 or 2008. In 2007, I started donating to the high schools. In 2008 I went to the Universities. In 2008 I met Dan Cameron (founder of Prospect New Orleans art extravaganzas) through CAC Gallery. Then my agent told me, “You need to tell you bossman that you have to take off work. You got to be an artist!”

 

Walking From New Orleans

EM: What job(s) were you doing before you took off to be an artist?

Dapper Bruce: I moved furniture for Kirschman’s Furniture, Comeaux’s Furniture, Universal Furniture. I moved trash for a trash company. I worked at Campo Food Services, in the freezer. I valet parked cars in the French Quarter. I also worked delivering condoms for an HIV prevention organization.



Those jobs gave me a range to go out to different territories. To show people, “Hey! This is my art! Maybe you can display it?” And it worked out for me like that. I took something from each job and put it in my life. When I went to work for the trash company and saw all of that trash all over the sidewalk, sometimes I would see artwork in the trash. I would be loading trash into dumpsters and people would be yelling to move on. When I delivered furniture, I remember going into rich people’s homes, seeing artwork on the walls, and thinking, “I’m way better than those guys!” This made me say, “Bruce! Wake up from your nightmare and become an artist!”



EM: When did you first realize that your destiny was to be an artist

I remember growing up as a kid, going into museums and seeing artwork. The urge to be an artist was always there. But when folks like Dan Cameron and Stella Jones, Diego Cortez, As If Gallery, Freeman Gallery, Louis B. James Gallery became impressed, I finally realized that I was a serious artist.

EM: Tell us about your community and your family growing up and how these influenced your work.

Dapper Bruce: I remember the neighborhood I grew up in the 70’s was good. In the 80’s, crack cocaine came in. People started doing crack and even selling their bodies to get it. My grandmother would say that they’d allowed the devil to come into their village and separate them from their homes. I told my grandmother, “I’m not going to let that happen to me.” Sometimes I would get on her nerves and she would say, “Why don’t you go sit down and draw.” I would sit there and draw for hours. Sometimes she would sit down and draw with me. After my grandmother died, my artwork became a way to keep a connection with her.

I remember going to stay with my Daddy for a couple of years when I was 15, the first time I really ever met him. There were some bad situations trying to adapt to each other.  I remember for the first three moths he was running in and out of the house, and I thought, “My grandfather doesn’t do this.” I tried playing football to get my Dad’s attention, but that didn’t work. He never came to my football games. I started getting girlfriends because I saw that he had lots of girlfriends. I wanted him to see that I was a man like him.

EM: What did he think about your artwork?

Dapper Bruce: He didn’t like it. He thought it was a waste of time. He thought a man should get a real job. That’s why I think as Davenport I was disconnected. People were expecting Davenport to do marching bands, and I kept telling them that I do more than marching bands. It was like people growing up in the projects, trying to get ahead but getting pulled back down into the crab barrel. There was an artist named Bruce Brice who would do murals in the projects that I remember seeing as a kid. Some people came and took them down. “Made the neighborhood look ugly.” Say nothing about the lack of fathers and uncles, the lack of education, and more poverty. Without my art, I’d probably be in the penitentiary or the grave. I’d probably have twenty children. I would’ve given up.



EM: Where would you turn when things took a bad turn?

When it first got hard for me in the art game, it was like my grandparents were there for me, daring me to stop. Their spirits would pop up in my head and say, “C’mon, get up!” I feel like my grandmother’s spirit is still looking out for me.  I’ll never go back into the crab barrel to ask for advice.

EM: What’s your work routine? What keeps you going?

I dedicate myself to my art work 325 days a year. The other days I’m on vacation. My work satisfies a passion and gives me something to leave to my two daughters. And then their children. Just like Picasso and Basquiat’s families still get money, my children and grandchildren will get it.

 

Get Out Colored People

EM: Tell us about the binders you have with you today.

Dapper Bruce: These are my write-ups, appreciation letters, etc. The binders are separated by year. I want to do six shows and three auctions each year. These help to keep me out of places where they don’t want me. I only want to go places where they like me and need me.

 

 

I’m in the Limelight Because I Draw Tight

 

RIP Jeffrey Cook



 

Flying Water Bottles

EM: Beside drawing with your grandmother, was anyone else in your family an artist?

Dapper Bruce: My aunt taught me how to draw with a pencil, but mostly I’m it. Just me.

EM: Whose work inspires you the most as an artist?

Dapper Bruce: I like Artie Burns, Clementine Hunter, Bob Ross (Bob Ross teaching me on TV!), Willie Birch, Bruce Brice, and Picasso. I also like Basquiat because his agent, Diego Cortez, was my first agent too.

I’m a Prospect 2 Superstar

EM: How did that come to be?

I met Diego Cortez through Dawn DeDeaux in New York. Diego and Dawn are best friends. Dawn wanted to introduce me to him so he could help my career. She mentioned that Diego knew Basquiat. She started pepping me up like I was going to a football game. Then we went down to MOMA and we were looking at art on the wall and she was saying, “You could be in this place! You need to get rid of that negative spirit in your head.” And I told her, “I’m not going to call you Dawn. I’m going to call you Pimp Mother!”



And so she introduced me to Diego Cortez in the cafeteria at MOMA. I felt a connection. I drew something on paper, signed it and gave it to him. He looked at it and asked me who I was with and I said, “Nobody.”

NOLA Streets

Dawn told him that I had no one to help me, that I had a bunch of wolves at my ankles. Diego said that he would help me and I just about fell out of my chair. He came out to the 9th Ward to Chartres Street and took about half of the work I had.

After about two months, he called me and said he was coming back to New Orleans. He gave me some money and said he’d sold some of my work to Benetton. “I think you need to think about selling internationally because your work is powerful enough to go International. Just like Basquiat!”

Let Me Talk to Your Art Students

He asked me to make more for him because he had more people who wanted to buy my work, 40″ x 60″ pieces, the same size as hanging in Arthur Roger’s Gallery. He’d order a dozen at a time and sell all of them. So my prices went up from $100 to $10,000 on the big sheets. I was showing in Japan, France, New York, and Chicago. I started seeing the bigger picture.



EM: Were you terrified? Sometimes success is scary.

Dapper Bruce: Oh, yes! I was hearing how Basquiat became self-destructive and with my background and my people, I’m prone to destruction. And I was worried about my oldest daughter at the time.

Look But Don’t Touch

But Diego taught me to manage the business aspect of it. The highs and lows. He taught me to invite gallery owners and curators to my studio. He also taught me about artists I didn’t even know about.

I’m Better Than Your Favorite Artist

EM: I see that you are a regular contributor to Art Forum. What did you think about being in Art Forum?

Dapper Bruce: It was a surprise the first time I was in it. Dan Cameron helped me get into Forum after I was in Prospect. I talked to the Forum author about the article afterwards, and he said, “Bruce, you did good!” I only responded with “OK.”, because I didn’t realize the magnitude of what he was telling me. And he said, “Damn Bruce! Did you not hear what I just told you? Art Forum is going to follow you!”

I also remember the second time I got in Art Forum, I was in the Louis B. James Gallery in New York where I did Muhammed Ali. Forum wrote about that show too. Anything I send to Forum or Harper’s, they’ll put it in there.

EM: How do you handle negative criticism?

Dapper Bruce: Like a duck handles water! Where I came from there was negative all around you. You turn negatives into positives.



 

EM: If you had to pick one favorite of all of your work that you have done, what would it be?

Dapper Bruce: The work from Prospect 2 that was in NOMA because Diego Cortez and Dan Cameron had a hand in it. That was the only time I had both of them working for me at the same time. The art was special and Prospect 2 was special. That work is now in Italy. It was bought by Benetton.

Check Out My Greatness

EM: What is the coolest art tip you have ever received?

Dapper Bruce: In 2010, Joan Mitchell Center handed me a $10,000 check for some art. That was a good ‘tip’! I felt like I was a real artist! I was able to get some studio space on Rampart because of them for a few weeks, which also led me to Arthur Roger.  Diego Cortez also said to me, “Whatever you do, just keep drawing. The subjects will come to you.”

Maritha Paje

EM: Have you ever had any medium other than drawing?

Dapper Bruce: No, just markers and pen. I remember when I was a kid in school, they gave me a paint kit to take home. And my grandmother pitched a fit. She said, ” Don’t come in here with that foolishness! Take that paint back and tell them you want a pen and a piece of paper to draw.” She believed paint belonged outside and didn’t want me to get it on her walls.

You can see Bruce’s work at Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans or online at www.dapperbruce.com

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Frank A. Wyley: The Art of Living Simply

“I thought the world was a place where you educate yourself and go out, and if you have the necessary talent you can do something wonderful. I used to read Thoreau where he says he goes about his business. I accepted that and thought I’d just go about my business of painting.”

These are the words of New Orleans painter FRANK WYLEY (1905-1978), my Grandfather and one of the city’s lesser known yet most intriguing artists. A self-taught artist who supported himself by working as a porter, Wyley himself never ventured any further than Mississippi. His work, however, would be exhibited in Atlanta and New York alongside that of Aaron Douglas, Hale Woodruff, Lois Mailou Jones, James Lesesne Wells, Hughie Lee-Smith, Ellis Wilson, James A. Porter and other prominent African American artists.



Wyley first taught himself as a sign painter and expected to make his living at it, but that would not be the case for a long while.  African Amercian sign painters, window decorators or commercial artists “need not apply” for work in New Orleans eighty years ago. So Frank Wyley would teach himself to paint in oils on canvas. Frank began to explore his art ability at the Marigny School of Art. He recalled, “They gave me a box of primary watercolors-the first box of watercolors I ever saw in my life. Mixing them fascinated me: red and yellow, yellow and blue, blue and red. One teacher used to buy me drawing paper and the other used to tear me to pieces because I drew. Professor Blanchard and Professor Long, at McDonogh 35 where he finished eighth grade, wanted to send me through school, but I had too many responsibilities.”

 

Frank Wyley left school in the seventh grade to help support his aunt, who raised him from the time he was orphaned at five. Later he would finish eighth grade at McDonogh 35. After a short stint working in an F.W. Woolworth drugstore, Frank worked for 37 years at the Henderson Sugar Refinery, where he trucked sugar, pushing it around in a wheelbarrow-like hand truck. Later he would be promoted to head porter for the company. Henderson would sometimes send its head porter out to its vendors outlets, to decorate grocery and drugstore windows with crepe paper or paint promotional signs. Thus would Frank finally attain a long denied goal.



“They used my talent, they exploited me to the limit.” He said, “I encountered a lot of remarks and insults decorating windows, but you can accept those things. You know what you’re putting down and you can ignore it, you know how to hit the rhythm and do your job and depart. You have to work to survive, so even though you cannot paint pictures every day, the same creativeness you use to paint pictures with applies to your daily work. At Henderson I used to mop and everybody could tell where I mopped: I made a line, a neatness about it. In shipping and receiving they wondered how I can do so much work. It’s easy, you hit the rhythm and it’s there, it’s just like a work of art. The creativity is in you, and whatever you touch or do, it emanates out of you. When you squeeze a lemon, you don’t expect to get orange juice; when society/technology squeezes an artist, they’re going to get his creativity.”

There were (at one time) paintings tucked behind the sofa and under beds in the two-story house Frank built with his own hands in the Ninth Ward. A multitude of oils and watercolors, drawings and prints, landscapes and portraits, still lifes and abstracts, could be found hanging on the walls, stashed behind the furniture or stowed away in a backyard shack in which Frank, wife Dorothy, and their three children had all formerly lived before he completed building the neat little white house on the same lot.

He would say, “I figure all this was done in about seven years, I started painting when I was twenty some odd years old, but I only painted on Sundays. Then when they got the forty-hour week in, they gave me an extra day off (half a day on Wednesdays, half a day Fridays) So I painted half a day on Wednesdays, half a day on Fridays, went back to work on Saturdays. Seven years’ worth of painting. When I painted I had to be positive of what I was painting, color, composition, everything. If I made a mistake, the paint would dry and I’d lose the canvas. It was too expensive to lose.”

Painting materials were a luxury and he had a family to feed. So, he said, “I used to take beaverboard and cut it to the size I wanted and give it three coats of white paint, and then I’d take and stipple it with a cloth bag to give it texture. Then at the refinery, I got an old Boy Scout tent made of canvas. I made stretchers for it and painted it with white paint. As time went on I realized I wasn’t doing the right thing. I bought two books, The Enjoyment and Use of Color by Walter Sargent and The Permanent Palette by Martin Fisher, and they taught me what I wanted. If a person’s got those two books and got talent, he can probably become a painter.”



“When I was building this house, in 1947, I stopped painting, the family lived in a cramped little three-room shack in the back of the lot while I built the front house and I thought: What was I going to do? Would I be able to paint again? And one morning I put up my easel and painted a picture. I had to go through that to get this. By living in the shack, I saved money. If I’d been into the homestead, l’d have had obligations.”

“The neighbors used to ask Mrs. Wyley how long the family was going to live in that cramped little three-room shack, and she’d say: ‘When Frank’s ready to build, he’ll build.’ Some of my best paintings were done back in that shack. That was pretty close quarters for a family of five. I’d paint anywhere. I’ve often wondered how I’d feel if I could leave my easel in one particular place and come to it every day and work at it. But I don’t think it’s necessary to have all these things. It’s nice to have ’em to work with, but if you don’t have ’em and you want to work, you’ll work. You go and do what you want to do.

Most of these paintings were done in the kitchen. The kids never bothered me, I shut the noise out completely. So you see, it don’t make no difference. You can paint anywhere. But sometimes I think about the life I might have lived as a full-time artist. I used to go in the Quarter when I was young and watch the painters. Those guys live to paint. That must be terrific, when you get up in the morning, eat and paint. Nothing to do but paint. Fabulous!”

Frank was a handsome man. Strong and lean-muscled with large hands, his head was crested by a tuft of curly black hair, contrasting his golden bronzed skin, looking as if it were forever being blown by some unseen wind. Frank recalled, “A painter, a friend, watercolorist and teacher named Charlie Bein, got me to strip naked once to see if I could pose for the [ all white] Arts and Crafts Club and get close to art, that way, get close to students and see what was going on. But I didn’t pose, I was too skinny.”

He started a correspondence course in art once, “But I didn’t like it, I quit – after paying $200 of my hard-earned money.” Except for that, he was entirely self-taught. He taught himself techniques of the ‘master’ painters through reading only. “All the Frenchmen, Matisse, Dufy, Roualt. I don’t think the art world has gotten much beyond Cezanne yet. Those landscapes – the movement you have in them is one of the most important things. Others get movement with perspective, (Cezanne) gets movement with juxtaposition of forms and color. There are certain painters,.. they’re the relay, the fellows that carry the ball. The others are on the side of them. But Cezanne is not the end of art, he’s just the beginning”, Frank stated with confidence equal to any art scholar.



“Picasso’s done some great things, everything he touches turns to gold, but there’s some bad things a person does . … I laugh when I think of the Picasso exhibition at Delgado in the early forties. Those paintings drove ’em crazy. A lady told me, ‘These paintings are nothing but trash, trash.’ Time will tell on Picasso.”

From the late 1930s through the 1950s, Wyley received critical acclaim and awards in various group exhibitions, such as the Texas Centennial Exposition’s Hall of Negro Life and at national exhibitions of African American art at Dillard University and Atlanta University. Several of these exhibitions were sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program begun by Franklin D. Roosevelt in conjunction with his New Deal employment project.

Wyley’s subject matter during this period included French Quarter courtyards, women with children and at bath, portraiture, beggars congregating, arrangements of fruit and flora, nighttime cityscapes, family groups, gossiping women, and other images of the city’s residents at work, rest and play. During the 1960s, Wyley continued exhibiting his works nationally. In 1963, he won an award for his painting entitled The Family at the Emancipation Proclamation Centennial National Art Exhibition, held at Xavier University. This would qualify him for a later exposition in Chicago.

A 1974 appearance on ABC’s The Reasoner Report, a nationally syndicated television program, brought Frank increased attention during the 1970s, and in 1976, renowned artist and scholar Hale Woodruff noted Wyley’s work in Black Art: An International Quarterly. Wyley’s works, tinged with the influences of Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy, evoke the decadent beauty of New Orleans’ past and present. “No, I never had a one man show,”, he said, “…not yet, I’ve given some prints to Harvard, I think it was Harvard. One of the universities”.

Of his work he said, “ I had no desire ever to sell one.” Wyley’s body of work would range from Impressionism to Cubism, from Realist portraiture and prints of social protest to the venerable theme of Mother and Child.

“I don’t think of the things as money. I think money has played little part in my art, other than buying books and materials to work with. I know the value of a linen canvas, good paint, good books: art caused me to appreciate their real value. I’ve had a tendency to hate money. I saw what money was doing to people, because people wouldn’t put it in its proper place. They don’t realize that what they’re spending is part of their life. You spend part of your life to earn it, and if you throw it away, you’re throwing part of your life away.”

Frank Wyley on the Harry Reasoner Show

Frank Wyley on the Reasoner Report.

Posted by Frank A. Wyley on Monday, February 27, 2012

Wyley lived in a time with few educational options for Blacks, yet seemed to always find a way to educate himself, “The public libraries were for whites only, but I found money to buy books. You consider a book like a brother or father, talking back to you. When you acquire one book, it recommends another and that’s how you acquire good friendship with books.”

“Whitman, I like Whitman.” He smiled, “Whitman gives you the energy to walk the great earth. Plato, Schopenhauer, it’s good but it’s not good for this world. This is not the world to use philosophy; you have to coin your own. I like Thoreau better, he tells you how to be poor and rich. Thoreau has a lot of things in there, And I met Thoreau in the trash barrel. I did.



Mr. Henderson used to get annual reports because he owned a whole lot of stock, and the paper used to be nice, banker’s paper. I’d tear the covers off and run prints on it. I used to get a kick out of that. But one day, I met Thoreau when I was looking for annual reports and came across a New York Times Book Review and an article on Walden in it. Thoreau was an exceptional man, and he’s coming into his own. He’s got to be a holy man, he’s got to be good. He’s got a message for youth today. But I ask ’em sometimes: ‘ever read Thoreau?’ And they say no. What are they teaching these days?” Then he said, frankly, “Thoreau said to listen to the music that is in you. Next to the bible, for me, there is Thoreau.”

Henry David Thoreau lived for two years, two months, and two days by Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. His time in Walden Woods became a model of deliberate and ethical living. His words and deeds continue to inspire millions around the world who seek solutions to critical environmental and societal challenges. Published in 1854, ‘On Walden Pond’ this love letter to self-sufficient living, was known as the cornerstone of Transcendental Movement.

Out of a handmade wooden box stuffed with exhibit programs and photographs and other mementos, Wyley took a carefully matted paragraph by Thoreau. It is cut and preserved from a magazine as Wyley liked to do.

‘To be calm, to be serene: there is a calmness of the lake when there is not a breath of wind. There is a calmness of a stagnant ditch. So, it is with us. Sometimes we are clarified and calmed healthily as we never were before in our lives, not by any opiates but by some unconscious obedience to the all-just laws, so that we become like a still lake of purest crystal and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves. All the world goes by and is reflected in our depths.’

His eyes glistened a bit at that, then he said, “Those are the things they should tell’em about. Those are the things that leave the imprint. Sometimes I think our education is starting backwards. They don’t place any emphasis on art or living. They’re teaching these people how to make money, but after they make money, what’re they going to spend it on?”

He shook his head, “There’s a receptiveness born in every child, you know, and it’s killed out of ’em,.. it’s destroyed. I picked up a toy book, and there were toys in there for youngsters about two or three, and there was this musical toy: you look at it and you feel it and you touch it and you listen to it. That’s for color, that’s for texture, that’s for music, and the simple thing that that is, that’s art. You bring these things up, and then through the process of education it’s killed out through the years. People tell you they have no use for art, but each thing they touch, a fork, a piece of cloth, their shoes, that’s art. Take it away and they’re nothing. Why can’t they feel this art, this creativity that’s all around them?”



Frank looked genuinely puzzled, then continued, “If you could teach people how to love their avocations, something they could do all their lives, and they could transfer that love to their families, that would be beautiful. That’s why I (say): as a kid grows up, he should be exposed to these things more because they teach him how to live, how to live a deeper life.”

Then he said, reflectively as if speaking of himself, “I guess most people never really stop to analyze hate, what it does to a man and what he misses in life. You can’t just reach in there and bring him back to the starting point. Only he can try to gather up the pieces – if the light is still there, if he can still feel it. But if he goes on without it, he’s the loser, and he suffers … When a man constantly hates, he changes the chemistry in his body. But when he loves, something beautiful happens to him.

Art produces empathy, ways of seeing. It has made me lead a rich life, independent of everybody else. Everything I touch, smell, see, I appreciate it. You paint things that you love, you paint things that you hate. You pass a place a hundred times and suddenly you pass and it all belongs to you. It opens up like a flower. My subjects tell me to paint them and I don’t try to force my personality upon the subject but find the beauty in it. An old man asked me once, ‘What you doing, there ain’t no beauty here.’ There’s two kinds of beauty, a raw beauty and a beautiful beauty. Like a waterlily that comes out of the muck and hits the top of the surface and spreads its white glory. Two beauties: the lily is one and the scum is another. Sometimes you get so powerful within yourself that you forget. I’m ashamed to say that one time I thought that I was the one who was doing these things, and it looked like my talent begin to slip and I had to go back to my source. There’s moments when I’m painting when there seem to be three people,.. another person besides myself and the painting. When that happens, everything is in coordination, everything is just right. When that happened, and my wife was there, I’d just squeeze her.”

Wyley produced countless paintings and drawings of Dorothy Minor, the woman he married in 1942. Frank refers to a painting of his wife that he was painting while she was sick. She’d had a stroke and could no longer speak. That frustrated her a lot. He “watched her for over two years dying”, he said. She was his staunchest critic.

“With my wife it was a fabulous thing. Something that lived. Matured. We knew what it as all about. we sang our song, we went on our way. I want to pay homage to her, cause she was a part of my life, a part of everything that I have done. The whole thing was drama, art, and love. We understood it all completely.”

He then began to paint an unfinished leg in the painting he was working on. “If I finish this like I want to,” he said, “I can go on. I have to get this out of my way. Sometimes I pick up a brush and it feels like I’m holding a brick. It tells me, ‘You don’t want to paint.’ Other times it feels like a feather. It comes and goes; it’s a normal process.” Wyley said, “I may not have the answer, but the answer I have found for myself have served me well. You have to live a lifetime to prove something, When your life is over, you’ve won the game.”

Frank A Wyley died October 5, 1978. “I’m glad I didn’t give my paintings away. I knew someday they’d be in the proper hands.” Frank Wyley said this to me in an interview, and thankfully his legacy lives on. In that same cottage on Congress street that Frank built (dubbed by New Orleans Magazine as “Walden Pond in the Ninth Ward”) Frank’s grandson (Iam bennu) has come to embrace the simple, self-sustainable artist lifestyle that Frank so greatly desired but never fully achieved.

Iam has worked as an artist for over 25 years, most notably for his Zulu Mardi Gras Posters and acting. His granddaughter Deneen Tyler and her own daughter Devyn are carrying the creative seed on as stage and film actors. Together they have plans to find a permanent home for Frank Wyley’s originals and make prints that will be available to the public. You can keep up with the legacy of Frank Wyley on Facebook or see his work in person at the Amistad Research Center which holds a treasure of his papers, prints, and works.

*Quotes taken from “Walden Pond in the Ninth Ward” published in New Orleans Magazine, and putted from the Reasoner Report both done between 1973 and 1975.

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How to Avoid Losing Your Rights to the “Work for Hire Doctrine”

Lauren Rucinski, Kean Miller LLP

You have just received a commission, congratulations! The client forwards you a contract to sign that states that the work is a “work made for hire.” What does “work made for hire” mean? And, if you sign it, will you lose all of the rights to your work? The answer is a little trickier than you may think.

Under the default rule, copyright vests in the person that created the work: you, the artist. However, the “work for hire doctrine” changes this default rule, giving the client full ownership of your work and leaving you with no copyright from the get-go.1 This means that the client can do whatever it wants with your work: publish it, adapt it, or even resell it to others. You may not even have non-commercial control over the work, for example, to show it in your portfolio (but it is common practice to allow that type of use and may even be covered under the “fair use” defense). Although this seems like a harsh consequence, the work for hire doctrine is quite limited in its reach.



There are two ways (or modes) that the work for hire doctrine may apply: (1) if the artist is an employee of the client or (2) if the artist is a contractor or freelancer, but the work meets one of nine set situations and the parties agree in writing. The first mode seems simple enough: is the artist an employee of the client. However, the line between an employee and a contractor is murky at best. The law has laid out certain factors that help define the difference between a contractor and an employee. Some factors that lean more toward the artist being an employee, and, therefore giving the copyright in the work to the client include:

· the client supplied the artist’s tools,

· the artist performed his/her work at the client’s workplace,

· the client controlled when or how long the artist worked,

· the artist was paid an hourly rage (rather than a flat fee),

· the client had a role in hiring and paying the artist’s assistants,

· the work is part of the client’s regular business, and

· the client treated the artist as an employee for tax or benefits purposes.

No one of these factors will automatically kick a commissioned work into the work for hire category, but courts will look at them as a whole and make a determination.



The second way the work for hire doctrine can apply to a commissioned work is more straightforward. The work must be specially ordered or commissioned and fall into one of the following nine categories:

1. Contribution to a collective work

2. Part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work

3. Translation

4. Supplementary work

5. Compilation

6. Instructional text

7. Test

8. Answer material for a test

9. Atlas

If you aren’t making one of these nine, your work will not fall under the work for hire doctrine under the second mode. If you are making one of the nine types of works, you and the client must agree in writing that the work is considered a work made for hire. So even if your work falls into one of the nine categories, if there is no agreement signed stating that the work is a work made for hire, then it is not a work made for hire.



So your work is not considered a work made for hire: you may still want to transfer some or all of the rights in your work to your client. An assignment of the copyright in the work from the artist to the client will give the client control over the work. In that case, the client can do what it pleases with the work and the artist has very limited ability to do anything about it. An assignment may be the right avenue for works like a company logo or for a ghostwriter on a novel. But if the artist would like to retain ownership over the work, a license agreement is better suited than an assignment. A license allows the artist to retain the copyright of the work while allowing the client certain rights to the work. For example, a license can provide for a one time use, a right to reproduce the work, a use in a certain manner, or any conditions the parties desire.

If you see the words “work made for hire” in your contract or think that perhaps some of the employee factors apply to you, do not panic. A discussion with the client on the goals and outcome of the project and an agreed upon license agreement can sure-up both parties’ rights in the commissioned work.

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Letter from the Editor Winter 2018

Welcome to the second issue of New Orleans Canvas Magazine, or should I call it our “Second Line” issue? Winter in New Orleans means the whole city is gearing up for another Carnival season. Local artists and creative professionals are putting in overtime creating floats, sets and costumes, taking advantage of those spicy financial opportunities that occur during this singular time of year. The work produced for this annual city-wide party is truly amazing – just check out the incredible Zulu posters featured in this issue for one example!

New Orleans Canvas Magazine was very excited about all of the positive feedback received on our first issue and we hope you enjoy this second edition as much as the first. In this Winter 2018 issue, we’re privileged (and lucky) to have world renowned folk artist Dapper Bruce Lafitte, along with his daughter Bria, featured on our cover, as photographed by talented local photographer Pamela Reed.

We are also pleased and proud to introduce Pamela Reed as our official portrait photographer in this issue. Pamela has exceeded our highest expectations in photographing five of our featured artists in their studios and around town. She traveled all over the city and even marched at night with the Krewe of Skinz N’ Bonez in the Krampus parade to get amazing photos of featured artist Mardiclaw.

Another first for this issue is an article about a deceased New Orleans painter (Frank Wyley) written by his grandson. During the course of our interview with Iam Bennu, another featured artist (and creator of the aforementioned Zulu posters), we became aware of Iam’s grandfather Frank and his influence on Iam’s life and work. We’re honored that Iam was willing to write this article about his grandfather, giving us all the opportunity to become more aware of Frank Wyley’s artistic work and life. Thus there are two generations of artists from the same family profiled in one issue!

Also featured are rising talents Sean Friloux and Greg Creason. Sean Friloux is a fantastic local artist making his name as a landscape and portrait painter by capturing light and shadows. Greg Creason is another eye-opening artist who paints beautiful abstract and figurative works and is also the proprietor of his own gallery and store for artists in the French Quarter.

Additionally, this issue features an article by local attorney Lauren Rucinski addressing the Work for Hire Doctrine, an important subject for artists who might venture into commercial work. Knowing your rights and responsibilities before entering in to this sort of arrangement could prevent you from getting “burned” professionally.

Again, we hope you enjoy this Winter issue. Thanks again and again to the artists and other professionals who helped us put this all together. And for all of our “friends of” artist followers on Facebook and Instagram, keep on posting your amazing work. We’re your New Orleans Canvas.

Sincerely,

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