Sunday, December 18, 2011
Santa came a bit early early this year and brought me a companion to keep me company in the studio. Penny is a ten week redbone coonhound. She already has tried to steal paint tubes, brushes and numerous other items and is quite the terror. Still she is a welcome addition to the Mullen home - since our previous dogs both passed on within the last year the house has become quite lonely. Despite her puppy antics everyone is certain she will be a ray of sunshine for many years to come.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
This is a painting inspired from a photograph taken on Halloween. Driving through Sampson county on the way back from Wilmington, I saw many of the cotton fields were still in full bloom. Being that it was a rainy and overcast day, I saw some different interpretations that I could use in the sky. I've painted several cotton fields, but this is the first with weather conditions other than a sunny day.
Friday, November 25, 2011
It's been a while since I painted a cityscape. I finished these two 11x14" paintings earlier this week. They are quite challenging as the rigid lines in buildings, windows and other man made elements are not as forgiving as trees, water and other things found in nature. I need to do one of these on a larger surface, where I can concentrate on more detail.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
In mid October we visited Merchants Millpond State Park in Northeast North Carolina. The park is a combination of a forest and swamp with hundreds of places to explore. We took a canoe out on a beautiful day and I immediately began taking pictures. The sunken cypress trees and spanish moss created beautiful pictures which opened me up to all kinds of painting possibilities.
Friday, September 30, 2011
These are a few recently completed works reflecting the same composition. When they are hung next to each other they work really well together. The vibrant colors of the first work provide an energetic feeling, while the subtle grays and purples of the second work create a more subdued look. Someone recently remarked that these works are "simple yet complicated". I suppose I can see the simpleness in the naive unrefined qualities of the paintings, yet the hundreds of colors and shapes allow for a complicated feeling in the middle of this simplicity.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
We spent our summer vacation in Cape Cod this year and stayed at our friend's house in Bourne. MA. A short walk from the house the broken bridge crosses over the inlet. This bridge has been there for over a hundred years, and at some point Grover Cleveland spent time here during his presidency.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I painted a picture a few years ago using just yellows, blacks and whites. I never really thought much of it, but it kept hanging around my studio. Too nice to throw out, but not really worthy of posting to my website or sending off to any shows. The painting shown is a new painting, but is based on the older work. The original photograph has long since disappeared, so this is a rare event where I worked from another painting rather than from a photo or en plein aire. I had alot of fun with this, it did not take me nearly as long as most of my work and being there was no photograph I did not concern myself compositional accuracy. Unlike the earlier work there are some dark blues present in the water. I think for my next study, I might try darks over lights.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Dingman Falls is located in Northeast Pennsylvania in the Delaware Water Gap. We visited the area on a very hot day in July. I got some great pictures of the falls, but the picture I took of the river leading up to the falls struck me as rather interesting. The water was very clear, so many of the rocks at the bottom of the river could be seen through the surface. This allowed for some cool glazes with different sienna colors. I tried to make sure this looked like more than just a river - the tops and "half" trees in the right/middle portion of the canvas show that the river takes a sudden vertical drop. The last part painted was the rock bed in the lower right of the canvas. I pondered for some time on how to do this - I considered three dimensional impasto effects and more glazing, but in the end I went with a style where the details resembled the stream. The differences would be in sharp color contrasts of warm and cool colors. I think this kept some balance to the painting, while not drawing one away from other portions of the work.
Monday, August 8, 2011
I've received alot of positive response from the the initial painting I did of Cedar Island. This painting is inspired from that same view, but encompasses more of the land and a second waterway.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Bear Island is part of North Carolina's Crystal Coast between Morehead City and Wilmington. There are no bridges to the island, so one must take a shuttle ferry. This limited accessibility leaves the beach in pristine condition - There is no pollution and the beach is just stunning.
Friday, July 8, 2011
This is a painting I recently finished that is inspired by a trip to the North Carolina coast. At around 7:00 PM we were crossing a long bridge connecting Cedar Island to the mainland. At the the middle of the bridge we saw a stunning sunset reflecting onto this marshy inlet. I knew very quickly that the photographs we took would materialize into a future painting.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
This year I once again participated in the Festival for the Eno in Durham, NC. This show is always alot of fun and always very busy. Despite the hot temperatures and thunderstorm at the end the show this event was definitely a success. The mascot for this years show was the yellow spotted salamander, depicted here in this huge sand sculpture.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
This is probably the most involved painting I have done up to this point in my career. The subject originated from a trip to the beach we took in early May. The summer tourist season had not yet hit so the beach was not jammed with people. I think in most cases where paintings involve people they are the main focal point, I made an effort in this painting for this not to happen. The sky, the water and the beach each have unique elements - each of the three elements of the painting were done at separate times and in a way I thought of these as three separate paintings. The people and the houses were the last parts of the paintings done. This worked out well; After I had finished the beach I was pleased with the painting, therefore I did make the people and houses deliberately complex that they might take away from the larger composition.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Alot of the fields around my home take on some interesting colors at different points of the year. This painting is inspired from a picture I took in late October, about a month after the tobacco had been harvested. The foliage that grew in offered some spectacular colors and the fallen leaves and and the colors of autumn added to the effect.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Cotton Fields are becoming quite a popular subject for me. I completed this work last week - So far this is the largest canvas that I have used in for my cotton field work. I have a 40x30" leaning against the wall in my studio- this might have a place for Cotton Field #6.
Friday, May 20, 2011
This weekend I will be exhibiting artwork at Artsplosure in downtown Raleigh. the first time I visited Artsplosure was in 1997. The impressive selection of art and massive crowds of people was awe inspiring at the time. Here we are fourteen years later and I have a booth and am now an exhibiting artist! Life definitely can take some interesting twists. I'll have several new works on display that I have not posted to my website or shown in any galleries. One of these works is of High Falls in the Dupont Forest in western NC (shown).
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Last weekend I attended the opening of State of the Art / Art of the State at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, NC. The show was quite unique: no jurors, no entry fees - just bring one piece of art and it would be on display at the museum for six months. Hundreds of pieces of art were submitted and over 800 people attended the opening - there was little room to even move due to the amount of people that attended. Curators from NYC, San Francisco and London arranged the exhibit - and with the help of the staff and sponsors of the Cameron Art Museum an impressive show was put on.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
This is the second time I have painted this subject (the picture on top is the newer work). I used alot of the same colors with the exception of some light purple in the splash area of the waves. The addition of the clouds provides a solid focal point and some more geometry in the sky might add some more interest.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Poor economy brought fewer patrons, less income
One month ago, Micah Mullen walked away from a comfortable corporate marketing job in the midst of a still-sputtering economy to work full time as a painter.
It's a 70 percent pay cut, though the hours are better. He and his wife have reined in food expenses, and with Mullen home, the couple can save on day care for their elementary-age children.
Still, Mullen knows it won't be easy. But he's determined to try.
"I don't plan on turning back," Mullen said. "I want to make this work, and I think I can."
Mullen is jumping in at an odd time for the Raleigh art scene. With more galleries than ever, the city's commitment to public art and the opening of the new Contemporary Art Museum downtown, the area is in the midst of what Raleigh Art Commission Executive Director June Guralnick calls a cultural renaissance.
However, individual artists are grappling with an extended period of fewer patrons and lighter wallets as the area struggles to bounce back from the recession. Local artists say they have had to work harder and smarter than ever before to make ends meet.
Mullen's geometric North Carolina landscapes are striking enough to stop patrons in their tracks, said gallery owner Nicole Kennedy, who sells Mullen's work in Nicole's Art Studio and Gallery on Person Street downtown.
"People look at his stuff and they're mesmerized," Kennedy said. "The more you look at it, the more you like it."
At the same time, Mullen has picked a tricky time for his career change.
"Leaving your day job - that's not necessarily a good thing to do right now," Kennedy said.
Even in the best of times, there aren't many who have the combination of talent and boldness required to take on the life of a professional artist. Only about 23,600 people held jobs as fine artists like Mullen and Garrison in 2008, the most recent numbers available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 60 percent of those were self-employed.
Most work on a freelance basis and may find it difficult to make a living solely by selling their artwork, according to the bureau report. Those with a steady salary earn a median annual income of about $42,000, which is Mullen's goal in the next five years.
Most local artists have been riding out the recession through a combination of newly acquired business savvy and a focus on honing their craft, Kennedy said.
"Most artists have had to take their career in their own hands," Kennedy said. "To expect galleries to make a living for you, unless you're a huge name, is not realistic."
Even established artists have had a hard time. Raleigh painter Richard Garrison quit his job as a public school art teacher to paint full time 16 years ago. He and his wife, an English teacher, were able to live comfortably off their joint incomes for more than a decade in a large four-bedroom house in Cary.
Then the recession hit. During the past few years, Garrison has been selling half the number of paintings he used to. He and his wife have had to dip into their savings, and recently downgraded to a one-bedroom condo in downtown Raleigh.
Last year, Garrison decided on a new strategy. His new focus on portrait painting won him two commissions last year that "probably saved me, financially," Garrison said.
Even those who kept their day jobs say times have been tight. Local artist Joe DiGiulio works full time in commercial and educational sales with Jerry's Artarama, as well as teaching workshops and creating instructional art DVDs. He and his wife call their backyard studio their retirement plan, a place to continue teaching art classes as the income supplement they will need to retire.
"I was surprised that (Micah) was going to go full time," DiGiulio said. "Three years ago, it was a completely different story."
Mullen has done his research. He knows the career change could mean a difficult adjustment period. He's been painting for years, and sold $20,000 worth of his work last year while working full time. With so much more time free to invest in it, he is confident he can double that number within five years.
His wife Eileen, a personal injury lawyer, supports his decision completely - because of his obvious talent, and the positive change she has seen in her husband since he found work he loves: He's calmer, more social and has more time to spend with their two sons.
"It is amazing to see the change in a person when they figure out what they want to be doing and what they're good at," Eileen Mullen said. "It really does make a difference to have fulfillment in your work life."
Mullen is treating his new career the same way he did his full-time corporate job. He starts at 8 a.m. every morning in his upstairs studio in North Raleigh, creating new paintings or on business calls, working to get his canvaases in more galleries across the state. On a whiteboard on one wall, he meticulously tracks how he spends every hour of the work day. To supplement income from paintings, he has instructional DVDs, which he sells from his professional website. He also has his own show in the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences' Nature Art Gallery through May 1.
Kennedy notes that North Carolina landscapes are selling better in the down economy as patrons seek the comfort of the familiar. That Mullen's work is a fresh, striking take on those scenes may be exactly the thing that will allow his bold career move to pay off as the economy picks back up, DiGiulio and Kennedy agree.
"I've seen enough lighthouses and ... barns and rolls of hay in the field from painters all over this area," DiGiulio said. "Micah's work is totally unique from anything you've seen before, so he can really carve out a niche for himself."
An artist's life has never been easy, but for those like Mullen, it's worth it to try, Garrison said.
"Why do anything other than what you love?" Garrison said. "If you love it enough, and you follow your heart, I think things will fall into line and you can make a living of it."
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Sunday, April 24, 2011
The tornadoes that swept through Eastern North Carolina last weekend did a number on my mailbox. I spent Easter weekend building a new mailbox and creating a small mosaic garden at the base of the mailbox. Chips of broken plates and other odd ceramic pieces were embedded into two concrete pads. These pads were then surrounded by mulch and some small plants. The tiles need to be polished and the excess concrete and mud needs to be wiped off, but otherwise this project is complete.
Friday, April 22, 2011
I liked this subject because the reference picture offered some colors that I normally do not use. My concerns arose when about halfway through the painting process I did not see these colors and the palette was looking quite similar to those in my previous painting of Pearson's Falls. The last part of the work that I did was the right hand side where the magentas and oranges are shown in the leaves. While these colors do provide good contrast, I feel the painting is still very flat. I like all the geometric shapes and colors that I used, but as I now look at the work in its entirety I might have used some better choices for shading to give this work more dimension.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Working in the art material industry for many years I have seen hundreds of products. Occasionally a product comes around that really stands out as a quality item. The Fredrix Dixie Pro Canvas is one of those unique items of exceptional quality. This is a 12 oz. cotton canvas stretched onto solid, quality wood stretcher bars. What I like about this product is I know I do not have to worry about the canvas failing during the painting process or years in the future. The tough heavy canvas allows for a variety of techniques with a brush or knife without any concerns of the canvas bubbling or wrinkling, and the solid stretcher bars assure me that this canvas will not warp even decades from now.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
The reception at the Nature Art Gallery at the Science Museum last night was amazing! I chatted with dozens of friends, met some great people and had a great time with my family. A special thanks to Karen Bethune who is curator of the gallery, she is one of the nicest and most efficient people I have come across. My paintings looked amazing in the gallery - congratulations to her and the great staff at the Museum. I am looking forward to working on future projects with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Location: Nature Art Gallery at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences - 11 West Jones Street in Downtown Raleigh
The Gallery exhibits original, nature-inspired, two and three dimensional artwork in all mediums by many of the finest artists and artisans exhibiting in the Southeast.
Bring the whole family - As part of First Fridayboth the Nature Art Gallery and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences are open late.
Painting shown is: Cotton Field Off Highway 64 #3 - 20x20" Acrylic on Canvas
Friday, March 25, 2011
This past weekend I probably spent 24 solid hours cleaning and organizing my studio. All my paint tubes are arranged by chromatic hue, all the brushes are sorted by size and style, the floors are vacuumed and swept - all and all this is the cleanest and most organized my studio has been in years! I'm anxious to see what effect this will have on me as an artist. Already I am finding myself mixing my red tubes with blue tubes and my filberts with my brights. I ponder whether I should spend a few hours a week or a half hour or so each night keeping things clean. I guess I probably should, if nothing else organization saves money - this past weekend's overhaul revealed several unused paint tubes and even large canvases I did not know I had!
Monday, March 21, 2011
Today is the first day of my life where I sat down at the easel knowing this is now a full time job.
For nearly fifteen years I was gainfully employed at Jerry’s Artarama as the Marketing Director. Earlier this year I decided to resign from Jerry’s with last Friday being my last day of employment. The past several months have been filled with emotions (both and good and bad), but I know it is now time to put these aside and look towards the future and begin the life of a full time artist.
The image shown is the cover of the 2011 Jerry’s Catalog. During my career at Jerry’s I have been involved with hundred of catalogs covers. It is ironic that I was involved very little with this cover in the sense that in the same year Jerry’s chose to embody the slogan “Empowering Artists” is the same year I chose to part ways with the company and try to make a go of it as a full time artist.
I have alot of thoughts about Jerry’s both positive and negative - however I know one thing is for certain that were it not for the experience gained through Jerry’s I would be nowhere remotely close to pursuing a career as a full time artist.
I will be writing much more frequently on my blog on my daily experiences as an artist, a father, a husband and a human being. Please check back.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The paintings I am holding reflect areas that are inspired by Bridal Veil Falls in Western North Carolina and the Quarry at the Eno River in Durham, NC, both are painted on glass and panel. As I was preparing to try to conquer the difficulties of photographing paintings made directly on glass, I thought I might try something different. About 30 yards in back of my house is a nice quiet creek - perfect weather conditions allowed for some great lighting and comfortable temperatures allowed for a nice picture. While I understand the importance of the "mug shot" pictures of paintings, it is nice to have a an human element and a real nature element to add to the ambiance of the paintings.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Last night I participated in the 2011 Art Gala at the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh, NC. The format of the show was unlike any other that I have been a part of. Thirty paintings were selected by Linda Johnson Dougherty who is one of the curators at the North Carolina Museum of Art (I was fortunate enough to have Whitewater Falls #3 selected for this show). The juried paintings were all displayed in the room leading into the main ballroom of the country club. Those artists that were juried into the show had the opportunity to set up in an approximate 10x10' area to show other works.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The second of series of paintings that was inspired by views from Hanging Rock State Park. Like the earlier painting done this was painted on two different surfaces. The lower surface is that encompasses the sky and mountains is painted on a 16x20" Gessobord. The portion of the painting that shows the rock and the big tree is painted directly on the glass.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
We visited this area last Fall. After hiking several miles up we reached the top of Hanging Rock which is where I shot the picture that inspired this painting. When I began photographing the area I knew almost immediately the types of paintings I would do. The rock is so massive and the view is so spectacular it created two distinct elements that had to be separated. I decided that I would paint the rock directly on the glass and offset it about a half inch from the panel to give me some depth. I began first by painting the sky on the panel - it was not my intention to give the sky so much attention, but I found that some of the colors I was using were not giving enough vibrant punch. I knew these would be behind glass, so I needed to make the sky jump out. The mountains in the back ground are a bit more subtle but help in making the sky and the rock really come alive.
Painting on glass is always a challenge as it has no absorption. Even traditional primers like gesso do not always adhere well. Several coats of priming were used and even then the surface is still pretty tough. I painted the rock, by first using traditional heavy body acrylics in a series of color patterns. After about 8 hours the basis of the rock had formed, but the colors were not vibrant and streaked alot. I then used acryl Gouache to go back over these colors. Everything on the rock is opaque, so I did not concern myself with losing transparency by using the gouache. After doing this I again used the acryl gouache and made the patterns and symbols on the rock that are found in many of my works.
When I finally framed the piece and offset the glass from the panel got really excited from the results. The additional work and challenges of working on glass definitely paid off!.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I came across this Tobacco field not far from my home on Rolesville Road in Northeast Raleigh. The picture was taken in late October so there were some interesting fall colors in the composition. I used some of my favorite Matisse acrylic colors to create this painting. Australian Sienna is somewhat of mix of Raw Sienna and Cadmium Orange – you see a lot of this in the field and in the center of the big tree. Some of the greens used are Australian Olive Green and Australian Sap Green – I generally avoid specialty colors like these, but the Australian series of Matisse acrylics is a real good range.
Matisse Flow paints are a thinner consistency and match the color range of the heavy body structure acrylics. I use these for glazing and for accentuating certain areas. The big shiny leaves on the tree and certain areas of the field are a combination of Flow acrylics and glazing medium. I usually apply this with applicator bottles, similar to how one might decorate a cake. This gives a neat effect that works well with things like flowing water or leaves blowing in the wind.
Corner of Rolesville and Puryear Road - 12x12" Acrylic on Canvas
Sunday, January 23, 2011
One of several waterfalls in the DuPont Forest is Bridal Veil Falls. Located about a half hour from Brevard, NC this waterfall is unique to many of the other falls in the area. This big waterfall allows you to actually hike up the waterfall! The water flow occupies only a portion of the rock mass, the remaining portion of the rock in not so steep that you cannot climb up to the top. I took the picture that inspired this painting fairly close to the top. This artwork probably shows about 1/8 of the entire waterfall, I got some great pictures of the entire falls that I will probably paint later on a larger surface.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Just a short distance from the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina is WIldcat Falls. We came upon this waterfall on a cold November morning but were not disappointed as this is really a picturesque setting. When painting this I tried to show alot of movement not only in the waterfalls but in the surrounding trees as well. The pool at the base of the waterfall was probably about 12" deep in the spot where I stood to take the picture. This shallow water gave hints of the surface with alot of browns and siennas being evident. As the water got deeper at the splash area of the waterfall more blues, greens and even purples became evident in the composition.
This is painted on a 12"x12" canvas - Despite the small area of the surface I was able to get alot of detail into the rocks and trees. People often say my paintings are aboriginal or Aztec in appearance. Perhaps WIldcat Falls defines a bit of both of these styles.
Wildcat Falls - 12x12" Acrylic on Canvas
Sunday, January 2, 2011
In early November we took a trip to western North Carolina to see some waterfalls. Big Bradley Falls was one of the last stops on our trip. We probably should have done some research on this area before beginning the hike. Big Bradley Falls is a 75' foot waterfall located in a big gorge. We did not realize that a view of the waterfalls was nearly impossible without some rappelling cables and mountain climbing gear. The first ominous sign was a yellow ribbon tied to a tree marking where someone had perished, yet we traveled on anxious to see the falls. Some steep trails off the main trails allowed us some partial views, but these were quite treacherous and dangerous, so we held off trying to get too close.