Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Norm Daniels: Featured Artist

Last night we assembled at our town's small library and even smaller community room off the library for our monthly creative arts council meeting. This month our Featured Artist was Norm Daniels who lives and works at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center and is also quite an accomplished artist in oils -- a plein air Impressionist of the Surfer School, I suppose. He and Keith attended college together in the very early 80s where Keith remembers him as a crack cartoonist. Norm is selling his work exclusively through the McKibben Studios Gallery in Corona Del Mar, and is doing very well.

Norm started off the evening kicking his flipflops into a convenient corner and then walked us through a few of the paintings he had brought with him. He tends to work from sketches rather than photographs which seem too "flat" to him. He takes his sketchbook everywhere: Hotel del Coronado, Balboa Park, the beach. After he has established via sketches what seems to work for him as a composition, he takes his tripod, art case, and duffel bag full of paints, brushes, and assorted supplies and sets up to paint -- barefoot, of course. He tends to take about an hour or two to paint most works -- he works so very quickly as we saw as he set up his tripod "easel" and took a sketch of the Hotel Del from an orange "wash" to a full painting. He mostly paints on cheap artboards using the cheapest paints and brushes he can (he likes things "juicy" and with lots of texture, so cheap brushes and palette knives are his main tools of the trade).

His brushes and palette knives moved with amazing assurance and speed as he painted and talked at the same time -- occasionally stopping to wipe a knife and chat with someone, but he mostly painted and talked simultaneously, answering questions, explaining technique, making self-deprecating wisecracks. When someone asked him if he planned the different layers before painting, Norm replied, "I want to paint on purpose," but apparently he rarely does. He quoted someone who said "Painting is just a series of corrections," and he definitely lived that maxim out as he showed us when something was not quite right and needed correcting. I felt sympathy for his poor wife when Norm said, "I own two kinds of clothes: clothes with paint on them, and clothes that are gonna to have paint on them." I wouldn't like doing his laundry.

Norm's joy in creativity shone as he worked, and his love for people shone as well as he welcomed questions, made jokes, gave information, explained what he was doing in mixing paints, highlighting architectural details, shadowing areas, creating a textured and "juicy" sky, etc. The evening slipped away so very quickly as Norm completed his painting -- well, it was 90% complete, he said. He'll do a few other things when he's not under fluorescent lighting in the library, he said. Perfectly understandable.

If you would like to see more of his work, you may check out his website here. I also have a few photos of the evening on my 365 blog here. We enjoyed an amazing evening with Norm as our Featured Artist, one that few of us will forget in a hurry. Thanks, Norm Daniels, arteeste extraordinaire!

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