Art News and Articles: FAR® Featured Artist

According to Plan

Emerging Artist Michael Trant


“When I paint, the canvas directs the action. It’s all about the release of energy. Shapes cling to the edge of reality, their meanings formed by a growing collective imagination. The transference of energy can be amazing if you are open to the experience.”

To hear Michael Trant talk about his art, you’d think he has been painting for most of his 39 years. To browse his website, you’d think you were looking at an artist whose style is moving into maturity after decades of work.

In both cases, you’d be mistaken. For here is an artist who clearly has a plan for what he wants to accomplish and whose example demonstrates the progress that can be made when one’s vision is clear and one’s energies are focused. You see, Michael has been at this for less than a year. Talk about emerging fully formed from the brow of Jove!

Yet, for all the roiling energy in Michael’s paintings, the evident kinship with Jackson Pollock doesn’t extend beyond the canvas. “A major theme that runs through my life and work is duality,” he explains. “It’s more evident in the Energy Series, where colors are fighting for balance. Another is motion. I want you to get a visual workout.”

“This was all pre-planned. I’ve been working on this transition for a few years now.”

Hardly the words you’d expect from a man who less than by a year ago was a senior accountant at a large Washington, DC, based public relations firm. When asked how someone who was obviously making a mark in the corporate world could simply walk away to pursue the insecure life of a painter, Michael’s response supports his assessment of the duality running through his life: “I needed business experience, so I dove into the corporate world to get it. I’m thankful for each and every opportunity I’ve had, but have always had something else in mind. This was all preplanned. I’ve been working on this transition for a few years now.”

Clearly, Michael was not swallowed whole by the corporate existence but instead, merely using it as a stepping-stone to get where he wanted to be. In retrospect, one should have seen it coming.

“My parents taught me the importance of everyday creativity.”

Early Years and Influences

Born in Alabama in 1968, Michael moved at a young age to St. Louis, where he grew up. He’d been artistic from boyhood, drawing as child and taking to photography as a youngster. “My parents taught me the importance of everyday creativity, which gives equal weight to all moments of inspiration,” he says.

At the University of Kansas, he studied architecture and then enrolled in Savannah College of Art and Design for graduate work in film and video.

With work as an assistant film editor, it looked as though he would establish a career in the film industry for himself. But when work slowed down, Michael jumped at the opportunity to get experience in business. So he shifted gears and trained as an accountant.

What followed was 10 years of immersion in the business side of life: inventories, payrolls, human resources, financial administration, credit management, a steady progression up the corporate ladder to success.

And while Michael may have harbored a dream to one day enter the art world, who knows exactly when it would have occurred had he not one day in February 2006 brought home the wrong kind of paint while renovating his house. “I bought the wrong sheen paint,” he says. “I decided to play around with the excess and did my first painting, an 8 X 10 study. I had always wanted to paint, but that night I up and did it. I painted half a dozen early pieces, most of which no longer exist.”

By then Michael could sense that his corporate career was peaking. Painting at night and on weekends, he prepared himself throughout the rest of the year for what he terms “a real journey of faith” on which he now finds himself.

Although Michael is just emerging onto the scene, he clearly has given art some thought all the while. He cites artist Paul Ryan, one of his professors from grad school, for giving him perception. Other influences that Michael credits include artist Mehmet Dogu for development of his eye; friend and fellow Phoenix artist, Kyle Jordre for “his guts;” Russian watercolorist Anatole Krasnyanksy for his balance of color; Jackson Pollock for his energy and Lee Krasner for her patience.

“My paintings have moments you don’t expect… after all, it’s there for you to experience.”

Asked to describe his art, Michael replies, “My paintings have moments you don’t expect, which are getting more refined as I paint. You can stand back, get inches from the surface or lose yourself anywhere in between. You are free to go wherever your imagination allows. After all, it’s there for you to experience.”

As an example of the unexpected, Michael cites his painting Whisper, 2007 from his Savannah Series. “You may see a face in the bottom right hand corner of the painting that looks like a person whispering. Someone else may see what looks like a person smoking, with smoke rising up through the piece. A surprised smoker may be asking another to whisper, so it’s all interconnected. I title my works to encourage that. Or you may see nothing at all, which is also a truth.”

Michael feels he has been preparing for this stage of his life for a long time. Even during his corporate years, he kept original art around when he began collecting. The inspiration generated by looking at and collecting others’ work kept his creative flame alive through this “dormant” period.

Making Certain These Beginning Steps Are Secure Ones

Having seen the art market from the collecting end, and having perceptive business acumen, Michael sees an encompassing viewpoint of the realities needed to make a successful foray into the art world. “Artists have traditionally looked to the past to guide them creatively and in business,” he explains. “Collectors, on the other hand, are beginning to look to the future when buying. I decided to start the Trant Gallery as a fully functioning online art gallery first, then build around it. I began where many collectors like to shop, at home.”

This forward-looking vision soon connected him to the most progressive art site anywhere on the web, Fine Art Registry™. “I met Theresa Franks (FAR® Founder and CEO) in Phoenix at an artist’s meeting and was impressed by how genuinely she wants to affect the art world,” Michael continues. “[For her] it’s not just about the registration of art or the database created, it’s about artists and collectors.”

When asked to describe the advantages of registering his work with FAR, Michael says, “It’s a perfect match for a new internet artist like me. As a collector, I know how important authenticity is. My paintings already include a COA [certificate of authenticity] and my website serves as a permanent archive, but FAR tags and registration offer an additional layer of protection most collectors now expect.

“I’ll continue to tag and register all my paintings with the Fine Art Registry, just prior to release on my website. Not only does it provide additional exposure, but adds value to the collector’s investment, so everyone wins.”

Michael’s current plans include exploring the online aspects of the art world, connecting with the myriad audiences out there on the web and finding out where his art generates interest. Though he’d love to see his art displayed, he’s confident that his work will improve, and Michael is nothing if not patient.

He also thinks big. “As far as the future,” he adds, “I’d like to eventually expand the Trant Gallery into a brick and mortar operation with other artists’ work as well, perhaps in multiple locations. Additionally, I’d like to add a museum component. So there is a much bigger picture, I just want to establish my name and reputation first.”

One comes away with the impression that events in Michael Trant’s life are pretty much happening right on schedule. And will continue accordingly for some time.

Collectors interested in the early work of a talented emerging artist, one with clear vision and an equally lucid plan, can see Michael’s portfolio at http://www.fineartregistry.com/portfolio/MichaelTrant.

by Dan Koon | July 9, 2007

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Chinese Calligraphy, Traditional and Modern

Featured Artist – Zhihu Zhang

by Lihua Zhao


The first Chinese artist to become a member of Fine Art Registry™ is master calligrapher Zhihu Zhang.
Read his story below.

An Ancient Tradition

Eight thousand years ago, near the Yellow River basin in China, the Ci Shan and Fei Ligang cultures emerged. In these areas, Chinese archeologists have unearthed pottery covered with symbols. These symbols were evidently used for communication, records, and for decorative motifs by the ancients. Although the writings were not true Chinese characters as they are known today, but rather appear to be predecessors of today’s Chinese writing.

Archaeologists later discovered in the middle of the Yellow River near Xi’an remains of another village — the Yangshao culture from 6,000 years ago. At this site they unearthed pottery with simple characters on it, different from the earlier ones. This constituted a step forward in what would ultimately become what we know as Chinese writing.

This can be considered to be the origin of Chinese characters. The first pictographs were an attempt to imitate or copy the item which the symbol represented. The characters had a certain aesthetic value and are considered prehistoric calligraphy.

The development of Chinese calligraphy to its current form spread over a period of 2,000 years through several dynasties: the first Dynasty of Chinese history, Xia Dynasty; Shang Dynasty; Zhou Dynasty; through Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period, to Qing Dynasty and Han Dynasty.

During that time, many different styles and kinds of calligraphy appeared one after the other. This progress included oracle bone inscriptions (these were carvings on “dragon bones” which were fossils of dead animals used in Chinese medicine), inscriptions on bronze, stone carving inscriptions and then, around the 5th century BC, we start to find examples of writing on bamboo strips, wood and cloth. This is the writing which has developed without much change into the traditional Chinese of today.

From all the fonts and styles which were developed, only a few came on down through the ages to be retained all the way to the present. These include the official script, the cursive hand, regular script and the seal character.

Zhihu Zhang, Fine Art Registry Member
It is interesting that the first Chinese artist to become a member of Fine Art Registry™, Zhihu Zhang, is a calligraphy artist, working very hard at his art. When he was five, influenced by his grandfather, he began learning calligraphy. Later, he was taught by the famous calligraphy artist Yan Zhenqing of the Tang Dynasty. When he was ten, he began to study with Ou Yangxun, another famous Tang Dynasty calligraphy artist. In his late teens, under the watchful eye of his grandfather, he began to combine both Yan Zhenqing and Ou Yangxun’s calligraphy styles. Through long and careful practice, he developed his own style.Although he does show and sell his work in Chinese art galleries, Zhihu decided that Fine Art Registry (FAR®) was a better vehicle for displaying and exhibiting his work. The galleries typically have hidden costs, expect 20% commission for any works sold and are generally quite expensive. FAR, on the other hand, has a very low membership cost, the tags are inexpensive, the online gallery is included in the membership and FAR never takes any commission for any work sold through the website. FAR also has a representative in China, Lihua Zhao, who looks after the Chinese members and helps them in any way possible.

All these advantages led Zhihu to choose FAR in order to show his work.

See Zhihu Zhang’s beautiful work at his Fine Art Registry website here.

Traditional vs. Modern

What’s the difference between modern Chinese calligraphy and traditional calligraphy?

  1. Modern calligraphy makes much greater allowance for the contemporary artist’s individuality. The traditional calligraphy reflects the ancients’ personality.
  2. Modern calligraphy is more open and flexible than the traditional which is more conservative and rigid. For example, traditional calligraphy requires that the pen strokes go back to hide the lines, whereas in modern calligraphy the lines are acceptable as-is.
  3. Modern calligraphy can break the strict rules of traditional calligraphy. For example, straight lines are allowed, whereas these are not part of traditional styles. The modern calligraphy artist is allowed to express his own taste, feelings and intellect.
  4. While traditional calligraphy was inherited from the ancients, modern calligraphy has introduced innovation and change, giving the artist a creative freedom not previously permissible.
  5. Traditional calligraphy tends to be all of one style whereas, modern versions show variety and self-expression. There is a great freedom in modern calligraphy to express yourself and experiment.

Modern calligraphy generally began as painting which has made it more valuable and appreciated, but the base has always been the characters and modern calligraphy, no matter how much it departs into artistic interpretation, is still very closely associated with the words. No matter what or how you write, what fonts you create, in the end you are portraying words, not images. Modern calligraphy has taken the characters and words almost to the point of abstract lines and shapes, but the words still show through.

Problems in the Development of Modern Chinese Calligraphy

As the practical value of calligraphy decreased, and the artists who produced the calligraphy started to lose their solid calligraphy base, the art form also suffered from the impact of Western culture. The spirit of the traditional art form was increasingly ignored, driven by the quest for fame and fortune. The work deviated from the Chinese characters and the basic requirement of calligraphy. Impulsive creativity ran wild. This left us with the current problem of how to uphold the best of traditional Chinese calligraphy while also reflecting modern culture and life.

In order for the traditional arts to prosper, and to promote the spirit of the times, protect the Chinese national culture and enhance the competitiveness of Chinese art, Chinese artists have been working to enter both modern and traditional calligraphy into the international market.

In order to secure the future of Chinese culture and traditions, modern calligraphy artists and the art world in China needs to reflect seriously on the contemporary trend of calligraphy and keep its future healthy and stable.

Collecting Calligraphy

Paper exists in many different forms: books, pictures, contracts, paper currency, etc., etc. Of recent years, collecting calligraphy has become much more popular, not only because of the appreciation of the art form, but also as an investment.

Here are five important points about collecting calligraphy:

  1. Be very careful to keep the pieces clean, free of oil stains, sweat, dust etc. Dust, acidic substances, fungi and other contaminants can eat away the paper, leave mildew and so on.
  2. It is extremely difficult to remove mould stains.
  3. Make sure that the paper is not prone to attack by insects which can destroy the work.
  4. Keep the pieces away from direct sunshine. The ultraviolet rays yellows the paper and makes it brittle and more likely to absorb moisture which brings with it mildew and rot.
  5. Apart from decay and insect damage, much of the damage to calligraphy pieces is manmade: fire, war, neglect, etc. Many precious ancient books, calligraphy, literature and painting have been lost through these causes.

Calligraphy in the Auctions

In the many art auctions, calligraphy has almost always been a mere window dressing.

However, in the autumn of 2006, the Chinese Jiade auction house unveiled what it called a “Collection of Chinese Calligraphy,” which consisted of the personal and individual ancient calligraphy pieces of a number of artists. More than 50 works of this event were all sold at very good prices. This had the effect of making the buying public sit up and take notice of calligraphy as a valuable and collectible art form.

Dong Guoqiang, General Manager of Beijing’s Kuangshi International Ltd. auction company said, “I am confident in the potential of the Chinese calligraphy auction market. Chinese calligraphy is a unique traditional art form, and the market prices are still quite low. Since the rise of the Chinese art auction market in the mid 1990s, the price of the calligraphy has remained low. I believe there are two reasons for this: 1) Calligraphy is more difficult to appreciate than paintings; 2) Because of cultural differences, foreign collectors find it harder to understand Chinese calligraphy. The calligraphy market price is undervalued. There has been a significant increase in calligraphy collection, which has reflected in the price, but there is still a lot of room for growth in this area. For those collectors who like calligraphy, this is still an excellent time to invest.”

The Future of Chinese Calligraphy

Modern calligraphy is just now entering into the international art market. It is in its early stages. Over a period of time, calligraphy artists will create new styles, the modern calligraphy will become a stable part of the market and will probably occupy equal space with the traditional style in the calligraphy field.

Modern Chinese calligraphy has infused society with a new spirit, a modern spirit, and has supplied modern society with an aesthetic and spiritual product which matches its needs. It is exuberant and creative and brings joy to the people who see it and value it. It has social value and reflects the achievements of modern China.

For these reasons, and as long as it doesn’t depart too drastically from traditional calligraphy and lose its roots, there is an open road ahead for modern Chinese calligraphy. The prospects are very bright for artists like Zhihu Zhang, the first Chinese artist to become a member of Fine Art Registry, who creates the pieces.

by Lihua Zhao | July 31, 2007

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A Self-Taught Artist in the Tradition of Yves Klein, not Grandma Moses

Featured Artist, Guy Lindenmuth

by Dan Koon

Not that there’s anything wrong with Grandma Moses. Her innocently rendered scenes of rural New England can charm the cynicism off the snootiest SoHo gallery owner. Her life and work are a testament to what can be achieved by anyone regardless of age or circumstance, not to mention the creative possibilities lying there just beyond academic tradition’s often stifling influence.

It wasn’t until avant-garde artists rebelled against the European Academies in the early 1900s that self-taught, or folk, artists were even acknowledged as existing. Henri Rousseau, self-taught, late-coming to art, was dismissed during his lifetime (1844 – 1910), yet created some of the most iconic images in all of modern art.

Like Grandma Moses, Rousseau’s art hews closely to the general assessment of self-taught artists, once described in this wise by The New York Times, “it is almost by definition an art of edges and intensities, of perspectives often shaped, harshly, by class or race or psychological isolation, producing unpredictably faceted pegs that don’t easily fit into a dominant culture’s round holes.”

One major artist outside even this self-taught “tradition” was French innovator Yves Klein, student of such disparate disciplines as judo and the hermetic Christian sect of Rosicrucianism, noted for his paintings of nudes where the model herself was covered in paint and pressed against the canvas, usually the brilliant blue color that he developed and which bears his name, International Klein Blue.

It’s more from this freer, more serendipitous branch of the self-taught tree that Guy Lindenmuth is emerging onto the scene. While most in the self-taught, Outsider, folk, however-you-want-to-describe-it school prefer to create their “edges and intensities” without much analysis, Guy says, “While technically, I would be considered a naïve artist, I am anything but naïve.” This self-assessment probably arises from Guy’s tendency to be somewhat dissatisfied with much of his work, a characteristic that would smack of nihilism were it not fueled by an intense passion to attain his artistic dream.

He describes himself as, “quite thoroughly self-taught. It has been generally a war of attrition over the years, painting almost every day and throwing out the ones that don’t work.

“Friends and family have salvaged some of the pieces over the years,” he continues, “it was always nice when someone actually likes something enough to take it and hang it on their wall. I always considered it a privilege to create something that someone else enjoys. Honestly, I don’t particularly like much of my own work, and often pieces end up in the trash. I’ve been trying to stop doing that as much lately.”

Clearly, here is an artist earnestly striving to capture a vision just beyond his grasp. For an artist so internally driven that can be frustrating, but Guy’s certainty that he will succeed becomes evident when he discusses the principles underlying his effort.

“I’m interested in what one would term pure creation rather than representation,” he explains. “I’m not opposed to the depiction of reality, nor do I suppose that abstraction is the best vehicle for expression, I’m not opposed to anything actually. All forms have their place and function. What I mean by pure creation, though, is that while human experience informs the visual projection, the central aspect of the process is more creative than imitative. The artist does not fill up space with meaningless mumbo jumbo, but rather creates spaces for the mind to inhabit.

“My work is concerned with the delicate balance between chaos and order. The intent is to describe the vast depths of human existence through the visual language and process of gesture. Through layers of interaction, a subtle, rhythmic meditation and dance develops where varied organic and geometric equations collide, interact and evolve.”

With aspirations this lofty, it’s not hard to see why Guy may not be pleased when he feels he hasn’t met them.


Born in 1976, Guy grew up in suburban Baltimore, Maryland, in a devout Mormon family. Though he attended a technical high school that emphasized computer technology, Guy’s interests ran more to the humanities, mainly religion and mythology. At a fairly early age, he’d already seen beyond the limits of the educational system and, as a self-described slacker, understood that the school curriculum and real learning were, more often than not, two ships passing in the night. Certainly not a requisite for artistic self-realization. The cave painters of Lascaux or those creators who incised cupules into the rocks of Australia had no diplomas.

Guy’s own journey to painting began with poetry as a teenager, then to fiction, mostly dabbling in it, before he developed an intense interest in music, specifically the piano and the genre of experimental industrial noise. But, while living in Philadelphia for a time after high school, he became aware of his absolute hatred for bare walls, and so his creative urge shifted from the aural to the visual.

He filled sketchbook after sketchbook, much of it, he describes with his usual tone of frank self-examination, “nonsensical gibberish”. Before his parents bought him his first easel, Guy matched their largesse by going out and buying some really expensive brushes, which left him no funds for canvas or paint. Painting, he says, can be an expensive hobby, but it’s now the focal point of his artistic life.

“After developing my techniques, actually rather slowly over the last 10 years, I’ve made some progress, and now I certainly feel more confident in the direction I’m traveling. I recently quit smoking (the hardest thing I’ve ever done) and am feeling rather renewed and energetic about synthesizing and solidifying my theories and approaches to art.”

“I’ve recently been reading Kandinsky, and also Joseph Campbell’s volume on Oriental Mythology as part of my journey towards understanding artistry as a type of meditation, or in other words, a religious ritual or dance. I’m interested in developing a mature and genuine poetic experience, though I am still struggling with the essential and rather large concepts, namely, dualities like chaos versus order. The most important aspect of an artistic life is developing what I term a ‘force of vision’, which is linked in a way I guess, to Kandinsky’s ‘inner necessity.’ But it is a cyclic concept, a process of refinement where new processes constantly become possible because of the previous, developing a momentum, a path towards the inner necessity, the artistic vision.”

Guy’s paintings reflect his philosophical ideas about painting. The dualities he mentions are certainly present — chaotic shapes fighting it out against a calm field. He’s experimented with acrylics, oils and watercolors, but prefers oils. Looking into the future, he’s also planning to stretch his own canvases using a finer quality Belgian linen, better stretchers and custom made gesso grounds. He feels that pushing the bar as high as possible for his supports will push the bar higher for the imagery that winds up on those supports.

It’s one more interesting aspect of Guy’s art, particularly in light of the process he uses to create it.

“At first there’s a bit of stumbling,” he explains. “I’m often not really sure where the composition is going. So I start slashing things up with lines, and then things gradually begin to come clearer. I try to give the painting what it needs in every moment. The fascination with the process becomes a type of meditative trance but sometimes it turns rather disastrous. My painting titled ‘Atrocity,’ for instance, really didn’t have much to do with any particular outside event, or politics. It was more of a realization of disgust after the piece was done. I thought the piece was rather brutal and that it was an atrocity I’m even allowed to paint like this and call it art.”

For all Guy’s apparent self-criticism, he’s more interested in the future. “Old paintings seem like the corpses of last year’s thought. Friends and acquaintances stop by and sometimes say they really like this or that piece, but I’m always thinking how I could have done this or that part a little better, or differently. In the end, though, you learn to live without regrets and simply, to use the cliché, go with the flow.”

Asked how he sees his role as an artist, Guy replies, “They say that art is the mirror of society and so I figure the job of the artist is to become reflective, and to project the hopes, and also the nightmares, of the generation. I figure the role of the artist is roughly analogous to the ancient sages, shamans and priests. The Tao Te Ching says that the sage has no mind of his own, but rather takes the mind of the people for his own; this is what I mean by becoming reflective.”

Path of Future Progress and How Fine Art Registry™ Fits In

Now living just outside of Seattle with his wife, Guy has created a website to give him a stable presence on the internet, which you can visit at www.esozeph.com. From here he can present his work but also publish the essays he plans to write about art history and theory.

Some time ago, he recognized the need to keep track of his growing body of work. This eventually led him to Fine Art Registry™ and this, he considers, an excellent find.

The FAR® service has helped me organize the business aspect of things an awful lot,” he says. “I was surprised that it took me so long to find it. I had been searching the internet for probably six months to a year looking for software tools to help in cataloging and issuing certificates of authenticity. I was even thinking of developing some sort of numbering system on my own when I came across the site. I didn’t have to ponder long before joining, and I’m usually quite hesitant regarding things like this, but they simply have a wonderful professional presentation, and are quite affordable also. It’s a win-win situation.

“I especially like that patrons can register their purchase. I think it helps to give everyone involved a certain peace of mind that the artwork is a genuine original.”

Because of the high volume of traffic on the Fine Art Registry site, more visitors link to an artist’s own site, thereby increasing his or her visibility. As Guy’s work continues to develop, this will continue to give him added exposure, but though he certainly is interested in selling his work, he’s also patient. “I’ve been accused of underselling my work by quite a few people here and there,” he says, “and I suppose the prices are rather low, but I still consider this my ‘early’ work and I don’t really see any reason to artificially inflate my prices. As I get better over the years and hopefully, gain more of a solid track record, then of course the prices will go up.”

The larger aspect of his future plans include, he continues, “a more polished presentation and creating a more distinctive synthesis of organic and geometric abstraction. I plan on occasionally entering juried contests.”

Soon, his work will be shown at the Laluna Gallery and Wine Bar in a Washington, DC, suburb where patrons will be able to view his uniquely personal style firsthand. The rest of us can content ourselves with following his development here on the Fine Art Registry website, since his plans also include tagging each new piece as it becomes ready to sell. Either way, we are lucky to be able to follow the emergence of this serious, insightful, passionately committed artist.

As with other self-taught artists who have made their marks, Guy Lindenmuth demonstrates that creative expression is ultimately the product of an individual with desire and a vision, and all the lessons in Academia will never supplant that. You can see proof by visiting Guy’s portfolio at www.fineartregistry.com/portfolio/GuyLindenmuth.

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Dan Koon  |  August 16, 2007  |  Print VersionPDF PDF 3.69 Mb


Chinese Fine Art Registry™ Member, Dasheng Hu, Carries on a Long Tradition of Chinese Landscape Painting

by Lihua Zhao

China and landscape painting

China has an extensive tradition of landscape painting, with recorded and preserved works going back almost to the beginning of the first millennium A.D. The earliest landscape painting appeared from the Wei Dynasty and Jin Dynasty, (A.D. 220 – 420). This genre was as important in China as portrait painting, and stayed that way all the way through to the Sui and Tang dynasties, (A.D. 581 – A.D. 907) and to the present day.

Some of China’s greatest landscape painters, Zhan Ziqian, Li Sixun and Wang Wei emerged during the Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty.

The traditional medium of Chinese landscape painting was ink and wash, although watercolor has also been much used. It can be said of Chinese landscape painting that it fully matured, and gradually formed a separate branch of painting.

In order to produce these masterpieces, the best and most famous landscape painters immersed themselves in nature, and gained a full appreciation of the splendor of China’s scenery, rivers, trees, mountains and valleys. They found that they are subjects very worthy of being represented in painting. To complete the canvas, they then devoted themselves to creation.

In the 17th century, landscape painting in China began to flourish even more. Along with it appeared the seascape, the nocturne, the streetscape and other landscape categories.

In the19th century, Chinese artists turned more from the formal look which traditional landscape painting had kept up to that point, toward a more naturalistic representation of scenery, the mountains and sea, autumn scenery, morning mists and scenes that had not been depicted so much up to this time. Later in the 19th century, the landscape painters began to use chiaroscuro and delicate color harmonization which brought the landscape painting to its fully developed state.

In the 20th century, through constant innovation and improvement of methods and materials, the works became more real, more alive, more emotional and more meaningful. The market expanded.

The merging of Eastern and Western cultures is having a profound effect on Chinese art, including the traditional representation of the landscape. China’s national aesthetic concepts have long determined the appearance of the country’s landscape painting but, by incorporating Western artistic sensibilities, the work of the contemporary Chinese landscape painter will display even more vitality and brilliance in the years to come.


Dasheng Hu

Dasheng Hu, pen name Yang Zhi, one of the most recent Chinese artists to join the ranks of Fine Art Registry™, was born in 1945 in Gansu, China.

When he was growing up, Dasheng lived and worked in the Hexi Corridor and Longman Mountains in Gansu. He spent much time in the mountains and also crossed the sea and traversed the jungle, immersing himself in nature and gaining experiences and images which would later be reflected in his painting. He also visited places famous for their art, such as Dun Huang, Mai Ji Shan, both in the province of Gansu. He got a thrill out of exploring the artistic heritage of his native land and, over the years, acquired the spirit of the art. He combined all these perceptions and concepts into a tasteful and somewhat abstract style which also embraces the rhythm and circular shapes of calligraphy.

Dasheng bases his work on a deep and thorough understanding of all aspects of China’s rich tradition of landscape painting. He studied in the Fine Arts Department of the Northwest University under Han Buyan, a very close student of the famous artist Qi Baishi. With this teacher’s instruction, he acquired a solid foundation in the techniques of traditional Chinese landscape painting, which became his specialty. Dasheng learned landscape painting by studying the famous artists of the Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty, especially from the Yuan Dynasty artist Wu Zhen; also from Ming Dynasty artist Tang Yin; and the well known Qing Dynasty artists Shi Tao, Shi Xi and Huang Binhong.

Since he learned the traditional styles from Han Buyan, Dasheng has been considered superior in skill to many other Chinese landscape painters. After several decades of study and practice he became so expert with the pen that his work is considered on a par with Mr. Buyan’s traditional style.

Dasheng carved himself a beautiful signature block of characters with which he signs his pieces.

For many years, Dasheng himself taught landscape painting at the university. In recent years he has made in-depth studies of modern famous landscape artists such as Zhang Daqian, Lu Yanshao and others. He researched their works, their methods and style and gained a profound understanding which helped him in his teaching and in his own art. Dasheng can be considered a modern master of Chinese landscape painting. Without experiencing the Chinese scenery, the mountains, the water, clouds, trees and architecture and delving deep into traditional Chinese landscape painting and living with nature over a period of many years, it is very difficult to achieve the mastery that Dasheng displays in his work.

Dasheng combines Western modernist art, especially abstract art, with his own paintings, showing great flexibility in his portrayal of trees, stones, clouds, water, etc. The result is a combination of traditional Chinese painting, his own inspiration from nature, and the creative freedom of someone who can see beyond the rules and traditions. His work shows that he has a very solid foundation of traditional methods and styles. His landscape painting is focused on formal beauty but is independent from the traditional pen and ink.

Basis for success

Dasheng’s own view is that “Artistic development must be founded on the essence of traditional arts, and any departure from the traditional artistic concepts and any innovation tends to be superficial and skin deep.” This is why his work is so firmly rooted in traditional Chinese artistic fundamentals, even though he has created his own unique style by adding in some Western methodology.

But there is yet another factor which has contributed to Dasheng’s success and sets him aside from many professional painters. He had a very extensive grounding in traditional culture, philosophy and the humanities. Dasheng spent more than ten years studying books such as Kongzi, Mengzi, Laozhuang and the great philosophers, educators and thinkers. He studied Buddhism and aesthetics and other material from ancient books, while also studying calligraphy and art history and theory.

Dasheng is also a poet and an accomplished writer. This learning, and these skills and accomplishments, have combined into a gentle artistic style. Mr. Wei Zhonglin, a professor at Guangdong Shaoguan College said of Dasheng’s work: “His foundation of integrity to the Chinese traditional culture has set him apart from most other painters.”

Despite the variety in Dasheng’s work, each piece is elegant and in excellent taste and valued so highly because of the intellectual content and values.

Dasheng’s achievements in landscape painting

Dasheng’s masterpieces were featured in numerous important exhibitions and won many awards between 1987 and 1999. He has had solo exhibitions between 2000 and 2002, and in 2002 the paintings in his solo show in Hong Kong were also published in full in Hu Dasheng Paintings. He is a member of the international Art Union Association, committee member of the China Cultural Arts Association, a member of Guangdong Art Association and other art-based organizations.

Finding Fine Art Registry

Dasheng Hu is also the first Chinese landscape painter to join Fine Art Registry™. Now that his landscape paintings have achieved widespread acclaim, he was looking to expand internationally and gain more exposure for his work abroad. He says, ” I need such a good site to work with, because FAR® offers so many services, and Lihua Zhao, FAR representative in China, has been able to help me. FAR is available worldwide and opens a huge potential market. Not only will I be able to sell more works but also I can read articles and gain knowledge which is so great!”

It is also great for FAR to count Dasheng Hu among its membership and to be able to contribute to the preservation of the long tradition of Chinese landscape painting which he embodies.

View Artist's FAR Portfolio

by Lihua Zhao  |  October 1, 2007  |  Print VersionPDF PDF (1.25 Mb)


Southern California Plein Air Master

Fine Art Registry™ Member, Ebrahim Amin

by Dan Koon

“I know I am always in a state of learning. And thus always look forward to studying new aspects of art. I therefore am continuously excited at what I might discover tomorrow, in a month, or even in five years. I always find myself asking “What stirring and thrilling journeys might the unread pages of the book My Life in Art contain?”

With an attitude and approach like that, it is no mystery that the paintings of Southern California artist Ebrahim Amin so effortlessly capture the natural splendor he finds on his plein air excursions throughout California and the American Southwest. From the glories of Yosemite to Napa’s rolling wine country hills to Carmel missions at last light to the coast of his Laguna Niguel home, Ebrahim’s paintings are testimony to the joy he finds in expressing nature through art.

Decades of experience are apparent in the fluid brushwork, masterly use of pure color and satisfying harmonies, not so easy to attain when one is out of doors, working alla prima, the sun is moving, the wind is blowing and one basically has a single shot to get it right. But Ebrahim gets it right, as anyone can tell from his Fine Art Registry portfolio.

A carefully crafted, disciplined approach enables him to succeed. “I think that one paints purely when one is not using ones brain,” he explains. “For example, when you first learn how to drive you are actively using your brain to guide you. But once you have become skilled at driving, you no longer actively use your knowledge of driving, which at this point has become a subconscious activity. You don’t drive anymore to LEARN, but to pursue and accomplish A GOAL. To obtain such a state of mind in art is very difficult. Case in point: the instances when I create an exceptional piece of work are the times when I have fully submerged and surrendered myself to the act of painting.”

One might also say that this same discipline has enabled him to continue to pursue his art through some very trying times.

Early Years and Training

Born in Iran’s oldest city, Hamedan, in 1950, Ebrahim moved with his family to Tehran, where he began drawing around age seven and discovered oil paints at age fourteen. Oil’s slow drying nature became an advantage for the inexperienced Ebrahim. “By working on just one piece for a long period of time,” he says, “I was able to eventually perfect that piece of work. So that even after a few years when I reviewed my work during that period, I found minimal mistakes.”

He found a source of encouragement in an uncle, himself a talented musician and art lover. This uncle became a role model for Ebrahim and when he discovered that his young nephew was learning to draw and paint with no formal knowledge, he took him to an artist friend who let Ebrahim come to his studio after school to draw and paint. Instead of going to movies or hanging out with friends after school, he went to his first mentor’s studio. Though the training was not particularly academic and focused heavily on the calligraphic tradition of Persian art, it opened his mind to art, and Ebrahim counts it among his formative experiences. Those afternoons bore fruit when, at age 14, he won the yearly painting competition among all the high schools in Tehran. That same year two of his paintings were chosen from among works by artists all over Iran for inclusion in an exhibition hosted by the Italian embassy. These early successes validated his efforts and spurred him onwards.

By seventeen, he made his first sales and soon after received a ten painting commission. By this time, Ebrahim knew he wanted to experience more of the world of art and entered the Art Institute of Kamal-al-Molk in Tehran. In two years of study, he developed a solid foundation in draftsmanship and painting.

And as so often happens in life, another door opened for Ebrahim when he was ready. His father was a truck driver and took Ebrahim on a trip to the north of Iran, giving him an opportunity for a vacation. There he met his next mentor, a Russian artist named Alexander, who had come across the border from Russia to paint.

He and Ebrahim had only a little English in common, but with art they could have conversations, and this period became a revelation for the young artist. Alexander exposed him to ideas and techniques he hadn’t learned at Kamal-al-Molk and this is where Ebrahim first learned to really look at a painting, to look carefully at one’s subject. It began what has become a lifelong process of, as Ebrahim says, “Continuously challenging myself, exploring every aspect of art, and observing current masters – in order to absorb and incorporate various elements into my style – rather than just mimicking.”

In other words, the learning process has never ended. Through the years, Ebrahim has found himself influenced by a multitude of artists and specifically cites John Singer Sargent, David Leffel and the Russian colorist Sergei Bongart as particularly influential. Above them all, however, he places American landscape artist Edgar Alwin Payne. Payne’s scenes have left a deep impression on Ebrahim, who finds that they continually fill him with awe.

Emigration to Germany

Following his training and mentoring, Ebrahim continued his fledgling career and sold his paintings in galleries throughout the country and eventually established a gallery of his own. But the Islamic Revolution in 1979 brought fundamental changes at all levels of Iranian society, with which not all Iranians agreed. By 1986, Ebrahim had decided that life would be better elsewhere and he, his wife and two sons began the ordeal of finding a new homeland. Ebrahim left first, and went to Munich, Germany. He arrived not knowing, literally, where he would go or what he would do.

He stopped someone on the street and asked if they knew of a hotel where he could stay. The man replied, yes, he knew of a good hotel where a lot of Persians stayed. And as luck would have it, within his first hour – not day or week – in Germany, Ebrahim was able to continue his art career.

It so happens that when Ebrahim went to his room, he was unpacking his belongings, which included a couple of paintings. The owner came to his room to welcome his new tenant, saw the paintings, told Ebrahim that he himself was also a painter, took him to a large, fully furnished studio on top of the hotel. “He said, ‘If you want to paint, you can start right now. Everything is here for you. By the way, I am connected with galleries here in Munich and they are looking for work such as yours.’ The next day I started painting and painting and painting,” says Ebrahim. “Within my first hour, I found my job and my way.” Talk about a cat landing on its feet!

Ebrahim took advantage of his new friend’s generosity and continued painting, and selling, while getting his wife and sons from Iran, through five years in Munich and five more in Cologne.

California and the Discovery of Plein Air

Many Iranians left the country after the revolution with three-quarters of a million settling in Southern California. Ebrahim had friends there, and in the mid 1990s, he came for a visit. This trip was a revelation for him in a meteorological sense and marked another turning point in his career.

“In Germany,” he continues, “I was always painting inside because most of the time it is rainy and cloudy throughout the year. When I came to California, it was such nice weather, close to Iran’s weather, it was so interesting to me that I decided to move one more time. But this time it wasn’t from the force of the government, but my own desires.”

And so, Ebrahim undertook another artistic challenge. Plein air painting, he feels, is the hardest aspect of painting to master. “For the first year or second year,” he explains, “an artist painting outside cannot do a good job. You have to finish your work in one or two hours because the light changes and doing a good job requires that you paint with your whole brain, your whole energy and your whole knowledge. It’s like an operation. You don’t have time to redo your work or correct it. Everything has to be your final decision.

“At first it was very, very difficult for me, but my lifetime of experience helped. After a year I could create good works. Plein air is the most important and most pure type of painting and when you do a good job many, many things come out – atmosphere, climate – without your thinking about it because you’re working mostly with your feelings.”


When asked what he’s trying to do with his art, Ebrahim replies, “I try to portray the untold and hidden beauties of nature or a particular pose, which is often left unnoticed by people walking by. This allows me to impart peace, pleasure, and relaxation to the world. So that when someone declares ‘Even after all these years, I still obtain pleasure when viewing your artwork’, I feel very satisfied and closer to my goal of providing happiness as well as enjoyment.

Although Ebrahim has worked in watercolors and pastels, in oils he finds the freedom, variety and power that suit his rapid approach to painting. Years of practice make it possible for him to finish a painting in three hours. He takes his plein air techniques and applies them to his studio still lifes and even portraits. As a result, his figurative works convey a liveliness that many figure studies lack. And with his superb draftsmanship, Ebrahim is quite capable of capturing a living personality in paint.

Another Piece of Good Luck – Discovering Fine Art Registry™

Always seeking more and more information about art, Ebrahim daily searches the Internet for new artists, new modes of expression, new vistas, what’s happening in the art world, in the art market. One day he happened across the Fine Art Registry website.

“I read it and found it a very interesting idea,” he says. “Many times I thought about what happens with my paintings. When I sell them, where are they? If I’ve sold a good painting, how will I be able to look at it again after some years? I found that Fine Art Registry is a good solution for these things. Right away I contacted FAR and signed up. This idea should be shared with many artists and galleries because it is unique.”

Ebrahim has currently registered works he feels are of exceptional quality and says that “By doing so, the registered and tagged paintings obtain an identity and thus will be even more appreciated by a customer since the painting is presented in a more professional manner.”

Continuing to tag and register his paintings will surely add value for his growing list of clients. Ebrahim is a regular participant in the Laguna Art Festival, La Quinta Art Festival, La Jolla Art Festival, Carmel Art Festival, Sonoma Plein Air Competition, and he participates in various other events, most recently the Las Vegas Art Expo.

He’s not keen about disclosing specific plans for the future because, as he says, “To have a plan as an artist is very hard. You can say, ‘I’m going in this way,’ but every day I am waiting to find something new in painting, to discover something and when I do, it corrects my direction.”

With such a long and successful career, one could write a book about Ebrahim’s life in art, and in fact that is one future plan he has committed himself to.

You can see more of Ebrahim’s landscapes, still lifes and figurative works at his gallery in Laguna Beach, on his website, www.aminart.com, and at his Fine Art Registry gallery.

View Artist's FAR Portfolio

by Dan Koon  |  November 6, 2007  |  Print VersionPDF PDF (1.25 Mb)


Chinese Contemporary Artist, Huanbin Cai, Joins Fine Art Registry™ to Expand His Horizons

Fine Art Registry™ Member, Huanbin Cai

by Lihua Zhao

Huanbin Cai, nicknamed Chase, was born in a working class family in the city of Shantou in Guangdong province in 1980. But from an early age Chase had a great interest in painting. He often used comic strips and cartoon books as the source materials from which to draw inspiration for his paintings.

In 1993, he began to study painting formally under well-known Shantou artist Cai Baolie. Born in 1945, Cai Baolie is a member of the Chinese Art Society and China’s Industrial Design Society, is Vice-Chairman and Secretary-General of Shantou City’s Art Association, and is one of Shantou City’s most talented artists.

Cai Baolie’s works have been selected for many National Art Exhibitions and he has received many awards for his art. Some of his outstanding works have been included in the collections of the Chinese Fine Art Museum and Guangdong Fine Art Museum, and have been published in the Japanese Anthology of Chinese Modern Fine Art. He has also exhibited at the China Museum of Fine Art. He was a great master for Huanbin to study under.

In 1999, Huanbin Cai studied at the Shantou University College of Art, where he learned Chinese styles of painting, oil painting, water colors, installation art and other related subjects.

In 2002, his work was shown for the first time at the National Watercolor Association exhibition. After that, Huanbin was firmly on the road to creation which earned him the attention of the local art association, until in 2007 when he joined the Association of Chinese Artists.

Chase used his own life experiences and emotions as the main creative subject matter. He said “When I close my eyes, there always emerge in my mind so many exciting images, I firmly believe that this subconsciously represents the most authentic, most personalized symbols of inspiration. When identifying creative themes, I usually use these images. To finish my creation, when I paint, my emotion and desire always bring me many pleasant surprises.”


“Usually I use oil, acrylics, watercolors, xuan paper (a famous paper produced in Sichuan which is used for painting), and ink, and many other media,” continues Chase. “Only by fully utilizing the diversity of painting materials will I be able to provide the greatest variety of personal artistic expression. Therefore, a distinction of the types of painting for me is of little significance. So I do not specifically define my artworks, since some people may find that I use a certain kind of material to create works of greater vitality.”

Every one of Huanbin’s paintings is just like a story, showing the life of a scene, capturing the beauty of a moment in time, reflecting the realities of life. His works portray in depth, the meaning of life. When you examine his paintings carefully, you cannot fail to appreciate the energy and vitality with which he has combined scenes from life with his own feelings, opening a window on some small detail of the world for all to see. Let us go with him to taste life.

Since 2002, many of his pieces have been chosen for major exhibitions, especially in 2006 when one of his works called Uncle’s Yard was included in the International Chaoshanren Youth Art Exhibition, and received an outstanding award.

Chase and Fine Art Registry™

Chase heard of Fine Art Registry from Lihua Zhao, FAR® representative in China, who gave him a great deal of introductory information on the organization. Of his current situation he says, “Since I began to create paintings, I have never sold any of them although my pieces were shown in several exhibitions. I don’t feel that there is a good chance to sell my works in China because there are so many replicas and copies around. Nobody will know if my work is original work or a replica. I have always waited for a good chance, a good platform on which to show my work. And finally I recognized in Fine Art Registry what I have been looking for.

“Under the influence of the high prices fetched by contemporary art – the social fame and fortune factors and so on – the art market in China has run into disorder and confusion,” continues Chase. Fakes, copies, replicas and forgeries have greatly impacted on the market and have been very damaging to the interests of buyers and collectors.

“In China, there is the problem that when artists register lots of original artworks on the free sites (online sales galleries), if these original artworks are found by the gangs of forgers, they make use of them for mass production and sales with unimaginably bad consequences for the artists and the buyers. So how do you know if a work is original? The answer is in Fine Art Registry.

“Most people still insist on originals and have no desire to deal with criminals. Our real admiration is for the artists who live just for creating art, never just for the money.”

Chase heard of the solution Fine Art Registry offers to the problems of authenticity and provenance and greatly agreed with the concept. It is the conditions of society which have brought Fine Art Registry into existence.

Without such strict regulation of the art market, original artists face a dark future and a difficult life. In the end the fakers and forgers turn art into shoddy work done to make a living and totally lose sight of the spiritual and ideological concepts of creative art.

FAR tags greatly protect the original artists’ copyright, allowing their works to smoothly enter the international market, not only fetching a better price, but also helping to protect the interests of the buyers or the collectors who buy the artist’s work for their artistic value but also as investment in the arts. So Chase tags and registers his paintings and the FAR website is the record of his works, permanently and forever. It’s just being able to establish that provenance for his clients.

Chase also has hopes that FAR can provide him room for development in the USA and other countries outside China. He wants to develop his art from outside the country as he feels China has no room for him to develop as a creative artist with his social themes. He wants to develop his art from abroad to begin.

For all these reasons Chase decided to join Fine Art Registry, hoping to explore new markets, mainly in the USA, and that his works will be accepted by buyers or collectors. That’s his dream.

View Artist's FAR Portfolio

by Lihua Zhao  |  December 5, 2007  |  Print VersionPDF PDF (1.25 Mb)



The Georgia Red Mud Painter

Fine Art Registry™ Member, Steven Chandler

by Dan Koon for Fine Art Registry™

Someday, not too long from now, judging by the way things are going, Georgia folk artist Steven Chandler will be able to rock back and forth contentedly on the porch of his art empire, wave an arm to indicate all he sees and explain, “I owe it all to my dog and my cat. Ya see, one day it was pouring down rain, and…”

But, we’re getting a little ahead of our story. That’s easy to do when talking about The Georgia Red Mud Painter, as Steven refers to his artistic self. Here is an emerging artist who has an intuition about how the Internet has democratized our society, including the art world and he is running with it!

Now, when you think of that category called “folk art,” different things can come to view: iron weather vanes, handcrafted quilts, quaintly decorated bird houses, paintings by simple folk who never came within a country mile of an art school, lots of things fill the mind. But “sophisticated marketing acumen” doesn’t make it into that particular Venn diagram. Neither does “media savvy.”

So, how is one to explain that Steven’s paintings, painted on wood or matte board or pizza boxes have commanded up to $1,000 on eBay? Clearly, there is something about him or the age we’re living in.

Before the Internet, you wouldn’t find two folk artists tearing one another’s heads off, artistically speaking, like the WWE cyber smack down currently occurring between Steven and another folk artist, Chickenbones George from Texas. You can’t really tell how serious the battle is, but if you look at their videos on YouTube, it’s somewhat reminiscent of how Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier used to go at it before one of their legendary championship fights – probably entertaining for both parties and everybody who’s watching. Though Steven makes these for fun, he’s establishing a definite presence for himself and his art on the ‘net.

There’s another aspect to Steven’s art, though, and this cuts more closely to the heart of the matter. There is something about his art that resonates with a growing number of people.

Steven’s paintings always have a story behind them. He’s not content to paint a pretty picture to hang on a wall. His painting Jake Leg Man tells the story of a man drinking a deadly concoction in Jamaica that gives a good drunk until it begins to destroy the drinker’s motor coordination and eventually kills him. Giant Man in a Magnolia Tree is about a giant who gets tired walking about the Georgia countryside and needs to rest, so he sits down in a tree because, being a giant, they don’t make chairs big enough for him. But recently he did a painting that simply posed a question and it generated an Internet fire storm.

Michael Vick Rides Barbaro

Once upon a time there was a supremely gifted athlete named Michael Vick. He could do things on a football field that no one had ever seen. His freaky talents brought him the adulation of football fans everywhere. His contract called for the Atlanta Falcons to pay him $130 million. Endorsements brought him millions more. In other words, here was a guy who had it made, not only for himself, but for his family and his family’s families for generations to come. Unfortunately, Michael’s zillion dollar talent was being controlled by a 10 cent head. And his charmed life has come crashing down around him because of his involvement in the despicable, and illegal, activity of dog fighting.

Once upon another time there was another supremely gifted “athlete,” a horse named Barbaro. Barbaro won the 2006 Kentucky Derby going away and was set to becoming the first Triple Crown winner in decades. Tragically, however, coming out of the gate two weeks later at the Preakness Stakes, Barbaro shattered his right hind leg. His racing career was finished and after months of intense medical care he had to be euthanized.

As Michael Vick’s story was dominating the headlines this past summer, something was gnawing at Steven. Dog fighting, reprehensible. Horse racing, noble. “The sport of kings,” even. Missing entirely from the Barbaro saga were the less noble aspects of horse racing – the selective breeding of horses for speed only, not durability; the shipping horses off to meat packing plants once their racing careers are finished; the doping and cheating that goes on. In other words, cruelty to animals but, unlike dog fighting, of a legalized sort.

Steven’s response was to do a painting, the now famous, Michael Vick Rides Barbaro. Steven put the painting up on eBay like he does with many other of his works, expecting to get some bids and hoping to sell it for a good price. He wasn’t ready for the eruption that followed. The Q&A section where you can write the seller to ask a specific question about an item became an open forum for discussion about the painting, its message, Steven’s artistic style and talents, his feeling about animals, his character, etc. Within days, Steven was getting messages from people saying that they had been offered the painting by another seller, probably indicating that someone had copied the work and was offering it for sale as the original.

Horse lovers, especially a group called the Fans of Barbaro, were particularly incensed at seeing their horse ridden by the disgraced Vick in a prison uniform. Another forum opened up on a horse racing website devoted solely to a discussion of the painting. At least one other site was discussing the painting. As with all great art, people began interpreting the painting from their own perspectives. Some thought Steven was in favor of dog fighting! Some thought he hated animals. Some wanted his hide. Others acclaimed him the new star in socially conscious painting.

Tiring of the flame wars, Steven seriously considered taking the painting down. His supporters wouldn’t hear of it. The controversy raged on. People accused him of playing on Barbaro’s tragic story simply to make money. To prove his sincerity and to challenge the Fans of Barbaro crowd to prove theirs, he offered to keep the painting up for auction but to donate the proceeds to a charity for retired racehorses, got in touch with one and announced his plan.

In the end, his critics’ indignation remained open, but their wallets remained closed: the auction was won by none other than Fine Art Registry™ and will become part of its permanent collection.

Never one to back down from a fight, the Fans of Barbaro may have gotten more than they bargained for. Some of the sentiments they expressed have inspired Steven to memorialize them for all time with a new painting, Friends of Barbaro. Ouch!

The color of the sheets may have changed but Steven makes it plain that the intolerance remains the same.

Early Interest in Art

Growing up an Air Force brat, Steven moved around a lot and found himself having to make and remake his mark in new communities. Born on Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, he has lived in Cape Canaveral, Houston and Vandenberg AFB in California, among others. His father was a Strategic Air Command officer and later worked in the space program; and Steven remembers being taken down into missile silos with his dad as a kid, meeting the crews and seeing the actual big red button. He has seen a lot of rocket launches at Canaveral and proudly remembers his dad being in Mission Control during Apollo 13.

When asked how he got involved in art, Steven replies, “I started kindergarten. One day I crawled up a ladder and with a crayon drew large animals on the side of our base house. I got one of my only whuppins for that.”

“I caught snakes and frogs and spiders and tried to dissect them with my mother’s cutlery. Everyone thought I was weird and I made funny noises and voices to annoy my two older half sisters. I also built large airplane sculptures in the back yard with boulders, wood planks and hobbyhorses. They would stay up for weeks.

“In school I drew constantly –t war zones, airplanes, shark attacks… you could not close my desk top because of the drawings. But instead of praise, encouragement and understanding, I got tested to see if I was crazy. Grown-ups yelled at me for not listening. They started testing me for autism.

“They finally tested my hearing – I was deaf. I had an operation and my ears were drained and I was all better, but I still drew pictures a lot and chased snakes – sometimes rattlesnakes.”

Clearly, Steven wasn’t crazy (except maybe the chasing rattlesnakes part). It wasn’t always a Tom Sawyer life, though. Living on missile base, Steven recalls. “The end of the world topic was always on the Air Force kids’ minds. There was a big difference between us and the civilians of the outside world. Being an Air Force kid in the height of the Cold War was always tinted with the knowledge that where you lived was the first to be targeted when the countdown came, the two keys were turned and the big red button was pushed. The bowl haircuts sucked too – but being around all those cool airplanes was worth it for me and they ended up in many drawings.”

This was where Steven made a connection with an artist beyond his own kid’s sketches. He went on a field trip to the Harry S. Truman Library in Kansas City and there he saw the giant murals of Thomas Hart Benton “Those paintings and the movie we had to watch about him really opened my eyes to painting,” Steven says. “I loved his gestural figures. Later, I discovered many American artists from social realism to be an influence, particularly Jacob Lawrence.”

He planned to go to college at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, and you might not be reading this article today but for the tragic Challenger Space Shuttle disaster in 1986. After that, the Air Force scrubbed a lot of its program and Vandenberg AFB, near Lompoc, which was on the verge of becoming the West Coast’s Cape Canaveral, rapidly downsized. Steven’s father moved the family to Denver and Steven decided to head to South Carolina where his grandfather had a farm.

In Steven’s words, “I got there and worked hard – slopping pigs, driving hay bales to the cattle on the tractors, mending fences, castrating bulls and many other god-awful things you do on a farm. We ate weird things too….pig balls and cow balls for breakfast, brains and eggs….tripe.

“I was submerged in a culture that I had never thought existed. People said ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No Ma’am.’ The thing to do was talk about red necks and cruise the mall. I argued racism with them and they weren’t sure what I was. I wasn’t a Yankee, but what I was, they just didn’t know. I was hard to classify.

“I worked a lot out on the farm with my granddad’s black farm hand, Eddy. I drew a lot of cartoons while sitting around the kitchen table drinking white lightning and playing cards. The cartoons were usually on napkins and consisted of Grandpa and Eddy getting drunk together. They all thought it was funny. We did have a lot of good times then and I got a lot of stories from it. My granddad was a great story teller and when he talked you were mesmerized. They said he had the Monkey dust, a kind of magic that card players have when they win. He won land, cars and even an airplane.”

“But the roots, they will grow on you for sure. I learned my great-great grandfather fought for the Georgia Second Calvary and was an escort for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the Klux Klux Klan. My great-great grandfather was struck down by lightning on his horse near the Georgia -Tennessee border during the battle of Chattanooga. Only his boots were left. He is buried in the Civil War cemetery at UT Chattanooga…well, his boots are. It was stories like that, those are my roots and what inspire many of my paintings now.”

Just like it was hard for people to put Steven in a box as a person, it’s hard to classify whether he has been trained as an artist or not. After a trip back to Colorado to consider college he decided to return to South Carolina and enrolled in Lander College in Greenwood.

“I took all the standard classes and did well,” he says. “But when it came to art classes I clammed up. I just didn’t like working around others, and drawing models freaked me out. One day I just quit, went over to a corner, put my Walkman headphones on and started gluing crumpled pieces of paper to each other. That led to my paper bag paintings. People would say stuff to me like ‘you are so crude,’ and I thought they were insulting me. Folk art was mentioned to me but I didn’t know what that was. I just did my own thing and they liked it and encouraged me to keep it up!”

His aspirations were for a career in photography and Steven concentrated on that and graduated in 1992 with a BA in Photography and minors in Japanese language and oriental philosophy.

In 1995, it was back to California, now with his wife, pregnant with their first child, and 500 paintings. There were rough times financially but remarkably, Steven continued to grow as an artist and as a student of art.

“When I was in South Carolina people would tell me you need to take it to New York,” he recalls. “I never did. Instead I always found myself in the working class world where art was considered lofty or else something little old ladies did down at the local arts association or things you see at the craft shows on a Sunday afternoon.

“My dad always said to quit dreaming. He never understood that this was just something I did. I never thought of making money with it or becoming some name. I did read a lot of art bios and theory books and when I would start going over his head or anyone’s head they looked at me like I was crazy.

“I have a working class attitude towards making art in a way though, a folk artist approach. It is hard for me to talk to artists, students or professors who didn’t have to dig in dumpsters for food like me, or be on welfare for ten years with a college degree with honors and have other people blame you for that because you were an artist. They never considered the crappy job market or anything else. The paintings I have made at the worst times in my life are not for sale. They are here to remind me of how bad things can be inside and on the outside. They remind me that there is always hope.”

Steven’s Dog, Red Mud and Art

Though he’s now living the life of a Southern good ol’ boy, on the surface at least, Steven knows that where his art is at the moment is simply that – where it is now.

“Primitive cave art influenced my search for texture,” he says. “Since the late 1980s, I had wanted to do paintings that looked like they were on a cave wall, so I started gluing bags onto canvas. Because of that, I started hearing the term ‘Outsider Art.’ That’s a misnomer and is a label I don’t agree with. Picasso’s borrowing of other styles influenced me, his study of Velasquez influenced my study of artists I admire. I understood from him, that no matter what you are influenced by, if you keep moving forward, your art will evolve.”

This progressive view combined with an open-minded, non-elitist attitude has allowed him to move outside the conventional restrictions of what materials an artist can use.

“I use everything, anything, whatever makes me achieve the look I want. I try not to limit it to any medium,” he says, “but some are easier to work with than others. I prefer natural elements as opposed to processed, but even with that there are exceptions. I have used house paint, because it is cheap and since it will last years on the outside of your house, it should last forever on a canvas. I painted on stretched Motel Six bed sheets, paper bags on canvas for the cave wall effect, South Carolina dirt, old dried crumbled corn bread mixed in paint, California beach sand, oil, acrylic, a lot of charcoal over the years, collage, assemblage, on and on and on…”

Which brings us back to our imaginings of Steven giving all the credit to his dog. How did he come to discover his red mud paint and the appellation, the Georgia Red Mud Painter?

“I was inspired to use the red soil when our outdoor plumbing was dug up,” Steven says. “Then came a bad storm, and my dog and cat tracked red mud all over the place. There was something in it that caught my eye and stirred something in me. There were deep blood-red paw prints all over the place like some primitive-pop cave painting. I had thought of painting with it years before, but never had the space for the mess I knew it would make, but, I had just moved out into the country and I finally had the space to do it. I’ve been fascinated with it ever since my mother would tell me how some of the old southern black people she knew would eat this soil for health benefits, surely something passed down from slave times. Sometimes I’ll drive around the farms out here in Georgia and see a freshly plowed field and that red color, in the light, it is like something out of a fantasy land, it just doesn’t look real. No red in a tube can achieve that color. Regular paint, to me now, is like painting with artificial sweetener. These paintings are archivally sealed when finished. I’ve sat some of them outside for a whole year and they stay the way they were made. I have a ten foot tall Red Mud Man guarding the outside of my house right now. I taught myself how to make this paint and apply it to my art, nobody showed me a thing, except maybe my pets.”

In this introduction to Steven Chandler, a recurring theme seems to be the difficulty others have placing him in a clearly labeled box. And a clue to that conundrum may lie in this insight Steven offers: “I am educated, but not trained, self-taught, but not ignorant.”

You can see his Fine Art Registry portfolio here and his website here.

View Artist's FAR Portfolio

by Dan Koon  |  December 31, 2007  |  Print VersionPDF PDF (3.84 Mb)


An Art Critic Who Creates Art

Fine Art Registry™ Member, Joan Altabe

by Dan Koon for Fine Art Registry™

Most visitors to this website know Joan Altabe from her continuing series An Open Letter to Artists (from an Art Critic). Newspaper readers in Florida know her as the highly knowledgeable and opinionated art and architecture critic for the Bradenton Herald and before that the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a staff position becoming increasingly rare as newspapers downsize in an effort to stave off their inevitable demise. After all, you can masquerade corporate press releases as “All The News That’s Fit to Print” only for so long before people turn to other sources for more valid information.

This is no rant against the media, though a drop of acid isn’t irrelevant when discussing Joan Altabe and her vocation as an art critic. In fact, it is good for a society to have the occasional person willing to point out that the glass is, indeed, half empty and, through the natural progression of things, may become half emptier if we don’t watch it.

Joan seems to have made it her calling to be such a voice in the cultural community of Florida’s west coast and, more widely, on various Internet sites in addition to Fine Art Registry™. She states clearly what she likes and doesn’t like for all to read and they can like it or not; that’s her story and she’s sticking to it. However, anyone who concludes that here is someone substituting irascibility for intellect is making quite a mistake. Before she turned to art criticism, Joan taught art and knows whereof she speaks. Her 2004 book, Art Behind the Scenes: One Hundred Masters In and Out of Their Studios, ferrets out details about the leading lights through five centuries of Western Art that never seem to appear in your typical scholarly art history text. She’s done her digging and knows BS when she smells it.

Some people detest critics, thinking that criticism is merely faultfinding, a sort of counter-creation against another’s creation. And to be sure, a “critic” who only says, “I like it” or “I don’t like it” and can’t intelligently support his or her position is nothing more than an audience member in critic’s clothing. Yet, to ancient Greeks the word critic meant “skilled in judging,” and to exercise real judgment, there first has to be understanding and before even that, there has to be an ability to copy or duplicate. Perhaps then, one could listen to the pronouncements of a critic if they could demonstrate their understanding through an ability to perform in the field they were criticizing.

And that brings us to the focus of this profile, because Joan Altabe is an accomplished artist in her own right, and her art mirrors her art criticism in many respects. “I try to practice in paint what I preach in print,” is how she describes it.

Early Years and Mentoring from a Legend

Joan’s lifelong affair with art began at age four with her grandfather who was an art teacher in the New York City school system. She attended New York’s famous High School of Music and Art which has produced a list of notables in music, dance, theater and film, photography and art (including the cartoonists who started Mad magazine).

She attended Hunter College in New York and studied under Robert Motherwell, one of the pillars of Abstract Expressionism, as much for his essays on the movement as for his paintings.

As for his influence on Joan and her art, she says, “[Abstract Expressionism is] not my -ism, but I learned how to compose from him. And something else. I’ll let him tell it: ‘The abstractness of modern art has to do with an effort to find a more adequate expression of subjective experience than what one sees in the street…’ You might say I apply his words to my non-abstract work. As a kid, I used to think that painting was recording ‘what one sees in the street.’ Motherwell taught me that painting needs to come from a personal place to be authentic.”

One other thing she seems to have borrowed from Motherwell, and even pushed further, was the predominance of black and white in his paintings. His most famous works comprise the long series Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 110 abstract paintings, monumental in scale, similar in composition: two or three freely rendered black vertical bars separated by black ovoid shapes and accented by tiny patches of color. Joan’s paintings are non-abstract but entirely done in black and white.

Man and Nature in Black and White

Like her art criticism, Joan’s paintings are clearly rendered. When asked why she paints, she replies, “I can only tell you what I like to paint: the human form and skies. Light and shade playing on people, on clouds, likewise attract me. I work solely in black and white. I find color distracting, even irrelevant. And in a world overrun with color, the limited palette comes as a relief to me.”

Black and white, the colors of mourning and radiance, of life and death (here in the Occident, anyway). The restriction seems apt for her figurative paintings, a series entitled State of Mind. There’s nothing for the eye to deflect onto; you’re forced to confront the images – monumentally sized, extreme close-ups of the most revealing parts of a character: eyes, nose, mouth. Neither subject nor viewer has anyplace to go.

“Elimination of color and emphasis on light and shade allows greater focus on the subject,” she says. “I cover the gessoed surface of Masonite with Mars black and apply Titanium white to reveal the image. I liken the technique to lighting stage actors to illuminate the action. If necessary, I dim the light by adding more Mars black. Mars black is the best available black polymer. It looks like Ivory black, but it’s prepared from fully permanent iron oxide. Titanium white is the most permanent white known.”

She uses the same technique for her Big Sky series, paintings of semi-real skyscapes. Here too, Joan pares everything back to what, for her, is the essence of the scene. The absence of color concentrates your focus on the shapes themselves. That and the light that illuminates them. Joan has spent many an hour marveling at the Florida sky and what the sun does to it, particularly near the end of a day.

“No artist can hold a candle to this daystar when it comes to painting the sky at dusk,” she wrote in The Best Painter Ever, Part 37 of her Fine Art Registry series. “Nothing in the long history of art can compare to the spiritual content of Old Sol’s elaborate, incandescent candlepower at twilight. Picture-making by this fireball eludes all known processes of painting.” [Read the entire article here.]

Asked for other influences, she replies, “My favorite painter is Lucien Freud. That man can paint! The amount of feeling he gets into a face can make the nerves hop. I also like April Gornik’s landscapes for their moving, storytelling skies.”

A Third Series and Another Side of Black and White

Joan’s passion for black and white may have started with a lifelong involvement with cartoons. She has been cartooning since childhood and thinks that something her father did for her and her brother had something to do with it.

She explains, “He asked the popular cartoonists of the day – Ernie Bushmuller, who drew ‘Nancy,’ to send an original drawing with a personal message to me, and Carl Anderson, who drew ‘Lil Henry,’ to send an original drawing with a personal message to my brother. I loved the look of both these strips, their simplicity, the black outlines.”

“The High School of Music and Art actually took pains to dissuade me from cartooning,” she continues. “Part of the entrance exam for the school (a decidedly fine art place), included presentation of a portfolio of work I had done over a sustained period. Naturally, mine included cartoons. And I remember the interviewer saying to me something like, ‘If you’re accepted, we’ll get you out of this’ – indicating the cartoons. Sure enough, the school did just that. I didn’t cartoon for a long time afterward.”

Joan, the art historian then adds, with typical forthrightness backed by historical fact, “Which was ridiculous when you think of the painters who were cartoonists. Goya lampooned society in Spain, Daumier did it in France and Hogarth did it in England.”

After college, she worked as a muralist, but when a car accident prevented her from working, she began cartooning again for a newspaper on Long Island. She found that writing the gags interested her more than doing the drawings. This led to reviews of art books and eventually a staff job as art critic for a newspaper in Sarasota.

But she’s since returned to her old love, and the result is her Hardliner series, which are not gags so much as dramas played out on a single panel. Each portrays a skirmish in the battle of the sexes with “words that can whip like steel.” Looking at/reading them, you know that those words and worse are being said every day and, unlike Roy Liechtenstein’s cartoon panels, the viewers become immersed in the drama almost whether they like it or not.

Some artists have also been writers, but like Motherwell and Kandinsky, they wrote to express the philosophy underlying their work. Joan must belong to a very small club of art critics who can also create. In fact, she was particularly active from the 60s through the 80s showing her work, and was included in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum Tour, in addition to one-person and juried shows. But for some sentimentality on the part of Alaskans, the state flag today might have been Joan’s design.

“During the Bicentennial in 1976, the Santa Barbara Museum initiated a national competition that the Smithsonian Institution conducted – to redesign state flags,” she begins. “I chose Alaska. Because I lived in New York at the time, where so many artists live, my chances of winning seemed nil. But I tried anyway. The Alaska state flag needed redesign in my view. A jillion stars and whatnot made it unreadable. I imagined something simpler (this is where I think my cartoon appreciation comes in), with bold, unadorned shapes. So, I sketched out a horizon line in white and a white moon above with a midnight blue shade above the horizon and a slightly lighter blue below it – all to capture the pristine air of the place.

“There were 25 winners in all. Quite unexpectedly, I was the New York winner. The sketches were transformed into flags by the Betsy Ross Flag Company, and traveled museums nationwide, including NY’s Museum of Modern Art. Big thrill to take my kids, then little, to see Mom hanging, as it were, in the coveted halls of MOMA. Got a little write-up in the New York Times, too.

“The flags became the property of Santa Barbara Museum, which displayed them on poles on the approach to the building. Each winner got a copy of the flag. It hangs now in my daughter’s den. But, and this is the big ‘but,’ the governor of Alaska turned the flag design down and for a very understandable reason: a young teen who didn’t live very long had designed the existing flag and Alaskans were sentimental about it. (Sad to say, none of the states accepted flags that won the contest. But I’m rather fond of the reason mine was rejected).”

Joan has accumulated her share of awards for her art criticism and has hit a trifecta of sorts as well, being referenced in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in American Art.

Fine Art Registry™ and Future Plans

After Joan began writing her column for Fine Art Registry, Founder and CEO Teri Franks invited Joan to begin registering her work, and Joan sees the benefit that registration has for an artist. The record keeping function alone is a considerable advantage. Without Fine Art Registry, Joan says, there would be none as far as her own work goes. In fact, much of her historical track as an artist is found in her FAR® portfolio. For Joan, it is record keeping. But for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchild (yes, she is a great-grandmother and still kicking butt in the Florida art community) such a record is an important family connection.

Joan hasn’t done many shows since moving to Florida. “I’ve been reluctant because I’m a critic here and because the number of artists outnumber available walls,” she says. “I worry that I’m taking up room and worse, competing with them for collectors.”

She does show occasionally, most recently last March in a one-person show in Sarasota’s downtown library, and she was named Artist of the Month in October by Sarasota website AnythingArts.com.

As for doing major shows, Joan says, “My editor argued me into it, saying that I should let those I critique see what I do. Which is another way of saying, if you dish it out, you should take it, too.”

Surely this would be a rare event. An art critic who not only creates art but let’s others see it? If you don’t think this must take a certain amount of courage, can you imagine Clement Greenberg, noted critic and promoter of Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists, showing his work (had he done any)? Or Simon Cowell getting up there on American Idol and belting out a song?

For certain, some will like Joan’s work and some won’t. No one will be able to say, however, that it isn’t coming from a definite, strong viewpoint or that it isn’t sincere or that it doesn’t communicate! Joan’s art communicates all right. And as with her art criticism, it is a matter of: can you bear up to what is being said?

[You can view Joan’s Fine Art Registry portfolio here or see more of her work and read commentary at her blog. You can obtain a copy of her book, Art Behind the Scenes: One Hundred Masters In and Out of Their Studios, here. And be advised, several similar books are in the works, the next, Sculpture Behind the Scenes, being released next summer.]

Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in
–Leonard Cohen
True story: Joan Altabe looks up at the Florida sky. She takes it all in, the endless curve of the horizon, the sweep of color and movement. Her face lights up like a child’s. “Look at that,” she says, “it’s magnificent. Just remove the blue and you’re all set.” Remove the blue? It makes perfect sense in Altabe’s world. Altabe dreams in black and white; her paintings have the purity of a film noir flick. To Altabe, color’s a distraction – and she’s taken it out of the picture. She adds no hues to dilute the splendor of a cloud or a sad-eyed face. Altabe’s black and white world may be uncompromising – but it isn’t simply bleak. There’s the fright of eternity in that deep and demanding blackness, but when this pit of color is confronted by her thick insistence of white – illumination happens. Light burns through a churning swirl of darkening clouds; a slash of spectral highlights hinting of something. Did the storm happen – or is it just about to? Her canvas crackles with the frozen movement of limbs stretched in rigid embrace, bones in faces jutting from skin, eyes opening wide, clouds breaking, light pouring. And there’s sound: In her blacks, supreme silence; in her whites, a howl, a call, a whisper. A viewer explores the usual association chain: light, salvation, dawn, hope, reckoning. But Altabe’s paintings don’t come with an easy answer key. Her world contains harsh realms of inner association and outer landscapes of stark mystery. Don’t search for answers. Revel, instead, in the light that comes creeping through the cracks.
Florida writer Su Byron, on Joan Altabe’s art. Reprinted with permission of the author.

View Artist's FAR Portfolio

by Dan Koon  |  February 1, 2008  |  Print VersionPDF PDF (2.60 Mb)



Ana Cabrera

First Fine Art Registry™ Member in Argentina

by David Phillips

Ana Cabrera is the first Fine Art Registry™ member in Argentina, although she and her partner Segismundo Ulanowicz have been spreading the word and others are following suit. Ana’s story is best told in her own words.

I was born in the city of Paraná, in the province of Entre Rios, Argentina. From an early age I used to admire the green gullies and the brown colors of the Paraná river. In my teens I moved to Buenos Aires where I now live. My education was as a teacher – philosophy, psychology and education – but I went to work in social security.

All my life I dreamed about painting, but it wasn’t until my son asked me for help with his painting classes in his first year of high school that I had a chance to enter the field.

I began studying in the studio of the master, Luís Debairosmoura, and continued with Carlos Cañas, producing my first pieces in 1994. It was an important moment in my life when I decided to give myself the opportunity to develop the biggest love of my life, the art of painting.

I started painting figurative works. Feeling the need to capture the human figure, I inclined towards portraits to begin with. My colleagues asked me to paint portraits of their family and friends. Eventually one of my friends asked me to paint an abstract for her, and that was where things changed. Confronted by this challenge, I underwent an internal revolution and my way of seeing things changed dramatically. Freeing myself from concrete objects I went towards expressing the deepest and freest of my feelings. This produced in me a transformation, and since then the majority of my works have been abstract. I paint what I think and feel and not strictly speaking what I see.

Through my abstract art, I invite the viewer to free his imagination, allowing him to interpret for himself what the work means.

I love painting. My purpose is to communicate clearly through painting what I feel. If others manage to feel and connect with my work, that makes me very happy.

My painting

Inspiration comes to the surface when I succeed in connecting with the deeper zones of my feelings and I let them flow. I am nourished by life, what happens around me and what happens within me. I am affected by pain, happiness, the beauty of nature or a person’s gesture – an internal experience in which I reach some part of me to communicate, an emotion, a feeling; this process is for me freeing and repairing and in its turn it nourishes and renews me in my desire to give more of myself.

On the whole I use a mixed media technique in my painting. The base is acrylics but with a combination of other materials. Acrylics allow me to rapidly change the work while I am creating it, which is an advantage which avoids the necessity of waiting for it to dry fully first.


My work has been shown at the FAR® Museum,Phoenix, LAMOA Museum of California, a number of national exhibitions, museums, art galleries, salons in Buenos Aires, book fairs, community business centers and the Buenos Aires stock exchange, where one of my pieces was selected in a competition for a traveling art exhibition around the world in 23 cities in Europe, Canada, USA and South America. I have shows lined up in Barcelona, Miami, and Punta del Este in Uruguay.


Fortunately for Ana, her partner Segismundo is a staunch supporter of her in her artistic endeavors and a capable, successful manager. She got not only a partner but a high powered representative in the bargain! It was Segis who first found Fine Art Registry. He tells how this came about:

I accompanied Ana and her painter colleagues to exhibitions where they showed their work and noticed that they were sticking a certificate of authenticity, printed by them on their computer, to the back of the paintings. Since this seemed to reduce the presence and value of the pictures, I decided to look on line for a source of a real certificate of authenticity.

I looked at a lot of websites without finding what I was looking for until eventually I came across FAR which has given us something more important, which is the permanent registration of the works on line, so that now Ana can present her works with a professional Certificate of Authenticity and tell her patrons that the work they purchased from her is secure forever.

Benefits from FAR®

Ana tells just how much she values the services of Fine Art Registry (she presented one of her pieces to the FAR museum in appreciation):

With FAR I saw that my works increased in value and were protected. After I registered them, I felt I could let them go without problems when I sold them, because I would always know where they were; even if the same one was resold, as the new owner would request a transfer of ownership, I would keep track of whose hands the painting was in and its current condition. This also allows me to let these people know about my new work, which is very important as they might want to buy more of my pieces.

New buyers are pleasantly surprised when they receive the COA and find out that the provenance and registration of the work is guaranteed.

In addition to the prestige which an organization such as FAR brings to those who are registered there, I saw that the FAR website was a display where I could show my works in a finely presented portfolio and a sales gallery which opens up opportunities for me to sell my works throughout the world.

I am also excited by the idea that future generations will be able to see my work online forever and remember me through my art. An artist’s wish is that everyone else can enjoy his work and that it might reach the largest number of people possible.

This has spurred me on to paint new pieces which I will add to the FAR portfolio now that I am enthused with this new opportunity to show my work to the world. I am also honored to be able to share the FAR platform with artists of other countries, admiring the quality of their work and feeling close to them in sharing the world of art, something which is highly enriching for the soul.

Creating an archive of my work meant for me having to organize the information before uploading to the FAR website, a job which my partner, Segis, helped me with enthusiastically. This made us realize that this was another benefit of FAR, being able to count on a permanent, orderly archive of the work. Now I don’t feel like a piece is really and truly finished until I have finished the FAR registration and stuck the tag on the painting, at which moment I feel my work is protected and valuable.


Because I am so enthused about FAR, I have become an unconditional supporter and promoter of this organization in Argentina where no one knew anything about the possibility of protecting art works and giving them a different status, something about which there is little awareness over here. It’s the same with copyright protection. I expect a large number of artists will join FAR since our country emphasizes cultural development and has many outstanding artists.


I am currently enjoying the expansion of getting my work shown and personal enrichment which I’m sure will be reflected in my current and future paintings. I have a strong desire to improve and I hope to be able to shape this so that it translates into getting closer to people.


View Artist's FAR Portfolio

by David Phillips  |  March 1, 2008  |  Print VersionPDF PDF (2.28 Mb)


Karen Brown

Recapturing a Glimpse of Lost Elegance
by Dan Koon

“I paint what I call ‘fashion art,'” says artist Karen Brown, “because it’s refreshing to see images of elegance and femininity in a world of casual conformity. I believe these are qualities that are diminishing in today’s world. My paintings are a reminder of a lost era when elegance took priority over comfort.”

Looking at her gracefully stylized women, softly rendered in their flowing gowns, perfectly made up, the viewer is transported to a time before baggy jeans and tee shirts.

Karen has always been enamored with the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. While attending UCLA she spent many an hour in the film library poring over classics of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. She loved the style of the era. Jean Harlow, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn were particular favorites.

Growing up in Riverside, California, she doodled and even took an art class or two in high school. But never more than that. The film classes in college were more a respite from her psychology major than an academic focus and in fact, art itself was something she appreciated but was not involved with from the creative end. After college she went into teaching and has only in the last few years given herself over to art. It began as a hobby but has now become her full-time pursuit and she is making rapid strides forward. She truly fits the picture of an emerging artist.

And her subject matter resonates with people. Recently, she was in a framing shop getting a couple pieces matted and one woman came in, saw them on a counter and began admiring them. Shortly afterwards, another customer, a distinguished-looking gentleman, noticed them and immediately asked about purchasing some pieces. Encouraged, Karen upgraded her website, which she initially created so that friends and family could see her work, and now anyone can contact her about her art at www.karenjanebrown.com.

Artwork by artist Karen Brown, ‘Second Thoughts’
Karen cites one of her strongest influences as Patrick Nagel, whose hard-edged, hard-bodied women became the standard fashion look of the 80s. Nagel himself said that he didn’t think he would like to meet one of his creations, whose vampire pallor and tough sexuality are almost threatening, and while Karen has adopted Nagel’s clean lines and flat areas of color, her images have an altogether different mood. Her work is closer to that of another influence, René Gruau, the famous French fashion artist and illustrator who, with his drawings of exquisitely dressed women in chic surroundings, helped reestablish Paris as the center of haute couture following the devastation of World War II.

Elimination is as important as inclusion

When asked to describe her process, Karen says, “I used to look through magazines and watch movies for inspiration. Now, I simply create the look that I want from my imagination. Obviously, I’m not drawing real women, but once I’ve got the idea clearly, I start sketching it out. That’s the most painstaking part of the process. It takes a few sketches to get the look I want, a certain expression or mood I’m trying to convey.

“I draw the face first and from there I draw the figure. Then on top of that I create the fashion, usually a gown or dress which appears very feminine and glamorous.”

“After that, I start eliminating pieces of the figure to create suggestion, so that the image doesn’t look like a complete outline.”

“From there, I’ll transfer it to Arches paper. I get a clean copy on my paper and then I begin painting. I use watercolor pigments because they give me a soft look. The drawing process is where most of my time is spent, getting that right look. The painting is more to accent things.”

The result conforms to a very definite objective. She knows what she wants to achieve, as a look at her portfolio here confirms. As Karen explains, “With my art, I am interested in only one thing; creating glamorous images of fashionable women. Some are painted with subtle hues, which create a demure and delicate look. Others are painted with India ink for a more dramatic and edgier look. My work is not about color saturation. Since I work mainly in outline, I create a softer look by eliminating areas of the body and clothing to add suggestion, which invites the viewer into the painting. I am creating an impression of a woman, not an exact likeness. Because of this I sometimes take liberties with the image to create a highly stylized look.”

Painting by artist Karen Brown, ‘Damsel in Red Dress’
Fortune Strikes in the Form of Fine Art Registry™

She confesses to being somewhat less confident about the other part of the art world—getting the product to market and onto the walls of admirers. “I need to understand the whole marketing area better, the whole business side of it,” she says matter-of-factly. “Also, getting more exposure for my work. I’m just starting so I’m trying to find all the avenues to show my work.”

Clearly, her work lends itself to graphic media such as prints or posters, and she’s looking into that. Recently, she began looking into how to copyright her work and looked into it the old, slow, expensive way, i.e., the US Copyright Office. That wasn’t too appealing so she was Googling around one day and happened to see Fine Art Registry in the search results. She went to the home page and saw an article on Phoenix artist and Fine Art Registry member Josie Taglienti, who, as it happened, was Karen’s teacher from a life drawing class she had taken at Paradise Valley Community College.

“I think she had mentioned FAR to me when I was in class,” Karen recalls. “I remember thinking ‘Wow! This is what she was talking about.’ I read her article and what she liked about FAR and read articles about other artists and all the great things FAR provided to them, and I realized ‘This is going to be a great way to get started.’

“I’m a very detail oriented person and everything has to be just right with me and this provided that level of professionalism. I know a lot of people sell art on the Internet, but Fine Art Registry legitimizes what I’m doing. It’s all recorded and people know I’m the creator of this. To have all the information permanently recorded, it’s very professional. I’m glad I found this just as I’m beginning to embark on a whole new experience.”

Painting by artist, Karen Brown ‘Flattery’
When Teri Franks founded Fine Art Registry, she had artists exactly like Karen in mind. Since time immemorial, artists and the people who admired and collected their work have been playing the complicated game of “who created this?” with respect to art. Innovative artists had their works copied by forgers. Collectors didn’t know if they were buying a genuine article. Art historians, conservators, curators and academics have been driven nuts for centuries trying to assign proper authorship to works of art. A good many people in the art market feed on this flotsam and jetsam floating amongst the genuine pieces. (Check sometime on e-Bay for the number of graphic works “signed Picasso” – of course, Grandma Moses could have signed a painting “Picasso.”)

Teri’s solution was a permanent online registry along with a proprietary system of tagging works with tamper-evident seals. An emerging artist such as Karen, or the people who collect her work, will never be plagued with the age-old problems of authenticity or provenance. Works by her, tagged with a unique seal and recorded in an online database that anyone can access can never be pawned off as something other than what they are, and no one can produce fakes and imitations because the Fine Art Registry tag will be conspicuously absent. As an artist gains traction in the market and his or her works begin to show up on the secondary market, prospective buyers will be able to check the FAR database to ensure they are getting what was promised then transfer ownership to themselves and record the fact permanently.

The nature of many artists (or maybe the wolf at the door) precludes their thinking that far into the future. But the record keeping function of having one’s portfolio in the Fine Art Registry database alone behooves even moderately productive artists to register their works.

Artist, Karen Brown, painting ‘Innocence’
Compared to the bureaucratic maze at the Copyright Office, Karen sees the Fine Art Registry system as “an efficient and easy way to publicly record my work. I look and feel more professional with FAR backing all of my pieces. Also, there is a wealth of information available for emerging artists, which I have yet to fully utilize, but will.”

Karen is glad to be starting her artistic career with Fine Art Registry and we’re looking forward to seeing many more of her elegant artworks permanently recorded in an ever-expanding Fine Art Registry portfolio.

Asked about her future, Karen enthusiastically replies, “I’m optimistic because I can see my art displayed in a variety of ways. I can see my images on walls, in magazines, salons or even print media. I don’t feel that I’m pigeon-holed in one category or another.”

For Karen Brown, schoolteacher turned creator of style and beauty, her relationship with Fine Art Registry couldn’t have come at a better time.

Artist’s FAR Registered Pieces | Entire FAR Portfolio › | Sales Gallery ›

— by Dan Koon | April 3, 2008 | Print Version – PDF PDF (3.22 Mb)

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