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Meet an Artist: John Sloane (Four Seasons)

We have been very excited to get this interview up for many months. I can tell you that from our phone conversations, John has one of the most gentle hearts imaginable. He has one of those voices that reminds you that things are going to be OK. When he goes for a walk, I know he is the type of person who intrinsically stops to smell the flowers whenever possible. It was a joy working with him on the interview, and we look forward to many more interactions with John.

We hope you enjoy his interview!

(Interview questions by Patti Daniel, a Customer Service Supervisor at Calendars.com)

An Interview with John Sloane

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Although I grew up in the suburbs during the 1950′s and 60′s, I have always been a country person at heart.  My idea of perfect happiness is just taking time out on a nice day to sit with my wife on the old-fashioned swing on the porch of our farmhouse.  There, I can leave my cares a million miles away, relax and enjoy the passing sights, sounds, and scents of the country.

Which historical art figure do you most identify with?

My favorite artist has always been Norman Rockwell.  I love his superb technique and the warm humanity that he was able to impart into his human interest subjects.  Aspiring to be an artist, I taught myself how to paint by studying his life and art, taking the opportunity to see his original paintings whenever they were on display.

My favorite landscape painter is Ivan Shishkin, a nineteenth-century Russian artist.  He’s not so well-known in this country, but I came across a book of his artwork when I was a boy and became deeply influenced by his mastery of trees, foliage and moods of the countryside.  I think his work deserves to be re-discovered and appreciated for the wonderful art that it is.

What do you consider to be your greatest artistic achievement thus far?  What pieces of your own art do you display in your home?  Collect any other art?

I would have to say that my greatest achievement, thus far, lies in the total body of work that I have steadily produced for my calendars over the years.  During the past twenty-five years, I have painted 300-400 paintings in an attempt to preserve images of traditional American country ideals, folkways, and our vanishing heritage of old barns and farmhouses.

I don’t display my own art at home, other than to have my calendar in our kitchen.  I find it very difficult to resist the urge to keep analyzing my own artwork when it’s always hanging in my view.  I’m always thinking about how I could have improved it.

I don’t really collect other original artwork, although I do enjoy collecting antique books illustrated by the nineteenth-century English illustrator Hugh Thomson.  Thomson’s delightful pen-and-ink drawings illustrate many of the classics, and I admire his ability to draw beautifully without the use of models or photgraphic references.

What is your favorite journey?

My favorite journey was the trip my wife and I made around the backroads of New England when we were on our honeymoon many years ago.  My wife, who is an avid photographer, took hundreds of photos of the old farms and countryside that we visited along the way.  These inspired me to begin painting the landscape subjects that I love.  For me, it was the beginning of a journey that continues to this day.

Do you keep a schedule?

As a self-employed person, I have found that self-discipline is essential to working successfully.  I do keep a regular personal schedule which enables me to be as productive as possible.  I think people who work for themselves are likely to work longer hours than most other people.  With me, my work is my pleasure, so the two are hard to separate.  My artwork is such a part of me that I don’t think of it as work.  It is simply what I do.

What is your favorite, most inspiring season?  Month?  Day of the week?

Living in the country as I do, I am happy to find inspiration in every season or time of the month, week, or day.  There is always something new to stimulate my imagination. One of the challenges I enjoy in painting the seasons is attempting to capture the subtleties in the quality of light at different times of the day or year.  One soon observes that morning light has a very different quality than evening light, and the air itself filters distant views in fascinating ways at different times of the day and year.  I enjoy taking long walks with my dog to observe the changing colors and moods of the landscape.  This morning, for example, I was marveling at the many colors that can be seen reflected in the snow – pale warm blues from the sky, ultramarine, yellows and golds from the sunshine, and even russets and pinks in the shadows!  The trick is to blend these colors in paint that way that nature does in life.  I still have so much to learn.

What is your motto?

Life has a way of throwing unwelcome surprises at us, things that are beyond our control.  Often, it is difficult for us to know whether these occurrences are truly negative without knowing what life’s “Big Picture” is.  Nevertheless, these events can be disorienting, causing us to lose a sense of direction in our life.

Above my drawing board I have written the words “Let Providence Be Your Compass”.  It is my way of reminding myself to go with the flow, to remain flexible in my goals in life, and to look at apparent setbacks as opportunities for advancement.

Listening to any musical artists in particular lately?  Read any good books?  Who?

It’s funny how music can stimulate my work process.  When I am trying to conceive a new composition, I find that listening to classical music can be helpful.  My favorite composer is Mozart.  But when I actually begin to paint, I frequently enjoy listening to something more lively, like 1950s doo-wop, or perhaps I concentrate on listening to a good audiobook.  They help the time to pass quickly, and the work flows.  Before I know it, the painting is finished!

I enjoy reading the classics of world literature, but often take time out for a good mystery novel.  Right now, I am reading the delightful books in the Moosepath League series by Van Reid, which are set in 19th-century Maine.  Highly recommended!

Are you a Night Owl or Early Bird?

I think I’m inclined to be more of a night owl than an early bird.  My work schedule takes me through all hours of the day, and I am used to painting until 10:00 p.m. every evening.  The trouble is, my dog is an early bird, so he usually wakes me before dawn to go for a long walk in the early hours.  I don’t really mind this, as those quiet morning hours give me plenty of time to contemplate new thoughts and ideas, though I usually have to make up for it with a short afternoon nap.  I get some of my best ideas while walking the dog!

Buy John Sloane’s Four Seasons at Calendars.com


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Meet An Artist: Peter Smith (The Impossimals)

Peter Smith is an artist of our time.  His art is whimsical, colorful, bold, and will sure bring a smile. He spent many years in the fashion industry which shaped his talent.

In the section for the history of Peter Smith’s Impossimals it says,

Heavily influenced by his job he looked at all the aspects of a face that conveyed personality or emotion. It was soon narrowed down to the eyes and body language that are the biggest giveaways and Peter began to experiment converting family and friends into weird shapes using only the very basics.

We are very excited that Peter took the time to answer some of our questions so that you can get a better idea of how the beautiful paintings came to be. Here’s a link to the Peter Smith 2011 Calendar we are selling this year. If a 2012 calendar is made, you can be sure we will carry it.

An Interview with Peter Smith

When did you decide that you were going to become an artist as a profession?

Although I have always enjoyed painting since I was very small my creation ‘The Impossimals’ started way back in 2004. After spending sixteen years working with companies such as Disney, Warner Brothers and producing licensed artwork for The Simpsons I decided to take my passion of painting a step further and turn family and friends into my characters, a representation of their personalities rather than a realistic portrait. So all my Impossimals in every painting including the ones in the calendar are real people and the paintings tell a story about them, be it the first time they met to more complex ones that evolve over several paintings. Once an individual gets a stripe and colour layout they retain that in any other paintings I produce so you can identify an individual and follow them over several years as I paint their real lives.

How many years have your calendars been printed and do you have a favorite year thus far?

This is my fourth year with a calendar and the current 2011 one is definitely my favourite, it has one of the most sought after paintings from 2009 included in its contents, the elusive ‘I Do Cake’ which was so popular that an Internet campaign was launched by my collectors to try and get my publisher to release it as a limited edition print. As a thank you to my fans I included it in the current calendar for all to enjoy. One special painting included is ‘The Path of True Love’, special because it has my trademark hidden message, turn it around and see if you can spot the ‘LOVE’ written in the stars!

What motivates you to keep creating when things get tough in the studio?

Music mostly which I vary according to what I am painting but if things get really tough I find just getting away from it all for a few days usually helps. I have a tub of modeling clay beside the easel in the studio and if I’m struggling with a particular idea I will sit and model it, this really helps me get things looking right as it’s the small incidental things in my work that add that extra finish.

What single person or idea has been most influential to your art?

Colour, composition and attention to detail, advice I was given when I was a struggling designer many years ago and has served me well but I have since revised this to just one word. Fun. Keep it fun and you keep yourself creating.

Besides art, what do you do for fun?

I write books, design crazy contraptions and love the great outdoors so you can often find myself and my wife Jayne out and about in the British countryside, especially as we live only a few miles from Sherwood Forest, Robin Hoods hideout.

Your “artist eco-system” is very strong with blogs, twitter, and Cooliris implementation. Why did you choose to be so pro-active in the social media space?

Social media allows you to reach out to the rest of the world for very little outlay, you just need to regularly attend to it for it to work its magic. Most artists I know see it as an unnecessary intrusion but in today’s information and technology led world it’s just a logical step up from other methods of communication. Where else could you reach out to collectors of your work and form a collaborative community, promote your product, run a collectors club and effectively advertise and tantalize without resorting to a PR company or advertising agency and spending oodles of money.
For me it works and some of the opportunities that have arisen from taking time each day to update it have convinced me it’s one tool that as a business I could not ignore.

What is the best organizational tip you have for others?

Always have a calendar :-)

No matter who you are or what you do for a living always have a notepad handy.

Ninjas or Pirates?

Aye, it’s a sweet trade t’be a Pirate and gentlemen o’fortune so it is. Ninjas are nought but scallywags and should be keelhauled and joinin old Davey Jones imself’

Peter Smith’s 2011 Wall Calendar

Click the following link to purchase! Peter Smith 2011 Wall Calendar

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Meet An Artist: Interview with Donald Verger

Donald Verger

Donald Verger, a Maine photographer, recently took the time to speak with Calendars.com as part of our Meet an Artist series. All of Donald Verger’s 2011 Calendars can be found on our site. Donald is often compared to Ansel Adams because of the fine details in his landscape shots. I personally find myself asking, “How long did he have to stay there to get that shot?” while trying to imagine myself behind the camera of his art.

Daniel Cheever, art collector and President of Simmons College says this about Donald:

This talented, award winning photographer is one of those once-in-a-lifetime artists whose work establishes their reputation for generations to come.

Friend and assistant of Donald, Anne Bryant, wrote a beautiful introduction explaining Donald to me:

His kind spirit and generous nature verify his reputation as a philanthropist and all-around great Mainer. It seems the theme here is anticipation, patience, and truth. Verger’s photography is untouched by the likes of editing software, and he relies on the camera to set the boundaries of his photographs. The result? A painterly approach that has been compared to that of Ansel Adams; an heirloom calendar you’ll treasure, with more on the way.

An Interview With Donald Verger

I’d like to answer your last question first: NINJA over pirates!

What is your name?
Donald Verger. Friends call me Don.

Where are you from?
I’m a New Yorker, born in Brooklyn.

When did you start taking pictures, and do you have an early shot that you remember fondly?
As a child I owned a Kodak camera that I’d take with me to the Bronx Zoo. I’d wait with huge anticipation for the elephants to come into view so I could get photos of them. After taking the photos, you had to send the negatives away for developing, and the prints would arrive as at tiny album with beautiful serrated edges.

What are some unique organizational tips that you feel help you through your day?
I’m always in the mindset and sensibility of seeing actively as an artist and a photographer, so, I always have my camera with me. I used to actively think, but now intuitively act in a way that answers the question, “What do I want to see and what do I want to leave out of the photograph?” What’s left is the essence of the image.

Which calendar are you selling this year?
The Donald Verger Fine Art Poster Calendar with luminous landscapes, views of Maine seascapes from Acadia National Park to Portland Headlight and Nubble Lighthouse, and others that I’ve taken all around New England. Mostly Maine, but also some great shots from New Hampshire and Vermont.

Do you plan on making more calendars in the future?
Definitely. It’s also an affordable, accessible way for more people to own prints of my photography. I’ve already submitted my latest 2011 calendar to Calendars.com, a collection of Nubble Lighthouse photographs at all times of year in a convenient desk size. We’re currently working on 2012 calendars, including a calendar that is entirely botanical, or flower, photographs. I’ll be staying with poster calendar formats, as 7 or 8 artists I really respect have made this a cherished tradition of collectable calendars. It’s been a great way to select out of my 200,000 or so photographs just 12 that stand together to mark the year.

What moves or inspires you to take pictures?
Rather than to capture, I try to hold moments of beauty- to be present in places and moments that are exquisitely beautiful. Dawn of Peace was that moment- it was 30 degrees below zero and dawn was breaking. I try to find that light that is ethereal and magical, and quietly hold it.


What do you feel makes your approach to photography different from other photographers? What other artists inspire you?
I frame the picture in the moment and avoid cropping and editing. I don’t use photoshop for editing and so my photographs are importantly real, I would never recreate a sky or work from memory. My photographs are True.

Time-wise, I go out when most people are going or staying in. The end-of-day light is most special, luminous and full of character. I also like the tug of war between the rain and the sun as the rain ends. There’s an amazing mood and atmosphere that accompanies that moment.
I enjoy and am empowered by the colors and energy of Van Gogh- his image of a swirling night sky is a very powerful image to me. Likewise, I draw from Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of botanicals and flowers and think she was ground-breaking. Ansel Adams of course, and his true love for landscapes, has always been inspiring. When critics have compared me to Ansel Adams, I know I’m doing something right. He had a way of capturing the sublime- the impossible landscapes of the West. Maine is a craggy, rough, cherished place, too. We have a lot in common.

We know that “Dawn of Peace,” the cover photograph of your calendar, is one of your more famous images. Tell us the story of that photo – where are you and what was it like to capture this moment?
It was extraordinary to hold that moment and to witness it. I had noticed on cold mornings in inland Maine that the cold morning air sometimes caused fog across the Penobscot Bridge. Sometimes the cold air is over relatively warm water and it causes “sea smoke.” I went out early in the morning on December 14, 2004 to Thompson Lake, in negative 20 degree weather, just before dawn. I took the image as the sun rose, and the air filled with wild sea smoke. The island you see there is Goat Island. A series of beautiful photographs resulted, and the first image sold first for $1000. “Dawn of Peace” also sold for $1000, and the money from those photographs was donated to Unicef.
It’s funny that we’re talking about Dawn of Peace, because I had just been discussing this with our local photography critic from the Portland Press Herald. He called and put his young son on the phone who told me that he saw the photo at a local restaurant where I have a print hanging. This child had called to tell me he was moved by it- and it’s definitely a photograph for which I have received a lot of acclaim for how moving it is.

Which is your favorite shot?
Well, keeping in mind that the calendars’ images are selected from over 200,000 and that I like most of them a lot… it’s very hard to say. I took them all carefully and at special moments. Dawn of Peace has a special place of course, and of all my photographs it’s the most iconic and what I’m most known for. I do love the March image, it’s an ethereal gorgeous shot, with no photoshop of course, of the often photographed Little White Church in New Hampshire. I remember it was raining over the ice during the spring melt- I think the shot of that church has special meaning for me. That same sea smoke is present in that image to make it mystical. Another favorite is December’s image, has the quiet beauty of winter fog over the ocean at Portland Headlight. Another favorite- November’s image of Bass Harbor headlight in Acadia, I’m actually headed there today.

Lastly, Ninjas or Pirates?
I’m not kidding about the Ninjas.
Donald Verger

Buy Donald Verger’s Calendar here.

Donald Verger
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Mark Podwal’s “A Sweet Year” in the Huffington Post

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Houston Chronicle’s very own Menachem Wecker interviewed Mark Podwal for a very informative article in the Huffington Post.

Calendars.com and Calendar Club worked alongside Mark Podwal to publish his Sweet Year 2011 Wall Calendar. We are very proud of the impact his art has in the Jewish community.

Snippet of the article:

Do you see a logical or thematic progression in the works beyond the chronology of the calendar?

The only progression includes works with flowers for the spring months. I’m curious if you noticed a progression. Sometimes the observer has something interesting to point out that may have been unconsciously included by me. Cynthia Ozick once offered me a fascinating interpretation of one of my drawings for Elie Wiesel’s book on the golem legend.

Read the entire article here.

Buy A Sweet Year 2011 Wall Calendar

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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Meet An Artist: Eunmee Sanatar

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I’ve been excited about this post for a long time coming. Eunmee Sanatar is one of the many great minds at Orange Circle Studios. They have a up to date looking website, and their calendars are just as good. Make sure to click some of the links below to see some of her work.

What is your position at Orange Circle Studios?

I’m a Senior Art Director. I create my own designs as well as work with other talented illustrators.

What is something you are proud of accomplishing in the last 2  years?

Establishing a new calendar company with very good friends has definitely been the highlight of the last two years. It’s a dream come true!

Which calendars that you have designed?

Bold Blossoms Do-it-All Calendar; Bold Blossoms Engagement Planner; Bold Blossoms Organizing Essentials Calendar; Essence of Asia Pockets Plus Calendar; Birds and Flowers Pocket Plus Calendar; Geometric Groove Organizing Essentials Calendar; Geometric Groove Monthly Weekly Calendar; Mom’s 24/7 Monthly Weekly Calendar; Eat Well! Monthly Weekly Calendar

Can you tell me about the most popular one?

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Our Bold Blossoms design has really taken off, and because it’s on several different formats, it seems to be the customer favorite so far. The Bold Blossoms Engagement Planner is doing especially well.

What was your inspiration for those designs?

I took a trip to an arboretum in our area (Irvine, CA) and I saw bunches of bold flowers in wonderful colors. They were so beautiful! They were a definite inspiration for the calendars I was working on at the time.

Who are some of your artistic influences?

Any artist who is creative, and creates art to give joy, smiles, and laughter to those who admire their art. Some stand-out favorites are Paul Klee and Joan Miro.  Their art is playful, and their use of color is really wonderful.

What do you design outside of your job?

I love to design invitations for parties and events for my kids Joshua and Kaia.

What is your design software of choice?

Adobe  Illustrator and Photoshop

Ninjas or Pirates?

Umm..I do like Pirates of the Caribbean, so I’ll go with Pirates!

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Meet an Artist: Friedensreich Hundertwasser

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Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000), born Friedrich Stowasse, is considered one of the most profound mavericks of architecture and art.

He was raised by his Jewish mother as his father passed away shortly after Friedrich’s birth. His mother put him in the Hitler Youth to save both of their lives.

A highly emblematic part of his character was his admittance to the Vienna Academy of Art. This was the same place that Hitler attempted to attend just 40 years prior. Friedrich left after 3 months to pursue his true art. In his Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture he made the claim that:

In architecture, however, this fundamental freedom, which must be regarded as a precondition for any art, does not exist, for a person must first have a diploma in order to build. Why?

In 1948, he changed his name to Friedensreich meaning “peaceful realm”.

Friedensreich began traveling extensively and gaining international recognition before the age of 30. His detailed biography of art awards and travels are found at the Hundertwasser Archive.

He began using architecture as an outlet for his artistic expression because he despised what it had come to be. An article in the Guardian talks about this passion:

…he denounced the aridity of modern architecture, ridiculed symmetry – by wearing different coloured socks – and described straight lines, horizontals and verticals as “the tool of the devil” and “the rotten foundation of our doomed civilisation”.

The article then touches on his criticism of architecture as an art form:

He denounced the professional institutions of architecture because they would not permit practice by amateurs. This, he said, proved that architecture was not an art, but a professional conspiracy.

Straight Lines

The most identifying technique was his artistic boycott of straight lines. This can be seen in his possibly most famous building, the Hundertwasser Haus, which opened in 1986:

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Hundertwasser Art 2011 Wall Calendar

To have a daily reminder that art is what you make it, make sure to pick up the 2011 calendar for yourself, or anyone who needs a little more ‘Hundertwasser’ in their artistic lives.

image credit: wikipedia & reisserbilder


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