Sunday, December 30, 2012

What does it mean to belong to an organization in martial arts?

To want to belong to a group or organization, or even a community, is one of the basic human tendencies. As much as we want to train alone or do our own thing, there is always going to be a time or place we want to connect to another person or group to share our art with. So, the question comes up about how to choose our associations within our art and training.
On an immedate level, this would be our school. On a larger level, this would include attending seminars, competing in tournaments (if that is something that you like to do), and what umbrella organization you want to affiliate yourself with. In my case, I am removed from my home school by a 3.5 hour drive, and I do not want to start my training all over with any other school. The question comes up about how do I approach this? For me, I have chosen to train alone and take lessons, when I can, at my school of origin, as I have done for the last 20 years. What has been the result? Unfortunately, I have done a lot of spinning of my wheels in the last 10+ years.
Be that as it may, I will get back to it. I want to continue on with the main point here, which is how we choose our associations. The school is important. It becomes a reflection of you, and you become a reflection of it. What does it give to you? You have to determine what you will get out of it if you attend another school and is it worth the time and effort you are putting in at the school? Tournaments and umbrella organizations are the same way. What do they have to offer to you and are they an accurate reflection of you?
How did I come to this line of thinking today? Well, I was doing some research about Kenpo. I have been at a cross-roads as to what to do with my training. I want to have access to a school nearby, but I do not want to give up the time and comfort and bonds that I have created by training with my original school, even though it is 3.5 hours away. How do I come to terms with my situation? We all have to ask, "What can this school, teacher, or training do for me?" I ask the same question. It is a very important question because it is time and money you put into what you are doing. In today's economy, we do not have time to make choices lightly.
In my research, I found that there is A LOT of organizations out there that associate themselves with Kenpo. You might ask yourself, "What is the difference?" There are many, but you have to be willing to look at them, and look at them objectively, to see what they can and cannot offer. For me, I have come to a conclusion that it is time for me to start integrating myself into some kind of community more, and I need to figure how and where I want to do that. In my research, I found at least seven Kenpo umbrello organizations trying to convince Kenpoists, and others, out there that there is a benefit to joining the group they had put together. Through my years of taking lessons and instruction, I have learned there are a lot of politics that go on in martial arts. I try to not get caught up in it all and look at things objectively. It has made for an interesting process of figuring out what I want to do. As an informed martial artist who has studied for 20+ years, I have some background in how to make a decision about these things. But, if you are new to the scene, you might want to ask yourself a series of questions to get started.
1. What type of teacher do I want?
2. What type of classes do I want and what do I want to learn?
3. How many classes can I take each week?
4. How much time can I put into my training?
5. Why do I want to study martial arts?
These are some questions to get you started. I find myself asking similar questions about what I want to do and understanding what I want out of an organization. What can the offer me and what can I put into it so I can get something out of it? It is a process of self exploration.
Take some time to understand the choices you make by understanding yourself more first. I think this is true in whatever we do. We need to understand outselves as we make important choices, whether it be in martial arts or in life.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Understanding the uniqueness of your martial arts training

(This photo's copyright belongs to Jesse and Gina Brown)
Understanding the uniqueness of each person's martial arts training and experience is important. My instructor, Chuck Epperson, stresses that Kenpo Karate is made to fit each person's individual style and preference. That is not to say we make up our own rules as we go. That would be erroneous, to say the least. It is more approrpiate to say that Kenpo is flexible enough to fit each person's unique style and personality and philosophy while strong enough to maintain a strong system of learning and application for each practitioner.
I read in an article where Richard 'Huk' Planas was asked about Kenpo and he said something to the effect that Kenpo was best described as a set of rules and principles and a set of ideas to be learned. It was up to each person to make the art their own. As long as the rules and principles were followed, the Kenpo being practiced would be sound. Here is the big question, how often do we follow the rules and principles. It sounds easy to just follow the principles and everything will be good. It takes a lot of time to just understand what the basic principles are and practice them right!
All of us follow principles and guidelines for our day-to-day life, whether we realize it or not. If we use our principles to live by, we might make a lot more progress. I think a lot of people just move from moment to moment and obstacle -to-obstacle. Many people do not think things through or have a plan. Kenpo, and any other martial art for that matter, asks us to practice and make it a way of life. Why else would we engage in the practice of something.
Lee Wedlake pointed out in his book, Kenpo Karate 101, that many people do not stick with what they start, whehter it be the gym or martial arts. It is a sprint and they burn out. Something like martial arts is about the journey more than the goal. The most meaniful experience you will get out of your martial arts training will be if you take it as a journey and understand how it shapes you and your perspective. That perspective will also change over time. So, be prepared to see and understand Kenpo in different ways as you progress through your journey. This is also true for anything you do. It changes for you over time. I remember I stopped making art for a time after graduate school. When I started making art again, I realized I had a whole new understanding of art because so much time had passed. Lee Wedlake talks about this in Kenpo training and in other things.
When training in martial arts, you have to understand yourself and what you want. It is important to know what you want. Martial arts styles are like clothes, you have to try them and see if they fit you. Each style has a different fit and is meant for a certain type of personality and goal, depending on the person.
When training with my instructor, Chuck Epperson, he tells me a lot of things.  One thing he told me was to look at the self defense techniques and figure out how I would finish them. The techniques are just ideas teaching principles, but it may not represent the ideal move for you. If you follow the principles, then you can make a variation that respresents your own style better. He talked about adding and deleting moves to make something more direct for him, because he likes to be direct. I have to agree that being direct is the best policy, but even with that, there are different ways to be dircet. If you are a martial artist, what is your direct way of approaching a situation? I like to look at techniques and ask myself how will this work for me.
One last thing I like to do for my own personal training is I like to focus on basics and basic combinations. I also like to practice both sides of a technique, literally. I know their are opposites and reverses of everything and we have category completions everywhere that we are supposed to think about. Those are outstanding, for certain, and they are truly an academic challenge to apply and understand. However, I just like the literal nature of doing both sides, opposite sides, of the same technique. It is a challenge that suits me. Will I ever want to use my weak side? Not really, but you never know when you are boxed into a corner and only your weak side is available, or the weak side of a certain move might only be available. In addition to that, I just like to the physical challenge when working out of doing the weak side. It gives me that much more to practice, and I really enjoy the journey of practicing the art of Kenpo.
Find your unique style in whatever you do, understand it, and let it help guide you to what you like to do most and enhance your training at the same time.
Train hard.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Split Stance

Photo by Gina Navarro-Brown. All copyrights belong to her. 2011

What is the problem with a split stance? What does it even mean to be in a split stance? Typically, what happens in a split stance is you do not commit to moving forward or backward in response to an attack. This leaves you in the same place you started and you are about to absorb the full impact of your attack that you are facing. 

Remember, in Kenpo, we train the coordination of movements between upper and lower body. That means footwork is essential. Your base is essential in order to move your upper body the way that you want to.

I remember having this conversation with Sensei Chuck. In Yellow Belt, there is a particular problem with splitting the stance on Attacking Mace. Often times people miss it because they do not have the self-awareness to feel their error. If you simply think about what you are doing more, the self-awareness of what you do right and wrong will be more evident. At Yellow Belt, we move back for a reason. We let the beginning student have tools to gain time to react. It comes back to the idea that timing and distance are essential in pulling off techniques. It's important to analyze timing and distance in all situations.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Five Swords: An analysis

Five Swords, an orange belt technique in the American Kenpo Karate System, is one of those techniques that you could talk for a long time about. I had started a series of personal journal writings on Yellow Belt techniques, and I was going to continue that originally, but then I found this great photo my wife took of me at the ocean doing Five Swords, so I thought  I would talk about that for one entry here.

Five Swords teaches a multiplicity of things and it seems it can be grafted with so many other ideas and techniques. I know training at my sensei's dojo, Epperson Bros. Kenpo Karate Dojo in Chico, California, we have gone over countless grafts with this particular technique.

I know some people may be asking at this point, "What is a graft?" A graft is when you take two or more techniques and blend them together. First, you have to know the original technique and what it does and how to perform it, but then the fun part comes in where you can go through a technique and stop part way through and ask, "What if?"

Let's face it, nothing ever happens as we plan it in a dojo. We have to expect the unexpected. So, it is critical for us to recognize positions and what if scenarios so we can think on our feet. Just stop for a second and do  the first move of Five Swords. How many different techniques can you move to from there. Or, if you don't like that, stop after the second move, the heel palm to the face, and ask yourself what other techniques do you recognize from there? Or, even better, how would you finish the technique? Everyone is different. They will see something different.

In this photo, my wife caught be between unloading my chop/check and loading my final chop with torque and marriage-with-gravity. There is a transition stance that you hit at this point as you position your hands for the final move. You have the choice to finish, or what if the other hand comes flying around, even by accident? Then you have the right hand in position to throw another block and extend the technique, or even start a whole new one. In Kenpo, you always want to have a backup plan. Your other hand should always be ready to meet the "what if" possibility.

Here is another thing to think about with Five Swords. Think about which power principles you are using to add power to all of your blocks, strikes, and punches. This is a technique loaded with power principles and the ability to really unload a person's potential for power just based on the body mechanics alone. You have backup mass, on the first move, torque on the second move, then there is borrowed force, more torque and marriage with gravity that follow. This is an extremely powerful tool, and powerful knowledge, to think about as you train your Kenpo.

Just like professional athletes, it is important for us to analyze our art and our motion. That  is how we get better. You have to train it, but you also have to analyze it. If you like to study motion, then Kenpo may be the art for you if you are not doing it now.

I hope you have enjoyed the thoughts.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Training in Kenpo Karate: A look at Unfurling Crane

This title sounds kind of obvious and lacks the excitement of another title meant to draw attention, but then again, Kenpo is not about fancy anything. It is about getting the job done. That is what I want to talk about. How do we get the job done? We work at it. Kenpo is not a fancy art, although I suppose it has the potential to be fancy if that is one's focus. It is an art that asks you to go to work every day and practice and not give up on your training. It is a part of daily life. Training must be made part of daily life so one can master it and, potentially save your life if it comes down to it.

How does one train in Kenpo? There are as many ways to train as there are people who practice it. It is up to the individual. It is an art of the  individual. What one must do is follow the principles of Kenpo and his or her training will be sound. Kenpo is a set of rules that are designed to protect you if you follow them in the course of your martial arts training and performance. What are some of these principles? There are many.

Take, for example the inside rule. The inside rule states that you can disrupt a person's base and cancel their height zone. If you cancel their height zone, then most of their back-up weapons (open hand weapons) cannot be loaded because they are checked by the fact that your opponent cannot stand up straight.

Take the photo above. My wife, Gina, did a wonderful job of capturing me in the middle of Unfurling crane. If you are not familiar with this self-defense technique, this is a great example of Kenpo principles. This particular moment, you see the Kenpo principle of economy of motion in effect because I am doing three things, actually four things, at once. The leg is completing a front scoop kick, the hand in the middle of the picture is keeping the imaginary opponent standing upright for the soon-to-follow blow of the hand cocked and ready to deliver a chop to the neck, and the foot is not only completing the motion of the kick, it is loaded for a downward side thrust kick to the opposing knee. This technique is one of the more advanced in the Kenpo arsenal. What I described is centered on one motion of three parts of the body. This particular technique is based on multiple attacks and is placed fairly high in the web of knowledge that Mr. Parker designed. 

But not everything has to be complex. Simplicity is at the heart of Kenpo. Complexity is what you choose to train if you like that. Sophistication lies in the movement based on the principles. I single move or concept can be more than enough. 

Take the simple concept and definition of a check. A check, in Kenpo terms, is the nullification of a weapon. If you pin an opponent's arm to his or her body, then that weapon is nullified until you release it. What is important when executing principles is to follow the natural movements and guidelines of the human body. When when you use common sense and logic in figuring out the execution of your moves, then the principles of Kenpo will be largely followed. This simple act can, and often will, be enough to give you that advantage or just avoid the whole situation. Economy of motion is the key. Don't do more than you have to. If you check and cancel all of the opponent's weapons with one move, that might be enough to make them think twice and walk away. You never know, but economy of motion is key.

Unfurling Crane is a great example of Kenpo going to the extreme to show possible combinations. Every technique is about teaching the practitioner a variety of ideas and to get them thinking on possible ideas. Kenpo is a thinker's art, for sure. It is up to each of us to analyze and create the Kenpo that works for us. If you are an athlete and enjoy motion, take Kenpo, because it allows you the freedom to think on your own.

I know from talking with my sensei, Chuck Epperson, he wants us to think on our own. We need to train and practice our art. I start with the basics and try to always reinforce the basics and the principles. That is where everything comes from. There is a reason yellow belt is the foundation of all other belts that follow. If you look carefully at yellow belt, it is an extraordinary training ground for every practitioner to begin with. It is the start of the web of knowledge for Kenpoists. Next time you sit down to train, take another look at that opening belt. What is even more amazing, it is the first thing that everyone is taught!

I hope you enjoyed the article and enjoy training.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Thank You for Our Recent Show

We want to send a big thank you to James and the Giant Cupcake. It was wonderful to show with them. We had a lot of interest and some great conversation was generated by the work from what we heard! We also were able to make a sale, which is always a plus. We also want to congratulate our raffle winner! We had a raffle at the opening and that was very exciting! Caleigh and Euridice have ongoing, rotating shows each month and we encourage people to go by and try their wonderful food and see what new art is going on over there! Their website is: 

They are the best people to work with for a show. They are easy to schedule with and take good care of the work and go out of their way to provide a great space to set up an opening. One thing I was really impressed with was the amount of foot traffic they can get during business hours. It gives the art a lot of exposure. This was definitely a great experience for all of us to show our work!   
Coming soon will be a new series I am workingon interviewing artists. My first interview is going to be Kiyomi - a wonderful musician from New York who is on Itunes and has the exquisite music and lyrics that you could ask for. I am going to be talking with her about music and hoping to learn some of the similarities that we share as artists, despite being in two different mediums like music and visual arts. If you are interested to preview Kiyomi's music, her website is:

Thanks for all your support and check back soon!

Contemporary Art - My Point of View

**NOTE: If you think my blog is interesting, please check out my new one that I am working on now as well -

I read an article this morning in the online magazine "Art In America: International Review" and I was thinking about what this article meant to me, personally, and in general to the community at large. Let's face it, art critic magazines get read by a small percent of the population. I would guess I could ask 10 people walking down the street if they had heard of the publication "Art in America" and I would get 10 "no" answers. What does that mean? Well, art has multiple levels of meaning, or status, however you would like to put it. You have these critic magazines, such as "Art in America" and they review contemporary and nationally/internationally recognized artists. Who does the reviewing at these magazines? Art critics, most likely. People who write about art. They may or may not practice art. Let's face it, art is extremely popular, and it can be extremely valuable. How much it is worth depends who says what about it and gives it a great review and then it is influenced as to where it can be entered (such as galleries, museums, competitions, etc.)

What determines an artist's success? That depends on what each artist defines as success. I have had this conversation with so many artists and it is very interesting. Most artists I have spoken with do not take their art to the deep and intellectual level that most historians or critics would argue. If you have ever sat through an art class critique and listened to what is being said by people, I think it would be clear. I come from a family of artists. I have sat down with all of us and had entire family discussions about art. We, my family, mostly agree, art is something that comes from the intuition and should reflect your own self and style. It is generations of tradition. I think we, myself and my family, would agree art comes in all forms, sizes, and ideas. That does not make any one art more valuable than any other.

Having said that, I believe that art is most powerful when it reaches the masses and makes a difference to them and brings meaning and inspiration to them. One of the great things about this age of art is that there are so many styles and trends, it allows artists to explore new ideas to express themselves in new ways. I tell my family of artists that I think if we educate ourselves and can talk about our choices intelligently, then that  is half of the battle. We have to be able to place our own work in context even as we work intuitively.

I immensely enjoy the academic articles on art, postmodernism, modernism, etc. However, I wonder what the artists really think as they sit and create their work. It is unfortunate that so many artists do not write about their work and or their thoughts, then we would have a better idea of their thinking process.

Sometimes it is hard even to get them to talk when I engage them face-to-face. Others are quite ready to talk about their work. The bottom line that we have to think about is that all art has a story, but what it's value is depends on so many factors, it is hard to figure that our readily. I have been in art discussion boards and read many arguments about these type of topics, and I feel like there is a large disconnect between artists and the way their work is interpreted. I think the academic language that is used in these art magazines creates a wall between the common public and the art that is out there.

Let me give an example of going to SFMOMA with my wife. She wanted to understand the work that was displayed there, but since she had not context to frame her viewing, it was hard for her to really enjoy it. Even when she read the statements and cards by the curators, it was hard for her to understand where it was coming from. When I explained the context and background of many of the movements and ideas, it instantly became much more interesting for her. People want to understand art, but if there is no frame of reference for the viewer, it becomes quite difficult for a viewer to appreciate a work of art.

In education, we use what we call accessing prior knowledge. I think artists would be wise to try to access prior knowledge of more viewers so more people could understand their work. Their should not be different classifications of art, even though there are such labels. There is elite art, academic art, illustrative art, comic book art, popular art, art of graphic design, and the list goes on. Then there are labels within the art world such as postmodernism, modernism, minimalism, figurative, Bay Area figurative, and so much more.

What would my advice be for any artists who are trying to make it out there? I would advise them to learn how to interact with people and talk about their art intelligently. Learn some art history and know how to place it in context. Understand your thinking and processes and be able to discuss your choices. If you can do these things, you are well on your way to getting more appreciation by a larger audience.

**NOTE: If you think my blog is interesting, please check out my new one that I am working on now as well -

Monday, August 6, 2012

Art and Community

Art and community pose an interesting topic. How do artists become more integrated within their community and understand the flow and pulse of what is happening. That is really what it is about. Al art is a reflection of community, either directly or indirectly. The real question is how will each artist choose to interact with others in the community. How will their art become available?

This poses the question of how does an artist choose between a festival, a traditional gallery, and self promoto online, or all three? Art is for the masses. Art can be in corporate offices. That is fine. People can pay a lot of money for art, that is fine as well. However, while it is most likely  goal of most artists to live off of their art work, how does one survive. Selling art of thousands of dollars is great, but it eliminates much of the market from experiencing our work. If you charge peanuts for your work, then it is likely we will feel we are being short-changed for what we are doing, and possibly underappreciated.

I think it takes a very delicate balance to be an artist of the people for the people and still maintain that "higher" academic level of work. Meaning, you try to avoid being labeled just another person who paints to feel good. Yes, their is some serious academic reasoning and research behind art. It is not just painting another pretty flower or landscape, or even screaming at the top of your lungs and saying "Lok at me! My art has meaning! I am a neo-abstract expressionist!" (or whatever other labels are out there)

Here is the bottom line, and I think it is one that we (artists) need to take seriously; art is a language that we need to be able to speak and translate. The educated art community understands the subtleties of imagery, process, context, movements, etc. However, let me illustrate my point by recounting an experience I had with my wife going to SFMOMA. We walked into a room of color field and abstract expressionist paintings and my wife was completely at a loss. Sure, there were a lot of people there besides us, taking in the work. However, how does one understand contemporary thinking and contemporary work? I explained the history, context, etc. to my wife and she understood then more about it. However, this is just like contemporary artists with the modern viewer - we need to translate our work so more people can understand us. Also, for those who paint strictly for visuals and in academic styles, that is fine, but I think it is our responsibility to be able to hold a contemporary conversation about our work and argue for its contemporary relevance.

All art is important and has meaning. It is up to the artist to find their place. My place, I feel, is in the community. For me, all styles are valid, but their needs to be a level of proficiency and excellence and there needs to be an ability to articulate their work to the community. It is up to us to choose how to make our art available to which communities. Art is everywhere and it is up to artists to start taking their place in society and sharing and interacting more with the people. I have heard that "Artists are the conscience of society." I think this is true. However, if the artists do not bring their art to the people and make it have relevance and meaning, then how can we ever hope to be any kind of conscience?

One exception I have to note is my mother. She has raised generations of artists in our family. She has chosen make her immediate community her family. Then, in turn, we have helped to extend that message and art to a larger community by acting as a family co-operative. Art can function in all kinds of ways, and this type of art, that moves from generation to generation and laterally across family members is one of the most valuable kinds because each year we lose more and more art within the schools. So more and more training is going to come from practicing artists and not art teachers. Or, in our case, it comes from within our own family. Just choose a community and share your art, whether it is your own family or your own city.

Jesse Brown
Be sure to come to our openingif you can.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Creating New Art

Copyrights for this art work belong to Jesse Brown 2012

I find that you always learn something new when you push yourself to do more than you think you can do. Brown Art Works - - is going well. We have formed together and we are all pushing to show on August 4 and for the opening on August 10. I posted earlier this summer about the show that is coming up on Saturday. Please come by Pillar Point Harbor and check us out! The other thing that is going on is we are hanging a show on August 5, the day after the festival! Talk about putting the pressure on! The opening for this show is August 10. It is at James and the Giant Cupcake, 6326, Sn Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA, from 7pm to 10pm. This is a wonderful place that works to be part of the community and makes wonderful desserts. It really fits with my point of view and philosophy of trying to get art to the people. I like exposing art to everyday people and this is one of the places we really ae enjoying preparing to show at.

The piece above is a small 4 inch x 6 inch painting that I created recently. This is one of my reactionary pieces where I am reacting to what unfolds on the papers as much as what is on my mind. I like these journal pieces where they are small and personal. What I have come to learn is that is as much about the artist as the art is. If you can understand where the artist is coming from and what their type of thinking is, then you have more insight as to how they may approach bigger and more intricate pieces. Interestingly enough, the inspiration of the bird came from a trip to Redding, CA (I believe) and we saw this small group of geese on the river, near the sundial bridge there.It was a cold and peaceful day. Of course, the rest of the imagery comes from my myriad of experiences and thought processes that I tend towards when I do these small, subconscious works. Of course, also, I combine painting and drawing, as usual. I always enjoy seeing what effects I can create with the combination of watercolor and drawing techniques.

Please see below for the details of upcoming opening!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Farmer's Market

Photo by Jesse Brown, all copyrights belong to Jesse Brown for this image. 2012

On of my favorite places to go on Saturdays is the San Francisco Farmer's Market. This is so for many reasons. There are vibrant colors and smells of abundantly rich food that is locally produced and rich in flavor and all the natural vitamins and minerals that a person needs. By and large, most of the food produced that is brought to market is usually produced in a an eco friendly way that is better for people and the environment as a whole. It also brings a sense of community for the people of the area. It is a gathering place where people meet, talk, look, and get to know their community.

The colors, as you can see above, are amazing and just make you want to run into the kitchen and start cooking with the new food that you just buy. I love just walking through the market and looking at all of the beautiful vegetables and the amazing array of colors that can be seen here. I took a series of photos at the San Francisco Farmer's Market with the intent to do a series of work based around this concept for all the reasons listed above and more. I feel that art should be vibrant and colorful to attract as many people as possible. The subject should be one that they can relate to so there is more of a connection. We are all connected to food in a direct way. I feel if I can draw people in with the innate beauty of naturally grown food of a farmer's market, then I can bring them in further with ideas about why a farmer's market is important.

We have all heard the debate about organic and going local as opposed to going commercial and non-organic at the local grocery store. It takes more money and patience to use your farmer's market nearby, and I understand this as much as anyone else/. However, when you can buy locally produced food that is fresh and oganic, it is a time when you are supporting the environment and your neighbor. There is also no denying the superior quality of home grown food as opposed to mass produced food from a giant farm from some place so far away.

But probably the most wonderful part of a farmer's market is the beauty of a community gathering. It is amazing what I see and experience on Saturday mornings. You see musicians, artists, farmer's, chefs, business people, and just people from all walks of life who are from right in your neighborhood. It creates a sense of connection and identity. That, more than anything else, is something truly valuable and amazing. It is with community and identity that we form stronger bonds and create a better society.

It is the beauty and warmth of the farmer's market that I love to experiece when I go out on Saturdays and see what is happening, what is new, and what new inspiration I can draw from it. I will be doing a series of work on this idea, so keep your eyes open for new posts and entries. If you geta chance, go support your local farmer's market.

Have a great day!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hey Everyone! We are taking part in a festival in Half Moon Bay on August 4th this summer. We will be with many other artists and musicians who are sharing and selling their work. Come check us out and join us for our debut event! It should be very exciting. I will keep you posted as more information comes in about it. But this flyer here shows the date, time, place, etc. Keep looking for news about what we have planned for our debut event! Please share and come and support us! Thanks for your support!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Accessibility in Art

Ok, I have not posted for awhile, but I find myself really needing to write this out. I was trying to hold out until I got done with my work for the school year, but this issue is really making want to say something.

So, one of the recent themes I have developed is "accessibility in art". What does this mean? For me, it means several things. It means accessible in size, content, price, knowledge and contact with the artist, and any other way I can think of. Take this piece, for example. I believe this piece is only 5.5" x 8.5". The small size brings the viewer in close and lets them have a personl relationship with the painting. Have you ever passed by a large piece of art that could be in a city square, or something like that? I was passing something like that in every other piazza in Italy. I felt like I was just outside the space of these pieces sometimes. Please don't misinterpret my comment for dislike of the Italian Renaissance masters. (Monumental works of art are great and among my favorites of all time - I got to stand next to "The David" by Michelangelo and it was beyond words. I loved it!) I can't wait to stand in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica either. These are amony my favorite works, but let me explain the difference. I could say the same of some of the large scale scultptures and paintings from today. There is a room at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, CA, where there are these floor to ceiling paintings and I have to go all the way across this giant room to even get a perspective on the pieces. I can't feel like I am part of the art. It overwhelms me. There is art that I like that is like this. However, I feel that overwhelms me and inspires sheer awe. I certainly don't feel like i can own it.

For my art, and I believe the art of my family, we want the people to be able to have a personal relationship with the art, that includes being able to take it home if they like it. Here's the thing that makes it hard for the average person to take home a piece of original art work. Let's just take a 2' x 3' painting that is done really nicely and with a lot of detail. This painting could range anywhere from $500 - $5,000. Now, if you walk into a gallery that is full of $5,000 paintings, then your market (the people walking in) may know exactly what they are walking into and are fine with handing over that kind of money. However, we need to look at the sheer economics of the situation. You average person does not have $5,000 to spend on a painting. They may have that to spend on a used car - something that they can take to work and get them around town to do their errands, etc. Last time I checked, my paintings did not have an engine to start up and get people around town. Art is not a practical buy, it is something that is extra. I believe art is necessary, do not misunderstand me, but when it comes to getting kids to school and putting food on the table, a car wins out over a painting - every  time for the average person. I can't compete against Ford and Chevy. It is just that simple. I want the largest group possible to be able to enjoy art. We talk about this as artists all the time, but then I see people pricing themselves right out of the market. If you go to an art festival, or a smaller gallery, and price a piece at $5,000, a lot of people are going to walk right by your piece after saying, "Wow! That is so great! Too bad I can't afford that."

Let me give you some background where I am coming from. I work with people who do not thin about buying $5,000 paintings. It is inaccessible. It is unrealistic. It is not going to happen for most people. Let's say that artist drops their price to $500. Ok, great, that person opened up their market some. However, let's look at the competition. IPADS, Laptop computers, weekend trips away somewhere, and cell phones, just to name a few things. Art will not win out with these things. A person is going to go for these things first. All you have to do is look around. What are people walking around more with? Original paintings or smart phones? It is not hard to figure this one out. It is the mindset of the average consumer. That person will walk into an art festival and art gallery (smaller one) and look at the price and they will check for a few things. "Is there anything cheaper that I can buy that I like or do they take credit cards/debit cards?" If you truly want art to get to more people, you have to factor in the economics.

I recently had a fundraiser for cancer. (Yay Gina! My wife completed a half-marathon to raise money for this cause.  All proceeds went to Team In Training) The piece above was a raffle prize donation. In this process of fund raising, I talked with some people and they said something that they liked was that they could go somewhere and walk away with two framed pieces of art. Granted, I work small, and so does most of my family. Size is another feature of accessibility that I will talk about in a bit. The point is that people want to own art, especially original art that has a connection to an artist! This fundraising opportunity opened my eyes to what people want. The people that supported this cause were not rich, or even all that well off in most cases. They did like art and they wanted to feel connected to the art. Of course, the larger a piece is, they more hours you put in and you have to charge more. They key is to really understand the economics and the market for your work and be able to be competitive. When you price it low enough, people will alway choose original art over commercial and mass produced art. Hand made things are important, but you have to be able to produce it in an economical time frame to make it good for you as an artist. If I do a 10' painting, I am not pricing that thing at $100. It would be too many hours spent making it and a loss on other work. You have to get compensated for your time. If you want to price even lower, you can create some of the finely produced items - like giclee prints or prints on good paper and sign them. What I do, and my family does, we put as much of our hands on our work as possible to make everything feel like it has our personal mark - whether it is an artist statement, greeting card, or a painting. People want that connection with the artist.

That brings me to my next point. Content. Content needs to be accessible. i have to say, my colleagues who do more recognizable images - like landscape and figures, or some variation therein, have an upper hand on truly conceptual and abstract art unless they can make it more understandabe to the masses. Take a piece that truly comceptual, maybe even a performance piece, or something in that nature, but there is an element that can be purchased to take home or to an office and displayed. I like this type of art and feel it is very good. However, people who are not educated in some of the more recent trends in art could have a difficult time understanding this. It is not as accessible as something like a style done after the impressionists or something along those lines., If you do push the boundaries of art, make sure your audience can connect with it. I know this brings up the argument of who are we trying to please or communicate with, but let's look at it from the point of view of a viewer. I walk into a gallery and there are some great pieces on the wall or in the case, etc. However, there is not artist statement or description, just a title and price. Then, in another part of the gallery, there is a piece that I like and there is an artist statement with background of the piece and what it is about, etc. For me, I take the one with the one with a statement because I know the story behind it. I could do research or find the artist to get the story, but the brief statement is all that is needed to bring the viewer closer to the work. It is important for artist to be able to articulate their story about each work, even if it is only a few lines. It does not take much time and it brings the artist and viewer closer together and it can also bring a group of people who want to follow the artist because there are great prices and great pieces with a story.

Take the piece above. It is a watercolor and graphite drawing combined. Where did it come from? Well, I explored to idea of the simultaneous coexistence of opposites from when I was in school and had my undergraduate show, and I still work with this even today. I also went to Italy and was influenced by Italian architecture and arches from the Renaissance. I grew up in a valley where there were large expanses of fields and mountains in the distance. I constantly want to explore the relationship of nature an human influence and use of natural things (like stone). That is not a very long statement, but now it gives the viewer some background, and it does not hurt the connection the view has with the piece, it only adds to it.

I could go on all day about this, but these are some of my thoughts about art being accessible. That is what I am about. I will blog again soon after school work is done. Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Olympian

One of the ideas that I explored during my master's degree was the imag of women where men usuaally appeared in Greek style art. This particular piece was colorized reference to black figure imagery from vase painting. This is an image of a female shot-putter. In ancient Greece, if you did not know, women were not even allowed to watch the games, let alone compete in them. So, this is a modern image making a reference to the ancient tradition. Another image combined here is the lion. Herakles, or Hercules by the Roman name, was traditionally associated with the founding of the Olympics, so this is another reference to that idea.

One of the other things I really liked about this linoleum cut process was how I was able to get such rich colors and have it reach such an intense level, especially when they are viewed in person. I usually worked small because it made getting intense colors much easier. Also, anyone who is familiar with the reduction process of printing, you have to print each color, layer by layer. One of the challenges I encountered as I worked through this process was which colors worked best as they layered over one another. One bad layering could ruine the entire piece, and that would be bad!

Overall, I am very excited to show this work all together on March 11. I will have my artist statement and a synopsis of my thesis out for people to read as they look at the work as a group. My master's work was truly fascinating for me and I loved doing the work on it. I hope people enjoy what I am sharing here.

Be sure to take the poll to the right of the post!


Monday, February 27, 2012

The Javelin Thrower

The Javelin Thrower, Collagraph Print

This is one of many in my Greek series. I did many that mimicked the Black Figure style of vase painting. I liked this style as a way of printing to remind the viewer of the powerful simplicity of black and white imagery that could be seen on the vases of ancient Greece. The ancient Olympians were often highly revered in Greek poetry, much the same as heroes in the military and ancient battle, such as Homer's Iliad. Epic poetry often immortalized athletes and heroes. Based on what I studied, back in ancient times, there was a much closer association between athletics and the military. One of the Olympic events was to race in full armor (made of bronze, I presume) for 100 yards. There was wrestling, throwing of spears, and boxing. Athletic training was closely associated with military training.

In Sparta, being a soldier was a way of life. We ofen hear of Athens during the history of 5th century BCE Greek times, but Spartans were also very influential as well. They did not have the buildings that we associate with the Acropolis, but they had the military that was leading the Greeks during the 5th BCE. The Olympics go back several centuries prior to that time. My thesis goes into greater detail about the relationship between heroes, myth, and art.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Work!

Arches at Sunset, Watercolor, Graphite, Prisma Color Pencils, 5.5" x 8.5", 2012, Copyright belongs to Jesse Brown

This is a new painting I just did. I am trying to create a seris of architectural pieces that are a combination of layered image using watercolor and pencil. I worked in a similar style when I was an undergraduate and it was very successful. This is the first one I have done in awhile. When I traveled to Italy I got to see a lot of amazing architecture that really influenced me. You can see the Renaissance style arches that are pushing and pulling with the negative and positive space in contrast to the landscape. For me, it is a fun composition to work with and brings a lot of possibilities when trying to layer images. Sometimes it can be more challenging than other times.

As we look around, there is this push to balance human made structures and creations with the natural surroundings. "Going green" is a big thing now. As my professor in college talked about, it is a coexistence of opposites. Truly, we are always trying to balance our lives. If we look at it through that lense, then we have a lot to think about. In my work I feel that I usually come back to this idea in one way or another most of the time. Especially when I do this layered imagery with organic and hard-edged shapes and lines.

Thanks for coming by to see the work! Be sure to check out the new galleries that are going to be going up soon!


An Exhibition of my Master's Degree Work

Crimson Cloak, Linoleum Block Print, 7" x 5"

When I did my Master's thesis, I never got the chance to show my work and talk about what I did. Coming up, Gina and I will be holding a fundraiser event and I will be putting some of my copies of my prints on my thesis up for grabs. The title of my thesis is Heroes, Myth, Art, and History. The piece shown here was part of the series of art work that I produced to go along with the thesis. Ancient Greece was a fascinating period of history that triggers the imagination. Recently, the movie "300" was produced and brought the story of the Battle of Thermopylae to the forefront of the minds of Americans. A larger part of my thesis, which I wrote back bettween 2000-2002, focused on this battle, among other things. Greece is in the news right now about its financial circumstances, but I like to focus on the many contributions this country has made throughout its history.

"Crimson Cloak" makes reference to the color cloak that Spartans were known to wear. The Greek 'L' on the front of the picture comes from the symbol that was often put on the front of the shield that they carried. This is only one piece of many that was created. I look forward to sharing these pieces in the coming days. Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Training in a positive environment

The more I train in martial arts, the more I realize that it is a process by which I learn new things. It is not a goal, or a benchmark, or some target to chase. Martial arts is a journey. Like so much of what we do in life, much of what we do is a process. The question is what will we do with the process that we put ourselves through. I realized that it is the same with work and day-to-day family life as well. We are a product of the processes that we put ourselves through. This year has been especially tough on me with work. The reality is that almost every work place is going to cut money and funding and ask more of what their workers do. How do we handle the stress? What will we do with the pressure? As I look back at this picture and remember this time, and then reflect upon my new routine of training every morning as much as possible, I realize the power of training and how it shapes not only your abilities, but also your frame of mind. I do not think anything is worth stressing ourselves out to the point our health is compromised.

When I trained with my sensei, Chuck Epperson, this past weekend, we had a conversation about training. I asked him how he made time with such a busy schedule to make time for his personal training. One of the things he pointed out is you just have to make it a priority. Kenpo is such a journey. The art of Kenpo itself can keep you busy everyday with just trying to think of new ways to train it and explore it. There are so many possibilities with the technical execution of the art. However, if you incorporate into that some of the philosophy of where martial arts comes from and what it is about, then you have this very intense and incredible experience that can take you into endless possibilities for training.

When I was on the beach last summer, training, the power of being out on the shore, at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, was amazing. It fed energy into the motions that I practiced. When I was out this morning, as the sun was rising and hearing the birds and feeling the presence of water near by, I was in a different place where I could focus and gain strength as I practiced. I think it is important to practice intelligently, as well as in a place the lifts you into a better disposition. Our environment and surroundings has a huge impact on us, and it is important to remember that when we train, make art, or work. I feel that we often expose ourselves to negativity too often and it affects us at work, in daily life, or in many other places such as school, in our community, or other places.

Take some time to pick your environment carefully and let yourself enjoy the positive choice that you made. If you train or make art, then let yourself be in a creative space where you can feel your strength gather. I know it makes a difference for me.

Talk to you soon.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A blue Tint

2.5 x 3.5 inches, ball point pen and color pen, copyright to this image belongs to Jesse Brown

This is another in the series of trading cards. I really enjoyed working in one color along with black. It adds color, but with a simplistic color scheme that is effective. often times we can become burdened with too much color. I think the trick is to find where to place to color to make it effective. I think this is my favorite of the Trading Card Series. This particular work is 2.5 x 3.5 inches. The small format makes it easy to work with ball point pen. Pen can be so time consuming, so when I go small, it helps to cut down the time it takes to finish one work.

That leads me to an idea about production. In today's society, just to survive as a business person, you have to be able to compete by producing in large amounts. Making one work per week would be considered slow, in my opinion. Unless, of course, you are able to sell each work for thousands of dollars. This is completely contrary to my view on art as well. Accessibility in art is key. Price is part of the accessibility. I want people to be able to enjoy my work in their homes. That means it has to be affordable. I also think there is a separate category, and that is accessibility of ideas, but I won't get into that right now.

For those following my blog, I am going to be launching a business soon. It should open later this year. I have not official business name, but the website title is brown family art works. Keep a lookout for when I post the link here on the blog. I appreciate everyone coming by and looking through my work and the work of Gina and helping out with the fundraiser. If you can leave a comment of ask a question.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Glancing Spear

Photo by Gina Navarro Brown and model Jesse Brown
Gina and Jesse Brown retain copyrights of this photo and all other works and photos in this blog.

This was taken at Fort Bragg, California last August. I was doing a post from Glancing Spear, which can be found in Long Form 3 in Kenpo Karate. The "spear" that you see in the pose is a finger strike to the eye, as it is taught in the form. I enjoyed doing martial arts at this time on the beach. it was a most wonderful day and Gina took many different photos. It was an incredible photo opportunity for us. Gina was doing great job with the new camera.

I believe, martial arts is not just the performance or production of an art, but it is an experience. Martial arts is about an experience that helps the practitioner learn a new way of doing things and understand his or her environment around them. I am trying to get to the point where I can practice more. I understand the need for practicing, Imagine the frustration at understanding the need and value of practicing martial arts and not having the time to follow through on my practice. However, when I look at the photos like this one that we took, it truly does inspire me to get back to practicing more. I hope this photo can inpire the readers and instill appreciation of finding what helps them to find something that helps their life.

Birds at Sunrise

This work actually made it into the Pacific Art League show "Works on Paper." The opening for the show was on February 3 and it was great. There were about 200 entries and only about 40 pieces made it in. So, I was quite pleased that I was able to get into the show. This particular piece is 4 inches by 6 inches. It is titled "Birds at Sunrise." I have been exploring a number of different images as I get back into watercolor. It has been some time since I spent a lot of time using this medium extensively. One thing that is amazing about watercolor is how diverse it is. It has the ability to be so subtle and combine with so many other drawing mediums. I really enjoy mixing watercolor with some of my other drawing styles and techniques.

A short update on the fundraising efforts we have been working on. There have been two art pieces claimed for my gallery and Gina has had one of her photos claimed. We have been doing other things for fundraising and we are slowly making progress. If you have not gone by our fundraising gallery, go by and check it out.

This entry is short, but I hope you all enjoy the new piece.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Work for the Fundraising and some links.

Carrots and More
Red and Green

Copyrights of all photos belong to Gina Navarro Brown. Please contact us at with questions regarding photos. Photos can be printed to variable sizes. Watermarks are seen in the digital images but will not appear in printed versions. Gina signs all of her work and sends with an artist statement.

These are some other photos that Gina took to add to her work on the Fundraising Page. Please go by and take a look. There is a complete listing in the right margin of all the pages and you can click on the link to the Fundraising Gallery there. You can send an email if to if you see a gift you would like for donating to cancer research. You can check out the donation page for Gina's half-marathon at - This is the page that you donate to if you are interested in donating for the cause. Email us about any photos or art work that interest you and the details of what gift is available will be worked out. There are tables in the Fundraising page that describe what gifts go out for the different donations. As I say there, check ahead of time to see if it is available or how long it could take to get it out to you. We appreciate you coming by and taking a look at the page and taking the time to read about our work and what we are trying to do for promoting cancer research. Thanks again and talk to you soon!

- Jesse

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gina's Photos for the Fundraising Gallery

Gina took these photos are the San Francisco Farmer's Market. These are some amazing shots and I think they will go great in a kitchen or dining area. She did an amazing job with these. There is something about colorful food that always makes you hungry, right? Check out the Fundraising Gallery for all of them. I am posting a few on the main page, but the gallery will have the full list! Please enjoy and email us or leave comments, or let us know if you have any interest!

Thanks for checking these out and be sure to go to the Fundraising Gallery for the rest of them!

All work is copyrighted on this blog and these pieces are copyrighted to Gina Navarro Brown.

Four New Images to the Fundraising Gallery

I have added 4 new images to the Fundraising gallery. I hope people enjoy them. Be sure to email me if they generate any interest for you. You can click on the link off to the side to get there. As an update, I submitted two pieces to a juried exhibition here in the Bay Area to see how I do. I will let you all know if I get in and people can go see the show! Enjoy the rest of the images and let me know if they help generate any interest in fundraising.

Be sure to check out the Fundraising Gallery! Have a great day!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some New Work in the Fund Raising Gift Gallery

These are some of the pictures that we have up on the fund raising page to help with Gina's fund raising for cancer research and helping patients with cancer. Please come by, take a look, donate if you can, or repost! We appreciate your help! I will post new work as it goes up in the gallery! All the details are on that blog page.

Thanks so much!

Jesse (and Gina)