The interview below is provided for art students who have been assigned to interview a living/working artist. You can also read it if you’re just curious. If you have more specific questions that you need answered for your assignment, e-mail them to team (at) paintwitch (dot) com. You can also check out a recent interview at Geek Post

 

Q: Which art medium do you use?

A: I primarily publish paintings completed in oils now, but I also work with graphite and most of my works are fully fleshed out in graphite, charcoal, and/or brown or black pencil before they make it to the painting stage. I also work with watercolors and a large portion of my work is done digitally – sometimes the underpaintings are done digitally in order to speed along the process and avoid the drying times required with oils. This is how I finished the last 50-ish paintings in the Angel Tarot in 8 months. I have also worked with egg tempera, oil pastels, and acrylic paints in the past, and might return to using them at any moment.

Q: Who are your favorite artists?

A: I love Academic and Pre-Raphaelite painters like Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Waterhouse. I’m also a big fan of Bouguereau, Mucha, and Makart, but mostly I have a smattering of favorite paintings. More modern painters/illustrators that I really admire are Brian Froud, Arthur Rackham, and many people that I am lucky to be able to call “friend.”

Q: What’s your favorite part of the artistic process?

A: I really enjoy getting to take my time and let things unfold naturally. I don’t enjoy setting out with a rigid, fixed idea that can’t evolve, so I don’t take much work-for-hire since there’s no fun in it for me.

Q: Why art?

A: I’ve always been interested in it and it was always my hobby when I was a kid. Eventually I realized I could make money from it and I wouldn’t have to learn something I’m not naturally good at.

Q: Why fantasy art?

A: I think “fantasy” broadly encompasses most things that are mythological, spiritual, and dreamlike. And that’s generally the arena that I think my work falls in. I don’t have much desire to paint things that are real or reality in any sense, and I don’t want to be locked in to only one type of art for the rest of my career. “Fantasy” is a broad umbrella that many things can fit beneath.

Q: When did you start painting professionally?

A: I had my first art show when I was 17, and around that time I had a few freelance jobs working on Flash cartoons and animated logos for websites. I tried going to art school and taking formal animation classes before I realized the for-profit art schools in this country are mostly scams, and I was 20 or 21 when I gave up on that avenue and began to pursue painting for money in earnest.

Q: Do you have a formal education?

A: Some. I have majored in animation and fine art in college, and taken a lot of figure drawing classes on the side from community colleges. I still take classes online from Watts Atelier on occasion. Sometimes you need to refresh skills and rescue them from the habits you’ve formed. I also read a lot of books and articles about painting, watch videos, and try to go to workshops when I can. You can always learn more and should never be embarrassed of learning.

Q: How do you know when a piece is done?

A: I used to not know, and would just keep going until I made the painting worse. Then I would be mad at myself and finally stop. Now I am better at forming the idea in my head before I start, sketching it down, and sticking to that for the most part. There are still areas that have to develop naturally as the piece progresses.

Q: How is your personality reflected in your work?

A: I think every artist’s personality shines through in their work whether they mean it to or not, and from the conversations I’ve had with people over the years, I don’t think they are always conscious of how their personality shows up in their paintings. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I have a hard time not painting every single detail in the minutest sense. It’s hard for me to just do loose brushy stuff like some artists do. My personal tastes obviously come through; I live in an old house and I like to garden. Many of my paintings are somewhat Victorian in time and plants feature heavily in my work. There are probably other things, good and bad, that show up in my work whether I am aware of it or not. I am told I am an intense person and I think sometimes my figures have very intense bearings.

Q: How do you overcome creative blocks?

A: I always find this a bit perplexing. I don’t really experience this. I have too many ideas and sometimes I get stuck on creative overwhelm, unsure of what to work on. It helps to have a plan to make a finished product, like a calendar or tarot deck, and that can be the focus until it’s done. In the meantime I have to write down or sketch all of the ideas that occur to me along the way. The problem for me is not having enough time to paint everything, not losing drive or motivation.

Q: Do you ever discard a painting?

A: Yes, all the time. Sometimes people try to buy them from me, so I rip them up and burn them in the winter time. People find this very upsetting so I don’t show the discards anymore or talk about them. The thing is, I don’t think a messed up painting is any different than a typo. You don’t keep every piece of paper you’ve ever made a mistake on, so why should I keep around my flubs and failures? They take up space in the studio that could be dedicated to other things, and heaven forbid I ever decide to take one of them out and try to make it work. When a painting has been discovered to not be working it’s best to throw it out and start over rather than spend a bunch of extra time trying to make it work and then being disappointed with it anyway. Those paintings never turn into something I like so as soon as I realize it’s one of those, it meets the fireplace.

Q: Do you ever get “stuck” on a painting? How do you get through it?

A: Sure. Some paintings just need more time. I put them somewhere I can see them, but where they are out of the way. Your subconscious will keep working on problems when you’re not actively thinking about it, so seeing it all the time reminds the mind that it is still a problem that needs to be sorted out. One day the solution will come to you like a flash, but it’s just your subconscious finally settling on a resolution.

Q: How long did it take you to find your own style? Do you have any advice about finding your style?

A: I think style is something that just happens to you and I don’t know exactly when I realized I had one. I have tried over the years to shake it and get a new one. It doesn’t leave. No matter what I paint or how I painted it, I think my figures especially always give something away that I did it, and then I fill the background with seven-trillion flowers and it’s obvious it was me. Your style is intrinsically you, made up of things you like, the way you see things, and your bad habits. If you want to find out what your style is, do your sketch, then take away all of your reference materials and paint only from the sketch. You will quickly see your own mistakes and your style, like it or not. In fact, the longer I go along the harder it is for me to try and mimic anyone else’s style. I have tried doing master studies like I did when I was younger and it never looks like theirs no matter how hard I try. I used to be able to do them, but now I have certain habits that just won’t stop. So I guess part of the answer is to paint a lot, too.

Q: How long does it take to finish a painting?

A: Some paintings go very fast, within a day or two. Others take weeks or months. I don’t know why they are that way, it seems like it’s up to them sometimes and not me. I can try to push them around but it usually is more stress than it’s worth.

Q: Do you listen to music while you work?

A: I find that I get bored very quickly, so sometimes I listen to music, especially if it’s something I haven’t heard before. Other times I listen to Podcasts until I am sick of that, then audiobooks, then I’ll have the TV on in the background for a few days until I get sick of TV and go back to music. I also like silence and am blessed to live in a place with an abundance of birds, so it’s never really quiet except on the coldest winter days.

Q: Do you think that AI art will replace artists?

A: Honestly, no. I think that AI art is not very satisfying, has a lot of technical flaws, will probably never advance much beyond what it is now, and is mostly a trillion-dollar scam perpetuated by the same people that perpetuated the NFT-grift and the crypto-craze. I think in a few years we’ll be watching a Fire Fest-style documentary about how these guys bilked a bunch of money out of billionaires that thought it was the wave of the future, only to get sued into oblivion and then dumped by consumers as the novelty wears off and the sobering reality that you still need artists to correct the plagiaristic-junk it produces kicks in. It will cause a lot of problems in the interim, and a lot of people have already started trying to switch to traditional media in order to have originals to sell since we now live in a world of fake art. If anything I think it will cause a resurgence in art study and art appreciation, sort of like the modern art movement did, at a time when it is sorely needed and funding for real art schools is flagging.

Q: How do you think the Internet has changed life for artists?

A: It’s easier, in some ways, to put your work in front of people. It’s certainly easier to sign up for art shows and things like that than it used to be. But people are also oddly less in contact than they were before internet and even the telephone came along. Artists used to live in communities together where they could help each other in person, but now we rely on other means of communication and live more spread out. I don’t think it’s a win overall, and I think the companionship of other artists is more important than our modern life gives it room to be.

Q: Do you like modern art or abstract art?

A: Not really. Actually, no. I have one piece of abstract art in my home, a giant ugly thing my grandmother left me. It’s probably worth something, but I would never know. There are some people who do cool things, like happy accidents, my friend Alan Clark is one of those people. The rest of it is just sort of lost on me, I guess.

Q: Are you a visual thinker, or do you not have a “mind’s eye”?

A: I have a very strong mind’s eye and am not able to understand most things unless I can look at them. I don’t understand written or spoken directions. I used to have sort of a monologue like a lot of people do, but something happened in 2019 or 2020 and it just vanished. I’ve always been able to visualize things very well – the example always given is of an apple. My apple can be any color, in any setting, and usually it’s like a movie. Despite that, I still like to let paintings evolve on their own. I don’t think it’s very fun if you’re too attached to an idea before you start out, then the whole process is a struggle about making it look “just right”.