Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing my friend Layne Johnson. Well, now it was my turn to respond to his questions, questions that made me stop to think about what it is I do.
Q: Have you ever had an “Aha” moment whilst working on a piece of art and if so please describe it and how it changed you.
If painting were easy I probably wouldn’t be doing it. I am always trying to achieve a better piece. The aha moments are those when the pursuit materializes for me. My very first aha moment was when I discovered how to make “skin color” in my first portrait class. I showed up having painted still lifes and landscapes and everyone just jumped right into painting their portrait while I just stood there realizing I had never mixed skin color before. Luckily my instructor began to demystify color mixing and I began to learn through observation and practice, and various instructors. As I’ve moved along developing my skills I set personal goals of mastery for myself. I wanted to understand composition. Luckily, my technical training as an architectural designer helped with that. I then wanted to understand color and today I feel comfortable with the way I use color. One of my friends has said I am the lady that isn’t afraid of red.
A few years later I began to pursue a certain texture to my impressionism. Lo and behold one day I achieved texture I felt proud of while painting a floral in a class and the aha moment came when in hindsight I began to realize what it took to do that. Of course, mastery is a different thing than happenstance achievement so I continued to pursue my goal to make it a regular occurrence. I enjoy working on these self-imposed challenges. It keeps me limber and striving to hit more home runs as many times as possible. Aha moments give me confidence and that confidence allows me to express myself more freely. By mastering my work tools and technique, the movement becomes second nature and I can more readily produce what I’ve created in my mind.
Q. What challenges do you currently pursue to make your paintings “a cut above”?
I pursue the ongoing evolution and perfectionism of my own style. I see it as a continuous process of constant growth. Each new project is an opportunity to conquer new horizons. I believe I am not there yet as the challenge is constant and the reward is a growing amount of happy outcomes. I also like to use classical and quality materials. My father always taught us that cheap is expensive. In other words, he taught us the appreciation of quality in material and craftsmanship. That is why I am of the belief that a quality item is a better item because it is well made and it will stand the test of time. I don’t paint to compete against anyone’s work. I paint to evolve and elevate my own efforts. In my artwork I strive to communicate and capture the essence of the subject. This includes the emotion I perceive in the subject itself. On occasion I have wondered what the purpose of my work really is. I ask myself how it is that my work serves humanity. Does it feed the hungry? Does it save anyone? The answer has come in my most personally awe-inspiring and proudest moments when the viewer perceives the particular essence or emotions that, unbeknownst to them, I wanted to capture in the piece. This is when my heart pitter patters and I feel rejoiceful. I appreciate that I am able to use a language that conveys this offering to another human being in the hope that I have enriched their spirit.
Q. What is your worst experience whilst painting a piece of art?
I paint places I’ve visited or imagined. I paint portraits from live sittings as practice for times when I may not have the sitter in front of me. I prefer to use my own reference photos and sketches. When designing a composition I begin to see the image in my mind and I do a preliminary sketch, many times directly on the canvas. Typically everything flows smoothly but there is a phase when I am not happy with the piece and finishing seems like an insurmountable feat. Under ideal conditions this doesn’t even occur, everything just flows right out from mind to hand and it all falls into place but on some occasions, I may feel I will never be able to save the piece no matter how much more time I put into it. In these cases I may just scrape it off and start over. This has been excellent advice I received from one of my instructors and I put it into practice when things are not flowing as I see them. A case in point was a figure painting I was working on. I started the piece with the model posing for me. I was going to try to capture as much as I could and hopefully reach a point where I could detail from a reference photo after the model left. Although not a portrait, I wanted to give the figure a good likeness to highlight the model’s features. After the model left I began to work the background to surround the figure I had been working on. The first sign of trouble was when I began to feel unhappy with the background perspective. I went back and forth working and correcting the background and detailing the model’s garments. Then I began to feel unhappy with the color. Finally, I was totally unhappy with the likeness of the model and no matter how much I worked on the painting it just seemed to go downhill from there. I struggled with it until I completed the piece but I never signed it because I consider it unfinished. I keep it as a lesson and as a reminder to scrape the piece and started over instead of building on a weak foundation.
Q: Where do you see artwork being sold with the most success in the future?
To me there are creators and producers. There are also craftsmen. Creators and producers would be those who invent something totally unique. From the composition to the method to the final product. Craftsmen are those who take an existing “something” and modify it in some way to make a new object. They may or may not be masters of their craft. This I see as the key to invention and innovation. When someone has the mindset to produce something that has not been engineered before, that is true mastery of innovation, new thoughts and their materialization. I see innovation as being key to the future, not just in art but in our progress and sustainability as a human species. Our appreciation for art, design, and creative expression is key to developing our senses and sensibilities but these can only be enhanced through education. Why is development of our senses and sensibilities important? Because it triggers new and innovative thought. By building on the shoulders of giants through education, we can take the cumulative learning of generations and go beyond.
I see that we will continue to be interested in art because people will appreciate it, perhaps for various reasons, aesthetically, economically, and emotionally but art may be delivered in new and innovative ways. These methods of delivery will determine where we acquire our art. Currently, we buy original art or reproductions from physical venues (permanent or temporary) and online. This opening of the market has broadened access to many artists but I still see the majority of people buying from seeing the piece in person. This is especially true with high dollar items. Many times, it is what makes the sale. If 2D or 3D art can become portable then I see we may be considering new ways of delivering art to buyers and collectors.
For now, I believe people will become more comfortable with virtual purchases of art, particularly for collectors who are already familiar with the work of their favorite artists. I also hope that art continues to be found in more and more areas of our life because it will denote our appreciation for feeding human creativity and that is the key to our future.