A Caricaturing Interview with Court Jones

court-jones-title-full

Here is the next interview, the first in a bunch on the subject of Caricature.

   I was put onto Court Jones a while ago by listening in on Will Terrel’s Youtube channel. Court is amazing artist in general, and through caricature he captures not just laugh out loud likeness and great exaggeration, but the emotion of his subjects giving them a truly candid and authentic feel. He has a really amazing outlook on the world of art, and gives incredible insight into his processes, his struggles and ways to persevere in art and life. So I hope you enjoy this interview and please visit his amazing websites:

www.courtjones.com for his Caricatures

and

www.crjonesart.com for his portrait work.

Without further ado here is Court.

 

 

 

 My first question to you is pretty straight forward: What got you into caricaturing? And what keeps you engaged with it?

I first dabbled in caricature in high school. Although I didn’t seriously consider it as a focus for my art career then. I had no idea then what I wanted to do in art exactly. But after college, I found a job drawing at a local amusement park, which is where I learned the basic skills of caricature. After a few years, I quit that to focus on freelance event entertainment and illustration. Live quicksketch art is usually looked down upon and misunderstood because there are many unskilled artists out on the streets giving the art form a bad name. But it can be a really challenging and sophisticated form of art, if you treat it that way. And drawing live in front of people for hours on end is great practice and a tremendous motivator to hone your skills at not only capturing a likeness, but to improve your calligraphy and just learning to be bold and unforgiving in your decisions. Doing it live, you learn that you can get away with quite a lot when you push the exaggerations. But what I get the most satisfaction from is doing oil painted caricature portraits and illustrations. Sebastian Kruger’s books are what opened my eyes in the late 90s to what extreme caricature as high art can look like–and how it can totally contradict what most people think of as caricature art. I had no idea you could do that until I saw his books. But what I try to do in my own studio caricature work is not be so much an extreme exaggerator, but I try to bring together elements of traditional portraiture and expressive painting techniques to exaggerated likenesses. I love when a funny caricature portrait is handled very seriously with a subdued palette and a fine art level of finish. I think the contrast is very engaging to a viewer.

When you come to caricaturing someone, what do you look for first and how do you know if it has been successful?

For me, it all starts with the shape of the head. How I push or stretch the shape of the head sort of determines where everything else will go and how I will change the relationships between the features for a humorous effect. I usually do scratchy thumbnail sketches that take only a minute or two. If I can see a likeness in that early stage, without any fancy rendering, then I know it will ultimately work.

When you struggle with a piece, what is your method for moving through the frustration?

When I am having a hard time with a likeness (and that happens a lot), I fall back on my fundamentals. Just like in sports, if you have better training in fundamental skills, you will be able to work through the tough spots. In my case, if rough thumbnail sketches aren’t working, I will use various exercises and techniques I have learned over the years. I might try different mediums and tools to draw with. Doing that sometimes helps get you out of a rut or helps keep you from making the same mistakes when sketching a face. I might try an approach to structured portrait drawing I learned at the Watts Atelier, which is a type of linear abstract lay-in originally taught by illustrator Frank Reilly. It’s usually used to build up a solid, three-dimensional looking portrait or figure drawing. But I have found it works beautifully for caricature, especially when doing extreme exaggerations or extreme angles or head tilts. There are a few other tricks you can do to overcome road-blocks, like doing a very tame portrait-y caricature sketch where the likeness is very strong, but isn’t very exaggerated or funny. But then I will do a caricature of that drawing. And then do a third drawing which caricatures the second drawing. It’s sort of like baby-stepping your way to a funnier likeness.

Is there someone else’s work that you can always return to for inspiration?

There are so many people whose work I check out for caricature inspiration. Just a few of them are Jan Op De Beeck, Sebastian Kruger (But only his older stuff. He does more tame pop-portraiture now), Jason Seiler, David O’Keefe, John Kascht. They make great exaggeration decisions and have really sophisticated and distinctive techniques. But there is a large range of traditional fine artists and illustrators I admire and would like to have reflected in my work, such as Jeremy Lipking, Mian Situ, Alex Ross, Jon Foster, and turn of the century artists like Sargent, Zorn and DeLaszlo. I know that’s a lot of different styles mixed in there, but I feel like there’s always at least one small speck of wisdom or inspiration you can learn from anyone.

What are your thoughts on the political/satirical niche that caricaturing takes in society? Do you see it as restricting the artform?

 I don’t think that caricature needs to make any kind of political or social commentary. And good political or social satire doesn’t require caricature. They definitely CAN fit together nicely and are often used hand-in-hand. But that’s never been my purpose with caricature. For me, it’s just about exploring the ways in which a face and body can be re-arranged and exaggerated.

It’s a fun geometry problem for someone who was terrible at actual math.

The only thing that really restricts the art form are timid clients and art directors. In my experience, and my colleagues’ experience, we overwhelmingly have to subdue our exaggeration tendencies because they fear that our artwork will offend either the subject or the audience. Usually it’s when approval on a piece is decided by committee, rather than an individual client. That’s the absolute worst way to commission a caricature. So most artists learn to water down their true abilities in order to keep working.

What are your thoughts on the production art industry, specifically the processes of having an army of artists working on a single project like film and T.V?

I’ve used my caricature a bit in video game, TV and film production doing character design and illustration for branding and movie posters, and there is a lot of pressure to work within a very tiny range of expression. Developing a character or caricaturing a real person for film and TV makes clients get very nitpicky. And I can understand that. If they are going to invest lots of money animating these designs in 3D or printing them on marketing materials, they want to have things just right and have mass appeal. But entry-level artists should be aware of the high demands of that industry and not let themselves get upset by endless minor revisions. In those fields, I’ve only ever been hired as an individual freelancer, so I can’t speak about working among an army of artists. However, I did work on a very short term job doing storyboards in a cubicle for a video game company. And they demanded very high volume, if not precise drawings. So that was not really for me.

Beyond the basic principles of drawing and painting, when it comes to producing a piece, do you have a tried and true process, or is it a constant battle of problem solving?

I’m one of those artists that ends up trying a slightly different approach to each of my jobs. I change my materials and methods a lot because I enjoy the process so much. For example, I might start an oil painted illustration by using a warm toned surface on one day, or work digitally on a white background on the next job. Sometimes I keep the outlines of the drawing visible, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m precise and tight, and sometimes I paint more loosely. I’m not sure if this constant shifting is the best way to work. A lot of my portfolio is very inconsistent, which might be hurting me. But I tend to get a wide variety of stylistic requests from week to week, like a vintage pen and ink look, or a fully painted Rockwell style illustration, and everything in between. But I feel lucky to be able to do that kind of variety. I really enjoy the learning and experimenting. So I guess I’m more of a problem solver. Maybe one day I’ll hit upon that tried and true process.

How different is caricaturing to doing a normal portrait? Do you find one harder than the other?

I have found that this is a touchy subject with my caricature colleagues, because that discussion has come up before. Many of them think caricaturing is way more difficult than portraiture. I do both professionally, and I can say that portraiture is a lot more demanding and requires more training and practice to do really well. For me it does, anyway. Drawing and painting traditional portraits takes discipline and a very subtle eye for tiny errors. Whereas you can get away with murder in caricature and it can still look like the subject. And even with what I said earlier, clients are generally more forgiving when doing a caricature for them than they are when they commission a portrait. But, with that said, caricaturing IS a very difficult and specialized form of drawing and takes a lot of years of practice to do really well. And there is a wider range of acceptability by the public on what constitutes caricature, so it is easier to get work doing commissions and live entertainment. You don’t have to be really good to just make a living at it. But with portraits, you have to draw and paint at a pretty high level to continue getting work.

What are your thoughts on the growing competition in the art world, especially in high end illustration?

I can’t really speak to that. Sitting in my studio alone, it’s hard to gauge the level of competition out there. And I haven’t done a whole lot of what I would consider high-end illustration or apply to get in illustration annuals. But seeing that type of work produced in large volumes by my heroes is a bit intimidating. Following artists like Drew Struzan, Alex Ross, James Jean, Gregory Manchess and many others sort of makes me want to give up on illustration altogether sometimes. But I know I won’t give up because of that. It really just hits it home how much I still have to learn. And on top of that, I feel more of a pull right toward portraiture and traditional fine art these days. I think I’m putting more energy into portraiture and developing my painting dexterity lately because it’s what really motivates and excites me.

What importance do you place on caricaturing in the world of art? Why do think it’s still the number one style when it comes to satire?

Caricature is one of those things that has many applications across different fields of art: Character design for animation, political cartoons, editorial illustration, fine art and even portraiture all generally can have elements of caricature in them. To me, the essence of caricature is simply making conscious choices about what to change in your drawing to achieve a particular goal. In editorial illustration, it’s usually for humorous purposes. But in portrait painting, you can subtly caricature your subject to flatter them with a thinner neck and less wrinkles. The obvious advantage for caricature for humor and satire is that it automatically sets a tone of the ridiculous, before the story of the illustration is even established. Plus, since caricature is a forgiving art form, it works really well for simple cartoony renderings where you don’t have to spend hours and hours rendering it perfectly to get the message across. Great caricatures can be extremely simple and minimalist. Usually, a few simple, well-placed lines is often all that is needed to show a likeness of a major public figure.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to become a professional artist? When was the point that you realised that you made it?

I think I knew by the age of 10 or 12 that art was going to be my path. But I didn’t know exactly what kind of art I wanted to do at that time.  And I don’t feel I’ve “made it,” in that I don’t feel like I’ve lived up to my potential or have been as consistently busy as other artists seem to be–or as well-known. But I have supported myself with art for the past 17 years doing honest work. And after several little successes and high points interrupted by longer periods of un-eventfulness and low profile jobs, I have started to realize that maybe making it is just a slow process of realization that builds up after many years until you’re able to earn enough money to start actually saving it. And it’s still work that makes me happy. So I’m not complaining.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a professional artist, especially in the field of illustration?

Invest in a good education at an atelier, small school or private instruction working on your fundamental skills. Drawing is everything. It sometimes feels like a chore to me. I’d rather spend more time painting. But you’ll never be a good artist without focusing on your drawing. Painting at a high level is only really possible if you’ve put in hundreds or thousands of hours learning how to strengthen your core skills. And also, don’t waste any more time working at other jobs, putting off getting into an art career. If it really is your passion, put everything into it and find out what makes you excited about art. Look around to see what other people you admire are doing and find out how they do it.

Finally, do you have any strong thoughts or opinions on the public’s perceptions of artist as workers? Do you think that the social view is helpful or detrimental to making it as an artist?

It seems like the majority of the general public are totally dismissive and ignorant about what it takes to do good art. They believe it is an inborn gift. And that you either have it or you don’t. But that is a huge insult to the years of toil and practice we put into it to get to a professional level. The average person thinks we can quickly whip out good stuff with barely any effort and don’t understand why we sometimes charge what we charge. And that since it seems like a fun thing that we do, that we should even do it for free (or nearly so). And with caricatures, I think it’s even more difficult to convey value to the public, because of all the bad street art I mentioned earlier. And also when someone commissions a caricaturist, it’s very often the case that they don’t REALLY want a caricature. Or they don’t trust the artist to make the right decisions. So they try to control every aspect of the drawing and tell the artist how they should draw it. To me, that’s like an average Joe lecturing their mechanic on what they need to do to fix their car. It’s ridiculous to hire a specialized professional and then not let them execute the job the best way they can. So, generally the public’s attitude towards the creative industry makes it difficult to be really successful for an average working artist. But you just have to keep doing it for yourself. Try to do the kind of work that inspires you, put it out there and you will eventually reach the right audience.

Here is some of Courts amazing work;

Court-Jones-Kirsten-Dunst-digital

Kirsten Dunst, medium: digital painting

Court-Jones-Jack-Black-oil-on-canvas

Jack Black, medium: oil on canvas

Court-Jones-George-Takei-oil-on-canvas

George Takei, medium: oil on canvas

Court-Jones-Bryan-Cranston-in-Breaking-Bad-oil-on-canvas

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, medium: oil on canvas

Court-Jones-Picasso-oil-on-canvas

Pablo Picasso, medium: oil on canvas

Court-Jones-Mythbusters-digital

The Mythbusters, medium: digital painting

  

 

Aleah Chapin Interview

title

This is the 4th interview in looking into the process of high level Realism Artists. When I first saw Aleah’s work, I was probably the most captivated on a personal level. The rawness of her work, and the thoughts that it provoked in me personally were intense. When I first got in touch with Aleah it was great, she was so approachable and lovely about being interviewed, and her responses gave me such an interesting insight into having a framework in your process but also being able to let go of control, not to micromanage the technique to avoid losing the character and energy of the subject.

So without further ado, here is the wonderful Aleah Chapin;

 

My first question to you is pretty straight forward: What is it that drove you to realism? and what keeps you doing what you do?

I’ve been obsessed with realism since I can remember. There was always this kind of “magic” to it, this fascination that raw materials on a flat surface could breath and live and seem to exist in a world just like ours. And the fact that someone actually created this illusion with their own hands, spending hours pouring over something that so many people wouldn’t even look at; it gives the subject a certain specialness. When creating something inspired by the world outside of you, the possibilities are endless. No two faces are the same because the very essence of life is that it is constantly changing. What keeps me going is this never-ending exploration into possibilities of beauty. 

How do you go about developing your ideas for your pieces? Do you have a method for inspiration or is it more like “something pops into your head suddenly”?

I sense something before I see it, and then I go search for it. I’ll gather a group of people together, or sometimes just one person, and take a series of hundreds of photographs. I guide them a bit, but what I really want is to capture those intricate emotions that are not forced, but rather are unaffected reactions to external or internal influences. Photography for me has become a way of sketching. I “sketch” until I recognize that thing I was looking for. 

Is there someone else’s work that you can always return to for inspiration?

There are a few. Painters like Jenny Saville and Vincent Desiderio, but also photographers, Sally Mann and Emmet Gowin and sculptor Ron Mueck. I love all these artists because of how they depict the subtleties in a human life. 

What are your thoughts on conceptual art and it’s value? What about the conceptual art process?

What I love about conceptual art is that it asks the viewer to think. It isn’t just a pretty picture that gives you everything and can be viewed and quickly forgotten. One of my favorite pieces is Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet.  It’s a blank, sterile room with forty speakers standing in a circle, so when experienced, it looks like anything but art.  But each speaker is playing a different voice, singing a part in choir. The music is so beautiful and the room so blank, that it somehow hits the perfect balance of opposites so that each supports the other. So much of the process of conceptual art is the idea of it. In traditional painting, it’s usually the opposite, the “idea” being subservient to the way it is painted. I think that traditional painting has a lot to learn from this way of creating. And on the same note, conceptual art quite often could put more weight on it’s own aesthetic manifestations. 

What are your thoughts on the production art industry? and the processes of having an army of artists working on a single project?

Quite simply, I don’t like it. Yes, there are times in the studio that I would love to have help, but in my opinion, most art is primarily a singular vision and should be created that way. It’s that struggle of one person toiling away, obsessing for hours over one object that is so powerful in the final piece. I think there is one exception though, and that is collaborative artists, where the project is recognized and attributed to a group of people. But when one artist is getting the credit for work they don’t even do, it turns it into a commercial commodity.

When it comes to your own artmaking, how much time do you dedicate to the planning process? Is it a conscious effort or do you just go into autopilot?

I plan a bit, but I want the piece to grow through the actual process of its own creation. I will set the boundaries for it, creating a structure, a composition, and then jump right in and see what happens.

When was the Aha or Eureka moment when you realized that you had grasped the ability to paint realistically? Was it a massive breakthrough that made you want to jump up and down? Or was it a natural quiet progression?

I don’t think there was one moment. Painting realistically is something I’ve been obsessed with since I was really young. It comes easier now than it did when I was 4 (although I have a memory of drawing a tree in kindergarten and being like “Wow! It looks like a tree!” which made me very happy) but it’s still quite difficult. I don’t think there has ever been a moment that I have felt like I got it and will always have it. Each painting is a new experience and each one takes an intense amount of pull to get to the point where it feels alive. Every painting will hopefully have its own, quiet Aha moment, but it’s never a guarantee that the next one will have it too.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced when learning art and especially making realistic art?

To let go of control. As realistic artists, we spend our education learning to command every mark. While this is very important, it’s not everything. Once the structure is there, I try and let go and allow the paint and brush to do a lot of the work. Our bodies are completely organic, full of imperfections and beautiful oddities. I’ve learned that the way to paint this is not to obsess over the tiny specifics of those variations, but to try and re-create the personality of them, letting them happen instead of forcing them to happen.

What importance do you place on Realism in the world of art? Why do think it’s still one of the most popular styles?

I think it’s extremely vital and to answer both questions; because it’s a universal language that is easily readable, yet open to a million interpretations. 

There are so many artists out there who want to do what you can do — because it’s awesome! For those aspiring to become realistic painters, what is the biggest mistake that you see them making? What do you think are the biggest wastes of time in the earlier stages?

Don’t forget your voice. Don’t let the technique of painting override what you’re trying to say. You may not know what this is yet, but you should always be looking for it. Beautiful painting is all good, we love it, but how much more fun and personally rewarding is it if you really care about what is that you are painting? Don’t underestimate yourself. Take the painting as far as you can, and then take it farther. You have hands and eyes and an imagination, so anything is possible. 

And concerning the professional level: What are most common mistakes that you catch yourself and other fellow pros making?

Thinking too much about what other people will think. It’s hard to lock those thoughts out of my studio sometimes, but it’s essential. I know its been said a million times, but the only person you really need to listen to in your studio is yourself. If you are happy with your work, then that is wonderful and really all you need. There will always be people who think your work is bad for one reason or another and it’s so easy to let that voice override your own, but this is crazy if you think about it. Don’t let them rule what you make.

Finally, do you have any strong thoughts or opinions on the public’s perceptions of fine art? Particularly, can you comment on the audience’s common feeling of disconnectedness between a piece and the message behind it?

I think that the reason so much art is disconnected might be because we, as artists, are afraid of seeming too wishy washy and emotional. We want to be taken seriously, prove that we are intellectual and brilliant. I think the outcome of this kind of thinking is often sterile, cold art with every hint of emotion squeezed out of it; no one understands the work, yet everyone feels like they must be the only one to have missed the point. I think we need to stop being scared of showing emotion in art and start creating work from our gut.

Shanti and Heather Chapin_Aleah_Twoness MaybeWe'reNotSoDifferent Chapin_Aleah_Interfold Chapin_Aleah_Hannah

Chapin_Aleah&Holiber_Nic_OurMindsAsWeLose

Collaboration with Nicolas Holiber

Chapin_Aleah_TheThreeGraces Chapin_Aleah_TheTempest

For more of Aleah’s amazing work check out her website here: http://aleahchapin.com/

Jeremy Geddes- the Hyper realism interview

ascent-title

This is the Third interview in the Realism series, and I gotta say that Jeremy Geddes is one of the most impressive and hardworking people who I’ve ever had the pleasure of corresponding with.

When I discovered Jeremy’s work it was a moment of straight up pure awesome, and not the casual slang use of awesome, but its original meaning which is to stand there gaping open mouthed and feeling totally overwhelmed. When I got his responses to the questions I had formulated I was really taken back. Reading through them I discovered that his execution of his thoughts is just as much a well refined process as his amazing artwork, he is eloquent and well measured in his opinions, and cuts through to some really profound and interesting ideas.

So without further ado here is Jeremy Geddes;

My first question to you is pretty straight forward: What is it that drove you to realism? And what keeps you doing what you do?

I can pretty easily trace a line between what I am doing now and what I was drawn to when I was ten, an inchoate collection of illustration and historical painting.

The relationship isn’t entirely direct, but the feelings and sensations that were created by looking at paintings then are the same ones I’m trying to capture now, albeit in a more sophisticated form.  And that chase is still there; I’m still making the attempt and only partially succeeding. It’s what keeps me painting every day.

How do you go about developing your ideas for your pieces? Do you have a method for inspiration or is it more like “something pops into your head suddenly”?

It tends to be a process of refinement.

There will be an initial kernel of an idea or a feeling, but moulding that into something that can withstand translation into a full work takes a lot of time and thought.

I like to progress through a series of studies, living with each one for a while as I try to understand what is and isn’t working.  At some point the image feels right, which leads on to the next revision and study and so on.  Then down the track, if it passes the test, I feel justified launching into a full painting.

Is there someone else’s work that you can always return to for inspiration?

I look at different paintings for different aspects of my work.  I look at Antonio Lopez Garcia for his beautiful mark making, not so much to emulate him, but to interrupt my pedantic inclinations and add some noise to the forms.

I love Wythe’s compositions and Hoppers treatment of the space figures occupy within their environments.

But mostly I listen to music.  Music is often my way into a painting; during construction of a painting, it‘s the best way I’ve found to give clarity to the emotional throughline I’m trying to achieve.

What are your thoughts on conceptual art and its value? What about the conceptual art process?

Its value is measured in the same way as all other art, if it attracts an audience who are able to extract something useful from it, I think it can be described as having value.  It holds no interest for me though.  It’s completely removed from my concerns as a painter, and I’ve never really been able to extract much from it myself.  Conceptual arts’ focus on process over engagement is alien to me.  

It’s a very easy art form to attack and ridicule from the outside, but really, the utility of all art is questionable and when the foundations of your entire village is built on sand, it’s best not to go kicking in your neighbours wall.

What are your thoughts on the production art industry (film, T.V and games)? and the processes of having an army of artists working on a single project?

It’s giving a lot of artists a steady income and the value of that can’t be understated although the un-unionised nature of the industry and the threat of outsourcing seem to be leading to greater levels of exploitation, which is a worrying development. 

As a concept, if it works for the artist, great, collaboration can be a powerful way to get work done.  Historically I’m sure it’s more the norm than the solitary artist, I’m just personally not built for it.

When it comes to your own art making, how much time do you dedicate to the planning process? Is it a conscious effort or do you just go into autopilot?

The planning process is both conscious and a feat of ‘autopilot’.  The realisation of what is and isn’t working has its own internal timescale, and I can’t force it beyond a certain point.  I try to construct a system (via studies etc) that continually prods my brain with the problems that need to be addressed, but then you just have to wait until the answers are there.  This process can easily take a year or two, rolling along in the background as I work on other pieces.

When was the Aha or Eureka moment when you realised that you had grasped the ability to paint realistically? Was it a massive breakthrough that made you want to jump up and down? Or was it a natural quiet progression?

I’ve had that moment a few times, a kind of internal hubristic rush, and later I always looked back and realised I was full of shit and completely deluding myself.  Everything I’ve so far done feels completely bound by my technical limitations.  I feel like I can break them, or at least push them back some and that’s one of the things that keeps me coming back each day.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced when learning art and especially making realistic art?

Deluding yourself that you are better than you are is certainly up there, but honestly, the biggest hurdle is money.  It’s a struggle to be able to position yourself so you have the freedom to work as long as you need to on a piece and then destroy it because it’s not good enough.  If you need the money to survive, to pay next month’s rent, the pressure is always there to work fast, and produce work that has a decent time to money ratio, which helps the painter eat, but isn’t necessarily the best work the painter can do, or the work that is best for her career.

What importance do you place on Realism in the world of art? Why do think it’s still one of the most popular styles?

Well, I’m drawn to realism, so obviously I will see it as fairly important.  Is it popular within the ‘art world’? It would be nice if it was so, I haven’t really paid much attention.  It was mildly sneered at back when I was at art school; perhaps that has changed.  Certainly it’s popularity beyond the bubble of the ‘art world’ is easily explained, it has retained the hooks that can grab the attention of otherwise disinterested passersby, and gives them an avenue into the work that can then lead to a greater connection.

There are so many artists out there who want to do what you can do — because it’s awesome! For those aspiring to become realistic painters, what is the biggest mistake that you see them making? What do you think are the biggest wastes of time in the earlier stages?

For someone attempting realism, I’d say go in expecting to produce nothing of any merit for a while.  Develop a critical eye, unflinchingly compare your work to those painters you admire, and then throw yours away and try again.  I’d say it’s better to be too critical of your own work than not critical enough.

 So in this sense ‘wasting time’ can be a loaded term. Making the same mistake again and again is probably a waste, but making a mistake and learning from it is a crucial step in learning and progression.

And concerning the professional level: What are most common mistakes that you catch yourself and other fellow pros making?

One mistake I often catch myself in is launching into a full sized painting before I have addressed and resolved all the potential problems in small scale studies. It means I can spend days or weeks in rework for an issue that could have been sorted out in hours if I had followed the correct procedure. Tampering down enthusiasm with pragmatism can be a tricky thing to hold onto sometimes, but it is almost always worth it.

Outside of that, I really don’t know.  No-one else’s desired end point is the same as mine, and so I have no context to judge whether they are making the right decisions.  If you are producing work you are happy with, and can keep a roof over your head doing it, I would say well done, it’s not an easy trick to pull off.

Finally, do you have any strong thoughts or opinions on the public’s perceptions of fine art? Particularly, can you comment on the audience’s common feeling of disconnectedness between a piece and the message behind it?

Last time I paid attention to it, the general public had little interest in the world of fine art, and rightly so. There’s still a huge love of art, but the art forms that the public flocks to (film, television, books and music) are generally placed outside of the sphere of ‘fine art’.  The label ‘fine art’ is almost defined by its non-appeal to a broad audience.  Many of its practitioners have spent the last one hundred years pulling apart the structures that gave their discipline its popularity. This is a profound and interesting direction for anyone already immersed in its culture and language but it eventually creates an impossible divide for outsiders to bridge.

 So the disconnect between the intended meaning of a conceptual work and the meaning that  ‘Joe Public’ will take from it is obviously huge, the work is most likely buried in decades of obscure theory that the public has no knowledge of or participation in.

 To some extent, even when clear and unambiguous communication is the intent, all transmitted meaning is fractional and illusory.  You can be reasonably sure of clear communication in a medium with a heavily established structure understood by both creator and viewer, for example, an action movie or a romantic comedy (but then you could argue whether much of merit or novelty is actually being said).

 The moment you step away from a universally understood and shared structure, surety of accurate communication becomes shaky.  This, to me, seems to be a problem with no solution.  It’s inherent to the nature of the world we live in.

Cluster Misere-2 larger-version-of-03a Miserere-2 aperfectvacuum Begin-Again 06a

for more of Jeremy’s fantastic work check out his website: http://www.jeremygeddesart.com

Interview with Henrik Uldalen

Image

Henrik Uldalen is a Norwegian oil painter; whose work I discovered earlier last year (2013) and it blew my mind and I’ve kept an eye out for his stuff ever since. I decided recently to try and contact him and ask him to answer the questionnaire that I’ve made for realism artist’s to get his pro opinion.

He not only graciously responded and gave some fantastic insights, but he gave permission for a huge amount of his artworks to be displayed here on NoeyedDeer, you can find even more of his amazing work at http://henrikaau.com/

So without further ado here is Henrik Uldalen.

Hi Henrik,

Thanks so very much for taking the time out of you schedule to do this I really appreciate it.

My first question to you is pretty straight forward: What is it that drove you to realism? And what keeps you doing what you do?

By all the different styles, realism has always appealed to me the most. It just speaks to me. It was never an option for me choosing any other style of art. Also, drawing and painting has been my main focus since I was a child. It was at some point the only thing I was remotely good at, so from the beginning the road was already laid out in front of me.

How do you go about developing your ideas for your pieces? Do you have a method for inspiration or is it more like “something pops into your head suddenly”?

It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes an idea can suddenly appear in the middle of a sleepless night. But most of times I need to go out and be proactive. Usually I take photos, trying to find interesting compositions. Also it usually helps having a photo shoot with a model to get the ideas running.

Is there someone else’s work that you can always return to for inspiration?

I actually have a bunch of artists that I turn to on a regular basis. All from old and living painters, photographers, sculptors, musicians and filmmakers. The inspiration can come from all places, and for me I usually need to look in different genres.

What are your thoughts on conceptual art and it’s value? What about the conceptual art process?

I can appreciate conceptual art as long as it’s fresh and offers something new. When a piece of art no longer works within aesthetics and craftsmanship but solely on ideas, then the idea should be very good. Unfortunately it’s rare that I find a good piece of conceptual art that captivates me. It might be that I’m too narrow minded, seeing as I’ve been working with realism and painting forever.

What are your thoughts on the production art industry? And the processes of having an army of artists working on a single project?

I’m not sure what you mean with production art industry. If you mean having a bunch of people doing your work, while you only stand for the idea, then I don’t like it. I know that numerous artists from all over art history have used apprentices for painting parts of their work, but I still don’t think it’s right.

When it comes to your own art making, how much time do you dedicate to the planning process? Is it a conscious effort or do you just go into autopilot?

The planning of the painting is the part that takes time in my process. The actual painting process takes a short time. Finding an idea, a composition, a model, a red line in between the paintings, it’s all a time and energy consuming process.

When was the Aha or Eureka moment when you realised that you had grasped the ability to paint realistically? Was it a massive breakthrough that made you want to jump up and down? Or was it a natural quiet progression?

I’ve always understood that I was able to paint realistically, even from a young age. But at one point I saw my limitations, and pretty much quit my dream of being an artist. But the eureka moment came later, while I was studying to be a teacher, when I tried oil painting for the first time. I realised that with this medium, I have no limitations.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced when learning art and especially making realistic art?

Ideas! Finding a concept that works and hasn’t been completely explored has been my big struggle. I still fight with this, and probably will the rest of my career.

What importance do you place on Realism in the world of art? Why do think it’s still one of the most popular styles?

I think realism is a good and direct medium when communicating ideas. Because of the long history of art and use of realistic imagery, we all recognize and connect easily with these ways of communicating. The problem with much conceptual art is that it tries to be unavailable for anyone but the art elite. So when people enter a conceptual exhibition, they often can’t relate, and feels stupid. It’s power in hierarchy, and conceptual art does their best in keeping it.

There are so many artists out there who want to do what you can do — because its awesome! For those aspiring to become realistic painters, what is the biggest mistake that you see them making? What do you think are the biggest wastes of time in the earlier stages?

First of all, thank you! I see a lot of beginners trying to be a master in everything at once. Drawing, printing, painting, digital painting and so on. I think many would gain a lot by focusing on one task for a longer period, and then move on to the next. I think a good way of beginning is to find out early how you want your art to look like, and then spend your energy in finding out HOW you’re able to achieve that look. Read about it, ask other artists, practise.

And concerning the professional level: What are most common mistakes that you catch yourself and other fellow pros making?

I see that many realist styled painters not challenging themselves when it comes to concepts and ideas. Many tend to keep on the tradition of classic realist imagery, with motives that could have been painted 600 years ago. I’m not saying that it isn’t value in it, but sometimes I just get bored by the same paintings over and over. Sometimes I feel like I could be criticised I the same matter, so I probably shouldn’t say more about this.

Finally, do you have any strong thoughts or opinions on the public’s perceptions of fine art? Particularly, can you comment on the audience’s common feeling of disconnectedness between a piece and the message behind it?

I don’t really have any strong opinions when it comes to people’s opinion and views on fine art. And with my own paintings I personally don’t mind if people fill in the blanks in my art with their own answers. I paint moods and atmospheres, and not narratives, so there is never a correct answer behind my art.

Thank you so much again Henrik for sharing your ideas and art, was really fantastic to get such great answers

Thank you so much man:) happy you like’em!  Have a great day!
So again you can find his amazing work at http://henrikaau.com/

.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Realism- Heather Horton interview

heather-horton-interview-title

This interview is the first in a series where I reached out to local and international artist who’s artworks were really amazing and I really wanted to find out how they ticked.

Heather is a Toronto based artist whos work really gave me an emotive response with her ability to capture the pleasure of being in the moment with your surroundings. Heather’s work is amazingly well executed and a fantastic reminder for me to stop and smell the roses.

CentralParkAngel

Hi Heather,

First off I’d like to thank you so much for taking the time to do this I really appreciate it.

My first question to you is pretty straight forward: What is it that drove you to realism? and what keeps you doing what you do?

I think pursuing realism with a concerted effort was due to the fact that to me, art is about capturing what you see in front of you. Not abstracting it, but maintaining a dedication to reproduce what you see in the world on canvas, with paint. The style comes in when you transition from subject to the canvas. I keep doing what I do because I love what I do..if you enjoy something you tend to keep doing it, and that is very true of art. I have been fortunate that my collectors also like what I do, but I haven’t deviated (consciously) in style or what I like to paint ever since I graduated from college 11 years ago.

How do you go about developing your ideas for your pieces? Do you have a method for inspiration or is it more like “something pops into your head suddenly”?

Both. Usually I have a general idea of a composition. Anything can inspire however. A person, a dress, a landscape. So there are two main ways that I approach a piece…basing it around a subject in a place they love, or thinking of a composition/idea and incorporating myself or a model into that concept. However, sometimes ideas jump out at me. I can meet a stranger and want to paint them immediately, irrelevant of who they are, or their personalty. It sounds superficial, and perhaps it is, but to me, to faithfully try to capture the mysteries of a human being’s form is more than enough reason to paint them. The flip side is sometimes I have a photoshoot with a friend and my ideas do not work out well…something is missing, the reference doesn’t excite me. It is a very immediate reaction when you see a photograph/photographs and think “that’s it, I need to paint that”.

Is there someone else’s work that you can always return to for inspiration?

The artists who inspire me have remained the same since college: Lucian Freud, Andrew Wyeth and Frida Kahlo. Freud for his rendering of skin, Wyeth for his compositions, and Kahlo for her painful and acutely personal pieces. People say write what you know, and I would say paint what know. Experience is the best food for transformative art.

What are your thoughts on conceptual art and it’s value? What about the conceptual art process?

I think concept is very important, but I am not a fan of conceptual art as a movement. I think that art should need no explanation, and there seems to need to be one with conceptual art. I think art should stand alone and need no Coles Notes. But then again I am biased toward realism😉. Yes, an object on a pedestal in a gallery does not art make, but then we can get into the concept of what qualifies as art. It is a slippery slope! The only thing that conceptual art does for me is make me want to get into the studio and keep doing what I’m doing.

What are your thoughts on the production art industry? and the processes of having an army of artists working on a single project?

Do you mean murals where teams work on a piece? I think art like that is ok for the purpose it serves. However there is an intimacy that happens, a different sort of connection, when a piece is produced by one person.

When it comes to your own artmaking, how much time do you dedicate to the planning process? Is it a conscious effort or do you just go into autopilot?

I have a general idea of what I want to do for each piece. There are some exceptions in that sometimes things happen spontaneously but generally each piece is more or less thought out…sometimes just as an idea and other times as the exact composition that I am after.

When was the Aha or Eureka moment when you realised that you had grasped the ability to paint realistically? Was it a massive breakthrough that made you want to jump up and down? Or was it a natural quiet progression?

It was absolutely a natural, quiet progression. I remember in college (Sheridan College for Interpretive Illustration) my instructor in figure painting class was explaining about how one has to consistently look and compare tones, colours, lines…a constant assessing and adjusting to maintain accuracy. I remember thinking “this is going to take forever, there’s so much to think about!” But you know what? I kept going, kept comparing and reassessing, and now it is like effortless, or close to effortless, like breathing. It was like taking broad strokes and getting into smaller and smaller strokes, without getting too smooth. A rough metaphor but you know what I mean.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced when learning art and especially making realistic art?

I remember how tough it was to have light change, and the annoyance of having the model not have the pose quite right when a second class for the same model was scheduled. I remember thinking “I don’t like that things change. I want a static image to work from, to develop my piece from. When I graduate I am using photographs. No more light changing on me”. So in school having models move and change and light altering was the toughest thing. I really haven’t changed my routine or practice at all since graduation.

What importance do you place on Realism in the world of art? Why do think it’s still one of the most popular styles?

I love it and think it is still important because at its simplest level we respond to what we see within ourselves, which is usually realism. People adhere to what they connect with, and I think realism provides a perfect way for people to interact with and connect to pieces that move them. Abstraction and other forms of art separate us from reality, they do not connect us. Realism ties the thread of humanity together I feel.

There are so many artists out there who want to do what you can do — because its awesome! For those aspiring to become realistic painters, what is the biggest mistake that you see them making? What do you think are the biggest wastes of time in the earlier stages?

First of all thank-you! Study who inspires you. Paint in a way that makes you happy but try not to change your style too much. It will progress naturally. Forced changes are not wise I think in the grand scheme of things. Keep working and your work will evolve in time. Don’t let anyone change you too much. In college there was a push to stylize and I didn’t like it. I told my teachers I wanted to paint the way I painted, not make it into something else. They were gracious and let me stick to doing what I wanted to do. I thank them for that. I can’t think of any specific wastes of time in the early stages. Try not to be dissuaded by rejection letters. They will only make you work harder. They are not a defeat but an invitation to keep trying. Most of all keep working.

And concerning the professional level: What are most common mistakes that you catch yourself and other fellow pros making?

I would say pricing your work is an art in and of itself. Work with your gallery or if on your own, think carefully about pricing. You can’t go back once you price a work at an amount. It is an investment. Also, don’t price your work too low. People won’t respect it otherwise. Also, keep promoting yourself. You are your own best marketer. Get out there. You can have masterpieces in your studio but no one will know about them unless you get them out into the world.

Finally, do you have any strong thoughts or opinions on the public’s perceptions of fine art? Particularly, can you comment on the audience’s common feeling of disconnectedness between a piece and the message behind it?

I wasn’t aware of an audience feeling that way. Perhaps this is more common amongst other styles of art but I think realism invites the audience to be much more connected on the whole. I think some people just don’t understand with or connect to art, but that is not a bad thing. It just is what it is. I think when someone does connect it is special. If there is a feeling inside upon seeing a piece, no matter the feeling, the art has succeeded.

Thanks so much for you time Heather I really appreciate it!
Thankyou to🙂

if you want to check out more of Heather’s work head to http://heatherhorton.com/

IWillNotJettisonMyDreams Hannah,Surfacing EmilieTakhiniNorthweb