Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: portrait

Samuel Lopez and Portrait Photography

Samuel Lopez is a photographer living in New York City and working with film while developing his own prints. His work can also be found online.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you get into photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I grew up looking at the wonderful photos in Life, Look, and many well know newspapers during the late 60s and through the 70s. The images from Vietnam and other places fueled my interest. Photojournalism was my desire. I have always been an observer. I wanted to bring the world to everyone looking at my work.

Also, due to a set of circumstances, all of the photos from my mother’s life had been lost or destroyed. We only had one photo of her as a child and no photos of her mother, my grandmother. I wanted to preserve our family history by taking so many photos that, even if some got lost, there would always be plenty available for future generations.

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Paul Weiner:
Why do you prefer film photography to digital?

Samuel Lopez:
It is a personal preference. I love the entire process of making a photograph. Seeing the image come out on what used to be a blank piece of photo paper still fascinates me. I have always liked things I can touch and see. It goes along with my personality, also. I have always been a hands on, old-school type of guy. The process holds, for me, a certain therapeutic aspect. When I do prints I am in my own world. Knowing that I took an image from eye to camera, to film, then to print it and see it again before anyone else is, and always will be, magical for me.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe the sensation you get while developing your own prints.

Samuel Lopez:
When I go in for a printing session, I lock myself away for about 7 hours or until my chemicals are exhausted. I surround myself with all I need for that time. I even have a small refrigerator in my space for food and drink. I play my favorite music.

As I do each print it, takes me back to the exact moment I exposed the photo. I literally get a chill up and down the back of my neck when I see it first enlarged to the size I’ll be doing the print and secondly when the image comes out as it’s in the developing tray. There are times I’ve been moved to tears, not because I think I’ve created some masterpiece of photography but because, at times, the circumstances, the emotions, and feelings come rushing back to me as I’m reliving the moment all over again.

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Paul Weiner:
What are some challenges that you’ve found as a film photographer in the digital age?

Samuel Lopez:
I often feel a bit isolated. I’ve tried to network with other photographers, but because I work in film it’s like I speak a different language. The fact that I am not able to move into commercial work saddens me, but I realize it’s just the way the business is these days. I am also seeing more and more stores I visit for supplies making their film sections smaller and smaller with less choice for chemicals and paper. Archiving my work properly has become a challenge. My negatives and original Polaroid prints have to be filed away properly. I take great care keeping them dust and scratch free, as well as trying to control humidity and temperature. I recently moved from California to New York City, and I was terrified the entire time that my archive would meet some bad fate on the moving truck!

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Samuel Lopez:
Chemicals are becoming harder to find. Photo paper is becoming scarce also. The loss of Polaroid 600 film was a big loss for the photo community. Spare parts for my cameras when they need repair is getting very hard. Most of my cameras are from the 40’s to 50’s.

Paul Weiner:
Do you see yourself more as a photojournalist documenting the world around you or a fine art photographer?

Samuel Lopez:
Definitely a photojournalist documenting the world. Even when I do studio work, I prefer to work with models that can take a concept and move about freely within the idea as I document their journeys in the moment. I rarely use a tripod. I’m always in motion with my subjects.

Paul Weiner:
I can see how supplies must be limited nowadays. Are there any particular materials for film photography that you wish you could still find for sale somewhere?

Paul Weiner:
How do you find subjects for your photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I look on various model photographer sites, and, at times, I’ve put out open calls for free portraits for anyone willing to sit for me. Models will refer me to people they know that fit my work style, also. I will even ask someone I see that looks interesting on the street or subway to model for me. As a freelance photographer, I don’t have the budget yet to hire from agencies.

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Paul Weiner:
Many contemporary artists shy away from the male nude because of expectations and assumptions our society makes. Have you found it difficult photographing nude men, and have you ever received surprising feedback about male nude photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I have only found that finding male models has been difficult. Most are a bit more over-muscled for my choosing. As a former athlete, I formed an appreciation for both the male and female form. Therefore, the models I choose to work with are more lean and athletic, and I try to pose them in natural positions, also.

Photographing males, for me, is the same process as when I work with women. I try and represent the body as a whole, even in my abstract work. I haven’t had any surprising feedback so far. Mostly very receptive and positive.


Please view Samuel Lopez’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Stephen Mauldin’s Experimental Painting Techniques

Today’s interview is with Stephen Mauldin, a painter and instructor living in Oregon with great interest in creating new painting techniques to express content he has developed for over forty years. Mauldin holds an MFA with a concentration in painting and printmaking from the University of Idaho as well as a BA in art from Oklahoma City University. He has exhibited his work in many galleries throughout the Northwest and beyond. Read the interview, and then find more information and artwork online at http://www.mauldinart.com.

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Paul Weiner:
How has your experience as an educator affected your artwork in terms of process and aesthetic preferences, if at all?

Stephen Mauldin:
I can’t say that my teaching experience has affected my process or aesthetic preferences. Teaching basic design and color theory has certainly deepened my understanding of basic design principles and the intricacies of color, but I think what teaching does most is to keep things fresh. All the knowledge and skills one uses as an artist are eternally fresh for each new group of students. Their enthusiasm for receiving that knowledge and acquiring those skills prevents one from taking it all for granted. Plus, one continues to learn as one teaches. My knowledge of art history ,though still limited by most standards, I think, has expanded exponentially over the years due to teaching.

The deal is, I’m a single-minded guy. I think it was Matisse who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that every artist has one idea they refine for a lifetime. That’s certainly been true in my case. I’m still addressing the same issues I was nearly forty years ago when I left undergraduate school. I bring more life experience and artistic experience to bear on those issues, but the core issues are still the same. Where I live and what I do for a living has never had any immediate impact on my work as an artist. If I hadn’t taught, I think my work would have still taken a similar path.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist who has been trained in smaller art markets like Oklahoma City and Moscow, Idaho, how do you feel about the commercial art system that clusters around major cities like New York and Los Angeles?

Stephen Mauldin:
In the digital age, it seems a little silly since most things can be done anywhere now due to the internet. However, not many people are going to buy a large, expensive painting over the internet, sight unseen, so galleries are still necessary. The key issue, though, is the “critical mass” of collectors necessary to sustain a commercial art system. That’s what New York and L.A. have that other cities don’t. That allows them to create the gallery infrastructure that draws collectors from elsewhere, as well. That’s one of the biggest complaints here in Portland, Oregon where I live. We’re known as a creative magnet and there are thousands of working artists here with more arriving every day, but there are nowhere near enough collectors to support them all (not even including the collectors who occasionally travel here to buy art). It’s a frequent complaint in Seattle, as well.

The downside of the system is that it lets a handful of people define what is the “best” art of any generation and limits the variety of art being seen by the public. There’s art being produced every day all over this country that’s as good as anything made in New York or L.A., but few people see it because of this system.

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Paul Weiner:
You mentioned the rise of the internet as having an impact on art collection. Since many patrons are unwilling to buy expensive paintings online, do you feel that the value of contemporary art is diminished when it is sold on a store like Etsy?

Stephen Mauldin:
Not necessarily. What I was suggesting is that I doubt many people are going to drop several thousand, or tens of thousands, of dollars on a piece of art they’ve only seen online. Much of what any piece of art offers is too subtle to be seen online. If the piece can be sold for a few hundred dollars, people are more likely to take a chance. On the other hand, I think serious collectors prefer to see the art “in the flesh,” as it were, since they are more discriminating by and large. That said, much of what is on sites like Etsy is what I would call “wall décor,” not to be mistaken for Art. As my basic design students learn, Art has three essential elements: subject, form, and content. Subject is what the art depicts; form is how it is organized; and content is what it communicates. Wall décor usually has the first two elements, but is often thin on or completely lacking the third. Also, whereas collectors are usually most interested in content, people who buy wall décor are usually most concerned about whether it will match the couch. There may very well be some excellent art on Etsy’s site, but I doubt if many serious collectors rely on Etsy or similar sites to add to their collections. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy work off of my site without seeing it first.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you explain your concept for your String Theory series?

Stephen Mauldin:
The String Theory series didn’t begin with a concept, per se. I experiment with paint frequently. Robert Henri noted in his book The Art Spirit that mastering a medium does not come from being taught what he calls “stock phrases.” He suggests there, quite accurately I think, that mastering a medium comes from thoroughly understanding the properties of that medium. To that end, I am constantly playing with paint in order to more fully understand what it can and cannot do.

So, one day, while paying with paint, I taped an ultra-fine straight pin to the end of a palette knife, dipped it into some paint, cocked the palette knife back, and slung a very small quantity of paint onto a piece of paper. The resulting mark was absolutely electric, playing out into lines smaller than a human hair and crisper than one could ever create with a brush. It immediately struck me as the perfect visual signifier for the “strings” of string theory, electric little knots of energy. With the paintings in the String Theory series, I took that idea and married it to those issues I mentioned earlier. The face is actually derived from a mannequin head I bought while in graduate school, which has come and gone in my work ever since and is used to signify some sort of “higher intelligence” in the universe. What I’m trying to suggest is a universe teeming with intelligence on multiple levels. By the way, a palette knife breaks in half after about two hours of slinging paint like this, so I had to devise an alternate tool.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about this alternate tool you’ve developed!

Stephen Mauldin:
I wish I could tell you that it’s something amazingly complicated that took natural engineering skills to develop, but I simply stuck the pin in the end of a Colour Shaper. They’re like paint brushes with some form of rubber shaped like bristles instead of having actual bristles. I had bought a bunch of them years ago but found that I didn’t like them. They had been laying around the studio for years, so when I was looking for a solution to the failing palette knife problem, they were there, and they worked. They wear out, too, but it takes months instead of hours. I prefer one particular type that’s hard to find, so I just bought about $150 dollars worth of them in case I can’t find them in the future or they’re discontinued.

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Paul Weiner:
How would you define your style of art?

Stephen Mauldin:
I don’t know that I really have a “style” since my work changes rather significantly every few years. The issues stay the same, but the way the paint is applied changes dramatically. In the beginning, I used brushes and applied paint directly to canvas or panel, as most painters do. Then I started shaping the canvas over objects and applying paint with an airbrush to simulate the play of light and shadow on those objects, stretching the canvas after the fact. That was continued on rip-stock nylon for a while to get finer detail. After that, I made all the marks for paintings on glass first, and then collaged them into “paint assemblages” of sorts. Next, I used a tool designed for putting stripes on picture frame molding to draw directly with paint and produce pieces infused with a dense web of spirals and arcs to suggest the patterns of sub-atomic particles. That was followed by extruding thickened paint into actual webs that were about a half-inch deep. Later, I stamped the image onto canvas using rubber stamps that I carved myself. Now I sling paint with pins.

Actually, it dawned on me recently that I have always been led by the paint. As I have played with it over the years, it has continually revealed new things to me and suggested new technical directions. Ben Shahn said, “The painter who stands before an empty canvas must think in terms of paint.” Over the years, as I’ve addressed the issues I do, that’s what I’ve done – thought in terms of paint and how I can make it convey more clearly what I’ve been trying to communicate.shadow1

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Paul Weiner:
Is there a certain type of paint you prefer? Also, would you consider your revelations about paint and its application to be equally important to the actual products you create?

Stephen Mauldin:
I’ve used NovaColor acrylics for thirty years. I started using them when I worked with an airbrush because they’re slightly less viscous than tube colors and require less thinning to be sprayed. It’s a high quality, heavily pigmented artist’s color and is much less expensive than any other brand I’ve found, so I’ve stuck with it. They’re great people to deal with, too. Producing the electric little mark that I’m so infatuated with now is all about viscosity. If the paint’s too thick or too thin, all you get is little dots or a big mess. Curiously, only the warm colors with NovaColor will do it. I think it’s the properties of the pigments, so I’ve taken to modifying the cool colors with Utrecht’s extra stiff colors. I tried gel mediums and everything else I could think of with no success until I stumbled upon the Utrecht solution almost by chance.

I don’t consider my revelations about paint to be of much importance since they would be of little use to anyone else. They’re a reflection of my temperament and have resulted in painting methods that are extremely time consuming and mind-numbingly tedious by most people’s standards. Actually, the importance, in my mind, lies not in the products or objects I create, but in the content contained therein. The paint and the objects are only means to an end.


Please view Stephen Mauldin’s artwork online at http://www.mauldinart.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Beautiful Figurative Paintings and Conceptual Masterpieces by Pablo Mercado

Pablo Mercado is a Spanish artist living in Berlin who holds a Masters in Art, Creation, and Research from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and BFA from the Universidad de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. In 2013, his artwork has exhibited in the Freies Museum Berlin, Säulensaal des Berliner Rotes Rathaus, and Museo Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) in A Coruña, Spain. Pablo Mercado has also exhibited in various galleries throughout Germany and Spain. His artwork is available online at http://www.pablomercado.es.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you think that it is more important for artwork to be conceptually strong or aesthetically strong?

Pablo Mercado:
That is an interesting question, which I have often discussed with artist friends. I think we should find a balance between the two ideas, but, for me, the aesthetic is very important to communicate with the spectator. In a world saturated with information, it is important to draw the spectator’s attention to tell them something. You have to establish a dialogue with the spectator, and the first step is to say “hello” with a scream. Well, that scream, to me, is the aesthetics. However, if there is not a strong concept behind it, the conversation between the work and the spectator becomes trivial and superficial.

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Paul Weiner:
I definitely agree with your idea about saying “hello” with a scream. Do you think the same kind of “hello” can also be produced through conceptual shock? What if artwork is so erotic or violent that it attracts attention?

Pablo Mercado:
I think that conceptual shock is a part of the conversation. It is deeper than that. Personally, I do not like erotic or violent art when it is used just to attract attention and not because it is necessary for the concept. I find it superficial, or maybe too easy. I prefer a more subtle way to do it, something a little bit more cryptic that makes the spectator question himself.

Paul Weiner:
Do you find exhibiting in Germany to be different from exhibiting in Spain? If yes, how?

Pablo Mercado:
I have only shown in two German cities, Leipzig and Berlin. But, essentially, I think the public has no boundaries. We can talk about different audiences, but not because of their nationality. In Berlin, there is a great interest for art and especially in the openings.

Paul Weiner:
Describe your interest in the human memory.

Pablo Mercado:
Three years ago, when I moved to Berlin, I became interested in the aura of melancholy that surrounds this city, as well as the taste for the past with flea markets, vintage fashions, and analog technology. This idea that previous times were better is a postmodern characteristic that has always interested me very much. However, the human brain is full of defense mechanisms that make it impossible to give a true picture of the past. The brain interprets and selectively forgets memories to survive. I am very interested all these mechanisms and the idea of selecting fragments that retain and others that are hidden somewhere.

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Paul Weiner:
Interesting. Could you explain or define a few of these mechanisms or processes for memory?

Pablo Mercado:
I have several works based on these mechanisms, for example, Encoding, Recall, and Substitution. The human brain has two mechanisms of defense against trauma or negative memories. These mechanisms are suppression and substitution. Suppression interrupts the recovery of memories, and substitution replaces unpleasant events with others that are more enjoyable.

In Substitution, I started from two puzzles based on two well-known works in art history. One traumatic work was Five Deaths from the series Death and Disaster by Andy Warhol, and the other was A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

I deleted traumatic parts from Warhol’s image and inserted fragments of Seurat’s work. Thereby, the recumbent bodies crushed by the car are replaced by reclining figures and the river of the Grande Jatte replaces the trail of blood. However, because the pieces of the puzzles are not the same size, I cut and modified both until they fit properly. The result is imperfect, full of little mistakes that come with works of the naked eye, but with deeper observation it clearly shows errors in the system.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your project, Encoding, and how you came to the idea of creating a sculpture to represent the process of creating memories.

Pablo Mercado:
Encoding is the brain’s ability to transform information into items that can be stored and recovered during the evocation process.

The memory of a complete experience consists of fragments of memories that are stored in different regions of the brain. Thanks to the hippocampus, which recomposes stored memories, these pieces of information are reunited from disparate parts.

In this recovery process, the brain reinterprets and modifies the memory, so the more times something is remembered, the difference between the original memory and the current memory becomes greater.

This series of works refers to the process of recovery and how the past may not be exactly as we remember it. That is, our idyllic conception of the past is unreliable.

In this installation, as in other examples of my previous work, I started with a vintage object to fragment and then suspended the parts in the air by fishing lines, creating rhythms that are reminiscent of smoke patterns. In this case, I have included the recall process. Therefore, the memory is fragmented and reassembled again in a new memory with modifications and with parts that do not fit correctly.

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Paul Weiner:

Do your Lomopaintings deal with the same idea as Encoding, as far as memory goes?

Pablo Mercado:
The Lomopaintings series was the beginning of my current line of work. In those works, there are models abstracted in time and space. They were like empty presences with the idea of a loss of faith in the present or the future, and the shelter in the past are two of the bases of these paintings. From these paintings, I came to be interested in the topic of memory. I try to talk about what means to take refuge in the past when our mechanisms to remember are so precarious.

This series of paintings mimics the aesthetic of lomography, or obsolete technology, as the new mobile devices, iPhone, smartphones, etc., do. It is just a way to use a melancholy analog medium, painting, considered obsolete.

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Please view Pablo Mercado’s artwork online at http://www.pablomercado.es and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Jonathan Wright’s Dynamic Painting Exploration

Jonathan “Jono” Wright is a figurative and abstract painter living in Denver, Colorado. He holds a BFA from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and has also studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Boulder Academy of Fine Arts, and the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy. Jonathan’s work is available online at http://www.jonowrightart.com.


Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Jonathan Wright:
Currently, I’m working on a collection of abstract pieces that are 12”x15” for a boutique called Moxie. I’m really excited about this project, as there is a sense of collaboration with fashion, something from which I find a lot of inspiration. Hopefully I’ll be able to strike a balance between true aesthetic exploration and commercial viability.

Paul Weiner:
Since you’ve studied art at various programs in Boulder, Denver, Philadelphia, and abroad, which of these experiences has shaped your artwork the most?

Jonathan Wright:
It’s hard to say which educational experience has shaped my practice the most, as they all play a part in my current approach. For example, my early interest in graffiti and the training that I got as a teenager from Elvie Davis gave me a real appreciation for drawing and having a sense of attention and elegance to line quality. The training I got in Phillly gave me an introduction into how to paint the figure and how to mix colors. What I got from Metro was a sense of approaching art making in an elemental way such as line, volume, composition, focal point and so on.

Having all these different experiences presents me with the challenge of unifying my vision, which is something I’m learning about right now in my practice. I feel like I have a good technical foundation and a decent level of skill, so the question that is in front of me now is what do I really want to paint. What really turns me on? Also, what is commercially viable? So there’s a balance that has yet to be found.

Paul Weiner:
As an emerging artist, would you say that you feel limited or not by the commercial art market? Do you feel that the commercial level of art gets in the way of your attempt to unify your work in the way you would like to?

Jonathan Wright:
I would say that I feel influenced by considering the retail viability of my artistic ideas. Sometimes I make work that I strongly intend on selling, such as still-lifes or landscapes, while other times I make work that is focused on exploring something just for my own enjoyment.

What I’m finding about Denver is that it seems to be a market where you have to ride the razor’s edge of producing work that is decorative enough so people feel comfortable hanging it over their couch while simultaneously being edgy enough that it still has a spark of authentic exploration. That’s a tough road to navigate. Sometimes this dynamic feels limiting, but it can also feel like an interesting challenge. It really depends on where you want to take your career. If you want to be really avant-garde than your retail viability will probably be minimal, so you make your living doing something else. I suppose I’m trying to ride that razor’s edge of selling interesting and beautiful work.

To answer your question about unifying my work I would say that yes, this dynamic does make it hard to find unity. It takes a while to sort through all the educational influences and all the art market influences to come up with something I truly want to focus on that’s also commercially viable. But I feel ok with that. I think that’s what a true artist has to cope with.

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Paul Weiner:
Take us through your process for starting a new painting and developing a concept.

Jonathan Wright:
My process begins with an aesthetic impulse like a color or a form. It can come from nature or other art, such as painting or dance, something I’ve sketched in my book, or maybe something I’ve seen on the street. Oftentimes I find inspiration from fashion or textiles.

One thing I think is interesting is when multiple artists begin putting out similar aesthetics independently, as if they are responding to a similar impulse floating around in the culture that they then explore independently of each other.

But back to me. I begin with an impulse and sketch it out. However, my process and interests are kind of bipolar at this point. Sometimes I like to hone my skills and make highly realistic work, while at other times I’m interested in exploring something non-objective. Thus, depending on what I feel like making, whether it’s realistic or non-objective, my approach is quite different.

If I’m going to paint something realistic, I’ll use Photoshop to collage an image from which to reference. Then I begin the classical process of painting with oils, starting with an underpainting and continuing with opaque layers of paint. If I’m interested in exploring something non-objective I like to use acrylic on paper. With this approach, the medium is really forgiving, and I can edit, destroy, and create as I go along.

In all honesty, I find the non-objective approach more interesting as far as process goes because there is more that is unknown and more to discover. However, I still really like the results I can get when painting realistically. So one of my long-term problems, and remember it’s the problems that keep us going, is to get comfortable enough with my figure painting that I can incorporate the destroying/creating dynamic into that process. Artists like Alex Kanevsky, Kent Williams and a host of others are inspiring to me in this vein.

As far as “concept” goes, that term is something that I find terribly inadequate to describe the nuances of what visual art communicates. Painting especially is incongruous to this notion. The information that develops in a painting during its creation comes from the merging of the physical world of the materials and the subjective world of the artist.  During this process, one has to let go of expectations and conceptual rigidity. Some initial impulse to create is needed, which could be conceptual, but you have to release your expectations and just let go at some point. In my opinion, art is most interesting when it presents something fresh and unknown, which is kind of antithetical to conceptual art.

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Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of bringing abstraction and figure together for the sake of dynamism. To that extent, how do you feel about Anselm Kiefer’s way of melding expression and figurative art?

Jonathan Wright:
Although I haven’t studied Anselm Kiefer a lot, I would say that he is fairly post-modern in that he is drawing from representational painting and sculpture in a way that activates their culturally collected meanings. He utilizes that history and then adds some expressionism into the mix. And he is successful with that mixture. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of his works in person, which I expect is more impactful than on the page or online, but I believe it must deliver quite an impression. But, in speaking to the representational/non-objective dynamic, I think it’s a really vibrant solution to the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, which kind of became too subjective, too limited.

There’s a long history at this point of artists negotiating this terrain, from Willem de Kooning, Diebenkorn, and Neri to contemporary masters like Sangram Majumdar, who totally blows my mind. In the case of Majumdar, he transcends representation by dancing with materiality, illusion, and, most important of all, spontaneity. It’s his ability to include it all, so to speak, that’s so interesting. He harmonizes  the result oriented approach of realism with the subjective spontaneity of Abstract Expressionism.

Another aspect that I see within this dynamic of what we could call form and formlessness is that it speaks to the transience or impermanence of our time. On the one hand, there is a lot of fragmentation going on in the collective psyche and on the other, we see that nothing lasts forever, which is a very Buddhist point of view. It’s a tumultuous time, which is being reflected in this aesthetic device.

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Paul Weiner:
What do you find most appealing and most frustrating about the Denver art scene?

Jonathan Wright:
I think Denver has a specific flavor of energy that is unique and interesting. I’m not sure if I can really articulate it, but is has everything to do with geography and history. It’s dry and dirty and a bit outlawish. This is Denver’s strength, but I don’t think it can ever be pinned down.

That being said the art culture here can definitely feel out-of-touch and a bit late on the scene. Denver is kind of catching on to the ideas that originated in the big art centers five years prior. This, in my opinion, gives no one in this town the right to be snobby or exclusive because the people running the show here aren’t all that tapped in anyways. So Denver’s isolation is a strength and a weakness. It’s got an underdog vibe, which is invigorating, but also an air of exclusivity based on insecurity. Take it or leave it, I guess. Overall, it does provide a good emerging art scene, someplace to get your feet wet and perhaps continue to show even after one is more established.

It’s great. It’s home.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned how Denver is a great place to get your feet wet, which makes plenty of sense. Are you considering making a move to a larger art market like New York or LA at some point?

Jonathan Wright:
At some point, I think it’s inevitable if you want to keep going with your art, as I do, to make that move. Some artists have stayed in Denver and have made a good name for themselves; maybe Phil Bender would be an example. But, yes, I would like to make a move to the West Coast within a year or so. Like New York, there’s a lot of great figurative work going on in LA and other styles of painting as well.

This whole thing has a lot to do with money. There’s simply more money in LA or San Francisco, perhaps also a more sophisticated market, not to mention a more diverse demographic. That equals a more vibrant and commercially viable art scene. I’m excited

to get a few more exhibitions under my belt and to develop a stronger artistic identity before I make the move. That being said, I would never turn my back on the community here in Denver. I’d still love to show here if the opportunity were to arise.


Please view Jonathan Wright’s artwork online at http://www.jonowrightart.com and like Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Coffee and Rebecca Jacob’s Figurative Painting Skills

Rebecca Jacob earned her BFA at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. She has also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the School of Visual Arts in New York, the Art Students League of New York, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. I picked her brain on her own art practice and thoughts about the commercial art world. Rebecca’s artwork can be found online at rebeccajacob.com.

raspberry jam and java

irish


Paul Weiner:

How do you choose a subject for a series of work? For instance, how did you happen upon coffee as a motif?

Rebecca Jacob:

Ah, the hardest question to answer! Prior to my coffee art phase, I brought in a painting to show a gallery director. His mot to me was, “you’re cute but you need to find a gimmick.”

At that time Starbucks was new, and coffee shops were just starting to become popular – hence the inception of my coffee art series. I even painted with actual coffee! Recently, I am focusing on reproducing, on linen, plant life and landscapes from my personal world. I also love literature, despite my extreme lack of writing skills. I pull from various sentences, stanzas, poems, etc. to use to title my paintings.

the morning repast

tea with sugar and cream

perhaps solitude is your preference

Paul Weiner:

Let’s talk about the landscapes and nature, then. Do you prefer to paint en plein air or in your studio? Also, do you find photography and other digital advances like Photoshop to be a useful tools or simply annoying crutches for figurative painters.

Rebecca Jacob:

I love the concept of painting en plain air but I can never seem to set aside the time. Hence, the photos in my studio where I can work at night. I use my own photos, but do not use photoshop.  Whereas it saves an artist time to use crutches, I try not to because my drawing skills suffer if I do.

Ireland Storm

Environmental

Are the Tulips too Excitable_10x10_oil on belgian linen

Paul Weiner:

Do you find, as a figurative artist, that the commercial art world has become overly focused on abstraction?

Rebecca Jacob:

With regard to the commercial world of art, don’t get me going! Art is now completely about monetary investment; if a gallery of note says it’s valuable, then it is. Art is stock for investment, nothing more. Artists seems to justify their work in saying that it is there to convey a message, but art, especially art that needs to be explained, is not the best way to convey a message.

Any element of the aesthetic has become irrelevant; this is now expected from the current fashion in the art world. Any skill involved in creating art is also irrelevant, indeed frowned upon, as old fashioned and therefore unworthy. The two basic tenets of what constitutes good art are now ignored. This is why people get away with posing as artists, and the world believes them. I feel that the figure is the hardest element to draw and paint, and should be conquered first and foremost before venturing on.

Paul Weiner:

Do you view your work as conceptual or intuitive?

Rebecca Jacob:

My work is both conceptual and intuitive depending on the day and my mood.

Paul Weiner:

Interesting. I would imagine that most people would find your work worthy of merit in an academic setting in terms of skill. So, would you say that your concepts are driven more by the commercial art world or your own curiosities?

Rebecca Jacob:

I have to admit I am driven by the commercial art world. Who doesn’t want to be a successful artist, especially after the 1980’s!  On the other hand, I also am driven by my own curiosities.

hannah

portraitmak

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Paul Weiner:

Take us through the material process you use as a painter. What materials do you like to paint on and with?

Rebecca Jacob:

I generally work small, so I can afford to use the best quality canvas and paint. I have had several mishaps with low quality oil paint chipping off. I also love to work in oil due to the history of it and the lasting power of oil.

Paul Weiner:

Oil painting is certainly a traditional technique. Do you see your style as being rooted in history? Perhaps you could name a few artists who you’ve found influential.

Rebecca Jacob:

I have always been drawn to artists via their stories more than their actual work. For example, take Jackson Pollock. I enjoy reading about his life more than his actual work. Although, when I visited his studio this past fall, I found that I do love his work. I have been obsessed with the lives of artists in Paris from when Paris was the center of the art world. On visiting Paris, I was more interested in finding their haunts and residences than viewing their works. Currently I am drawn to Johannes Vermeer after reading girl with a pearl earring. I also am fascinated with how he created and ground his own colors and the materials they used back then. I currently am trying to use the colors he used in his palette.

Display Blooms Sublime, 20x20, oil on belgian linen

nmex5

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Please view Rebecca Jacob’s artwork online at http://www.rebeccajacob.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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