I thought I should write a little bit about who I am, but I was unsure as to how I should go about it, so I’ll start by answering some questions about myself and hopefully we’ll get somewhere from there!
- What do you love about art?
This is probably going to sound really corny, but I love that I can create worlds of fantasy, dreams (and nightmares!), and beautiful (or scary) places that I would love to see. I enjoy creating art of real places, animals, and people, of course, but even realistic things have a touch of “fantasy” to me – the act of painting a real place also makes me really pay attention to details that I wouldn’t normally notice and my mind creates little stories of my own each time. The more I paint and draw something, the more I notice something weird or “magical” in everyday objects while I’m out and about (I warned you this would sound really corny). For instance, I once spent a long time trying to change the way I painted clouds to make them look more “full,” and now I can’t help but notice interesting cloud formations or sometimes wonder how I would paint a cloud “that fluffy” or get just the right colors or shapes. I once pointed out that a cloud looked really flat and unrealistic. An actual cloud, not a painted one. These sorts of silly little things may drive me crazy one day. In any case, I want to strive toward creating on canvas the fantastical worlds and things that I see in my head. I’m not there yet by any means (and I also believe that you never stop learning!), but that’s what I love about art in general.
- Do you make a living off your art?
No, but I would love to. I’m working on putting more and more paintings up on Etsy, though, and I’m considering taking commissions, so let me know if you have a great idea for a painting!
(Quick update: YES, I am currently working as a full-time artist!)
- So… what’s your “real job”?
My “day job” is as a Physicist. Most of what I do is write code, make things beep, and occasionally play with some lasers. I’d love to do more art – not just oil painting, but other projects as well – but currently this is done as a “side job” in my “free time.” I would love to pursue art as a full-time career at some point in my future, and I’m already pushing myself to learn more and do more to that end.
(Quick update: Currently a full-time artist, but I will always love physics and probably find ways of incorporating various aspects of science in my life even when it’s not my main job 🙂 )
- When did you start?
I suppose most everyone starts drawing with crayons (which, by the way, is one of the words for which my “midwestern accent” comes out – it often sounds more like “crans”), so really it’s strange that so many people I see say “I started as a child” – well, everyone does! I did take a lot of “art classes” as a kid on Saturdays, but I really feel it was often more of a place to be “babysat” as we did the same things every year – I’d have a clay pot, I’d have some tie-dyed shirts, I’d have an acrylic painting made from 5 colors, etc. I wouldn’t say I “learned” much from that. I did always enjoy drawing, and I always doodled in my notebooks for school or on those paper-bag covers of books (perhaps I’m dating myself a bit here, but you know when you’d go to the grocery store right before school started and make sure your groceries were bagged in paper bags so you could make “protective covers” for your books? that’s what I’m talking about. and if you don’t know, look it up! it was great! I’m guessing that trend stopped when paper bags stopped being used at grocery stores, but trust me, they were cheap, cool, and great for drawing random stuff on). One of my nicknames (from my parents) was “Doodles” – I even had “Doodles” inscribed on a bowling ball once. Annnd now I’m rambling again… so let’s get back on track. I would draw a lot throughout high school and college, and even entered a few pieces into some little competitions, but I didn’t really start painting until after college – after graduate school, in fact – when I was trying to get a job. Someone got a Bob Ross oil paint set and canvas for me, and ohhhhh the nostalgia. I absolutely LOVED watching Bob Ross when I was a kid, and I was so excited to finally make those evergreens with the fan brush. That was my favorite part, the “zigzag trees” in a nice dark green (my favorite color). I love fan brushes, probably more than I should, because of Bob Ross. I made a ton of Bob Ross tutorial paintings, and that was what really got me back into “real” art. This is my very long way of saying “I started as a kid” as everyone says, but also “I started [really] painting a few years ago,” haha 🙂 And I’m only now (2016) starting to make a business out of it and really knuckle down to improve my skills – in what “free time” I have!
- What media do you use and why?
When I started painting with Bob Ross tutorials, I used oil paints, so I’ve had a lot more practice and time painting that way than with acrylics or watercolors (though there are a few very old paintings, done when I was in grade/ high school that were in acrylics and watercolors – and of those two, I think I liked watercolors better). I do also enjoy using various types of charcoal, but I found I’m still more comfortable with the charcoal pencils than with the “raw stick” (hard or soft) form of charcoal. Pencil and pen are of course the default for drawing, and I’ve also had some fun playing around with Copic markers. I don’t really know what my “favorite” of all those would be, since I would want to use different media for different ideas, but I’ve tried a bunch of things and I’m willing to try more!
- How do you begin to start a piece? How do you work on a piece?
This depends on what I’m doing, of course, but I usually spend quite a bit of time looking up reference photos for different parts of a painting or drawing, unless I’m trying to recreate someone’s photo (and even then, I may still look up a few reference photos for more detailed things or better color, etc). I sometimes do sketches – and I should really get into the habit of doing this more often, as those ones have almost always turned out better, even with a simple sketch of an idea. Painting “that scene in my head” doesn’t always work as well as I hope, so I’m trying to sketch more beforehand to solidify a scene. When I get to actually working on a piece, I prefer to do it all at once, wet-on-wet (alla prima), if possible. Unfortunately this means that I tend to do the bigger ones on the weekends as it’s more difficult to get large chunks of “free time” during the week. There have been times when I’ve been up quite late because I thought “this piece will probably take 3 hours; it’s small and I think I know what will go into it” – and whoops, it takes 6 hours. I think the longest painting so far has been about 18 hours, spread out over a few days.
- What is your favorite piece and why?
For a long time, it was this one:
And it’s not my “best” work or “most interesting” or anything like that, but (1) it was one of the first ones I did that wasn’t a “Bob Ross” tutorial, so I was really trying my own thing with those new skills, (2) it’s GREEN! and (3) I really liked visiting caves around the U.S. when we would vacation (Carlsbad Caverns was the best!).
Now I think I should probably choose a new one, since it’s been about 5 years since I made that one, and I definitely have some new ones I love!
- What do you really struggle with?
Oh, people, definitely. Portraits especially! There are so many tiny muscles and deviations in the face that make me so nervous when even approaching the idea of drawing or painting a person. I’ve been working on getting “used” to the weirdness and learning more about human anatomy (and keeping a sketchbook particularly for it!), so I’m getting better with proportions of people in general, but faces are still pretty scary. So get ready to see some more portraits as I try to improve my skills and work on what I’ve learned!
- Which artists influence/ inspire you?
Again, I’ve said I’ve started painting with Bob Ross, but much before that I loved Monet. I loved the water lillies and the bridge over the pond, his version of not-quite-abstract but not-quite-realistic impressionistic painting, and what I had learned about his eyesight (as I have poor – but corrected! – eyesight, so this appealed to me as a little nerdy kid with bad eyesight). Aside from those, though, really I get influenced by any amazing art I come across, so there are just too many to list as my influences right now (I’ll have to come back and update with a list of artists I love).
- What does your studio/ workspace look like?
Updated for early 2018 – here’s a quick tour of my “studio.” Yes, there is room for a normal easel (one you have to stand at), but the tabletop easel is currently shown in the video. I should have opened the closet to show how stuffed it is with loads of canvases and packaging materials, but it’s nicer when it “looks” clean, right? hehe. Anyway, enjoy!
> Update: I now have one of those “standing desks” that raises/lowers so you can sit or stand, so I can use the table easel on it when I’m sitting or standing and still have access to everything without having to bust out my tall easel (which I’m increasingly having less and less room for anyway). If you’re an artist and like to sit/stand/move around but don’t have room, I highly recommend getting one and putting a simple tabletop easel on it; I love it. At some point I’ll take some good pictures to show how it works if anyone would like to see that.
And this is a photo where I’m showing off some of my paintings from my “skulls” theme in 2017! I know, I’m a super dork!