JL: Hello Charles! I found your incredible paintings onThe Figure in Light after following a retweet on Twitter and instantly saw a high skill level. You are a full time painter. Could you explain how this came to be?
CP: Hello Jeremy. Thank you for your interest in my work. Here I am talking to someone on the other side of the planet whom I have never met, all thanks to the internet. I have been painting full time for about ten years. This has been possible because I have a great gallery, The David Klein Gallery in Birmingham, MI. Just as importantly my wife, Lauri Palmer, has been incredibly tolerant and supportive.
JL: What is your favorite medium?
CP: I work mostly in oil.
JL: Why do you like working in that medium?
CP: It is forgiving, it has gravitas, and I like greasy things.
JL: What events outside of pursuing art have caused you most grief and joy in your life?
CP: By far the most joy has been my family. We have a son who just graduated from college, and a daughter about to enter high school. The greatest grief has been the financial struggle to keep it all going.
JL: Unfortunately, the cost of modern living is a major problem. It is clear to me especially for non-representational contemporary/modern art and ephemeral art that the technical aspects of a work seem to be secondary to the story of the artist behind the work as part of an unpalatable marketing machine energized by greed. I know this is a bold statement - but what are your thoughts on this?
CP: I would agree in part. There certainly is a mercantile aspect to the art world that can be distasteful, but I suspect that has always been true. Regarding skill, or what you refer to as technical aspects, I think there are many non-traditional artists with loads of that, and I respect them and in many cases enjoy their work. Yet I think that modernism as a whole is disconnected from our larger culture. Very few people relate to modern art, regardless of how good it might be by its own hermetic standards. The problem though is not with the art world. In my view our culture itself is in decline, and the art world, as well as so many of our other cultural and civic institutions, has come undone.
JL: I think that is a very thoughtful ans skilled answer. Please tell me more about your Pollack-Krasner Award, what it means and its origin.
CP: It’s a foundation established from the estate of Jackson Pollack and Lee Krasner that gives financial support to artists. They award quite a bit of money. I got my award about ten years ago at a critical time and it really helped to keep things going. That’s one reason I can’t be too hard on modern art!
JL: I do in fact enjoy Jackson Pollack's work. What events lead up to this honor?
CP: I simply applied for it. I encourage anyone who is interested to do the same. It has nothing to do with who you know or anything like that. Just do an internet search and apply, but you might have to keep applying before you get an award. I applied two or three times before I got mine. I apply for lots of things, but most of them I don’t get. I still have the Guggenheim in my sights.
JL: I can see that you take a great deal of care to depict light in your subjects. Could you please describe what goes through your mind as you paint in this regard?
CP: I think the real medium for all visual artists is space. Light reveals form in space. Light, form, and space are fundamental to visual expression. I suppose I take this for granted and don’t think about it much when I work. I’m mostly trying to make something that looks good.
JL: Is this why you called your web site "The Figure in Light"?
CP: I guess so. I was just trying to think of something catchy.
JL: The name works. It's easy to remember and speaks something about art in general and what you do. Looking back over your formal education, what do you consider most helpful to your current professional career as an artist?
CP: The MFA program at the University of Iowa was very important. It attracted ambitious students from all over the country, and it had a lively visiting artist program. While there I was awarded a scholarship to the Skowhegan Summer School of Painting and Sculpture, and that was a critical experience for me. Being from Michigan, and having just gotten married, it was a big decision to move to Iowa, but I am really glad I did. I also want to mention Robert Wilbert, a painting professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. I took a couple of classes from him before going to grad school in Iowa. He was incredibly influential. He taught me to see space.
JL: Are there things which simply cannot be taught? If so, how do you acquire those skills?
CP: This is a really important question but I’m afraid I just don’t know. Sorry.
JL: That answer is oddly satisfactory, and I am sure there are people who hold an opinion, but who is to say they could possibly be correct?
As a teacher, what advice can you offer for young or beginning artists?
CP: You have to be obsessive about working. You must get into the habit of drawing daily, and always keep a sketchbook, like a diary. Draw anything and everything – the view out the window, your friends, yourself, your toes, what you dream and daydream about – but mostly draw from life. Avoid working from photographs for at least ten years.
JL: Charles, It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much for your valuable time and insight.
CP: It’s been a pleasure for me as well Jeremy. Thank you.
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If you have more questions. I am quite sure Charles would be able to respond.
(C) Jeremy Lee 2010, all rights reserved.
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spOOk's art is owned by Jeremy. He has practiced drawing and painting for about 40 years, and might get good at it one day. spOOk's art is focused on graphite portraits.