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.
JL: Matt, we met on artpapa and deviant art, then facebook, and now twitter! I guess the graphite-artists seek each other out. I've seen your awesome drawings and peoples' favorable reactions. What do you see for the future of this medium in the art world?
MD: I'm not sure what the future holds for this medium in the art world but in my opinion, and from what I've seen,
pencil /graphite drawing is becoming increasingly popular and more appreciated. I do feel it's been under appreciated in the past though, particularly when it's put side by side with other mediums. It seems quite common for oil and acrylic paintings to do well in juried competitions but pencil work rarely seems to get the same praise. I'd love for pencil work to be on a more level playing field as oils, acrylics and other popular art mediums. I know it's all down to personal taste and preference but I think maybe the average person/non artist appreciates or understands how much work goes into some drawings. I think as soon as you mention 'pencil', people assume it's going to be just some quick sketch and that often they don't realise that these days highly realistic drawings are being produced by some damn fine artists and with damn fine results. Take people like Armin Mersmann and Paul Lung (to name just 2 from so many thousands of talented pencil artists), and see just how detailed their drawings are.
JL: How log have you been drawing, and why did you start?
MD: Well I've been drawing since I was about 7 years old (I'm 35 now) and have always had a good eye for perspective, form and light and shade so I'm lucky in that sense. I was always told that my drawings were very good and I always thought they were too.............until a couple of years ago when I discovered Deviantart and saw for myself the truly amazing drawings that were being produced by people with a simple pencil. It was at that point that I took a long hard look at my drawings from my past and thought "okay, they're not bad but they are far from good or great". I decided then to reteach myself 'how' to draw using tips and techniques that I read about from other pencil artists on DA. The advice and help that I was given was invaluable and helped set me on a new road with regards to my drawings. As mentioned earlier, I was already blessed with some form of artistic talent but I desperately needed to hone those skills if I ever wanted to accomplish my dream of having my art on show and someday for sale. Also, several years ago I went through quite a bad time in my life that completely demotivated me and thus I lost the will to draw. After seeking help for my 'problem' and finally getting the help, I was put in touch with an art tutor who took a small group of people in a similar position as myself, for just 2 hours a week, and helped to inspire and motivate us again. It worked for me and that's when I discovered DA.
So to sum up, although I've drawn for as long as I can remember, I only consider the last 1 - 2 years as being professional with regards to how I go about producing my drawings now. I've learnt more in the last 2 years compared to the previous 27 years and it's changed my drawing life.
JL: Are you from an arty family?
MD: No, not really. My father was a good technical drawer and certainly had an eye for perspective and form, much like I did when I was a kid so maybe I picked that side of things up from him. My daughter (who's 4 years old) also has a keen eye for things and she loves to draw whereas my son (her twin brother) isn't so adept.
JL: Who do you turn to for inspiration and why?
MD: I generally turn to other pencil artists for inspiration. Just looking at other peoples drawings is enough to inspire me although picking a suitable subject matter has always been an issue for me. In the last year I've discovered some really great art forums such as Artpapa and Wetcanvas and these forums have really helped to inspire me. The artists there, no matter what mediums they work in, are so helpful and offer such great advice and constructive criticism and I'm eternally greatful for these forums.
JL: I see you would like to go mainstream. What steps are you taking to make this happen?
MD: Well at the moment I'm concentrating on building up my portfolio as I only really have 4 drawings that I consider as 'worthy' of being shown. I tend to post my WIP's (works in progress) on various art forums that I've already mentioned so that I can get constructive feedback and advice from other artists. Generally speaking it's through word of mouth, forums and sites such as DA that are helping my work get noticed. Also Facebook, and more recently, Twitter have proved to be a good way of getting my stuff out there. As yet I've not approached any galleries or exhibitions but I will do that once I have a bigger portfolio. Also, people such as yourself, Jeremy, have been so helpful and even this opportunity of doing this little interview is invaluable to me. Once again, thank you for this and hopefully someday I can repay your kindness.
JL: Are you going to specialise exclusively in graphite or do you have other plans and interests?
MD: As it stands I work exclusively in Graphite but I have worked with Acrylics and pastels before. I don't really get on with pastels but I loved using Acrylics and hope to do some more Acrylic work in the future. I also feel that expanding on what mediums I use will give me better opportunities and make me more versatile as an artist. At the moment I intend to keep concentrating on my Graphite work in order to build up my portfolio and once that's done then I'll put a bit more focus on Acrylics.
JL: You put many hours into a given work. Do you see this as a problem from a commercial point of view? I mean, how do you make a trade off between commercial productivity and just letting it flow at a natural rate?
MD: Indeed I do put many hours into my drawings. Infact, my last drawing took close to 150 hours to complete. I'm not the quickest drawer in the world anyway but I'm such a perfectionist that this adds to the time that a drawing takes to complete. Everytime I start a new drawing I think to myself that I won't allow myself to get too intricate but I never manage to do that. I generally need to learn to improve on the time that my drawings take but without compromising the quality of my work. I think I will be able to speed up but it's all a learning process and will take me time to get comfortable with working faster. Also, taking so much time on a drawing isn't practical from a commercial point of view as 'time = money'. If I can produce more drawings over a shorter period of time then I will have the opportunity to make more money as it just doesn't make good business sense to put so much time into something that people wouldn't be willing to pay for if I had to charge an hourly rate (not that I'm sure how to price myself anyway) but like I said, I'm still learning and as it stands I don't currently make money from my drawings anyway.
JL: Have you been approached by any interesting sources for commission work and so on?
MD: In short, no. Many people have looked at my drawings and are pretty gobsmacked when they realise that something's a drawing and not a photo as they initially thought but no, nobody (other than one person) has requested any commissions from me. Hopefully someday they will but to be honest I don't really advertise or say that I'm available for commissions. I also figure that people currently have less money to spend on non-essentials such as a drawing due to recessions etc,. I'm also wary of doing commissions as I worry that I may not enjoy drawing them as much. I noticed whilst drawing my only commission that I just wasn't bonding with the drawing because it was a picture chosen by the client. I had no real creative leeway like I would have if I was drawing from my own reference or from my own ideas and imagination. I guess it has to be a compromise sometimes and that I'll have to give up being creative on the occasions that a commission may come my way.
JL: Thank you so much for your time. Is there any advice that you could offer to other graphite specialists out there?
MD: I don't really have any advice with regards to marketing or selling work as I'm only learning that now myself but in terms of advice to do with techniques, then yes, I can make suggestions based on what works for me.
Firstly, these are things that work for me and may not work for others.
I never/rarely blend my drawings although I did once. I've found that using the 'circulism' technique is my preferred method of drawing, although this technique takes quite long, hence why some drawings take me 100+ hours. By using this technique I'm able to get a smooth look but not an unnaturally smooth look. It's perfect for drawing skin as it gives the impression of tiny pores.
If I do ever blend then it's usually only very tiny areas and I use a tortillion, very lightly, for this. When using the tortillon I also use the circulism [a.k.a. circularism] technique as it gives a more natural looking smoothness in my opinion.
I think the blending advice is sound. You pointed to a tutorial at Duey's Drawings. And I've got one in this blog too.
Well good luck with your career!
I had the good fortune to meet Ed Newman via twitter, then email. I Like his art, and I like his interesting blog. (Check it out) Ed happily agreed to a blog-interview, so here it is:
SpOOk's-art: What are the three most important things/events or people in your life?
Ed Newman: Too many significant events, but I will narrow it to art related.
S-a: What motivates you to maintain your blog?
EN: I initially started the blog to see what blogging was about. I believed that I would learn something by doing it. Based on what I’d read, I got the idea that you had to stay with it to make it worthwhile, so I made an internal pact with myself to stick with it for four years, and then evaluate. Within a month or so I knew it would have value in my job. I also started a blog for our church later that summer.
I enjoy the personal discipline involved of creating new content on a daily basis before I head to the office each day. I feel like a journalist on a tight deadline. Each morning it helps me get jazzed for the new day.
S-a: Can you describe what was the most creative moment of your childhood?
EN: Impossible to narrow it down to one, but when age 8 I came up with the idea of being The Blob for a Halloween event in Cub Scouts. I won Best Costume. My mom dyed a pair of sheets mottled grey and sewed them together for me. During the costume parade I rolled around the room. Twenty years later I met someone who remembered that night!
S-a: I enjoy your loose artistic style. What has lead up to this? Has your style changed over the years?
EN: What you call a “loose style” has probably been evolving. For literally decades my drawing has been very precise, using technical drawing pens, clean edges and all. A few years ago I started “drawing” with brushes which soon because brush drawings over a wash background. I have experimented with inks and other ways of creating the background over which I draw or paint.
This past year I have become very into using Photoshop to manipulate photos which I then paint. I have been using digital photography and Photoshop to create effects but do not believe I can ever divorce myself from the actually hands on application of color to surfaces, whether paints, inks, crayons, whatever.
S-a: Tell me about 'Dogs of War' and why you painted it? It's a moving work. How does this affect you personally?
ED: I watched a documentary about the use of dogs in WW2, the Korean conflict and in Viet Nam. If you’re a dog lover, the film is actually quite heartbreaking and very powerful. This image which I captured in my painting was a momentary scene in the film. Not the background, but the G.I. with his dog. I happened to have an abstract painting that I didn’t think was finished, so I painted this image there. Initially the silouhettes were lighter and I wasn’t really happy with the piece, but was scared to risk messing with it. While reading a book about how contrasts strengthen a piece, I mixed some color and brought them out a little more. It has gotten a lot of very positive reactions. Just this week I decided to have it scanned to sell limited edition giclees. The original is 24” x 24” but I think the prints will be 18” x 18” and may 12” x 12”.
S-a: If you could live the life of any known artist in history, who would that be and why?
EN: Picasso. First, I think to be so perpetually creative for such a full lifetime is impressive. Second, one day I had an experience in college where I felt the spirit of Picasso had entered my body. I found out the next day Picasso had passed away about that same time the previous day. As a young artist, it was probably was wishful thinking…
S-a: And to finish, If you were talking to a promising pre-teen artist, what would be your advice?
EN: First off, have fun being creative. Don’t compare to anyone or anything... have fun... But keep trying and learning new things. Learn how to create depth using perspective, shading and dimensions, and you will get accolades at an early age that keep you going. It is a bit like learning magic tricks. When I was a teen, the maxim that I found most helpful was this:
it takes a thousand bad drawings to make a good one.
This really fired me up to do as many drawings as I could as quickly as possible so I could draw a good one. I found this improved my eye hand coordination and helped develop technique so you start to do what you plan rather than always relying on “happy accidents.”
S-a: Thank you Ed, for a very insightful contribution.
Ed / ennyman
The first question was hardest because so many influences, both people and events. The item where I mention that my dad supplied paints when I was in art school... that was in college, not age 4 (lest there be confusion) ... He also painted when we were kids, but not art,.. rather our toy box and lots of practical, functional things. He was talented but dismissed it a little. Modest, etc. My grandmother's influence is understated here, too. Very amazing woman, ahead of her time.
ed / ennymann
Link: www.ennyman.com and others
Manny - thank you very much for agreeing to this blog interview. I happened across your photographs while looking for portrait artists and was blown away by somethnig intangible but powerful in the pictures. Can you explain what causes you to raise the camera and go for a particular shot?
Today, I've started preparations for an interview with a world-class portrait photographer. Watch this blog in the coming days or weeks as the interview builds. I hope to get an insight into how this person views the world, and what it is that inspires such deep rich images.
(C) Jeremy Lee 2010, all rights reserved.
Note: I am allowing the blogs in the category 'Book' to be stored for personal use only, but not for distribution or commercial use. Should you wish to reproduce any material, please contact me for negotiations.
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.