It sounds like you make your own luck.
Well part of it, I was at the phone company and that’s transitioned so much in the last 30 years. They did a retraining initiative at one point so I went to school and got an Associates in Graphic Design, which ended up great because I learned all about composition, design, and especially Photoshop because I use that for all my promotional materials: my business cards, my flyers, images for the website, my logo.
We have a favorite saying in our family: “Out of crisis always comes opportunity.” What kind of studio space do you have?
I have a home studio and an outside studio. The outside studio is a little storefront and it’s about 10 minutes from my house. I live in a small village so it’s just a real small place and it’s on Main Street and has a glass storefront. It’s old. It’s nice because everything is set up. You walk in the door and you can just start painting. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every day, it’s all there.
Do you do many open studios? Do you invite people in?
Yes, and I do different events in the village. They do something in December and I usually open up and have hot chocolate and people come in and it’s fun.
Does your town get much tourism? Do you get many out of town guests?
No, I think the tourism all tends to be a little north of our area because we’re close to Albany which is the New York state capital but that tends to close up on the weekend. I think the legislature goes home and it gets quiet. But Saratoga, where the racetrack is, is just north of us; they seem to get a lot of tourism.
How would you describe your artistic process?
I think of myself as more of a studio painter than a plein air painter. I like to think about the process more. Sometimes I do plein air painting but I’m never really happy with them. Two to three hours and the light is changing and it’s like, “Ehhh I wish I would have done this or that.” I’m always kind of disappointed but it’s funny, the paintings that I do in plein air always seem to sell. I’m the one that’s unhappy with them.
That’s really interesting. So it might be kind of fun when people buy them to ask, “What in particular do you like about them as opposed to my other work?”
I think I capture the light better when I’m outside. I think that’s the thing. So what I’ve been trying to do now is I’ll do a couple small sketches and I try to capture the light and color and then bring them back to the studio. I take photographs, I sketch. Sometimes the photographs flatten things out. Everything has the same amount of focus to it. Normally when you look out, things in the distance are a little more blurry and things closer are clear. But the photograph makes everything the same sharpness and they’re good references for design and to see what you might want to move around. Sometimes I go into Photoshop with a couple photos and make up a composition and play around in Photoshop.
Oh! So you compose in Photoshop before you paint?
Yeah, I do! A lot of times I’ll get the a photo and maybe it’ll be a bright blue sky and I was looking for something with a bit more drama to it. You can combine another photo to see if it’s going to work with that. When I’m starting a painting I’ll do a monochromatic under painting or I’ll do a full color block in. I work on panels. I don’t like stretched canvas as much as a like panels.
Is it because they’re primed and ready to go?
Yeah, but stretched canvas, there’s something about it, I have the worst luck. I’m always poking holes in them. I’ve repaired more stretched canvases. And I like panels too because you’re not limited to your frame size either. If you’ve got a panel, almost any frame size is going to fit with your panel. You don’t have to get a certain depth rabbet for it.
That’s absolutely true.
And panels are a lot easier to store too. They don’t take up as much room because they’re flat. I think they end up price wise about the same but I like to experiment with different textures.
When you’re exhibiting, you can put more in your car and whoever buys them isn’t carrying around a big bulky piece. There’s pros and cons to everything. So, the underlying theme to your work is the landscape. Do you ever find yourself tiring of the landscape or do you find yourself more engrossed in it, the more you do?
It seems like I always find something different that I want to do. And different moods and different light affects. I like really moody paintings but for some reason I don’t paint that way. I like barns and trees and everything. My grandfather had a farm and we were always out in the pastures playing when I was a kid. I think what you are when you’re young kind of stays with you as you get older. I notice I had a lot of paintings with a lot of roads in them too. I don’t know whether I like that idea of not knowing the unseen ahead of you. I’m lucky where I am because you drive two minutes and it’s farm country and fields and then there are mountains and we live by the Mohawk River and you drive up north for an hour and I’m in the Adirondack Mountains. It’s a great area for a painter as far as subject matter.
It sounds like you can go a lot of different directions and never paint the same thing twice.
It’s very different whichever way you go. We are kind of in the middle of the state and there are so many different types of landscapes around here, it’s wonderful.
And then with the seasons, that makes everything different.
Exactly. It multiplies everything by 4.
Exactly. Is there a specific person or artist that has inspired you in your work?
George Inness. Currently, I’d have to say Richard Schmid because he’s amazing, he’s the master. There are a couple artists that are out in Utah. There’s Doug Fryer and Michael Workman. And then there’s an artist in Seattle, Marc Bohne. They’re abstracting the landscape and simplifying it, but there’s still this beautiful landscape. I would love to be able to do that eventually. More abstracted and simplified but still be able to have the textural response to it.
Sometimes being a minimalist like that is so difficult because how do you keep the mood and know that it is a landscape and keep the feeling of it without putting in the detail?
That’s truly an art!
It is, it is. That’s what I’m trying to work towards and that’s who I’m inspired by. I’m a bit too detail-oriented sometimes and I have to make myself step back from it.
Being very detail-oriented, how do you know when something is done? How do you know when to call a piece or series done?
When you can’t really add anything more that is supporting what your idea was, it’s time to stop. I notice when I start really slowing down on a painting that it’s time to step back and there’s a good chance I’m really close to being done at that point. I’ve ruined tons of paintings by not stopping soon enough.
It is a hard thing to do. I love the different answers to this particular question when I do these interviews because everyone has a different idea of ‘finished.’
And sometimes it’s when you start to lose interest too. That’s a key point. When you just kind of make things up in your head like, “oh I should do this or that.” Something is telling you that you should stop at that point and put it aside for a few days and look at it with fresh eyes. And maybe there is something more you need to do but, there’s a good chance there isn’t.