ST. CLAIRE ART | STUDIO & GALLERY
frequently asked questions
Q: How do you decide what to paint?
A: I am constantly taking photos wherever I go. I'm also given photos by clients. Basically, I am constantly on the look-out for a photo or an idea that would lead to a compelling oil painting.
But what makes a "compelling" oil painting? As it turns out, that is a tough question to answer. When you go to Google images for instance and type in "compelling landscape photos", you get some very nice photography. But I can literally spend an hour looking at hundreds and hundreds of beautiful photos and not one of them would make a really great oil painting. Why is that?
The main thing I look for in a photo I use for inspiring a painting is whether or not it "draws you in". That is what I am looking for and I'm not really sure what does that. Lighting? Colors? Contrast? All the above? Something else? Basically, I want each painting to speak to the viewer : "come home". That's it. It's that simple. Come home. We strive and work and stress-out and play and vacation so that we can re-create Eden. We really do. I don't care what religion you are, I think that's what we're all doing. We long for paradise and try hard to create it now, here on earth. I can't create paradise, but I can let the viewer look at it. And I like that. I believe that hints at hope. This very easily turns into a philosophical and spiritual conversation, and I won't do that here but...that really does explain what I'm trying to do with my artwork and what I'm inspired by.
Also, most of the paintings I sell in my studio are to people visiting Asheville, and they're looking for something to take home to remind them of their time in Western North Carolina (not a lighthouse on the coast of Maine). So now, that's the first thing I look for: something specific to North Carolina mountains and woods, or something generic (mountains, trees, lakes, rivers etc. that could be anywhere).
Q: What is it like as an artist living in Asheville?
A: Asheville is a wonderful and unique place to live whether you are an artist or not. Asheville folk are quirky. We are from all over the country and have settled here creating a wonderful melting pot of ideas and cultures. This cultural mix has brought some really awesome restaurants and microbreweries...and some incredible artists to town. As an artist, it's an awesome privilege and joy to create alongside so many creative people. Creative ideas ricochet around your head and morph into something truly unique and interesting and if you created in a vacuum, that just wouldn't happen.
Q: There are so many artists in the River Arts District. Can you really compete with them and make a living?
A: My answer is an appreciative "YES". And there are reasons for that. Asheville is unique. We have within a square mile over 200 artists with open doors to the public. It's awesome. And because our artists association has done some really great advertising, people from all over the country come through our doors. I don't know many artists here at all that do the art show circuit. We just really don't have to. People come to us. And because there are so many artists here, we really do not compete with each other at all. Art is so subjective and people purchase what they like. The fact that there are so many artists here is exactly why we can make a living as artists in Asheville. The word is out regarding this being an "arts destination" and tourists (and art buyers) visit us from all over the country because of that. (Learn more: "Can you really making a living here?")
Q: I'm considering moving to Western North Carolina. What is it like living in Asheville?
A: Living here isn't cheap. Cost of rent and housing is expensive. And there's a saying: "Welcome to Asheville. Bring your own job". There just isn't a lot of industry around here so if you don't have a job lined up, you may want to work on that first. My wife and I were initially able to move here because l had a job (pre-professional artist days) that allowed me to work remote, so I worked from a home office. The nice thing about that is that as long as I had the internet and a phone, I could live anywhere. So we chose Asheville and have not looked back. We love it here. (Learn more about Asheville, NC)
Q. Before you begin an oil painting, do you know exactly what you want to paint?
A: Yes and no. When I paint a landscape painting, I first decide the subject matter, whether it's out of my own imagination or from a photo I've taken or found. If I decide to paint a scene depicting trees reflecting in a lake with mountains in the distance, I first make a pencil sketch of that scene on my canvas. Then I use modeling compound and gesso to build up texture, using that pencil sketch as a guide, essentially building up the mountains and trees so that the sketch becomes dimensional. Next, I cover it all with aluminum leaf and finally, I'm ready to actually start the paint application. In other words, when I paint a landscape piece, yes, the entire scene is figured out in my head and on the canvas before I begin. (See my landscapes)
With abstract art though, it's completely different. I'll apply the texture to the canvas in a completely random, haphazard way, cover it with aluminum leaf and then begin painting. But all I determine ahead of time is my color palate (usually determined by this years color trends). At the beginning of the paint application, I randomly pick a place on the canvas and begin with one color. Then I switch colors and work over here, then there, switch colors again and keep going. Then I let that dry and come back to it the next day. The painting itself "tells" me what direction to go. Usually after the third day of paint application, I'm seeing interesting color juxtapositions and contrasts in light/dark and at that point, it starts to develop a visual rhythm. From that point on, it's easy. I'm just accentuating patterns that have already begun. (See my abstracts)
Q: Where do you get your art supplies?
A: Most of what i need I get on-line simply because of the amounts of materials I need. I purchase resin in 30 gallon increments. I also get my aluminum leaf on-line from Italy (it's the highest grade of aluminum leaf I can buy). The paint and brushes all come from a local (and wonderful) art store just down the street called Cheap Joe's Art Supplies. They just opened a location in the District in 2016 and we artists were very, very glad to have them in Asheville. Before that, there was no specific fine arts supply store in town.