Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Interview with Artist Scott Waddell - Part 2

Do you have any piece of advice in particular for aspiring artists, especially in regards to improving technical skills?
Specific exercises would be contingent on the individual and their current skill level. However, the most fundamental thing is drawing; you cannot go wrong practicing block-ins over and over again. Of course, you can hit a wall if you do not practice modeling as well. Unless you learn how to create form and make objects feel solid in accordance to a defined light source, you may not understand what is necessary to make a truly good block-in. It would be best to strike some sort of balance in practicing block-ins and modeling. The lion’s share of your time should be spent on block-ins; make them as accurate as possible, and try to interpret the linear information correctly. The differences in the outer contour of an object, the terminator of the form shadow, and the terminator of the cast shadow are subtle but important. Then I would spend the rest of the time trying to model very careful form. Doing so will inform your decisions in linear drawing.
In terms of color, almost all of your drawing knowledge translates to painting. Materially, there are differences, but nobody really told me how to put paint down. I was just trying to achieve form in the paint, and by doing so I learned how to manipulate the medium successfully to this end. I think that [paint handling] should not be something that you agonize about too much; you should focus on the form and use the paint as best you can to achieve this goal

In regards to composition, how do the old masters inspire you? Are there any poses, shadow patterns, or lines that directly influence your paintings?
Certainly, Ribera heavily influenced some of my earlier whaling paintings. I do not think that would be very evident looking at the finished works; by the time the final product[s] came about, they had little in common with the Ribera works. The dream-like state I was trying to capture is evident in his work, so in the planning stages of my own work I would graphically copy his compositions, in a very harsh, blocky manner. Then I would work those light and dark patterns into my own narratives of whalers. At the time, I was also listening to a lot of these old Russian Orthodox chants, which affected my state of mind while working. They gave off this lonely, vast feeling, complete with bells that sounded like boat tackle. So looking at those Riberas and feeling that sense of loneliness; maybe you can’t identify those compositions directly in my own work, but they certainly contributed to the general feeling. 
In my portraiture, I was looking at a lot of 19th century paintings. They used a much more full, direct light. Not to say that my works look anything like a Bouguereau, but Bouguereau had a great ability to make forms look full, even when there wasn’t a large or evident shadow pattern. Trying to paint a fully (or almost fully) illuminated face makes for an interesting challenge and beautiful look. Working in this manner also made me better at form. In contrast to some of my earlier paintings where I had much more of a chiaroscuro light and dark effect, I now prefer to go for painting the face fully illuminated, with the background dark. 

Can you share any information with us concerning your materials?
I draw in graphite, and I do my transfers in conte.  When painting, I use a very smooth linen. In my final pass I don’t rely on a lot of medium, just the oil that is in the paint. I really like the opacity of it; it lends itself to creating holistic form. Materially, I deviate the most when I try to retouch those passes and modify the form. I oil out, where I scumble pure linseed oil over the surface and then I use a more translucent layer of paint mixed with linseed oil to paint over the opaque passage.

What thoughts lead you to your narrative themes?
My narrative ideas usual come out of some basic feeling I have or emotional effect I want to convey, rather than out of a specific part of history I want to portray. I think most of my ideas have a very romantic origin, and sometimes that original inspiration is at odds with the sensible way I try to reconstruct it in paint. These feelings or emotions that begin the creative process range from isolation and fear, to hope, love and salvation. They are abstract in the imagination, coming out of a decay of the senses. As an artist, you want to share them and that is not an easy task. I try to find things in history, stories I can use to give life to them, like a body to the spirit. I think this is why I've never had much of a response to abstract paintings. While I think it's possible they can have similar inspired origins, by not taking comprehensible form they fail, in my opinion, to transmit the passion of the artist. Consequently, they just end up being paint on a canvas which I suppose is fine, but also very concrete.  

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