Sunday, March 20, 2011

Joshua LaRock - New Paintings and Interview Part 2

Josh is teaching a workshop on portrait drawing and painting this summer, as well as giving weekly figure and cast demonstrations in the summer intensive course. Find more information about that here.

See Part 1

How did you come to hear about Water Street Atelier, and what was its pull for you?

  I was doing a whole different career; I went to college for music business. Actually, I started out as a musician and then it just became apparent that I wasn’t going to become a performer - it wasn’t my calling in life, so I transferred into the business side of music for a little while, and it that wasn’t for me either. So, I did a huge amount of soul-searching, dealing with an inner existential angst about purpose and meaning in life.  I thought about and researched a number of careers; law, psychology, non-profits, even the seminary. There were previous times in my life I had thought about trying to be an artist as I had showed some aptitude, but I hadn’t been exposed to many of the artists that I revere now and I wasn’t drawn to contemporary art (which is all that was really being taught in the Universities), so I didn’t even know there were people out there still doing work like the Old Masters or the 19th century French Academy.  I tried at one point to change my major. I went to Art 101 and they sat me down with a lump of clay, and said, “Sculpt your favorite food.” We did that for three hours, and I was done.
The Grape Harvest
  Anyway, somewhere along the way I stumbled across John Singer Sargent. I remember being just enthralled that someone could paint like this. Through researching his life and education, I came across the word “atelier”. I did a Google search on the word and the Art Renewal Center came up, where I looked through their list of approved ateliers. I scanned through there, picked a few that I liked and made plans to visit them. I think that Water Street ended up winning out because of the locality; New York City is amazing, Jacob’s work is really compelling, and there seemed to be a good record of transmitting skill and technique apparent in the work of his students.  I also had the sense that Jacob was very hands-on and involved.  So I gave it a shot, it seemed to click and now I’m here.

During the transition from student at Water Street to a professional artist in NYC, what were the bumps and trials of that phase for you?

  I’m still transitioning; it’s a long road to building your name. I certainly benefited from those who have come before me and the relationships they had built, friends like Scott Waddell. Obviously Jacob has connections and being associated with him is valuable - so that helped just in terms of getting into a gallery, breaking into that world and getting advice. Of course you need to do good work to get into a gallery, making work that is saleable, but the relationships were helpful. 
It’s slow trying to figure out how to make a body of work that you’re proud of and finding a studio to accommodate that can also be difficult. Teaching has been a big help because it levels things out financially so that I can be a little more ambitious in my studio work.  But I would say that staying a part of the community here has been the biggest help, even though New York can be an expensive place to live and try to launch a career.  Being around other working artists and students, as well as a rich culture with museums and auction houses really keeps me going and inspired.  There is an ease to making and building business relationship that I think the city offers, too.  Everything is so concentrated here and so much is constantly happening.  Some people can do without it, they can leave and still thrive, but I think that I’ve really benefited from staying in NYC.

What do you attribute to aiding your rapid improvement during your student years at Water Street Atelier?

  I was really dedicated to the method that the school had set up. It was structured so that you do “this” on your cast drawing, so that it sets you up to do “this” on your block-ins, etc. I certainly was never perfect at any one of those things before I moved onto the next step, but I felt like I had gotten to a place where I could move onto the next task with a base of understanding, which was confirmed by my teachers. I was trying to make sure that I wasn’t running down the hill faster than my legs could carry me. I think that really helped.
Ale and Oysters
  On top of that, problem solving was also very important. A link I can see through the successful artists who have come out of the school is this common ability to take all of the information that they’re receiving from various people and whittle it down to its basic concepts - and then it’s just problem solving. Troubleshoot your problems; if something isn’t working, you have to sit down and figure out how to do it differently to make it work. As silly as it sounds, I think a lot of people try to do the same thing that isn’t working again and again and again. I think that I had some sort of ability to distill those ideas into their basic concepts and utilize the information effectively.    Different people explain things in different ways, even if they are all trying to say the same thing. I remember a time in cast painting when something clicked, and I don’t even know if there was a particular reason why. I just understood light in a more concrete way, the idea that if this plane is turning toward the light it must be brighter than the one that is facing farther away and so on. However, I really think that problem solving is the most important thing.  As a part of that, having a foundational understanding of the science and physics of light really helps.  I continue to rely on the idea that as long as I can understand more and more of what is actually going on in reality then I can always use it to problem solve and create the illusion of that effect in painting or drawing.

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