Friday, March 23, 2012

DPW Interviews: William Hoshal


From William Hoshal's DPW Gallery page:
For twenty-five years, William has been a much sought-after commercial musician, composer and producer including over a decade as a staff musician/orchestrator/composer for the Walt Disney Company. Shortly after re-locating to the Sedona, Arizona area, a life-long desire to paint took over. Putting the life he had known on hold, and with the blessing of his wife, a photographer, he began studying and working on his own.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I first picked up a brush about two years ago. I had wanted to learn to draw and paint all my life, but music had been an all-consuming life and I kind of never got around to it. My wife and I had just gone through a huge change in our lives -- new town, down-sized lifestyle, etc.

When the economy crashed, the music business went with it for many of us in the jazz and commercial realm. While I figured out how to approach the kind of shift I was facing, I decided to start painting, almost as therapy. It was more like an exercise; a “do something different for forty days” kind of thing.

After the first month, I was hooked.

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Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Since I’m pretty new to this, there hasn’t really been a time that I haven’t been working and studying. I can be a bit of a fanatic about things once I get started.

After the first month, I put myself on a pretty intense course of self-study. I started researching atelier programs at academies around the country and tried to create one for myself based around how I know that I work.

I approached it in a fashion similar to the way I learned music – get the basic foundations down, no matter what. I started monochromatic studies, history, color theory, etc.

Fortunately, I get very excited about studying and practicing, and the more I do, the more I want to do....I’m twisted that way. I still hope for the chance to get some formal training, either a good program or in an apprentice situation.

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Since you're an accomplished musician, how would you describe your process for "distributing" your creative energy between music and art?

I’m an enormous believer in the idea that creativity comes from work.

For me, discipline gives birth to freedom. The more I know about what I’m doing and the more technique I develop, the more the mind is free to try new things without having to worry about the execution.

The similarities in the way I approach music and the way I approach art are so numerous the lines often blur. Music has always had a visual component for me because I “see” colors in harmonic structures; it’s a form of synesthesia. Many of my favorite artists speak about the rhythm and harmony in art, so I think there is a very high correlation for most people.

The more I develop as a visual artist, in terms of abilities, the easier it becomes for me to open pathways between the two. I hope this will result in more depth to my artwork. Recently, I’ve begun to notice that I’m building paintings in the same way that I build musical compositions… it’s very exciting.


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What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

My first experiments were with acrylic landscapes. Bold colors; big, flat strokes. I had seen several paintings by Oscar Bluemner and Marsden Hartley and was trying (unsuccessfully) to emulate the American Modernists for a short time.

A few kind and generous artist friends kept asking me if I was using oils because of the way I was applying the paint – what I later learned was impasto technique. One of them encouraged me to try oils and loaned me a book of Van Gogh images. He also got me to think about a limited palette and gave me a book by Edgar Payne.

I was obsessed – fiddled around with color mixing, studying American Impressionism, tonalism, the luminists…. This was when I thought I better slow down and come up with some kind of logical approach if I really wanted to understand painters like Cole, Inness, Whistler, and Sargent.

I started the monochromatic studies, and then doing color charts after reading Richard Schmid’s book, Alla Prima. I knew that drawing and painting still-lifes would be great training and practice; I didn’t know that I would fall in love with them. They’re very meditative and they’ve caused me to rethink what I want to get out of my landscapes; that I’m more interested in the moment of emotion than an absolutely accurate representation of the scene.

That said, I want to constantly work on technique, drawing and fine-tuning interpretation – incidentally, I still work on these aspects of music after more than twenty years.

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I’m looking forward to much more plein-air work and also studying figurative – every time I see a painting by Dan Beck or one of Sargent’s portraits, I think “I really need to start working on that!”

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

This is kind of a funny question. If you ask my wife about me, procrastination looks like everyday. She is very organized in all aspects, detail oriented; a multi-tasking fiend. And yet she creates her own art of great emotion. I can procrastinate about everything…except art and music.

Kim sees it as this large, calm oasis surrounded by a fringe of sometimes barely controlled chaos – she wishes that I would let some of the calm out into the fringe to balance things out a bit. But I’ve realized I need the separation.

In the past, when the two worlds have intermingled too much, it takes me too long to get in and out of the mindset. I don’t think that it’s as much that I’m a flake about the outside world as it is that when my mind is occupied with the creative process, I have to set everything else aside for that time period. I can’t log in and out of things like she does and still be effective.

How do you arrive at ideas for your paintings?

A piece usually starts with a particular scene, a shape, or a color; the same elements that trigger musical ideas. If I’m doing a plein-air piece, I just try to react and not over-think. I will try to hold a couple of conceptual things in mind over the course of the ninety minutes or so that I’ll spend on the study, but much of that will be worked out later in the studio if I move forward with the piece.

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Much of the time, with still-lifes and studio pieces, I’ll sit and think about the initial component and see where the idea takes me. This can take awhile. I’ll put on music, daydream a bit, even read something to let the idea work in the background. At some point, and I can’t really tell you when this is, I’m ready to start working from the study or the set-up. From then on, I’ve got a fairly good plan and stay with it, give or take a few adjustments.

The evaluation process for visual art is exactly like music for me. There comes a point where I step away and have to decide if the painting is going the right direction, if it has any hope of going a good direction that I didn’t foresee, or if it’s time to stop and regroup.

It’s also something that I’m constantly trying to get better at as I study and learn more. I know that I’m going to paint a lot of bad paintings. And I know that I’m going to paint a lot of paintings that I like now, but I’m going to think are bad paintings in the future. I’m okay with this….

How do you keep art "fresh"? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

I’m exceedingly lucky to live in an area that constantly inspires me both visually and musically. The physical beauty of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah is so unique, it’s hard to drive to the grocery store and not feel the need to pull over and start painting.

Additionally, I’m fortunate to be married to a tremendous artist with whom I can sit and bounce ideas off any time. Working together outside, it’s always fascinating to observe how differently we see and interpret the same subject matter, and we’ve started to bring that element into works in the studio.

Beyond that, I always try to start with the question “what is the story I’m trying to tell here?” Why did I feel the need to paint this or that, and what do I want the viewer (and myself) to take away from this experience?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped believing in burnout. There are some days it’s just about the work…because there is always something to work on. As a musician, I’ve told countless students, there are going to be days you just have to pick up the horn, or sit down at the piano, and do the work -- because this is what you do…it’s what you are. And you try to be worthy of it.

Charles Lloyd talked about striving to always be in service to the music. It’s the same for art; if the intent is there, the rest will take care of itself.

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What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

Everything! I have so much to learn about everything. I constantly need to work on drawing, color theory, composition, values, edges, story… the list is endless. And I will always need to work on these… that is very exciting to me.

I also need to learn about the business, which although somewhat similar to the music business, has its own idiosyncrasies. My wife and I are making our sole living from our art and although it’s a hard way to go, it’s what we’ve always done in our lives.

What makes you happiest about your art?

When my intent is true. When I walk away feeling that I’ve learned something new from the painting – even if the piece didn’t work.

When the colors and shapes take me back to the place that inspired the piece. When I lose myself in the scene and discover something in my memory that wasn’t in the photograph or study.

When a viewer tells me that the piece triggered an emotion.

When the paint dances off the brush.

Thanks, William!


© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Jennifer Newcomb Marine is the Marketing and Community Manager of Daily Paintworks. She's an author and blogging and marketing coach.

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