Friday, April 6, 2012

DPW Interviews: Jill Bates

From Jill Bates' DPW Gallery page:
Jill has participated in various solo and juried exhibitions in Georgia and is represented by the Decatur Market & Gallery in Atlanta. Her work is included in several corporate and private collections. "The unique style and detail of my works are enhanced by the many years growing up on the banks of Crooked Lake. All our fun and exploration centered around the water. I have carried those idyllic lake days down through the years and now my paintings are full of those water memories…."
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting. 

I started when I was really little, using a cigar box full of crayolas and white notebook paper that my grandma gave me. In high school, I did a lot of drawing with just graphite, keeping a sketchbook with me all the time and notes on things that inspired me.

In college, I learned color theory and how much I hated drawing a still life with a stepladder in it.

Yellow Lilies
(click here to see original image)

I moved to Atlanta after college and got a job at an art supply store and I tried every medium I could get my hands on... oil, watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic, even oil pastel. Everything, but what I actually paint with now.

I did buy a set of rembrandt pastels while I worked there, but never used them. One night I took them along with me to a watercolor class and asked the instructor if she cared whether I did watercolor or pastel that night. She didn't and I fell in love!!

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

I stopped to birth two children and get them in school. Then I started doing shows and gradually getting some experience. Then I stopped again, because of a divorce and going back to work full-time.

Gradually, I started trying to paint at night after work, after the kids were asleep, and almost poisoned myself after accidentally dropping a piece of one of my pastels sticks in my tea. So I had to paint on weekends instead, which didn't produce a lot of quality work, because I was also mowing the lawn and building a tree house at the same time.

Comb Over
(click here to see original image)

Eventually, I remarried and thank goodness he is supportive, so I quit my job and now I paint every day I possibly can.

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?

As I said, I tried everything...

Oils frustrated me because I needed 5 going at once so something would be dry enough to work on. Acrylic frustrated me because it was drying on my brush before I reached the canvas. Watercolor was fun, but a lot of my results were pure luck of the draw.... Where is that drip going to end up? Colored pencil is fun, if you have 80 hours you want to spend drawing a tree, building up your layers.

Pastel is the perfect blend of all the mediums.

Pathway to Water
(click here to see original image)

I get the buttery, smooth, rich color of oils and the brilliance of acrylics. I can do detail with pastel stick edges or pastel pencils and I can work in layers and layers, especially on the sanded paper I like. It's fast and fabulous and I have total control..... Well, most of the time.

Your colors are so rich and vibrant. How do you strike a balance between enhancing what you see and realism?

A lot of the time when I look at a reference photo or go somewhere and paint, I actually do "see" the richer colors under the real ones. I'm not dope smoker either. One of my college professors used to encourage us to try to recognize what makes an object or a landscape "special" enough to capture our eye as a visual artist. I painted this lock on an old chest for a critique and purposely exagerated the colors I did see.

Now I see everything that way.

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

I work at home, so procrastination is oh, time to feed the cats. Oh, gotta walk the dog. Oh, I really need to fill the bird feeder. Oh, I need to go buy some white pastel pencils....

So I decided to treat my painting like a real job, at least so far as I set regular hours. I paint from 10 until 4, unless I gotta go to the grocery store... then 11 until 5. But I get to have a cocktail while I paint for the last hour.

Breakfast of Champions
(click here to see original image)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I try to always have my camera with me and if not, I think about ideas when I'm walking the dog. Sometimes one painting kind of leads to another. I'll paint for one of our challenges and it will set me off on ideas for another piece, like the horse challenge. I painted roosters, sheep and barns after that one.

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

I like to paint everything, so my subjects vary a lot. Sometimes, I paint an entire painting looking at the reference upside down (the photo, not me physically), so my eye and my brain don't recognize the subject, so much as really see the shapes that are there. 

I also I try to change my palette and use either softer or more vibrant colors, depending upon the painting.

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

This is my biggest challenge.

I still cannot decide if I want to be an impressionist or a realist, so a lot of my work comes out sort of a blend of both. I love characteristics of both techniques and most of the time a painting will lean one way or the other, but there will still be a bit of both in there.

Aqua Line

I'm trying to learn if combining these two major ways of seeing is a new way of seeing, or if Degas is going to appear in my dreams and shoot me.

What makes you happiest about your art?

When a painting "works" and I know it!!

Thanks, Jill!

© 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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