Thursday, June 7, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Julie Ford Oliver

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

To enter to win Julie Ford Oliver's painting, Doorway to Memories, go to and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Julie Ford Oliver's DPW Gallery page:
I was born in England and received a classical art education before coming to America. Working as an illustrator for the next 28 years provided the opportunity to work in many different styles and media. One of the most satisfying aspects of being a painter is the freedom it offers, allowing the imagination to delete, change and improvise. 
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

My earliest memory as a 3-4 year old child in England was choosing to color paper doilies, instead of joining the family to play games. As the years passed, this never changed. We would all be in the same room  - they would be playing cards - and I would be drawing or painting. I didn't realize it at the time, but my mother and father taught me to be very observant by continually playing"I Spy" on our frequent walks. Later, I would paint what I had observed from my memory. Still do it to this day.

SPOTLIGHT GIVEAWAY: Doorway to Memories

(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking the "Artist Spotlight and Giveaway" button!

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

Most women will answer this with a resounding YES!  Family means disruptions, but for me, family has been worth it. I was also lucky enough to work for a large agency which would mail me illustration assignments, because my husband moved a lot with his job.

Later, I had a five year period of helping my husband in his business and I didn't paint at all (for the first time in my life). I got depressed and the doctor wrote a prescription with a single word on it: PAINT!  That is when I started my fine art career.

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?

I have tried most medias. I am happy doing anything art related. Put a brush in my hand and I am a happy gal!  My all time favorite was using egg tempera, because the process was absorbing and the completed painting, with its many layers, resulted in a harmony of coloration unlike any other media. Unfortunately, the floaters in my eyes started to increasingly make the detail work more difficult, so now I get my love of egg tempera satisfied by teaching it to some very talented artists. I notice some of the same layering techniques I loved in ET come through in my oil painting.

Fracturing the Flowers
(click here to see original image)

You do such a fantastic job of creating realism with extremely loose, but colorful brush strokes. Any insights into how you developed this skill?

I think good drawing is the foundation for realism and I had that drilled into me in art school. BUT - I had to re-learn color. By nature I am a tonalist... I come from the foggy shores of England! Living in the fabulous Southwest opened my eyes to color. I paint plein air and seeing colors with no moisture to "blue them down" was a learning curve I had to climb. I do believe pushing color can be taught. Funnily enough, I am still attracted to the gentle variations of layers of misty, blue/green hills receding in space.

The Skill? The loose method of painting was a skill I set out deliberately to acquire. I noticed when I was outside painting fast to capture the essence before the light changed, my work was more flowing, so I started to set the timer for my still life paintings. I would give myself 20 minutes at a time, stop, evaluate and set the timer again. It really worked, but not overnight.

Mountain Meadow Flowers
(click here to see original image)

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

I procrastinate about a lot of things, but never my work. I have to be sick to procrastinate about that. I admit to getting rather grumpy when I have to take care of other necessary disruptions to my painting time. That is when my husband asks, "Aren't you going to the studio, dear?" He knows a Studio Julie is a Happy Julie.

What works for me? I find that calling my studio time "work," never, painting time. I did the same for my illustration career, but once I started working out of my home everyone had demands on me. I came up with a plan which worked great. I would dress dress for work, say goodby to everyone and I would go out of the front door... then walk round to the back and let myself in. The kids and husband got the point and never interrupted my working time. I have found that a lot of people presume when you "paint" that you can do lunch or shopping, you know, the fun things they would never ask you to do during the day if you worked in a, quote, "proper job!"

Also, I teach 26 artists at the Guild so that is a great organizer of time, all on its own.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Usually in bed during that lovely time when you are half asleep, drifting towards opening your eyes... I say my prayers and go through my list of people needing help, and then I start deciding what I feel like painting. I actually get excited and look forward to this routine. I have a very visual memory and can mentally create a painting, adding and removing objects until I'm satisfied.

I also have a notebook I jot ideas down in. I am a big believer in thumbnail drawings to explore design and concept. I will walk pass something and the color or placement will attract my eye. I recently did some tin cans, lemons and a red colander which had caught my attention when they were waiting to be put away.

Lemon with Cans
(click here to see original image)

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

For many years I have had this vision of a style -  how I wanted my paintings to look -  but could only achieve it in little areas. It was only when I went to painting every day that I started to see it taking form. Even then it was difficult to do, as the pressure of producing a painting on top of teaching and commissions rattled my insecurity cage. I would record when it happened and try to understand why it wouldn't work other times. I named it Fracturing.

It is a technique I am still developing and I started to explore it in the classes I teach. Bit by bit, all the guild artists have seen the development and have been very encouraging. All of a sudden in the last month or so, it has been flowing quite naturally and the areas I am having problems with are fewer and fewer. The response from other artists in the blogging world has been very encouraging... some have been enthusiastically articulate in support of it.

It is very exciting for me to develop something I have not seen done in quite the same way.

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

You mean besides the computer work necessary in this blogging world? That has been difficult and I have to thank my wonderful daughter for her help in that area.

Fracturing, fracturing, fracturing. This is the technique that has been evolving in my work over a long period of time. Now, it is constantly occupying my mind and hand.

I think artists are lucky because painting is an ongoing, lifelong learning experience. We are all students in that regard, for our entire art lives.

(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

I am aware God gave me the desire and  fortitude to create. I choose teaching and painting to express my gratitude with joy.

© 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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