Thursday, November 15, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Judith Cameron

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

To enter to win Judith Cameron's painting, "Brown Onion #3," go to go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing her interview.

From Judith's DPW gallery page:
I have been painting primarily Plein Air landscapes since 2004, although I pursued other media in college. In 2009, inspired by this very group, I began what turned out to be "Every Few Days Paintings," incorporating still life into my body of work.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

In 1981, when I was already in my 30's, I completed my B.A. in Art with an emphasis in Etching and Ceramics, but I never really went anywhere with it.

Fast forward to 2001, when I decided I wanted to learn to paint. I enrolled in a school here in Southern California called "Mission Renaissance," which was started by Larry Gluck, a graduate of the Art Student's League in NYC, the curriculum and approach of which serve as the foundation for the teaching of this school. After 2 1/2 years studying there, I joined a local plein air group in 2004 and have painted with them ever since. I started a Daily Painting blog of my own in 2009 and "graduated" to being a member of DPW last year.

Brown Onion #3
(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the home page announcing Judith's interview.

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

Well, I suppose you could say that the period between 1981 and 2001 was one big "stop." The decision to go to school to learn to paint was a huge decision, as was joining the plein air group. But for all 30 of those years, the need to be creative, to be doing something, was constantly prickling at me.

It was a revelation to have finally found what I wanted to be doing. With the plein air group though, I found I was only painting for specific upcoming shows, with lots of down time, or stops, in between, and with nothing from myself pushing me to get out and paint.

At some point I became aware of the Daily Painting phenomenon, and decided to start my own blog. I've never been able to manage an actual painting every day, but just being able to get two done per week keeps me from stopping any more.

Snow on Saddleback
(click here to see original image)

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've painted with oils right from the beginning. Because of my earlier art background, I was familiar with all the other usual media: watercolor, acrylic, pastels, etc., and knew from those experiences that oils were for me. I love the intensity of color, and the forgiveness of the medium.

I don't think of myself so much of a genre painter as someone inspired by specific artists. John Singer Sargent, Richard Schmid, Cyrus Afsary, Julian Merrow-Smith are all artists whose work I obsessively look at. I would say I'm a realist painter, but I love to see lots of paint, and broken color, and beautiful, deft brushwork. I'm most attracted to paintings that can use abstract textures, to suggest and define realist subjects. As for future media, right now I'm still too in love with oils.

I love the classic beauty of your still lives, pet portraits and sunny vistas. What's most important to you about what you're trying to capture in your subjects?

An emotional response to light. That is the first thing that pops into my mind. The thing I respond to in any subject, landscape or still life is light.

Shelter Dog #4
(click here to see original image)

I spent the 90's as a professional photographer, chiefly photographing other peoples art work, as well as photographing gallery exhibitions for catalogs. I learned a lot about light, and I still see my subjects in those terms. Most of the time, I set up my still lifes thinking more about the light and the mood it sets, than the object itself.

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

Actually, the Daily Painting phenomenon was a godsend. As I mentioned above painting landscapes, I tended only to paint for upcoming shows and I still do that actually. That's why having my own blog and joining DPW has been such a help. It's much easier to go up the stairs to my studio to paint another onion, than to load up all my gear, and drive out to a likely scene to paint. DPW is the perfect procrastination buster. And it doesn't hurt to have a blog with people signed up to receive a painting in their inbox. It gives me an external obligation that short circuits my own inertia.

Also, as I am retired, my household obligations are few. I know that that is a huge advantage. To all of you artists with young families - I don't know how you do it!

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I just rely on that quick instant when I see an object, or a scene in a certain light. Or, I find myself passing something by week in and week out, thinking,"How would I paint that?" I'm a very literal painter; in fact I find it difficult to make stuff up. So, I'm very engaged with what I see.

Also, other artists choose amazing things to paint, so I look at their ideas and see what I can do with the same subject. Duane Keiser's work is a wonderful inspiration for subject matter. What to paint has never been difficult, it's more that there is too much to paint. At the market this morning, there were so many onions, and peppers, and garlics I wanted to buy because I loved how they looked, yet I've still got 3 pomegrantes waiting for me to do something with too. Not to mention the close to 2 dozen onions aging in bowls all over my studio. It's endless.

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

Again, maybe because I've only been painting for about 9 years, I don't feel that getting stale is a problem. I have so much more to learn, in fact I don't think I've arrived at any sort of final level. I am never satisfied, and can see the need to improve in almost every piece I finish.

A Couple of Kisses
(click here to see original image)

I do try to push myself to try new things: different brushes, different brushwork, new and different approaches like thin paint, thick paint, different palette of colors, different painting surface. I research the materials of my favorite artists to try and understand how they do what they do. This alone keeps me striving and interested. I don't think I'll run out of challenges.

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

I'm currently working on a huge commission, a 36" x 48" landscape, so that means right now I'm learning how to make something that large still look fresh. Mostly it seems to be a LOT more paint. I'm terrified, but also excited.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I feel like there are two kinds of happiness for me. One is a task driven kind of happiness, where I can only be happy when I get that sense of the jigsaw puzzle piece dropping into place; that's what it feels like when the values, and the color, and the composition all come together and, "click," I know it's right. That's when I'm happy. If it doesn't click, I'm not much fun to be around until I get back to it and get it right. Ask my husband.

Study in Yellow
(click here to see original image)
The other kind of happiness, is the more lasting, and deeper joy one gets from being immersed in the process of expression. It's the happiness that's easy to take for granted where everything disappears but the brush and canvas and I'm in that wonderful zone of suspended time.

Thanks, Judith!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine


  1. I am an admirer of your work, Judith, and I really enjoyed the more personal aspects of this interview.

  2. I really enjoyed this interview Judith. I so relate to the idea of the puzzle piece and they way it feels like it clicks when it works. That is exactly how it feels to me too. Love your work.