Thursday, December 6, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Steven Allen Boggs

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

To enter to win Steven Allen Bogg's painting, "Pemequid Point, Maine," go to go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing his interview.

From Steven's DPW Gallery page:
Steve Boggs lives in Tennessee and studied at the Nashville School of Art. He has a masters degree from Cumberland University. For over 25 years he has used classically inspired imagery in an attempt to hold on to a single moment in time.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

As far back as I can remember I was always drawing, but I started painting in 1983. My mother and father in-law were both accomplished watercolorists so I started painting as I got to know them. Around 1984, something just clicked with me concerning art and painting. My in-laws had a lot of art books and I remember looking through 'Wyeth At Kuerners' probably a thousand times. That book had a big impact on me and the way that I looked at art and made me want to really learn to paint.

Pemequid Point, Maine
(click here to see original image)

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

I started seriously working with my in-laws and taking life drawing classes at the Nashville School of Art in 1984 and continued them for probably three years. Sometime in the middle of trying to get educated on how to paint I flew to Pennsylvania and went to the Brandywine Museum. And I can honestly say that I still remember the gallery and wall that 'The Kuerners' was hanging on. That painting did it for me. I had no idea how anyone could ever paint something that incredible, but I went home knowing that painting would be a permanent part of my life.

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

Only once. I slowed down for two years and started and ran a small website development company with a business partner. Other than that I have painted constantly for well over twenty-five years.

(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 in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, egg tempera, and oils.

I painted in watercolor for probably ten years. I love the medium, but I never felt that I was as consistent with it as I wanted to be. I finally realized that what I was trying to do really required a combination of watercolor and an opaque medium like gouache. So for me it made sense to switch to oils, which I did around 1995.

I had kind of a turning point with oils when I saw a painting by Gregg Kreutz and realized what he was doing with his darks to create the foundation for the painting. That really helped me to start painting oils in a more logical way. I ended up taking a workshop that he was giving in Scottsdale.

I drew with pencil and graphite a lot early on. But with my oil paintings, I always start with a brush drawing because it is so much faster. One of my goals is to at some point start creating pencil drawings again in addition to my oil paintings.

Your work has such a beautiful refined, classical feel. What's your selection process for settling upon particular compositions or subjects?

I'm really glad that you asked this. For me, it is predominately about light and shapes. And I firmly believe that composition is the single most important element in painting. I certainly don't nail the composition as well as I should every time, but it is always the first and foremost thing on my mind before I start painting.

I really like playing with shapes whenever I can. I love trying to echo squares and rectangles off of each other or contrasting circular shapes against squares. I'm also a firm believer that classic triangle compositions where the tallest object is on the left and the light is from the right will never let you down.

Using light as effectively as I can is also important. For me, painting chiaroscuro where objects emerge from and are surrounded by shadow is the most fun.  And it works well for a lot of painting styles. You can create both brushy and detailed paintings using this technique and they are equally as effective, I think. Having said that, this year I've switched gears a bit and have done quite a few paintings with more natural light. The goal is to teach myself to be able to create some drama in the painting without relying on heavy shadow.

If I'm landscape painting, I typically look for subjects where I can put some weight, such as trees, rocks, etc. on one side of the painting and open up the middle of the canvas. Of course it really helps to be onsite at the right time to get good morning or afternoon sunlight.

(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?

Usually if I don't paint everyday, it's because of  one of two reasons. The first is if a painting isn't going well and I get stuck trying to decide to continue with it or start again. The second is if a painting is going well and I get a bit nervous over whether I'm going to lose what I've got by continuing with it, particularly with portraits because they are less forgiving than still life or landscapes.

If I just cannot get myself going, I always feel that I can stretch a canvas, tone a panel, or set up a still life without mentally committing to starting the painting. Usually by the time I finish doing those things I'm back in painting mode. And it is probably a little strange, but what will always get me back in the groove is contact with some other form of art. If I spend a little time listening to music by an artist that I really admire, or watch a movie with really great cinematography, or watch a YouTube documentary about an artist, it will always put me back into painting mode.

As far as time for painting goes, I'll have to be honest and say that if you are a painter you have to be somewhat selfish with your time. Everything about art is time consuming. I'm fortunate in that my wife has been very understanding over the years, probably because she was raised by two artists. If something happens and I just can't paint when I need to, I try to make sure that I set aside a Saturday afternoon, or I'll work very late at night.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Most of the ideas for my paintings come from just looking around and trying to remain curious about things. When I'm driving I am continually turning around and pulling off of the road when I see something that catches my eye.

Where I live in middle Tennessee doesn't have an ocean or giant rocky mountains, but there is a lot of 'country' around here and I always try to keep my eyes open for ideas. A lot of times its not just wide open farms or fields, but little areas around a creek, or a group of trees in sun and shadow, etc. I did a painting several years ago that looks like it is in the middle of nowhere, but it is a hill with a tree line that is wedged between a by-pass and an exit ramp. I think that you can find really great things to paint almost anywhere if you make yourself look close enough.

For still life painting, the best subjects for me to use are the ones that I just see when I'm not thinking about painting. Sometimes something will catch my eye and I'll twist it around in my mind trying to figure out how to use it in a composition. I've been known to spend a ridiculous amount of time in the produce section of a grocery store staring at something like a pineapple trying to figure out how I could set up a composition with it.

Baseball Glove
(click here to see original image)

What is really great is when one subject leads you to another. I painted a pair of my old work boots a week or so ago and because of the leather in them a friend of mine recommended that I do a baseball glove. Both paintings had a real connection to each other.

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

I think that switching between still life, landscapes, and portraits really helps. If I create a series of still life paintings it helps to do a couple of landscapes or a portrait to break things up. You have to think differently about each one so you can really refresh your mind and still be productive.

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

I'm reconnecting with portrait painting which is exciting and demanding. And I'm really studying hard on lighting as it relates to portraits and still life. At the first of the year I'm going to try some things that are new to me with three point lighting. I'm really excited about that.

(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

Being able to grow with it. Painting is such an incredible endeavor. I really love everything about it. I believe the daily challenge of painting is a great teacher of perseverance, and that being exposed to criticism and compliments is a great catalyst for personal growth. I also think that other artists are really cool for what they do. I even like the smell of oil paint.

Thanks, Steven!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

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