Thursday, April 4, 2013

DPW Spotlight Interview: Clinton Hobart

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

To enter to win Clinton's painting, "Apples and Grapes III" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing his interview.

From Clinton's DPW Gallery page:
Clinton’s work is currently being shown in many private collections, both national and international. His collectors include CEO's, actors and actresses, several well-known artists, prominent businessmen and women, and government officials. He was featured in the February 2009 issue of American Artist magazine and recently on the cover of the "Best Of Artists' Annuals". Clinton has taught painting and drawing workshops all over the country and in Brisbane, Australia.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I started painting very late, I was 27 at the time. When I was a kid I wanted to draw comic books. I started copying drawings of comics at a very young age. When I was in High School, I still wanted to get into comics. My art teacher loved Van Gogh and I remember thinking, this Van Gogh guy isn't funny at all. While everyone else was copying Van Gogh, I did a giant drawing of Calvin and Hobbs. This resulted in my getting a C in high school art, something I like to laugh about.

After that, I went to the Joe Kubert School of Graphic Art which is an entire school full of comic book geeks who couldn´t get into a real school. After I spent one year there, I transferred to the School of Visual Arts in NYC. We had to submit a portfolio and then there was an interview. My interview was held by Jack Endewelt, the chair at that time of the illustration department. He looked at my portfolio and said "Well, you can draw, so we can't put you in fine art." He asked if I would mind if he made my schedule for me. I said sure and he picked out all of my classes. I really made no decisions at all, everything just sort of happened after that.

My Junior year at SVA, I did an internship with Walt Disney Feature Animation which led to a mentorship after I graduated. There is a really funny story there but it will have to wait. I spent the next three years focused on nothing but getting that job at Disney. When it didn't happen, I was crushed. I was teaching a figure drawing class at Scottsdale Artist's School at the time, and a fellow instructor suggested that while I was figuring out what to do next, why not study oil painting? And so I did.

Apples and Grapes III
(click here to see original image)

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

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

After the let-down from Disney, I spent a few months not knowing what to do. Once I decided to study oil painting though, nothing has slowed me down since. I paint every day for at least six hours a day, often painting for ten or even twelve hours.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I've worked in oil, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, and pencil.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

Currently, I only paint in oil and draw. I just don't have the time to do anything else right now.

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I'm really looking forward to working more in pastel.

Cracked Eggs
(click here to see original image)

Your art is incredibly lifelike, and yet still looks very much like a painting. How did you find this happy medium in your style?

Thank you! When I was in art school, a great instructor of mine, Sal Catalano, told us never to worry about style. Just paint and draw and the style will find you. I really believe that is true. I never worked towards or tried to create a style, it just sort of happened. The lifelike or animated quality of my work comes from the love of acting and animation. I love old movies and music. My favorite art book is On Acting by Sanford Meisner. I never cared much for still life paintings. They always seemed stiff, boring, and contrived.

My teacher, Daniel Greene, told me that the best way to learn painting is through still lifes. I decided that if I was going to do this I would have to make it fun for me. I created a mini stage and curtains for my still life set ups and pretended that the fruits and vegetables were actors on a stage. I often line them up like the play is over and they are taking a bow. This is why the long ones are titled "Curtain Call".

I always try to find the objects at the market that have the most character and personality. When I am painting, I try not to think about how the painting looks, but focus more on the character of the fruit or vegetables, and the personalities I have given them. I don't change their personalities, I try to capture them. I think of every painting I do as though it were a portrait of that thing. I see so many paintings of apples for example where it looks like the painter took one apple and painted it over and over again in the same painting. I never understood that. Apples are all different shapes, sizes, and colors - just like people. I like to put them all in the same painting and see if they get along.

(click here to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you?

Procrastination is what happens to every other aspect of my life because of painting. I think to myself: I have to go to the store, clean the house, answer twenty or thirty emails, get an oil change, etc. and then I think, well I can paint for another hour or two, and then the other stuff doesn't get done.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I put it first. Everything else can wait. And usually does. I used to eat with a sketchbook at the table. I was that crazy. I must be getting older because I have realized that actually enjoying a meal is important too.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

The little fruit and vegetable paintings need nothing more than going to the market and looking for a fruit with some personality. You do have to be careful where you say things like that, however. You can't walk into a grocery store and say to the clerk, "I'm looking for a fruit with some personality." I do like to walk up to the check-out line with an apple or pear resting snugly in the palm of my hand, like a wounded bird, and calmly ask the check out person to please not break off the stem, it's the star of my show. The look is always priceless.

The larger mask paintings come together much differently. I love to drive long distances; it's my idea of a vacation. Just me and the road, nothing else to do but drive. I do almost all of my creating and layout in my head while driving. Right now I have more ideas for paintings then I have years enough to paint.

Swiss and Grapes
(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?

I'm not sure you can avoid burnout. I used to confuse burnout with a slump, and there is a big difference. It is absolutely vital to recognize which one is happening. The only way to beat a slump is to work through it. By slump I mean that everything you paint is complete garbage (to you). Other people may not notice, and say things like "it looks great, what are you talking about?" But you know it stinks. I paint twice as much during a slump. The good thing is that after it is over, you will have gotten better. It just seems to be how it works. Some people reading this will say "YES!" and others will not understand, you either go through it or you don't. Burnout on the other hand needs a visit to the beach and a drink with rum in it.

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

I'm learning so many things right now, it is difficult to just list one. I'm still learning how the paint will hit the surface. I'm not quite at the point yet where I have complete control and it still surprises me sometimes. Recently, I have gone back to painting portraits in black and white to increase my understanding of values and focus more on the paint itself. Currently, I am working on a series of ocean paintings. I am doing them without drawing anything first, which is also new to me. I'm always learning new things about the business end of it and the digital stuff is hard for me because I don't really know what I am doing.

(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

My immediate response was to think "painting!" but I'm not sure that is an accurate answer. Painting itself doesn't really make me happy all of the time. Painting is often very difficult and frustrating. Problems can sometimes take days or even weeks to figure out. I'm so happy just to be able to paint every day. I like waking up at 10am, having a cup of coffee and going for a long walk on the beach. Then, I start painting around noon and work until midnight.

I love that I have a job that makes that lifestyle possible. Since I do not have a day job, it requires sales. I would say that a good sale actually makes me happy. To me, a sale is the highest form of compliment. The majority of people work very hard for their money, so when someone is willing to spend some on something I created, it feels great. A few years ago I had a social worker send me an email in regards to a painting she saw on my website. She loved my work but didn't have very much money. She asked if she could send me $20.00 a month until it was paid for. It took her a year to pay for it and she sent me an email telling me how worth the wait it was. That made me very happy.

Thanks, Clinton!

© 2013 Sophie Marine

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