Thursday, June 26, 2014

DPW Spotlight Interview: Kent Sullivan

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

To enter to win Kent's painting, "Smokestack on the Channel" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Kent's DPW Gallery page:

Orlando, Florida, USA. I started painting in 1972. I have always loved painting the natural world. I have had the incredible good fortune of painting and selling hundreds of paintings throughout my career. From NASA to Jimmy Buffet to The Mayo Clinic, I have participated through art as a way to express my love for the world God has given us to enjoy and protect.

The Award winning book "Art of the National Parks" is the most recent publication for me. Check it out at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, or any national book chain.

I have been challenged to create affordable paintings available to more people. Sketches, color studies, plein air, and small studio pieces. Special works of art, because the places they represent are special to me.

I hope you find that unique work of art that is perfect for your special place.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

When I was in 9th grade, my art teacher introduced me to oil paints. I painted a ship out on the ocean, copying another artist’s painting. The school purchased the piece ( I went back several years later and found it was still on the office wall). It was terrible. The cool thing about that is this: someone saw potential and encouraged me by buying that painting. It made a huge impact on a young kid who had an interest in art.

Smokestack on the Channel
(click to see original image)

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

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

Oh yeah. Until around 1991 or so, I had this really mercurial relationship with my passion for art, and the fundamental need to provide for my family, who I might add, were wonderfully supportive - especially my wife Cathy. I drove taxi, worked as a waiter (for about a week!), sold leases, painted houses, and eventually went to commercial art school and landed a job as an art director. Which was okay, but still not my true passion. Then, I had a great break when a leading art gallery took me on. Things changed, opportunities became more available, and I have been blessed with the capability to paint professionally now for about 20 years.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

Watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, and of course oil.

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

I paint almost exclusively with oil paints now. I say almost, because I do from time to time use acrylic as an underpainting for an oil painting.

Gap of Dunloe
(click to see original image)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I’m sticking with oils. I find new ways to apply the principles of oil painting interesting, and consuming. Even though I have been painting with oils for 35 years, I still find new ways of exploiting what can be done with the medium almost every day.

Who or what inspires you most?

I hope without sounding too corny I can say the Lord inspires me the most. Humanly speaking, I have always been greatly influenced by the Hudson River School artists, especially Thomas Moran, Herman Herzog, and Albert Bierstadt. Among the living artists, are Joseph McGurl, and Don Demers.

What does procrastination look like for you?

I do not have a problem with procrastination when it comes to creating art, but in doing the things I need to do to keep moving along in marketing. I really have to force myself to be disciplined.

Early Snow
(click to see original image)

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

I think the process I have keeps me interested in the “next step”. I normally wake up thinking about what I started on the day before. I work on several pieces at the same time, and they are always at different stages. These might be small paintings like the ones I do for DPW, or huge paintings like commissions for places like hospitals, NASA, Government Buildings, or medium sized paintings for galleries. If one doesn’t just grab me today, there is always another one that does. I guess you could call that a technique.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Those ideas come from several sources. Painting outside, sketching, studying previous paintings, taking a day or sometimes a week to photograph regions, even noticing a scene from a movie, and sometimes just starting from scratch, and letting my imagination create a landscape.

Solitary Cardinal
(click 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 like that question, because I never think in those terms. The idea of keeping art “fresh” can be taken two ways. Fresh for the observer, or fresh for me?

So.. fresh for me. When you look at my landscapes you will immediately notice I paint a wide variety of places. Every place, every region has it’s own special light, sky, colors, flora, even earth, that to it are innate. That keeps me keenly aware of what I am painting. In fact when I paint Ireland for instance, I am back there while I am painting. People take so many pictures while on vacation in order to remember the places they enjoy. Artists take in more than the casual observer, so there is a wonderful sense of “being” when we recount those places while painting them. That keeps me pretty astonished.

Fresh for the observer? I am not sure how to address that, since many people may be seeing a painting - at an event, online, gallery, or whatever- I finished a week, a month, or even a year ago. I hope they have the sense of unique, awesome, fresh that I had at the time of painting it.

Virgin Islands
(click to see original image)

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

I am learning more about what I allow the viewer to fill in. I have the tendency to paint too much. It is a lesson that requires me to intentionally not place detail where it is more distracting than helpful. I am also employing a technique of “shape welding” in the early composition of a painting. Keith Bond shared this in a recent blog article. It is a very efficient way to see the value shapes - the abstract pattern under all the color and detail.

What makes you happiest about your art?

Several years ago I was commissioned to do three paintings for the Mayo Clinic. They were a marshy, calm, triptych. A couple of years later I was contacted by a woman from South America whose father was at the Mayo Clinic, and eventually lost his battle there, and died.

She told me she and her two sisters spent hours in the room where my paintings were, and that the healing calm of those paintings was a comfort to them during this difficult time. She asked if I could do three small paintings like the ones at Mayo so that they could have one in each of their homes.

I am always happy to get a new big commission, but I experienced more joy in that little commission than any other painting I have ever done.

Thanks, Kent!

© 2014 Sophie Catalina Marine Cruse

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