Thursday, April 2, 2015

DPW Spotlight Interview: Gretchen Hancock

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

To enter to win Gretchen's painting, "Silver Bowl, Lemons, Lavender" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Gretchen's DPW Gallery Page:

I live and work on Vashon Island near Seattle. I have been painting realistic subject matter for a long time and often include scenes from the Pacific Northwest where I live. I have been blogging since 2010.

I am interested in how light describes an object, and how shadows and highlights add drama. I sometimes paint outdoors, but often paint in my studio from still life subjects that I arrange, or from photographs that I have taken. Whether I am doing a still life or a landscape, I am very much interested in composition and design and I work to simplify my subject matter so that the composition reads as well from across the room as it does close to the painting. (click to view bio)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I started with a drawing class in college, which I enjoyed very much.  I wound up majoring in ceramics because I really enjoyed the process, and I earned my living as a potter for several years.  When I moved to Alaska, I switched to painting watercolors because the pottery studio didn’t go into a backpack.

Silver Bowl, Lemons, Lavender
(click to see original image)

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

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

I managed to paint part time when my children were little, but stopped painting to learn drafting.  I designed and built two houses and didn’t pick up a paint brush for about ten years.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I have worked in ceramics, watercolor, acrylics, pastels, and oils.  I have also taken classes in Photoshop and have used the program for development of painting ideas for the last fifteen years.

Spring Onions
(click to see original image)

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

I’m using oil paints these days, though I do paint large paintings using acrylics.  When I am painting small, I want to be able to blend and soften edges; for this oils are perfect.  For the large acrylic paintings, I paint on textured canvas instead of smooth hardboard panels, and I rely on broken strokes and scumbling to convey blending and soft edges.

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

As I get older, I realize I want to focus on what I’m already doing in order to take it to the next level.  So, I may switch brushes or choose different subject matter, or different sizes or formats, but it’s all oil painting.

Daisies and Bachelor's Buttons
(click to see original image)
Who or what inspires you most?

I read somewhere that artists don’t paint a tree because they see a beautiful tree, they paint a tree because they see another artist’s painting of a tree!  I think that’s true for me.  I see how someone else has interpreted a subject and suddenly I have an idea.  “I could paint that, only I would do it like this and this.”  Currently, I am studying the work of Bato Dugarzhapov.  I love his high key palette and fabulous grays and his fearlessness in capturing color and light.

What does procrastination look like for you?

I am not an organized person.  Often, every horizontal surface is covered.  When it gets too chaotic, you will find me doing crossword puzzles instead of cleaning up!

From the Cliff
(click to see original image)

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

I am a night owl.  When everyone else is asleep, I am up painting.  I like the quiet time and lack of distractions.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I have a digital library of thousands of photos that I’ve taken.  I mine them constantly for ideas.  Even if I don’t paint every day, I will work in Photoshop every day.  I crop and re-format, draw, and move objects or change elements, I lighten and darken values, adjust colors , and saturations, and generally simplify the composition.  I store similar ideas together in a folder, labeled according to subject matter, for example, “trees” or “beach” or sunsets.”  I make all of my compositional decisions while working on the computer; I find that half of the work of a painting is done in this preliminary stage.  My computer is my sketchbook.

Traveling Chicken Visits Vashon
(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?

Working from photographs is very removed from the subject matter, so to keep from burning out, I switch to still life which I set up in my studio, or go out painting en plein air.

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

I am learning the same things over and over, because, of course, I make the same mistakes over and over.  I have a checklist – soften and lose edges, simplify areas, focus attention, make a path into the scene, simplify the colors.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I am happiest when something I have done stands up over time.  Recently, I went back to look over pieces that I had produced in the last twenty or thirty years, and I was pleased to discover how many of them I still liked!

Thanks, Gretchen!

© 2015 Sophie Catalina Marine

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