Thursday, July 21, 2016

DPW Spotlight Interview: Phil Couture

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

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

From Phil's DPW Gallery:

Phil Couture is a realist painter currently residing in Kyoto, Japan. Born in Quebec, Canada, Phil's appreciation and interest in art developed early on as a child growing up in Lakeland, Florida. Exploring new cultures becomes a running theme in Phil's work. "I enjoy painting and drawing what piques my interest, which usually includes visiting cultures from around the world." Whether it's painting geisha from Japan, holy men from Nepal, or the rocky shores of Greece, Phil enjoys exploring the exotic and the interesting. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting:

I have been drawing and painting my entire life, but didn't begin painting with oils until around 18 years old.  Before then, I painted with acrylics and occasionally with watercolors.  I was always intimidated by oil paint, but after experimenting and practicing, I soon realized just how versatile it is.  It is definitely my favorite medium to work with, but I also enjoy ink, graphite and charcoal.  

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

Since I was a child, I always dreamed of being an animator, but as I entered my high school years, I began feeling less and less like that was the right path for me.  I continued taking art classes, hoping to do something in the art field, but was discouraged by the lack of realism being taught at my school. I gave up on art as a career and eventually stopped drawing and painting altogether.  It wasn't until I got a job at an animal clinic in 2003 with fellow artists Tony Corbitt and Aaron Corbitt that I began drawing and painting for pleasure again.  I would draw animals from life for hours each day and also studied the works of the Old Masters.  This was definitely a rebirth for my love of art.  I began seriously studying art history and developed my skills by drawing from life as well as doing master copies and Bargue drawings in the same vein as classical ateliers. Eventually, Tony Corbitt and I started offering commissioned portraits of clients' pets. After a few years in the pet portrait business, I began offering original work at local galleries and started focusing less on commission work and more on originals.

Autumn Morning
(click to view)

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

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I have tried many different mediums over the years including color pencil, clay, watercolor, acrylic, and drypoint etching.  When I began offering pet portraits, I only offered graphite, ink and color pencil, but as clients asked for larger and larger portraits, I soon realized that paint would be more efficient for covering larger surface areas. I used to use acrylic paint frequently, but never liked how fast it dried. I forced myself to try oil painting and over time and after many hours of practice, it became my go-to medium of choice. I love the range of transparency and opacity it can achieve as well as the way it handles.

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

The mediums I primarily use now are oil paint, graphite, charcoal, and ink.  I rarely use color pencil and haven't used acrylic paint for several years.  Graphite and ink are my favorites for drawing from life or doing thumbnail sketches.  I've found oil paint to be the most effective medium for what I want to achieve with a plein air or studio piece.  If I want thick texture I can take out a palette knife and go thick and if I want a flat, print-like effect I can thin it out and go as thin as watercolor. I also enjoy the vibrancy and blendability of oil paint.

Erawan Marigolds
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I really want to try Indian ink as well as wood block printing.  I live in Japan and woodblock printing is still a very popular art form.  Traditionally, there have always been several artists associated with all the different steps in Japanese woodblock printing (the artists, block carver, printer) and I would love to try each one.  I would also like to get back into watercolor painting as I love the effects it can achieve. I think it would be great to offer a wide variety of mediums in my artwork.

Who or what inspires you most?

I am inspired by other artists both past and present.  The artists of the 19th century are the most inspiring to me.  The variety of styles and themes out of Europe, America and Asia during that time is incredible and definitely what I consider the "Golden Age" of art. I am also inspired by the city of Kyoto, Japan, where I currently live.  As the former capital of Japan and the center of traditional Japanese crafts, Kyoto is beautiful and one of my favorite cities in the world.  The city is beaming with artists that take great pride and discipline in their craft and always consider themselves students of their art, even into old age.  A simple bike ride through the city is enough to make me want to begin a new piece.

Katsutomo Tonal Study
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

In my studio, I usually like to work on a couple of paintings at a time, but sometimes I get distracted and excited about a new painting and become uninterested in finishing older pieces.  Procrastination for me looks like 10 or more unfinished paintings collecting dust that I "hope" to finish one day and end up piling up in the corner of the room.

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

My studio is in my home, so I realized a long time ago that I needed to be disciplined and adhere to a schedule for creating art.  Trying to go about my day and squeezing in art here and there wasn't working for me and I found that I couldn't focus and my artwork would suffer. My daily schedule isn't super strict, but it does consist of setting a routine in the morning, afternoon and evenings for marketing, creating art, downtime, grocery shopping, etc.   My wife and I now have a baby, so a daily schedule is more important than ever!

Gion Shirakawa
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I paint what inspires me and I am particularly fascinated with world cultures. I love painting exotic people and places that I've encountered during my travels.  Flipping through art books or going to a gallery is a great way to get ideas for compositions and themes.  Listening to music also gives me ideas about the kind of mood I want a painting to have.    

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

The questions I ask before starting a new piece have always been: "Is this interesting?" and "Would I hang this in my house?"  If I'm not excited about a new painting I'm working on then I can't imagine how someone else could be.  Plus, if I I am not excited at the beginning stages of a painting, then chances are I'll get bored and never finish the piece. I try and complete my paintings fairly quickly to avoid getting bored. For small pieces I try finishing "alla prima" and for larger pieces I try to finish in a few days.  Looking through a collection of my own work also helps me see when I am just repeating myself and need to change themes, compositions, styles, color schemes, mediums, etc.

Heian Dance
(click to view)

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

I am trying to learn more about the Japanese philosophy of art.  Studying Japanese art has definitely influenced my work as I try and combine a Western painting style with Eastern themes.  "Wabi sabi" is an important aspect of Japanese aesthetics and deals with asymmetry, imperfection and simplicity. It is applied to many areas of Japanese arts and I hope to incorporate more of that philosophy into my work.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I love the idea of my paintings hanging in homes around the world. The ultimate compliment is when someone purchases a piece or several pieces of art from me. No matter how many paintings I sell, I will always be honored and extremely grateful when someone decides to choose my artwork to hang in their home or give to a friend.  It makes me happiest when a vision of mine can be conveyed onto canvas and then appreciated for many years.

Thanks, Phil!

© 2016 Sophie Marine

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