Thursday, September 29, 2016

DPW Spotlight Interview: Martha Lever

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

To enter to win Martha's painting, "Orange You Glad I'm Pink" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Martha's DPW Gallery:

Hi... My name is Martha Lever and I'm from Jacksonville, FL. I have been an artist for thirty-two years, I started off as a calligrapher and through the years I developed into a lettering artist and designer. I have studied with many world-renowned calligrapher teachers including the calligrapher to the Vatican as well as with several teachers who are contributors of the St. John’s Bible Project. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

My art journey began about thirty-four years ago with my first calligraphy class. I love lettering and decided to pursue this art and find the best teachers. I studied with many wonderful calligraphers and soon started to paint backgrounds and images to go with the quotes I had written. Gouache is the medium I used to letter in color therefore mixing colors early on was something that I had to learn. This mixing of colors and adding images to my lettering eventually led to a progression of painting with watercolor, acrylics, and oils.

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

Yes, I have had a few stops (mostly slowdowns actually) in my painting career, but usually those stops were moving me in another direction with a new medium. About three or four years into my oil painting career, I experienced a block so severe that I didn’t know if I would ever paint again. Nothing profound caused this block although the naysayer monkey on my back and my inner critic probably were partly to blame.

Many months went by and I began to pull out of it when I took an oil painting workshop from Dee Beard Dean in St. Simons, GA. Also in Carol Marine’s book, “Daily Painting,” she included a section on blocked painters which made me see that this happens to even the best of painters.

Orange You Glad I'm Pink
(click to view)

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

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I love experimenting with different mediums and have enjoyed them all, but I currently love oil painting and can never see myself leaving that. I enjoy gouache because even though it’s a watercolor, you can layer the colors, even lights over dark. This is a great way for me to paint a thumbnail to plan out an oil painting. I also love transparent watercolors and acrylics. Before I started using oils, I was heavily into the mixed media genre and stayed there for many years. I have also dabbled in encaustics and watercolor batiks.

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

I really do think that my first love will always be lettering and calligraphy. I letter all the time and recently addressed all of my son’s wedding invitations. That was a labor of love for sure. I probably won’t pursue encaustics, so I can safely say that one fell away actually before it got started. I still use acrylics quite often and also watercolors. So, I can’t say that any one of those have fallen completely away.

Not So Mellow Yellow
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

When you are immersed in the mixed media world, there are many mediums that lend itself to this genre. So at some point or other, I have probably tried most of them, except for pastels. I have seen some beautiful work by pastel artists, so maybe pastels is something that I will one day explore.

Who or what inspires you most?

Oh my, there are so many people that have inspired me along the way in every genre I have been through. It would take up several paragraphs to name the people that have influenced me the most, but I will name a few from my current oil painting career. Carol Marine was the very first influence on me to start daily painting. I would stalk her endlessly and longingly devoured her daily paintings on her blog. I have never had the opportunity to take any of her workshops, but her book, Daily Painting, as I mentioned before, is one of the best out there.

I have also just returned from probably the best painting workshop I have ever taken from Melanie Morris called, “Fast and Furious Painting.” I also admire the works of Barbara Flowers, Trisha Adams and Maggie Siner. Then there are the Masters of course; Sargent, Van Gogh and Cezanne just to name a few. And for the “what” that inspires me, it’s seeing the beautiful paintings from these wonderful painters that inspires me.

Tulip Spray
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

Procrastination takes on many forms for me. Usually it’s cruising Dick Blick or Cheap Joe’s for a new paint color or paintbrush that I definitely don’t need. Sometimes, it’s a complete reorganization of all my paints when I know that they will be quickly become unorganized again as I paint the next painting. Sometimes, it’s a cleanout of the art closet. Most of my procrastination is art related which must be my unconscious, distorted way of minimizing my guilt for not painting.

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

Throughout the years, these techniques have changed. At the moment, this is the technique that seems to be working for me: the last thing I do for the day before I go to bed is set up a still with the flowers I have bought that day from the local market. I plan the size of canvas I will use and draw it out with charcoal ready for the next day’s painting. I have a terrible time leaving it there because I want to jump in and paint it. But, if I did that my creative adrenalin would start flowing and I would be up until all hours. So, I let it be and go to bed looking forward to painting that still life the next morning.

Blue and Beautiful
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I would like to say that I walk around in nature and look for beautiful things that inspire me to paint, but I must admit that I don’t like bugs, heat, cold or carrying heavy things. In other words, I don’t plein air paint. In the beginning, when I started with oils, I would spend hours on the internet just trying to develop different ideas that I might like to paint. At first, I only painted from photographs that either I had taken or I had found from the “Paint My Photo” copyright free site. But lately, the beautiful flowers that I buy and set up in my studio have inspired me more than anything.

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

Oh my, keeping it fresh, vibrant and engaging! Therein lies the challenge for any daily painter for sure. Overworking and fiddling too much with my paintings are the biggest hindrance in retaining the freshness and vibrancy of a painting. I know when I am overworking and sometimes I have to say to myself, “Put the brush down and back away slowly.” Lately, to avoid burnout, I have been giving myself a time limit of about an hour to an hour and a half to complete the painting. If I hang in there too much longer than that, the painting and I both suffer.

I'm Going This Way
(click to view)

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

In keeping with the previous question, I feel that as I paint daily I am learning more and more how to keep it fresh with vibrant colors, better values and shapes that read correctly. It’s a process and a journey but one that is really fun.

What makes you happiest about your art?

To answer this question, I have to refer to a book that made a great impression on me called, “Outliers, The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. In his book he sites many interesting people who are successful because of one thing—they have put in their ten thousand hours (or ten years) of study and practice to become the masters of their craft.

The happiest thing for me now is that I can see that my paintings have taken a turn for the better. I am happier when I paint; I am more confident when I paint and goodness gracious—I am enjoying it! I have experienced a few years of agony and ecstasy in learning this art of oil painting, but I might be about half way in on my ten thousand hours and maybe, just maybe, I will continue this journey of daily painting and get to be an Outlier! That would be ecstasy for sure!

Thanks, Martha!

© 2016 Sophie Marine

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