Thursday, February 15, 2018

DPW Spotlight Interview: Ryan Kohler

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Ryan's painting, "Grumpy Butts" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Ryan's DPW Gallery:

I am an oil painter working in Skowhegan, ME. I received a BA in Art from the University of Maine at Augusta in 2011 with a concentration in drawing. Each painting is a one of a kind original (no prints) of my own design and execution. My subject matter ranges from museum scenes and architecture to florals, plein air work and still lifes. I work from photographs as well as direct observation, whether it be in the field (plein air) or in the studio. I am interested in the formal aspects of representational painting ie. composition/color/value/texture etc. but focus mostly on finding abstract yet implicit shapes and trying to find ways to simplify my subjects. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I always say that I’ve been drawing and painting ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon.  Luckily, my parents were always super encouraging about my interest in art.  They even let me paint right on my bedroom walls and ceilings.  Growing up, I used to try and replicate my favorite album covers and t-shirts.  It taught me a lot about design and laid the groundwork for some pretty cool paintings later on.

Grumpy Butts
(click to view)

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

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? 

While studying for my Art degree, I was subjected to all sorts of torturous experimentations <kidding> with various mediums.  I ended up with a BA in Art with a concentration in drawing.  I knew that whatever avenue I chose to pursue in art, drawing would still be a relevant skill.  I took just about every art class there was, whether willingly or not, but painting was always my favorite.

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

I have been oil painting exclusively for a few years now.   

It Never Gets Any Easier
(click to view)

Who or what inspires you most?

I actively seek inspiration.  I do not wait for a “divine visionary moment” or anything like that.  Just plain old research.  I’m constantly seeking out new favorite artists, looking for new subjects to paint, or aimlessly driving/walking around hunting for what excites me. 

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

First of all, it’s really easy to find something better to do.  One trick I like to use has to do with overcoming the fear we all have when it comes to creating art.  It can sometimes be scary to stare at that white canvas and feel like you have to produce something good.  This topic has been written about by many, but I find the answer is very simple.  I tell myself “It doesn’t have to be good.  You just have to make something.”  This melts the pressure away, and gets me actually moving, which is half the battle.  Before you know it, you’ve started a painting, and a short while after that, you’ve usually got something pretty good going!  Sometimes not, but that just means you can try again tomorrow!  It’s an exercise in humility, really. 

(click to view)

How do you determine whether a painting is a success or not?

I try to keep this very simple.  I ask myself “Is the world better off with this painting in it? Or is it needless.”  Sometimes you have to be brutally honest with yourself.  I wipe off a fair amount of paintings.  I’m still learning.  I always will be.  And that’s okay.  I think those who take themselves the least seriously are the happiest.  Who says every artist must be a tortured, depressing mess?  Sure, I have low moments.  I drink beer and curse my fate like any other homo sapien, but deep down, I know that the good far outweigh the bad.  I’m not a doctor.  When I don’t do my job correctly, nobody dies.  I just end up with a crappy painting.  Big deal. 

How do you find subjects for your paintings?

There isn’t a definitive answer for this, because it’s always changing.  Sometimes I will have a specific idea for a painting, but more often than not, I just raid the fridge for still life props, or pull over when I see something collecting rust in a field.  They say that one of the most critical components of creativity is the ability to just play.  Lately I’ve been working with photos taken from a recent trip to New York City.  Ask me again next week for a completely different answer!

Rubber Uglies
(click to view)

What should a viewer typically be thinking about when viewing your work?

Well, everyone steps to a painting with their own approach, but initially, I like to view a painting as an abstract work first.  I look at the composition, paint texture, general shapes/colors, and temperature first before inspecting the recognizable imagery.  I want the viewer to see my work as a precarious mix of careful observation and spontaneous mark making.  My paintings seem to work best when I can find the most entertaining ratio.  If it matches the couch, great.  It’s not that art isn’t allowed to.  If you’re that worried about it, get a new damn couch.  Either way the most important question isn’t being asked.  Does it bring you joy?

Are your paintings abstract?

Compared to Kandinsky?  Hardly.  Compared to Sargent?  Maybe.  Some would argue that a painting, just by being a painting, is automatically abstracted to a small degree, no matter how hyper realistic it is.  My work falls on the scale somewhere, sure, but where doesn’t matter to me.  Thoughtful and efficient brushwork matters to me.  Strong composition and accurate drawing matters to me.  Mixing color with integrity matters to me.  Fussy, overworked, lifeless paintings bore me something dreadful.  You can be anything but boring.  They say that no painting is ever finished, just abandoned.  The trick is to know when to walk away.

(click to view)

Do you have any advice for painters who are starting out?

Design is such a huge part of what we do as artists.  Designing a composition that works is so crucial, second only to drawing it.  When the time comes to actually paint, if those preliminary elements aren’t already in harmony, don’t even bother.  Paint from life as much as possible.  Squint a lot and simplify large shapes into blocks of color.  From there, you can slowly refine areas while working on the painting as a whole.  Trying to make it look effortless takes the most effort.  And don’t forget, there’s ALWAYS more to learn!!

Thanks, Ryan!

© 2018 Sophie Marine

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