Thursday, September 6, 2018

DPW Spotlight Interview: J. Dunster

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

From J's DPW Gallery Page:

I've loved art since I was a little girl. I started taking oil painting lessons in my early teens, and started selling portrait art not too long after. Later I attended Otis College in Los Angeles, where I studied drawing, anatomy, and painting.

My favorite mediums are oils, some acrylics, as well as graphite. But mostly oils. My aim is to explore a variety of subjects, with more attention spent on portraits and figure painting. I'm also now dabbling with still lifes and animals, in particular cats and birds! (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I had always loved drawing. I remember being obsessed with drawing when I was four years old. When I was about thirteen, I discovered a local artist (I walked by her open studio and walked in). Turns out she had a painting class for kids every Saturday. My parents said I could go. It was probably one of the most exciting and life-changing times for me! She was an amazing portrait artist and helped me so much.

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

Oh, sure. Up and down, up and down. Sometimes I had an artist’s block or some other obligation that stalled me for a while. But I can’t say I ever *stopped* painting in my heart, even though there were detours and delays. The biggest detour (not that I regret it) was ceramics. I fell in love with pottery, but what I most enjoyed about it was what they call “surface decoration.” I didn’t stop painting, I just painted on pottery! I haven’t done pottery in a while but really miss it. I wouldn’t give up oil painting for ceramics but there’s no reason why I can’t bring it back in my life.

Sweet Tabby Slumber
(click to view)

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

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I’ve tried most mediums. Not to say that I’m really comfortable with them all, but I’ve tried watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, airbrush, soft pastel, oil pastel, pen & ink, and of course oil and acrylic. (And of course the aforementioned ceramics!) In my art school days I was primarily working in colored pencil and pen & ink. Now I’m back with oils, my first love.

Mostly I have always been interested in representational work, because I love to draw what I see. My favorite subjects remain portraits and animals. Over the years I’ve loosened up and would like to continue to do so, but I think I’ll always be interested in representational work.

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

Oils are #1 for me. I’m still open to working again in ink and colored pencil. I liked soft pastel but probably won’t work with it again (but never say never!).

The Greek Artist
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I just want to paint looser! I am still too tight and detailed. Right now I’m also working in acrylics more. I always was more comfortable with oils, but decided that acrylics really needed a second look. I think I’ve made a small breakthrough with acrylics because I’m really enjoying working in them. But I anticipate that I’ll always consider oils my primary painting medium.

Who or what inspires you most?

So many artists inspire me... my first painting teacher, Shirlee Prescott. One of my figure drawing teachers in art school, Burne Hogarth, changed my life. A more recent painting teacher, Adam Clague, also changed my life. I have had many teachers in my life that I will always be so grateful for because they somehow changed *everything*.

My first teacher, Shirlee, also claimed that there was “something in the air” (her description for a spiritual element) that gave her inspiration. I find that she’s right about that. I’m a religious person, and so have long believed that God (or a Higher Power, or whatever name one might use) is *essential*. Without being attuned to that, things fall flat.

(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

It *is* me! I am a victim of procrastination, big time! Procrastination can manifest itself in thinking, “I’ll wait until I am a better artist to paint that.” Or, “I will wait before I use that big canvas, I’m not good enough to use *that* expensive canvas yet.” I’m working past that because if not now, when?

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

The sooner I get my other tasks done for the day, the sooner I have time for my art. If I get a late start on the day, my art always suffers. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, my art suffers.

Shadowed Kitty Portrait
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I look through my reference photo collection to see if something jumps out at me. Often I’ll use Photoshop to crop and edit a reference photo to get it just how I like it.

Right now I paint mostly animals (cats) and portraits. I grew up as a portrait artist (that’s all I wanted to paint when I was a teenager). Then when I first started with Daily Paintworks, one of my sisters suggested I paint some cats since everyone in our family is a cat lover. I found I really enjoyed painting them and it seemed like my collectors liked them too. So, now I divide my time between cats and portraits. I’ve also decided to push myself to do more landscapes as I feel it’s a deficit--that I haven’t ever felt comfortable with landscapes.

One thing that really excites me is approaching a painting with some color exercise in mind. Telling myself, “I’m going to use the Zorn Palette on this!” really gets me going! (The Zorn Palette is a limited painting palette consisting of white, yellow ochre, vermillion or cadmium red light, and black. It is an excellent academic exercise to mix all your colors with just these pigments and see how far you can go.) I also like the challenge of difficult or unusual lighting situations. To see if I can get the values and color temperatures correct. I still feel there’s so much to learn there, so no matter what the subject of my painting is, if there is a “challenge” to it then I love it all the more!

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

There’s so much yet to learn, who has time for burnout? But if f I feel like I’m getting stressed or burned out by pushing myself to finish a painting too fast, then I need to slow down no matter what. And what I was mentioning before, approaching a painting with a “challenge” in mind (some color exercise or whatever) always keeps me excited to get to my easel!

Backlit Tiger
(click to view)

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

There is so much yet to learn. I still am struggling with color, composition, and technique. Basically, everything! But that’s what makes it exciting!

One thing that amazed me (and encouraged me) was a few years ago when I was studying with Adam Clague was that he and his wife (Andrea Orr Clague) also seemed to believe that “there is so much left to learn” even though to my eyes, they had both “arrived” as artists and were amazing! I thought that I could die happy if I could paint like them, but to *them*, they aren’t satisfied with where they are and strive to improve even more.

I don’t think any artist believes they have “arrived” and that’s the way it will always be.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I guess that I am seeing gradual improvement. I’ve also gotten some lovely and generous feedback about some of my paintings and that is very gratifying. Most of us paint to communicate something to our viewers so it’s good to know that we are connecting. But basically, if I felt I wasn’t improving, I couldn’t be happy with my art.

Thanks, J!

© 2018 Sophie Marine

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