Thursday, December 13, 2018

DPW Spotlight Interview: Blake Hurt

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

From Blake's DPW Gallery Page:

After dropping out of his art class in college, Blake Hurt spent a year or so in New York City before returning to his native Virginia. On the spur of the moment, he exercised his considerable negotiating skills to buy from a local art store a remaindered supply of oil paints at a substantial discount. This resulted in his ownership of a collection of some 84 large tubes of oil paint, mostly green. At the conclusion of the transaction, and in appreciation, the dealer threw in a display case. With such a grand opportunity to paint landscapes, Blake has ever since been fanning the flame of talent through continued practice. This has gone on for a long time and, in the process, he has taken delight in experimenting in oils, watercolors and digital works.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

When I was 33, I decided that I needed to find a hobby that would age gracefully; something that wasn’t competitive, or required great athleticism, where time was your friend, and it could be shared with others.  I chose writing.  After working at this for several years, I realized that despite its advantages, a book might take years to complete.  Not only that, it was also a little awkward if you tried to read parts of it to your friends at dinner.  It eventually occurred to me that the visual arts might be better suited.  Furthermore, whether I could paint or not, at least I would learn how to see. 

November Purple
(click to view)

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

I thus went out and bought a medium sized canvas and some of Sear’s finest house paints.  Standing on the porch, I flung the house paint on the canvas in a variety of ways.  At that moment, painting didn’t seem that hard.  After that, I experimented with a variety of abstract paintings and began to pay attention to the way others painted.  I did my best to learn from books.  For example, I spent a month following one book on identifying color, only to realize that the fluorescent light that I was using led me to painting all my pictures with a slight bluish cast.

At this point, I was introduced to a local painter, Richard Crozier, who was an art professor at the University of Virginia, and is a wonderful landscape painter.  After expressing admiration for his work and the difficulties that I had encountered, he suggested that I bring a painting each week to his studio where he might make some suggestions.  Over the next three months,  Richard patiently explained how he painted.  That was an eye-opening experience; there was no flinging, there was a lot of comparison of value and a lot of minor adjustments to the paint color.  The whole process looked near impossible to me, but it did seem like practice might help.  Since then, I have followed his suggestion that the way to learn how to paint is to paint 1000 pictures, gauge your progress and proceed from there.

A Light Rain in Pietrasanta
(click to view)

How do you define success as an artist?

There are several definitions for success in art.  One is a commercial success: you are paid a lot of money for your work, museums arrange shows,  and people write about your unique insight.  This type of success generally has less to do with your craftsmanship and more to do with your sense of fashion, your connections in New York and your ambition.  Being unfashionable and unconnected, this was not an option for me.

A second type of success is to make a living as an artist where your craftsmanship is an important part of your appeal: this includes painters of portraits, beautiful still-lifes, lovely figurative work, and engaging abstractions.  This road is easier to travel, but it requires more than just skill and insight.  I am reminded of the story of Mondrian who, in 1921, found that his customers were not so interested in his current work as they were in his innovative art from 1919.  To make a living, he reputedly started to “forge” works from 1919 so that he could make a living.  The danger, thus, from this second type of success is that the temptation of money leads you away from your inspiration and your natural development.  Fortunately, there are lots of easier ways to make money than making art and I found one of these. Like the country fellow who said that behind every successful farmer is someone who has a job in town, generally behind every successful artist is a paying job.

(click to view)

A third type of success is to enjoy the art making process, the excitement of visual translation from thought to substance, the satisfaction of execution, the surprise of the almost-intended result.  You do see better if you have to paint it.  Colors are more interesting, shapes and textures become visual questions, and the shape of a mouth speaks volumes.  In this area, I have found success.

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

Although there isn’t much money in displaying work in shows, I am a strong believer in having shows.  This just emphasizes the idea that having a deadline and making assessments about the quality of your work, its progress and your pace of production.  The success of a show is not the sales, the write-ups or the public approval as much as it is producing the work and exposing it as a group to others.  Nothing focuses me on completing works as an approaching show deadline;  whether it be a show in a church, a bookstore or some place more prestigious.  For a while, I would travel to show my works, but I began to realize that the opinions that I cared most for were those of the people in my own community.

The Face of July 13th, 2018
(click to view)

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? 

With respect to painting genres, I have to to focus.  I would like to reliably create an interesting painting from an everyday scene, an atmosphere of intent from a simple still-life and an extraordinary portrait of an ordinary face.  This past year or so, for example, I have been working on how to get a likeness in a portrait.  Following Carol Marine’s suggestions, I have made dozens of small portraits, although, oddly, half the sitters don’t recognize themselves.   Figure studies are also on my to-do list.  All of these have been in oil or watercolor, but I also like doing digital works.

Twenty years ago, I started writing software programs that would combine drawings and colors into portraits.  These have been fun to do and I have continued making portraits using different kinds of drawings, some of my own, and some taken from nineteenth century technical books.  Although the software method for making art is indirect, the results require a procedure of experiment and evaluation, something like that of print making.


How do you make time for art?

Carol Marine’s book on Daily Painting was an inspiration to me and helps me realize that every small painting would lead to improvements more rapidly than larger, less frequent paintings.  So four years ago, I made a habit of doing a small painting before work each morning.  This has proved a success since it is early in the day and the storm clouds of the urgent have yet to interfere with the parade of the important.

Thanks, Blake!

© 2018 Sophie Marine

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