Thursday, October 22, 2020

DPW Spotlight Interview: Jeff Mott

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

From Jeffrey's DPW Gallery Page:

Born and raised on East Coast but living on West coast for last 20+ years. I come from an artistic family but made a career in the Tech world and have now recently retired. Currently residing in Tucson, AZ with my wife (my biggest supporter) and our many critters. I am self taught and have painted on and off for many years, exclusively in watercolor, and now hope to become a more regular painter. I enjoy loose and impressionistic styles (of all media) and struggle to simplify my work to meet these goals. I enjoy the outdoors and try to incorporate my many wanderings into a visual journey. Thanks for stopping by!

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting?

I started painting in my late thirties as a way to relax from my regular work. I come from an art family but chose a different career path into the world of Semiconductor fabrication and found I needed a distraction from that daily workload. I took a few Adult Education courses in watercolor painting and found this to be most rewarding. I continued playing with watercolor on and off as time went on.

Did you have stops and starts in your painting career?

Yes, I had way too many stops and starts, in my opinion. Changes in jobs, houses and states have played out over the last many years. We moved from the NY area to Tucson, AZ in 1998 and then to CA in 2013 and back to Tucson in 2020 all in support of my professional career. Time for art was not really possible during some of this period. I had done sketching during these years as it was easy to do and not time consuming but actually sitting down and painting was difficult during some of this time. I did some watercolor in the early 2000’s and I joined a watercolor group in Tucson from about 2002-2008 but demands of my career limited much of my art time after 2008.

Quiet Evening
(click to view)

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

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I have always used watercolor. Growing up in an art household with the aroma of turpentine, mineral spirits and varnish wafting about made me want to stay away from oils. I have pretty much stayed with landscape and nature painting. However, I am partial to railroad art as well, my interest in trains is a carry-over from my childhood and my father. I have never done figure work but might try that one day. My father told me that he never really became an artist until he could master life drawing and painting, the human form. He told me that over forty years ago and from what I read today about “learning” art that is still sound advice.

Which ones have “stuck” with you and which ones have fallen away?

I guess that since I am hooked on watercolor, all other mediums have fallen away or I've at least not tried them yet.

Southern Pacific No.5
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I am not sure but there is a lot of nice work I have been seeing with gouache and that would seem to be a logical progression (or maybe a regression if you are a watercolor purist!) If you consider plein air a genre then that is something I have not done but plan to start.

Who or what inspires you most?

Wow! This could be a very long answer! In terms of who, there is the standard list of Sargent and Wyeth and for the modern day I admire Dean Mitchell, Andy Evanson and David Drummond’s work. From the UK I really like Richard Thorn and Robert Brindley’s work. But there are so many less known but extremely talented people, I am just scratching the surface with these names, just look at DPW, there is a ton of talent here.

In terms of what inspires me it is very much the outdoors. I have great memories of the East coast and New England areas, the desert Southwest is a different type of rugged beauty with canyons, mountains and colored rock and the West coast is totally wild and rugged compared to the East coast line and all are inspiring. The smaller things such as shadows, textures and colors of rocks, flowers and leaves, rock color and shadows in clear water of a running stream, old barn siding, rusting metals, fall colors in any location  and snow all inspire me as well. Seeing how others capture these images and how they convey that emotion is also inspiring to me to try and be an effective teller of the story.

Narrow Path Saguaro West
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like to you?

LOL! Well, its me sitting with a brush in hand staring at a white sheet of watercolor paper and not having any idea of what to do next, maybe this is more fear than procrastination. But seriously, I have set up a workspace with my supplies and books and it usually is me sitting and thumbing through my reference photos, looking at my reference books, (can I say looking at DPW since I really do that?) looking at my prior work, sometimes just doodling just to get a shape or image going and trying to get into the mindset. I will play with notan at times and if I get really desperate I will throw paint onto paper and see if it develops into anything inspiring. I will admit that there are times when this lasts days but you just have to work through that. I recently saw a coffee cup on a DPW artist bio page (I’m sorry I can't remember who!) that said something to the effect... Just do a painting today even if it sucks! ...this sounds like good advice. 

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

Structure is easy for me, I am predictable and boring, ask my wife. Since I have retired I can now paint nearly every day if I want so it's easy for me now to make the time. I mainly focus on art in the afternoons. I am probably doing two to six hours a day related to art. It's not all painting, it's a lot of reading, YouTubing, DPW’ing, reading other artists' blogs and just looking and absorbing.

Winter Blanket
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at your ideas for a painting?

Since I enjoy nature and hiking it's easy to find inspiration in my reference photos, books and other reference material but I do look for images that I can connect with and feel some form of emotion. To me, Art is really about communication so that is important to me. What does that image say to me; how do I, or can I, communicate that to someone else; how do I emphasize what drew me to that place or image. Once I find an idea I get more technical and do preliminary sketches or drawings and a value study and see how things progress and try to see if I have been successful in getting the feeling onto paper. 

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

This is an interesting question. I have not really thought much about this but I would say that to avoid burnout you need other avenues to distract you so something not related to art; try for some balance and not have it an obsession. Obviously that is easy for me to say since I am now retired and I do not rely on art for any income but it's ok to take a break and walk away if you lose your focus or passion, it will return.

In terms of keeping work fresh, I would say that as I look at other people's art I will look at the details of “how did they do that?" Is there a way to get that effect, create that feeling in watercolor. I do love texture and color so I am always trying to get these to be visible in my work. I have recently moved to smaller format pieces and that was a change for me. It was initially for studies and planning but seemed to work out better for some ideas but doing a variety of sizes will assist in keeping things fresh. In terms of engagement, it's about communication, have I put the feeling into the painting? I am doing a lot more self critiques these days and doing painting series rather than skipping subject to subject or size to size, this seems to help me. I really enjoy wet in wet techniques and color mixing on the paper but also there are times when hard edges are a must and so a variety of styles helps to keep things fresh. Try to keep an “I can do this'' and not an “I can't do this'' attitude. I will say that I have a closet full of bad work and a drawer full of good work.

Arizona Rocks!
(click to view)

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

I think I am getting much more technical about design and composition in order to improve my painting. I have really tried to do value studies and have been watching Andy Evanson videos on YouTube, and there are plenty of other artists as well that offer their advice on there. As all professional artists will tell you, doing value studies is essential and he is a really good teacher and communicator of his ideas and methods. I have been doing a lot of color studies and mixing studies. Color studies were something that I didn't think were really necessary early on because as an artist you can represent any scene anyway that pleases you but I now think this is true only to a point. I think color harmony is important and so have been revisiting early teachings that I neglected. I have started using a limited pallet, I have reduced my pallet to essential reds, blues and yellows. I have also been studying other oil and pastel artists for their processes and techniques but in general I think I am just getting much more technical in my approach to painting.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I think it's two things. The first is when someone can make a connection to one of your paintings, a feeling, a memory, an object, a time, whatever, it can be almost anything that makes that connection but it is made. That is the feeling of success. The second would be the personal satisfaction that I did a successful painting, I like what I see in front of me. I have captured something other than an image and whatever I captured is appealing.

Fall Stream
(click to view)

Thanks, Jeff!

© 2020 Sophie Marine

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