Friday, March 26, 2010

All Art Friday Special Edition: Artist Interview

All Art Friday Special Edition
Interview with Painter Randall David Tipton
Part 1

I know I was meant to be a landscape painter
because of the way I respond emotionally to the landscape.
~ Randall David Tipton

Last fall, when I participated in High Calling Blogs' 12 Days of Community, I posted a feature, "Landscape Become Image", about the superb painter Randall David Tipton. At the time, I mentioned that I intended to do an in-depth interview with Randall as soon as our schedules allowed. Today, I present the first of a two-part interview that Randall did with me via e-mail. 

Maureen Doallas: You have enjoyed a long artistic career, Randall. Tell us a bit about your background and how it influenced your decision to become a professional artist. Also, did you ever consider any career other than art?

Randall David Tipton: Like any child, I loved to draw, loved animals and trees. A kind man named Jon Gnagy had a television program, which I watched regularly, that taught principles of drawing. It was exciting to hear an adult talk about things like shading and perspective. That they were worthy things to consider. When I was around the age of 12, my parents gave me a paint kit for Christmas, and I was off. Then, as I entered adolescence, I became extremely depressed. My parents enrolled me in painting lessons at the local art center. I was nurtured by many adults who sensed my need, and I focused on painting to survive.

Throughout my teens, science was another consideration [for a career], until I realized I had to choose.

MD: You attended the Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts in New Mexico where you took a master class with the great Richard Diebenkorn (1922 - 1993), whose work ranges from abstract to representational to figurative. In what respect has formal study of art facilitated your career?

RDT: I've had very little formal education. [Either] this has been a great advantage in that I was isolated from prevailing trends in art education or it has been a hindrance in that my work is not informed by the issues of our times. That's for others to decide.

MD: What do you remember most from your class with Diebenkorn?

RDT: That's easy: his blessing. Other than a few pertinent comments about color and media, he didn't say much. But he seemed to approve of what I was doing. This lit a fire that burned for years! It gave me the confidence to make many difficult decisions both about painting and my life.

MD: You describe yourself as "mostly self-taught". Is anyone else in your family artistic?

RDT: Not really, though my brother Mike has always seemed to see what I see, [to] understand what I'm after, just as I do.

MD: When and where did you begin your professional artistic career, and how did you feel on seeing your work in a show for the first time?

RDT: You know, I'm not sure how to answer that. At the art center where I took lessons as a teenager, I also sold work. Later, in Northern California, while still very young, I was involved in group shows. The first public presentation of all work by me was at the Mesa Public Library in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The first solo exhibition in an art venue was at the Sangre de Christo Arts and Conference Center in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1985. I can't say I ever had the feeling [that] my "professional" career is now beginning.

MD: How do you characterize your style of painting?

RDT: I still haven't figured out how [to describe my style]. I've used these at times: painterly realism, expressionist naturalism, abstract realism.

Pictured: December Slough, oil on unstretched canvas, 12"x9". 
© Randall David Tipton.
Image courtesy of artist. All rights reserved.

MD: In what ways has your style changed or evolved over your career?

RDT: It changes hour to hour. The subject determines my approach. Often, a particular "structure" to the landscape gets my attention and becomes an armature for improvisation. Later the same day, I'll paint something specific, with more detail. Emotionally, I feel like I'm all over the map, so to speak. Yet I always hear one can recognize my work at a glance (?!). The evolution you ask about I can see [in my work] over the years, but it's more of an inside process, understanding and developing my impulses. Which, sorry to say, are mostly non-verbal.

MD: What are your sources of reference and inspiration?

RDT: Whatever landscape I'm in. Generally, I like to be somewhere for a while before I paint it. Get a feel. It sort of has to be relevant to my current life, too. For example, even though I lived in New Mexico for many years, I wouldn't be comfortable painting that landscape now. Having said that, tomorrow I'm sure I'll want to paint the Rio Grande Gorge!

MD: You cite in your Artist's Statement "the example and sacrifice of the abstract expressionists" and state that you "came to believe in their faith in improvisation as a more direct link to the unconscious and therefore to something more authentic." What is that "something more authentic" that you want to express in your painting?

RDT: This is that non-verbal thing I mentioned. It's a feeling of discovery and "homecoming" at the same time. I know I was meant to be a landscape painter because of the way I respond emotionally to the landscape. This is beyond a love of nature. It has a quality of "rightness" and deep engagement. When the painting process is successful, there is something similar that happens. Almost like finding a new view of myself. Does that make sense? By not stopping too soon, pursuing this feeling, trying all manner of techniques, something original occurs.

MD: You often make preparatory studies, which you post on your blog, Painter's Process, and call your paintings "the result of trial and error." Tell us about the preparations you make once you get an idea for a work of art. How much of what is present in a study comes through in a finished painting?

RDT: Mostly just the design. A study can let me see if the composition and even idea have merit enough to attempt a larger work. Even though the color is the same, a different scale creates a different emotional effect. My use of the term "study" is another way to label, differentiate, and track the work. I love words but often, I'm stumped when it comes to a title.

MD: I first learned about the use of Yupo when I saw your work on Rob and Laura Jones's Migration Gallery site. Explain briefly the difficulty of using this medium and also what its use allows you to achieve.

RDT: It's plastic, nothing is absorbed! The water in the paint must evaporate. 

This [use of Yupo] requires a completely different approach. A major difficulty is getting the paint to stay "still". I can do something I like, turn away, and when I return, it's different! It's as if the paint has its own agenda. This can be a strength as well. Watercolor can do marvelous things on this brilliant white surface. What would be muddy on true paper becomes rich, subtle, and sometimes profound.*

MD: What challenges you as an artist?

RDT: To not accept "good enough", to risk destroying something already interesting in pursuit of something deeper. My crew of demons are pretty challenging, too; they only shut up when I'm in the "zone".

MD: When you respond to those challenges, what do you learn?

RDT: That the anxiety is part of creativity. That it's worth enduring for something real, something personally significant.

MD: Is there any medium in which you haven't worked that you'd like to explore?

RDT: Fresco. I'd like to do a gestural painting in wet plaster.

MD: Do you paint en plein air or only in your studio?

RDT: I used to paint watercolors en plein air often. I especially enjoyed it with painting buddies along. In recent years, I've relied on photography and some drawing to begin my compositions. With digital photography and Photoshop, I can isolate and alter fragments of the photo and use it as a starting point. I do like to be in a new landscape for a while first. The sensations I get later guide the painting along from memory. This works well. I have noticed [that] when I do paint on location, once the "design" elements are understood, I rarely even look up again. I'm not too interested in visual accuracy. It's the impression and then what happens as I'm painting that matter.

Thank you, Randall!

Next week, All Art Friday Special Edition will return with Part 2 of my interview in which Randall talks a bit about "revising" paintings, pricing, marketing, and selling his art, and sharing his advice for aspiring  or emerging artists.

Randall's Website, which features images of his many beautiful paintings, is here.

* I can attest to what Randall achieves when he uses Yupo, as I own (with much pride) his Winter Wetlands (watermedia, 12x12 inches). To view that work, click here and then click on the last image.]

To read an interview with Randall on DailyPainters, go here.


Glynn said...

I really like his work. I've followed him ever since you first linked to him -- his art is visually stunning.

Great interview, Maureen. (And, as a child, I used to watch Jon Gnagy's show on TV -- even if I wasn't inclined to be an artist.)

M.L. Gallagher said...

Really good interview -- I learned lots and his work is quite beautiful -- And you haven't to admire a man who can walk the belief taht the challenge in are -- as in life -- is , "To not accept "good enough", to risk destroying something already interesting in pursuit of something deeper."

thanks Maureen

Lou Belcher said...

Nice interview... Beautiful art.


Billy Coffey said...

I am getting quite an education on the art world from you, Maureen. This was a great interview.

nAncY said...

wonderful inter view

Anonymous said...

wonderful interview....I have been a follower of his for some time and he is a genius and now that I read this interview....well he is a genius :)

Kate said...

Thank you for this interview. I will look forward to the second part. There are few painters whose work makes me catch my breath the minute I see it. Tipton's does that. Kate

S. Etole said...

Appreciate getting to know more about him ... your work and his are both excellent