Monday, July 11, 2011

Painting Figures with Aleah Chapin

Aleah Chapin will be teaching a five-day workshop on Beginning Figure Painting in oil at Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio (WIFAS) next month. This is a great workshop for teenagers, but adults are welcome to attend also. Aleah is a Northwest native and is currently a working on acquiring a Master of Fine Art at the New York Academy of Art.

Read our recent interview with Aleah to get a feel for who she is as an artist.

Q: When did your interest in art begin and how long have you been an artist?
A: I don't have an exact age that I became an artist. Really, it’s been my whole life. Every kid likes to draw; I just never stopped liking it. My mom is an artist and taught me a lot when I was young and both my parents have always been very supportive. My birthday presents were art books and art supplies. I suppose I became more serious about it though in high school when I was studying with a local island artist named Pete Jordan.

Q: What do you seek to communicate through your art or your art instruction?
A: In my art and in my teaching I hope to communicate the pure joy of creating. Yes, there are those difficult times, but as a whole, being able to play with color all day is such an incredible feeling. I hope the viewer can sense a bit of this. I also hope to create images that distill a sense of pathos, not necessarily sadness, but more about introspection. I want the viewer to feel connected to the person I am painting.

Q: What drives you as an artist?
A: Something that I cannot put into words. Right now I am living in Germany. I’ve been here for less than a week, but standing in front of a canvas with my palette and brushes I feel completely at home. being an artist doesn’t feel like a choice I made one day. It just feels right to mush beautiful pigment around on a white surface. So what drives me is the feeling of completeness I get when painting.

Q: What is a recent piece of art you created and what inspired you to paint it?
A: Instead of describing a specific piece, I will talk about what generally inspires me. This is because I don’t get ideas from a certain story or idea and then illustrate them. Its more of a feeling. I know I keep using the word “feeling” but this is really the only way I can describe it. When I paint, or am beginning the idea for a painting, I divorce myself from the part of my brain that uses words and where things are solid. I try to create images that come from a place away from my conscious brain. When the idea for a painting is just beginning, its like I’m looking at something through deep water or fog or in a pitch black room. I search around for it until it is clear and then the “concept” and “meaning” of it grows organically out of the physical act of painting. 

Q: Do you have a favorite brand of paints, brushes, or canvas that you use?
A: I like Old Holland paint a lot. Its texture is thicker and the paint is heavier. The colors are also gorgeous. With brushes its not a particular brand, but I use a lot of bristle rounds. Many of them have now become scratchy and worn down, which I love because it creates texture and lets the paint be a bit more free. I use canvas (not linen), and again am not picky on brand. I like a tighter weave and I gesso it about 7 times including 2 layers of oil primer at the end, sanding in between coats. Surface quality is one of the most important things in a painting for me.

Q: What advice do you have for artists seeking to improve their work?
A: Look at art. Look at all styles from all times: contemporary and traditional. Think about why you like one thing or dislike another. Study with as many different artists as possible and know that no one person has the answer to what makes “good” art. Although this can be a bit confusing at first, it will help you discover your own visual vocabulary and once you feel strong in that, then everyone else will believe it too. Don’t think too much. Just paint, paint, paint. Don’t be frustrated when it's not “perfect”. Let accidents happen. Don’t try to control them too much. Some of my best paintings have come out of accidents.

Q: What do you think is unique about Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio’s workshops?
A: The incredible, supportive and intimate community that you become part of.