Common Questions I Get As An Artist

Most asked questions artist's get

I get a ton of great questions surrounding my art and my life. I answer as many as I can along the way, but thought it was about time to put something together where you can get all the answers to them in one place. So below here is an ongoing list of the questions I get and what I have to say. Enjoy!

Did you take lessons/go to college for art or are you self taught?

I took an art class in middle and high school as well as a drawing class for one semester in college. Aside from that, I only learned through trial and error, especially for painting. I believe that it’s more important to know and study your subject matter. So I invested in that rather than in art school. The artwork just came with time.

    Do you have a gallery that we can come see your work?

    Unfortunately at this time, I don’t. I'm always humbled when I get emails from people traveling in Montana asking about this. My studio is currently the spare bedroom in my home. However, I have hopes and plans to one day have a public space for people to visit!

    When did you actually decide that you wanted to be an artist? 

    After presenting my final project to my senior year art class, my teacher and classmates all told me that it was good enough to sell it and encouraged me to pursue it professionally. I had always created artwork, but never thought that I could sell it and so I never considered that it could be a career.

      Do you belong to a family of artists?

      My grandma was the best quilt-maker I ever knew, my mom does amazing rug hooking now, and my dad builds a lot of cool things to use and/or for decoration.

        How do you stay focused to finish a painting and not leave it or lose interest? 

        The important thing is to find something you love to paint or draw that keeps you wanting to work at it and wanting to come back to it after you lose focus/get bored/tired. I’ll find other productive things to do when I feel like that though, like packaging/shipping/emails etc. 

          If you had to recommend one brand of acrylic paints, what would that brand be?

          Probably Liquitex soft body acrylics.

            How long have you been doing art? Any advice for someone who wants to get into painting?

            A two year old's painting
            My first finger painting from when I was two years of age.

            I’ve been drawing ever since I was a toddler and painting since I was 14 years old. My advice to somebody just getting started would be to paint around a subject matter you truly love, do things that are hard, and love the struggle of doing it, not the outcome. Enjoying the process as well as the willingness to struggle will lead to learning and growth.

              Do you have any advice on starting a career as a young artist?

              I would tell you to realize that you don’t have to do it the traditional way anymore. You can make it into whatever you would like. The sooner that you start documenting the story of you life, your artwork, as well as your thoughts/ideas, the quicker you’ll be on your way. Artwork doesn’t sell itself, we want to know who you are as an artist and what you’re trying to accomplish with your work. Yourself as the artist is more important than what you create. Start writing down your thoughts and talking about who you are. The rest comes with time. Produce lots of content, lots of art, participate in and taste a lot of different avenues, follow your heart. It can take years to get there, so make sure you love it enough so you’re able to work hard at it. Lastly, always be willing to try new things.

                Who is your favorite artist/inspiration?

                I grew up admiring Terry Redlin. I always wanted to be able to tell stories like he did, but in my own way through my own life experiences. My inspiration these days comes solely from being outside and enjoying the outdoors/wildlife. It’s important to me now to have my inspiration come from within.

                  Is it bad if I’m only learning off YouTube tutorials?

                  Not at all! You should first and foremost do what makes you the most happy. Tutorials are fantastic resources and that’s why I make them. But also realize that other artists can only provide you so much direction. Some things can only be learned through personal experience. A lot of what’s needed in the beginning though, you can find online these days.

                    Have you ever not liked how your painting was turning out and decided to start all over?

                    Many times! I’ve abandoned several paintings and drawings in the past. 

                      How much time do you spend painting on a daily basis?

                      I try to paint at least 8 hours a day and up to 16 hours. Depends on what else I have going on.

                        Do you draw from imagination or photographs?

                        Photographing wildlife
                        A combination of both. I like to imagine a place but base them off locations of experiences. 

                          What’s your favorite medium to work with? Which medium do you believe is the most difficult?

                          I like oil and acrylic both equally. I think all mediums are hard to figure out, but it just takes an understanding on how to utilize each of their advantages. Dry mediums are probably easier for beginners.

                            In your opinion, what is the trickiest part of painting?

                            For me, because I use a lot of my imagination to develop an idea, I would say it’s getting the composition and the colors correct in the beginning. If I’m following a reference photo closely, I would say it’s just getting the colors and values correct.

                              What is your greatest aspiration in life and why? 

                              Two things: I want to be happy and I want to leave something behind that’s meaningful. I think happiness is really important and so is using my work to help make an impact in the lives of others. I also want to leave something behind that my great grand kids can see and watch one day.

                              Where do you get your reference photos from?

                              My reference photos always come from my own photography and experiences. In the last year I made a vow to only paint from my photos and experiences. When I was younger and a kid I looked to other places and photographers. Now it’s very important to me that my art comes from within and from my own material. 

                                What about painting makes it so enjoyable to you and how do you improve?

                                The subject matter. I paint what I love and so it’s easy for me to enjoy it. I improve when I challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone. When something is easy for me, I usually don’t see improvement in myself as an artist.

                                  How do you have the patience to put in so many details? I can never find the patience I need.

                                  I just love my subject matter so much that it’s fun for me. I take necessary breaks to keep from burning out and always am excited to get back to it, so I never really get tired of it. 

                                  Do you ever teach any painting classes?

                                  I have not taught any classes thus far. I only wish to share my story and experiences.Through that I want to help others learn and grow themselves. I enjoy posting tutorials and things, but I don’t believe in charging for my knowledge. In the future I think it would be cool to do meetups! 

                                    Do you sketch on your canvas before you paint? What do you use for your under paintings?

                                    Yes, I do a sketch before I paint and I use pencil. When I do the under painting I almost always use acrylics.

                                      I understand the basics of color theory, but struggle still to get it right. Any advice?

                                      One way you could practice learning color is by printing out a reference photo of yours and then try to match all of the colors in it. Then paint directly onto the photo to turn the photograph into a painting. That can be a cool exercise which can really help you learn a lot about your colors.

                                        How do you make a digital copy of your canvas paintings?

                                        How to photograph paintings

                                        I use 5000k high CRI fluorescent bulbs for diffused lighting in my studio, (you can read about my lighting setup here). I use a DSLR camera with a macro lens and a polarizing filter to take multiple photos of a single painting  (9 or 12 images depending). Those photos get together in Photoshop (automate) and color corrected for a high resolution digital image. A good camera helps too, for professional images I recommend a minimum of a Canon 80d or equivalent/better. I just got my hands on a Canon R which great job and is my current camera. If I had to recommend another it'd be the Nikon D500.

                                          Is it hard for you to let go of your original paintings?

                                          Not really, I’ve always been thrilled to share my work with others!

                                            Do you ever use other art materials like watercolor or oil pastels?

                                            I used to use colored pencils and pastels when I was younger, however I don’t really use them anymore. I haven’t ever really used watercolor. I have utilized Prismacolor dual tip markers.

                                              Do you apply oil paint straight out of the tube? Or do you prepare it a certain way?

                                              No, I always use a medium. I’ll usually grab some paint with my brush and then add a touch of medium to it. Both with acrylics and oils. My favorite for acrylics is Glazing Medium by Liquitex and Liquin by W&N for oils.

                                                What does the glazing medium do when mixed with acrylic paint versus just using water?

                                                Too much water can compromise the binder in acrylic paint. So a medium thins it without risking that. I also just like the way it handles on the brush.

                                                  Was there a point where you had an “aha!” moment and everything changed?

                                                  My aha! moment was when I realized that most everything, including learning, just takes a lot of time. It made me real patient and eventually I saw the big picture and strides of improvement.

                                                    Where do you get your painting supplies?

                                                    I order pretty much all of my supplies through Blick, you can check out my supply list here.

                                                      If you weren’t a professional artist, which profession do you think you’d be in?

                                                      Wildlife biology

                                                      Wildlife biologist. It’s what I went to college for and what I was doing before I took my art on full time. 

                                                        When you have a painting you love does it make it harder to progress and add new things?

                                                        Absolutely, I always listen to that inner voice that’s telling me you already love it, so why go any further? So when I do go further and add new things, it’s only because I know I wanted it to be more from the start.

                                                          Isn’t it lonely to be an artist? What do you do when you feel lonely or to not feel lonely?

                                                          It definitely is and I think it’s especially true if you’re trying to turn it into a business. I exercise and get outside a lot to help keep me distracted from that. 

                                                            How do you come up with your compositions?

                                                            A lot of the time it’s based off several different photographs that I took. Other times a ton of trial and error and imagination goes into it. I’m not afraid to put something on canvas and paint over it or remove it if I don’t like it.

                                                              Do you like oils or acrylics more?

                                                              I love them and use them both equally. Acrylics for their speed and oils for their brightness and blending abilities.

                                                                Do you varnish your paintings?

                                                                I do, I’ve been a fan of Gamvar gloss varnish by Gamblin. I use a mixture of that with some odorless mineral spirits and apply a thin layer using a flat brush onto the canvas. Afterwards I’ll use a clean makeup sponge to wipe any excess.

                                                                  What’s the purpose of painting oil over acrylic, and what areas do you use the oils on?

                                                                  I like the acrylics to be able to make changes as I work out the composition in my head. They dry quickly so I can layer fast and adjust as I need. The oils are much more rich and bright in color. So they are great for enhancing the glow of the sky or the deep dark shadows in the foreground, for example. They also help me create those really soft buttery blends of colors as well.

                                                                    How long did it take you to find a style you’re proud of?

                                                                    I feel like my style is still changing a lot as I try to find what I’m after. I’m proud of my work, but for me I believe it will be a lifelong journey. 

                                                                      Do you prefer landscape pieces alone or landscape pieces with animals incorporated?

                                                                      Landscape paintings with wildlife

                                                                      I love animals, but I vowed to only use my own reference I gather from the wild, so I don’t get the chance to do wildlife in every painting I create. 

                                                                        What is the most used color in your paintings?

                                                                        Titanium white for sure! But actual color, probably equal among red, yellow, and magenta.

                                                                          Do you always use gesso before oil/acrylic painting? Is it necessary?

                                                                          I always do. I even add a layer of extra gesso onto my canvas (and wait for it to dry) before I begin. I never used to do that unless it was an inexpensive or coarse canvas. I like a tad bit of texture though, so it’s why I still use canvas panel over smooth board. (If you want to know how I apply my gesso to my canvases then checkout my how to video here: youtu.be/_9lrRyr_zW8)

                                                                            If you had to choose between quality paint, quality brushes, and quality canvas, what would you say is the most important?

                                                                            Quality paint 100% no question. For example, I’d rather finger paint with quality paints than use expensive brushes with cheap paint. As long as my surface is archival, I’m good with anything if I had to choose. And I hold no real value in very expensive brushes.  

                                                                            Do you use oil paints and if so how would you clean up if you made a mistake on canvas?

                                                                            I do and I would say if there’s any area I’m not sure of, I wait for the paint to dry so that I can work wet/dry. This way I can easily clean off any mistakes I make while painting without affecting the dry layer underneath. I use a sponge stick to clean off my mistakes when doing this.

                                                                              Is it better to start with the background first when painting? Or does it not matter?

                                                                              I like to start in the back and work my way towards the foreground after I block everything in first.

                                                                              Spring snow melt in the mountains

                                                                              Thanks everyone for your questions! I'll periodically update and add to this as I get more common questions. 

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