If you spend any time on at all on Facebook, you are very familiar with the name Linda Crank. She is the generous, kind soul that posts so many marvelous works of deceased artists. Seldom does she post her own work, but when she does it is always with humility; she’ll share what she’s working on, why she’s doing it, and what she hopes to learn…including any hesitancy or uncertainty she’s experiencing. Like many of you, I discovered her on Facebook.
I basically like just about everything she posts; our tastes must be very similar, but what “sealed the deal” for me is her honesty. She struggles, experiences disappointment, frustration, and failure like the rest of us, but she’s not afraid to share those things. That to me makes her a real person.
She was attracted to the arts as a young girl through her artist grandfather. In the ‘70s she studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and learned the fundamentals and practical skills needed for an art career.
She believes art plays a unique and significant role in society. “It transforms the functional and mundane into the beautiful; it opens the eyes of others to see beyond what is normally perceived, resulting in an enriched quality of life. It also provides an outlet for expression, so it can express a commonly held ideal, or inspire others to strive for an ideal. Art reminds a people of their history and can even provoke them to consider issues pertinent to their own culture.”
You’re going to learn some things in this interview that I guarantee you didn’t know about Linda Crank. I’m very pleased Linda agreed to this interview, I know you will be also.
21 Questions (Click on images to enlarge)
It seems, as a young girl, you were attracted to the arts because of your artist grandfather, but what was the actual spark that caused you to pursue art? At the end of junior college, before I continued on towards a B.A., I wanted to answer the question “What do I want to major in?” before I spent the time, money and effort on further education. So I asked God if He wanted me to be a missionary or artist, two things that greatly interested me. The answer given at that time was artist, but over the years both occupations came to be intertwined around each other.
You’ve studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and also with Keith Klein and Carl Samson; what specifically did you learn from each? I had a wonderful time at the American Academy of Art in the early ’70s. We learned the fundamentals and the practical skills we’d need to have a career in art. The teachers themselves were professional artists, and their belief in me and the comradery of my fellow students helped propel me forward into a commercial art studio job in Chicago’s Loop.
My two years with Keith came many years later in 2003, at a time when I wanted to learn how to oil paint. He provided a weekly, relaxed group setting with other interested adults in which to paint. While he didn’t have a set curriculum, he was always ready to help and answer anyone’s questions and help us move our paintings forward. It was a great place to explore the medium while having fun. I loved it.
Carl brought the training up to a much higher level: teaching classes like cast drawing, still life painting, portrait drawing and portrait painting. He shared the knowledge that he himself received from his teachers – Allan Banks, R.H. Ives Gammell and Richard Lack, and has also been gracious to consult and offer personal critiques outside of class.
Your training seems to be in the classic realist tradition, please explain what that is and what that training entailed. I was fortunate to have attended a school that, even in the midst of the modern art scene of that time, taught fundamentals and life drawing, and later I was most fortunate to pick up the classical tradition from someone who had studied with R.H. Ives Gammell and his students. Mr. Gammell was utterly dedicated to passing on knowledge he had received from his teachers (Edmund Tarbell, Joseph DeCamp, Philip Hale, and William McGregor Paxton, who had all studied in Europe). He chose to become, as it were, a bridge over which the values and technical expertise of those men would pass over to the next generation of painters – who are also dedicated to passing it on.
I’ve had classes in cast drawing, still life painting, figure painting, portrait drawing and portrait painting, and landscape painting. But this was not a full-time learning situation. So I borrowed casts to draw on my own, went to life-drawing sessions in a couple of art groups, reminded myself of classical principles as I painted, read art-related books, went on visits to museums, watched art videos, regularly looked at and thought about good art online, went to a handful of workshops, sought critiques of my work and got advice when I could.
You and your family lived in Pakistan for 10 years; how did that come about and were you working as an artist during that time? From the first, my husband, Jim, had a strong desire to work in missions, and I did also. During our time in Pakistan art took an accompanying role until we became involved in producing an Urdu literacy primer which also taught Bible truths for the Christian community there. I drew over 200 little pictures and the cover for it. When it was completed, it dawned on me that the desire to be both artist and missionary had come together in this project.
You made a commitment in January of this year to devote yourself to art full-time; how has that been going and what kept you from making that decision earlier? I have faithfully treated my “retirement” to full-time art as an actual job, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but I often start earlier and continue later than that. It’s been enjoyable, but in these early days it is still an exploration of what’s the most effective use of time and what keeps me motivated to keep on keeping on. There are a variety of paintings and artwork going so that regardless of weather or circumstances there is something to work on. I did not make the transition earlier because I did not feel the time was right for a variety of reasons. It was interesting to feel the winds change though this past year beginning with an incredible gift – funds providing for a north-light window and other things that transformed my work space (an old bedroom) into a proper studio.
Observing your work and reading your Facebook posts, you seem very disciplined, regimented, and goal oriented in your approach; is that a personality thing, a result of your classic training…or both? I am naturally a person who likes to be busy, accomplish things and be thoughtful about whatever I’m doing. It’s just the way I am.
I think that each picture has its own reason for existence – and is made for a particular person to whom it will speak. That is what I want to communicate.
Is all your work done from life? Although I definitely prefer to work from life, it’s not always possible. For example, people commission paintings of loved ones that have died or others who live out of town. I almost feel blind working from a photo. Working from life allows me to really see color and form, and when one is painting a portrait, one gets to know the subject first-hand. That all influences the quality of the depiction and is important to me.
You use the sight-size method of drawing; please explain what that is, and is that your standard working procedure? The sight-size method simply means that you set up your subject and canvas so that visually they’re on the same horizontal plane. Then simply by moving your eyes from one to the other, you can make a direct comparison between the subject and your rendering. This helps tremendously in making something accurate. However, it’s not always possible to set up a situation like that, so there are times when I work relatively, but I prefer sight-size when possible.
Why do you create so many works in charcoal? Using charcoal is an easier and faster way for me to get a piece of art done, plus I like how it handles and looks. I can concentrate on creating a picture with none of things that have to be considered when color is an issue along with the process of painting.
In one of your blog posts, “The First Lesson of Carolus-Duran,” you quote him as saying, “We should search for a guide amongst the masters who responds most fully to our temperament;” who is that guide for you? Although I have many artists that I admire (Willard Metcalf, Emil Carlsen, Edmund Tarbell, Hovsep Pushman, Anthony Van Dyck, Solomon J. Solomon, and the list could go on and on), I am guided instead by principles – particularly those of the American Impressionists and more specifically those of the Boston School.
What is your definition of art? I have two: one allows for the public’s very general definition of art (simply because I don’t want to spend time and energy in fighting it), and the other is what I personally think constitutes a fine piece of art. That would involve excellence in drawing, composition, value design and paint application, then it goes over and beyond that to express something that touches the spirit: to make one feel the day or to evoke an emotional response, for example.
Where does creativity come from and how is it nurtured? Can it be taught? Being made in the image of the ultimate Creator, we have the capacity to reflect that quality. I think that creativity is found in play – and also in overcoming obstacles. Allowing oneself the freedom and time to experiment with different options generally leads to results that are better than an original idea. Obstacles cause us to take paths that we would not have traveled otherwise – which also leads to creativity. I do believe that it can be taught and that people have a greater capacity for it than they realize.
I’m so impressed by your awareness of and honesty toward artistic deficiencies, and your methodical approach toward overcoming them; please explain how you arrive at these conclusions and what you do to overcome them. To be aware of deficiencies one has to have standards to which one aspires. Constantly seeing the very fine work of past artists, and the caliber of artists with whom I am in contact in the present, are a constant reminder of what “good” really is. So the question becomes “How can I get there?”
It is more effective to think about reaching goals in terms of taking small steps – no matter how small, no matter how long it takes. So I ask myself regularly “What didn’t I understand about the painting process today?” This week I am working on a color chart to understand how to mix the greens I am seeing in the landscape. I’ve started sketching different types of trees to understand their characteristics, and I’ve put a book on reserve from our library, “Artistic Anatomy of Trees” by Rex Vicat Cole. I’ve looked up how to keep cut flowers from dying so quickly in a still life setup, and how to tell from nature if rain is imminent. I believe learning these things are going to add up in the long run, and my work will be the better for it.
Success for me would be the ability to consistently produce quality work that would touch people’s hearts, and at the same time, to be the kind of person that has a positive influence on others in the process.
How has your Christian faith sustained and directed your artistic career? It was God’s answer to a prayer, as mentioned above, that led me to pursue an artistic career. He answered through my own interest, my mother’s generous support for my first year at art school, and the unexpected, but necessary, gift of a job at the school which paid for my second year there. It was also a desire to follow the Lord’s leading that had me set full-time art aside for quite a long time in order to work as a teacher on the mission field and in communications. Now God has given me the chance of returning full-time to artwork, and it has also taken faith to take that step. God has provided so much in the way of a nice studio, good instructors, artist friends, and simply the time, that one of my workshop teachers said, “Now you have no excuses.” So I’ll see where all this really lies and where it leads.
You also asked how has my faith sustained me. One of my biggest problems has been discouragement about where I am artistically. The main thing that keeps me continuing in this pursuit is the belief that this is what God wants me to do and will help me – regardless.
Your daily postings on Facebook featuring the works of great artists, some not that well known, is such a blessing to the art community; when did you start doing that, and why? Facebook just reminded me the other day that I’ve been with them for eight years now. When this all started, I was curious about this new world-wide network and considered it something to play with. I thought it was fun to experiment. I tried posting collaborative stories, word games, riddles and other things that folks could participate in. The results were enjoyable, although sometimes more than challenging. The regular art posts slowly evolved from that. Anything I share is something I like myself, and I am glad that others do, too.
What sources do you use to gather such great images and related info pertaining to each artist? Alice in Wonderland chasing the white rabbit comes to mind in answering your question. For example tonight’s pursuit began by looking at George Cushing’s work since I had set aside a painting of his I liked while looking at another artist’s picture. It did not stop there. The chase led through two other painter’s oeuvre before choosing a work from a third, Philip Wilson Steer. I particularly like it when I find a piece I like by an obscure artist, someone that maybe folks would enjoy getting to know.
I also search sites like the Google Art Project, museum collections, and will sometimes see other art posts on Facebook that I want to share. Finding good info on artists and specific works is not always as forthcoming and requires a fair amount of digging at times.
What are you finding to be the most difficult aspects of being a full-time artist? Motivation and having patience with oneself while developing can be a struggle at times. Improving in art is something that is not done in a day, and is largely done alone every day, without much support, in one’s own studio. In comparison to my job before this, I had many short-term, easily finished tasks. I had the satisfaction of doing things that were finished relatively quickly and received with gratitude and affirmation. There also was a lot of contact with people.
What’s your typical day look like? I like to start my day with prayer and Bible reading, move on to make my morning Facebook post, and do all the practical get-ready-for-the-day things before beginning my official art schedule. The time I’ve set for that dances between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and the problem is not filling up that time but rather curtailing it. My day is largely directed by daylight since I prefer working that way.
Today I prepared to start work on a still life by cutting fresh peonies, finding out online how to make them last longer, and setting up my palette to start – which was around 7:45 a.m. Right now I’m taking a break to work on this interview, will work again on the still life, and if the weather remains good, go out to paint this afternoon. Then it will be the nightly Facebook post, make supper and do whatever needs doing.
What are you currently working on? I have just finished up a charcoal portrait commission, have a couple of still lifes going, a cast painting and plein air work. There is also a canvas and tarp ready to go for a museum copy.
How do you plan to market your work? At the present I sell art over Facebook, at our annual Greenacres Artists Guild show, and through folks who want to commission a painting or drawing. This year’s focus is to become more comfortable in my abilities before adding the pressure of actually marketing my work. I have opportunities to do so, but the time is not yet quite right.
Any artistic goals for 2017? I have a lot of small goals this year: 1) Seeing what it is I need to understand specifically, then finding the answers. 2) Keeping up with my art blog, Diversions…HERE. (An excellent, informative blog, folks) 3) Finding the best way to spend my time as an artist. 4) Having paintings ready for the Greenacres Artists Guild show by the end of September.
Linda, it’s been a great interview. Thanks for sharing some of your life with us.
For more of Linda Crank’s work: lacrank.com
Periodically, I will be offering to you, my newsletter subscribers, blog, and Facebook followers, something special…and up until now…unseen color studies that I’ve done over the years in preparation for a larger piece, or as stand alone works of art. These color studies are done on 100 lb archival paper that has received one coat of gesso; paper size is 5.5″ x 8.5″ and contains my notes: date painted, location, palette used, etc. Each study is offered in three configurations: 1) Image with notes (unmounted); 2) Image with notes (mounted on board); 3) Image only (mounted on board). This week’s offering is a study for “Land of the Britons”. If interested in owning one of my works, here’s a very affordable opportunity. For now, these offers are only for those in the United States; I will pay all shipping and applicable sales tax. Click on image to enlarge. Let me know of your interest. Thanks.
I am very pleased to announce the release of my first instructional DVD, Limited Palette Landscapes, professionally produced by Liliedahl Art Videos. The video contains over 15 hours of instruction and follows my painting process from selection of the canvas to the final brush stoke. For a detailed description of the video contents, including a short video…and order instructions…please click HERE. Thank you in advance for adding this DVD to your video library. Upon viewing, if you would kindly share your comments with me, I would greatly appreciate it. THANK YOU.
Next week’s blog: “The creative process: “Malabar Farm”