Adam and Andrea Clague met while attending art school at Pensacola Christian College. Both graduated with master degrees, and after dating for a year and a half, they married and are celebrating their fifth anniversary. They live near Kansas City, Missouri.
Although their styles are somewhat similar and they are often drawn to the same types of subjects, their personalities are different, and that difference comes through in their compositions and paint application. “Even when standing next to each other painting the same scene, it’s always surprising and fun to see how the other person chose to interpret it! We have tried not to force our artistic ‘voices,’ but rather have let them develop naturally as we seek to interpret our subjects faithfully.”
They feel blessed to have received excellent traditional art training in college and were fortunate to gain gallery representation soon after graduating. “We also entered as many competitions as we could. Progress was slow and gradual. It was a big step of faith for us to pursue art full-time and we are grateful to God for His provision, and allowing us to continue on this adventure together!” Continuing that adventure, Adam has developed an online video course Learn to Paint Dynamic Portraits & Figures in Oil. “I’m excited to share the most powerful and essential elements of painting people that I’ve learned as a career painter and instructor. The course is packed with hours of video demos and numerous written lessons. Enrollment for the course will open in 2018, but you can start the course today for free!” For more info, please visit ClagueFineArt.com.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Adam and Andrea a couple of years ago at the Oil Painters of America National Show, in Dallas. I am so pleased to be able to bring you this interview with two very fine people…and wonderfully talented artists. (Click images to enlarge)
How did you begin your fine art careers; what difficulties did you encounter, and how were they overcome? In the beginning, we didn’t realize the importance of diversification. We were selling some paintings and entering competitions, but it wasn’t long before we realized we needed to diversify further, and Adam began teaching workshops. Now we have multiple possibilities of revenue if one stream dries up for a spell.
What’s a typical workday look like? Adam: I typically work an 8-hour day, 9am–5pm, but if deadlines are approaching, I’ll work more. My most productive time to accomplish creative work is in the morning, so I try to start the day with work that requires creative energy like painting. Afternoons are spent on less creative ventures like writing emails. I usually spend more time writing emails and less time painting than I’d like!
Andrea: My schedule is usually more fluid than Adam’s. Instead of following a set routine, I divide my time according to what requires my attention. I paint in focussed segments of time. In between each segment, I’ll attend to chores, etc., before returning to my painting with a fresh perspective.
The artist’s life tends to be a solitary one, is that true for you, and if so, what measures have you taken to maintain that? Because we’re pursuing art together, our life is probably less solitary than many other artists. We enjoy the camaraderie of painting with other artists and make a point to attend group painting sessions and go on painting trips with friends.
Do your painting philosophies differ, if so, in what way? The types of things that inspire us to paint are sometimes different, but our philosophy is the same—we both work from life as much as possible and strive to faithfully capture a first-hand account of our subject.
How do you handle critiques; do you wait until asked or do you express your opinions regardless; how do you resolve any differences? We always ask before offering advice, and we both trust the other’s opinion and artistic choices. It’s great to have constant access to a fresh eye and a second opinion about our work!
How do you handle household chores and finances; do you have distinct and separate roles; are your incomes combined or kept separate? We share the chores, and Adam keeps track of the finances. We combine our incomes to make our tax preparation easier.
How do you promote your work; is that handled individually or corporately? We promote our work by entering national shows and competitions, by staying active on Facebook and Instagram, and by maintaining two bi-weekly email newsletters—“Our Latest Artwork and Adventures” written by Andrea and “Art Lessons” written by Adam. On each platform, we promote our work together.
Why have you chosen not to display prices on your websites? In the past, we decided not to display prices on our websites because it seemed to be the norm in the fine art world. However, on our new website launching next year at ClagueFineArt.com, we intend to display our prices to make it more convenient for our collectors.
“I am thankful for the ability to paint and gratefully count it as a gift from my heavenly Father. I aspire to glorify God and draw others to see His goodness and the wonder of His love.”
In 2010, Andrea was selected for Southwest Art magazine’s annual “21 under 31” feature; in addition her art was chosen for the cover. In 2012, she was awarded Grand Prize at the Scottsdale Salon, held at Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ.
As you see it, what value does art have to society…and to you personally? Art has the power to open our eyes and remind us of the glorious beauty in our world—something that is easy to forget these days. Painting the beauty I see helps me appreciate each moment and become more aware of its significance. In capturing these moments, I hope others will be reminded to pause and reflect on the beauty that exists even in the “ordinary.”
You primarily paint still life and figurative subjects, what do you hope to communicate through each? Whether I’m painting a still life, figure, or plein air, my goal is always to capture what I see authentically and honestly, while drawing the viewer’s attention to the beauty I saw in the subject.
What is the most difficult part of painting for you? The most difficult part of painting for me is starting. I have a hard time choosing what to paint and then gathering the motivation and momentum to begin.
Briefly explain your painting process. After choosing an inspiring subject, I compose my scene using a value study, simple drawing and/or viewfinder. Then I begin with a rough drawing on my canvas using a small brush and thin paint (I’ll create a more detailed drawing for more complicated studio pieces). Next, I block in general masses of value. Once I establish my subject’s basic forms, I refine and add necessary details, such as temperature nuances, brushwork, and variety in paint texture.
You just completed a 30-day Strada Easel Challenge; please explain what that is, why you did it, and how it has benefited you? Strada Easel issues month-long daily painting challenges twice a year to encourage artistic development. I participated in their September 30-Day Challenge. My goal was to complete a new painting from life each day of the month.
I was grateful for the intense focus and goal-oriented work the challenge provided, as well as the freedom to experiment more than I normally would. I had a great response to my work, made several sales, and learned a lot!
You can view all 30 of my paintings from the challenge at our blog HERE.
Please describe the art training you received. We both earned bachelor and master degrees from Pensacola Christian College. In the first year of the undergraduate Commercial Art Program, we focused on drawing and value. We were required to create full-value, highly realistic drawings from life and from photography in a variety of monochromatic dry media. In our second year, we were introduced to oils and were taught a direct manner of painting. This was followed by illustration and graphic design in year three. Our favorite class was live portrait painting that we elected to take multiple times. Our fourth year was spent creating a portfolio and gallery display of our work.
In the three-year Master of Fine Arts program, we were allowed to focus on the medium and subject of our choosing. Adam focused on portraiture, while I divided my time between figurative and still life. We also learned more advanced concepts of lighting and composition. We count it a privilege to have studied under artist-in-residence, Brian Jekel.
What are your strongest and weakest character traits? I am too easily frustrated and discouraged by my work. At the same time, I’m not overly attached to it. For this reason, I don’t hesitate to wipe off an area of a painting that needs to be re-done! However, Adam sometimes has to convince me my painting is decent, so I don’t wipe off the whole thing!
What are your artistic goals? To be a better artist and to do my best with the time given to me. To gain a clearer understanding of what draws me to a subject and to communicate that more effectively. To create out of a heart of gratitude in service to others.
“My passion is to faithfully capture the beauty of God’s creation in paint. I paint in an impressionistic manner and work from life as much as possible in order to produce the most life-like results.”
Adam is a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America (OPA) and a director for the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society. In 2012, he was included in Southwest Art magazine’s annual “21 under 31” feature. He’s received many national awards including: Best of Show at the 2016 American Impressionist Society National Exhibition; Second Honor Award at the 2014 Portrait Society of America International Competition, and the Portraiture Award of Excellence at the 2013 OPA National Exhibition.
You paint a variety of subjects: still life, figurative, portrait, and landscape; what is the attraction of each? The inspiration to paint is often the same regardless of the subject matter—a dynamic pattern of light and shadow, an interesting grouping of shapes, or a pleasing color harmony. Figures and portraits are my favorite subjects because I find they lend themselves especially well to pictorial storytelling.
You work primarily from life, what process do you go through when selecting and posing models? My figurative paintings usually start out as a basic concept. Once I have an idea, I think about who I know that would make a good model for the scene. Most of the time, I employ amateur models—friends and family. I’m drawn to poses with dynamic lines, which I incorporate into my compositions.
What’s the most important thing you want to accomplish/communicate when painting the figure? The most important thing I want to communicate when painting a figure (or any subject) is the aspect of the subject I’m most excited to paint. Once I’ve identified this element, it becomes the primary message I wish to communicate through that particular painting.
Briefly explain your painting process. My paintings start 1 of 2 ways. The first way is with a basic concept. The second (more common) way is when I remember to keep my eyes open for beauty and stumble across an inspiring subject. Once I have my subject, I determine what I want to say about it. Once I have this message clearly in mind, I create one or more small studies to establish my composition. These studies may be thumbnail sketches, value studies made with markers, digital paintings, oil paintings from life, or all of the above! Usually, the larger and more complex the painting, the more studies I create. This helps me ensure my composition works well before I spend the time painting the final piece. Working from life is always an important part of my process. I often work from photos, but I always start out painting my subject from life, even if it’s just a quick study. This helps me achieve the most life-like results.
When setting up a still life, how do you know when it’s a great arrangement? I’m satisfied with a still life setup when my focal point is evident and the other elements don’t draw too much attention away from it.
How do you achieve color harmony in your work? Rather than inventing a color harmony, I usually strive to faithfully paint the color harmony that is naturally produced by the light on my subject.
How have you overcome one’s natural resistance to purchase figurative work, especially portraits, since the subject is unknown to the prospective collector? I’m often pleasantly surprised that when I faithfully capture the beauty that inspires me, people seem to appreciate it regardless of the subject matter.
Thanks Adam and Andrea for a wonderful interview…and for all the beauty you bring to the world.
Also, check out their blog HERE.
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE.