I first met Amanda Lovett several years ago when I was teaching a workshop in Dahlonega, GA at Anita Elder’s Art Loft. The workshop dealt with the basics of fine art painting with an emphasis on value and color. Prior to the workshop I spent weeks preparing my color lesson by creating color wheels, color swatches, and paintings using every major division of the color wheel I could think of. The end result was 46 wheels, swatches and paintings. The paintings were all of the same subject with the same value structure and composition; all that changed was the palette. When all that work was laid out on two tables, the students couldn’t believe it. Their immediate response was, “John, you must do a book.” I thought, yes, that would be nice but I did not have the means to accomplish such a task. Amanda, one of the students in the class, was particularly taken by the teaching. As I learned later, it totally changed the way she thought about color and has influenced all her work since.
Some years later, Eric Rhoads of Streamline Publishing saw what I had created and immediately said, “We need to do a book.” It was an amazing encounter. A book was something I’d hoped for but never really expected to ever happen. But, when I found out I was responsible for everything…writing, design, editing, photography, and production ready material, I was pretty discouraged, not knowing how in the world I could do this. This is when Amanda and her sister, Robin stepped forward and said the book was too important not to be published.
As long as I live, I will never have enough good to say of these two ladies. They are amazing. lovely, talented people who generously gave a year of their lives dedicated to seeing the fulfillment of this project. To them I bow in gratitude.
Amanda is a very talented artist, confirmed recently by the Oil Painters of America. Here’s her story. Enjoy. (Click images to enlarge)
How and when did art enter your life? I first became aware of my aptitude for art in elementary school when teachers would pull me out of class to create their bulletin boards. I realized its importance in my life when I was chosen to participate in the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program. I spent a semester between my junior and senior year in high school at Valdosta State College living art.
When did you feel you could confidently call yourself an artist; what was the turning point? For me, the turning point was when I realized I was turning down graphic design jobs in order to keep up with my painting commissions and inventory.
Becoming a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America has been an important goal of yours; how long did it take you to achieve it, and what was your response when notified? I was introduced to Oil Painters of America in 2008 and was immediately taken by the quality of work. It was that level of skill that made Signature status a goal I knew I had to achieve. When the letter came stating I had reached that goal, I read it, then I read it again, then realized I needed to breathe. I felt all the things you would expect, happy, excited and honored, but I also felt a quiet sense of accomplishment.
Why do you consider attaining such a goal in Oil Painters of America is an important and significant achievement? To have an organization of OPA’s stature acknowledge your focus, dedication and skill by saying you stand out among so many of your peers is huge in my opinion.
What do you want to accomplish as an artist and how do you propose to achieve it? I’m a story teller. I want to tell as many stories as I can, as well as I can, and affect as many people as I can. Like most artists, I am always looking for ways to have my work seen and sold. That’s the goal, but for me, the journey really is the reward. I believe one reason people are willing to spend their hard earned money to purchase art is because it affects them emotionally in some way. Art, much like a scent, a taste or a song, can trigger fond memories and evoke great emotions for people. The accomplishment for me is spending my time constantly growing as an artist and finding more ways to make that emotional connection. In order to be able to do that, I have tried to find a balance between the pursuit of artistic excellence and the ability to self-promote, gain recognition and create financial stability. Gaining my Signature Status with OPA, has been a significant part of my plan to gain recognition.
I have to admit, I am a competitive person, and I use that drive to push myself to try harder. I set very specific goals, I actively seek out critiques from artists I respect, and I paint, and paint, and paint. I do the work and those efforts are proving to be very rewarding as I grow as an artist.
Apart from creating paintings and selling them, what other aspects of being a professional artist present the most difficulty? I would have to say time. There are so many ideas in my head and there are only so many hours to paint.
What is your preferred subject matter? That’s a tough one. I have never been great at narrowing that down because I am normally all about two things- the textures I see and the way light hits an object. The subject I am looking for is more in the narrative. If you forced me to pick one, I would probably say animals, primarily horses and dogs, but it pains me to even say that because I immediately think of twenty other subjects I get excited about! No matter the subject though, for me, it’s about the story.
Do you think artists should focus on one genre or paint a variety of subjects; what suggestions do you have for those uncertain about what they should be painting? Well I think I just blew that idea right out of the water, but that is a very personal thing. I have been told over and over “you need to narrow yourself down to one subject matter so everyone will recognize your work.” I totally understand the logic behind that way of thinking, but it just doesn’t work for me. I find my versatility is one the things that keeps my painting fresh and exhilarating for me. I want to stay excited and passionate about my work, otherwise, how can I expect the viewer to be? As far as my art being recognized, I feel each of us have our own unique style. Over time, it will develop the same way our signature does. Now that being said, I do at least categorize my work, and I find myself going through phases where I will paint more of one category than another.
You paint in plein air and in the studio, why are both important? When I first began painting, I was strictly a studio painter, but it didn’t take me long to discover the importance of painting from life in general. Whether you work in the studio or en plein air, real life observation is the best way to grow.
The skills you develop from both studio and plein air can uniquely contribute to each other. I could give you a long list of benefits from each, but I would rather recommend a painter who has not experienced one or the other to discover the benefits for themselves.
Do you normally have a concept in mind when beginning a painting? Always. I spend a great deal of time planning and developing a painting before a brush ever hits the canvas. Granted, it sometimes has a life of its own and may go in a different direction than originally planned, but there is always a “why.”
Please describe your typical painting process? In the studio, it’s “music please,” oh, and hot coffee. When I am plein air painting, I prefer hearing what’s around me and the coffee is in a thermos. Yeah, coffee is nonnegotiable. Either way, each painting seems to dictate its own process. Some scenes I recognize immediately, I can jump right to canvas and they almost seem to paint themselves. Others start with an image, a location, an idea or an item that has a story to be told.
Most often I begin with sketches, sometimes a lot of sketches. These may then turn into color sketches. At times I will paint color studies using different limited palettes so I can see which best portrays what I have in mind. In the studio, these are normally thirty minute studies on gessoed paper; in the field, little three-inch ten minute color studies. I usually do a value study and then begin to paint. At times, I may begin with a thin color block in. I tend to paint thin and somewhat transparent in the beginning until I work out most of the issues, and then I start to build certain key areas with thicker paint for more texture.
I never want to get stagnant, so I have begun sketching in numerous different mediums, and find myself constantly experimenting.
You took a workshop from me several years ago in which I taught extensively the use of a limited palette, and you were an instrumental partner in the creation of my book, Limited Palette, Unlimited Color; how have you personally benefited from the use of a limited palette? You know that proverbial light everyone talks about? Well there ya go! It’s like you have been playing in the minors and all of a sudden someone gives you the training to try out for the big leagues.
Your approach to painting with a limited palette took what, for me, seemed like a complicated and somewhat scary subject and made it so simple it became second nature. I no longer overthink color; instead, I take a small amount of time painting my small color studies so I can have a very clear idea how I want the overall painting to look. The most wonderful part is, once you have worked out those decisions ahead of time, you can relax and paint with a much higher level of confidence, which ultimately shows up in your work. When you have painted with a limited palette for a while, you will find that when you do paint with a larger palette, for whatever reason, you will have a greater understanding of your color goals and how to achieve them. As a whole, I will most likely never stop using some form of a limited palette- the payoff is simply too great.
On a side note, working with you to create your book “Limited Palette, Unlimited Color” was one of the single biggest creative accomplishments of my life. When we started, I was a little afraid I was behind the curve, having chosen to leave the graphic design industry in 2004 to pursue my art full time. To me, it is one of the best examples of passion and desire, driving us to a higher level than either of us knew we were capable. I could not be more proud of the work we put into this book or the fantastic job my sister, Robin Atkins, did on the editing. It was a labor of love and I thank you for the privilege of being a part of such an amazing project.
You’re continuously experimenting with color and what works for you; what colors are you typically putting on your palette today? Currently I am in my Alizarin Permanent, Cad Yellow light, Cobalt Blue and White phase. But I also love to randomly use very different palettes as long as I have a warm, a cool, and white. I painted one series using Ivory Black, Burnt Umber, Winsor&Newton Light Red, plus White; it gave me a really fun effect, just beautiful harmony.
Please put these words in order of importance for you: Color, Technique, Concept, Framing, Drawing, Value, and Composition. Concept, Composition, Drawing, Value, Color, Technique and Framing.
You are teaching others how to paint; please share how you teach a workshop and what three things you most want to impart to your students. I teach a variety of subjects in my workshops, each designed with a rather specific focus. I begin by asking the facility hosting my class which of the workshops best fits the expressed needs of their students. If it’s a topic that seems a bit daunting for them, I try to make it interesting. For example, I have one workshop called ‘Barrels and Bushels’. Sounds fun, right? Well it is. It’s also my way of sliding in a great lesson in perspective without scaring my students away. No matter the subject chosen, there are some constants I make sure to provide in every workshop.
I always begin with a question-and-answer session, with me beginning the process by asking key questions to get a feel for everyone’s skill level. With that information in mind, I decide the approach to my demo, and determine how far I take it before I encourage my students to get started with the problem solving phase. The class will continue to evolve based on the needs of the students, combining instruction, demos and hands-on painting.
To answer your question about the three things I most want to impart to my students, I begin by sharing with them the importance of working with a limited palette so they have a better understanding of color and how to use it to their advantage. Next would be the process of focusing on one area of weakness at a time, whether it be values, drawing, color mixing, etc., and develop the skills they need to turn that weakness into a strength before they move forward. I suggest available practices in a number of these areas to help them get started. Finally, I want my students to comprehend the importance of improving their drawing skills. Draw, draw, draw- it’s one of the best ways to grow as an artist.
When teaching, what do your students struggle with the most; how do you help them overcome those weaknesses? Perspective seems to be the biggest struggle. I have a simplified approach to perspective that takes the fear away and reveals to my students how easy it actually is once they grasp certain aspects. When the dread is removed, it’s all about using the practices I provide to improve their work.
Brushwork is another subject for which my students request help. I have found encouraging them to put more paint on their palettes and mixing larger puddles really helps. Also, by showing them alternate ways to hold their brush, they see a big difference in their application of paint.
Another struggle would be understanding color. I spend a lot of time teaching mixing, creating color harmony and using a limited palette. You can imagine where I got my criteria for teaching this subject.
If you could spend a day with any three artists, past or present, whom would they be and why? If you are talking about artist I haven’t met, I would say Morgan Weistling, James Gurney and Mark Boedges. The reason: Their amazing skill level and personalities.
True artists are always their toughest critics; what do you consider your current weaknesses and in what direction do you see your work evolving over the next few years? Paint application is what I struggle with most, and I would say it is my main area of focus at the moment. I am working to add more atmosphere and movement in my work.
You just met one of your very important goals, what other artistic goals do you have? I find setting goals so motivational; my list is endless and very personal. I have never been one to share what I am shooting for; instead, I simply use it as that bar I am always trying to reach. I can say I will continue working to gain recognition within Oil Painters of America and aim for my Master Signature Membership Status.
You have a ton of stuff going on in your life right now, from building a new garage to welcoming your first grandchild; what in the world does a typical day look like these days? There is no such thing as a typical day for me. The last several years have put my family and I through some major life changes. Let’s just say I am very hands-on and have been true to my nature with every task we have faced. To mention a couple of the more positive tasks, my sister and I decided to tile their 2400 square foot basement after having designed and contracted the rest of the basement finish. Next, my husband and I designed and contracted the detached three car garage you mentioned and even installed all of the electrical ourselves. Finally, after having the driveway poured, which included a sidewalk to my studio, I can now put most of my focus back on my art. Taking on huge projects like this does wonders for your confidence, and as crazy as it sounds, has made a huge impact on my art. I’m taking this new confidence seriously with the understanding I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Whether I am in the studio, plein air painting or working on a project that has nothing to do with my art, I find myself problem solving. That skill alone is invaluable and can be directly aimed at my canvas. So to reiterate, there really is no such thing as a typical day. It’s all go in my world and I’m very grateful.
Now to the biggest blessing in my world, my new grandson. He has brought so much magic and joy to my life. There are simply no words to describe how I feel about him, but I am betting you will all be seeing him on my canvas in the very near future.
Thanks, Amanda, for a wonderful interview.
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I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)
For those that have purchased the book, I invite you to join our new Facebook Group – “Limited Palette Unlimited Color”. If you qualify, I hope you’ll join us. Check us out on Facebook. HERE is the link.
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE.