JOHN POTOTSCHNIK FINE ART

Art Journey America: Landscapes

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FW Media’s North Light Books has just released a new book, Art Journey America: Landscapes. I was one of 89 landscape painters invited to participate. Only in America was selected to be represented in this beautiful, nicely designed book.

“From the grandeur of mountains, red rock canyons, desert vistas and ocean shores to the quiet beauty of farmlands, forests and streams, Art Journey America: Landscapes is a shining celebration of the variety and vastness of it all…a love letter to America from the artists who call it home.” 


In preparation for the book, each artist was asked to submit their answers to a series of questions. Following are my answers.

Background info:

Living and working in Wylie, TX:  My wife and I  moved to Texas from California in 1972.  We moved to Wylie in 1980. We first heard of the small Texas town NE of Dallas when it was only 4000 people. We had a dream of living in the country and building a house. We did both in 1980 and have been here ever since. When we first moved here, I was working as a freelance illustrator. I began my fine art career in 1982. Wylie’s population is now in excess of 54000.

 
Hobbies: a) Cycling: I used to race bicycles when I was younger…for about 13 years. Was part of the 1971 US cycling team that participated in the World Road Racing Championships in Leicester, England. Still enjoy riding the bike for exercise. b) Gardening/yard work: enjoy planting, mowing, digging in the dirt, watching things grow. Just about anything to do with the yard and garden, I enjoy.

 

Only in America  –  18″x 24″  –  Oil on canvas
 

1.  What is it about this particular subject that inspired you to paint it?

All the subjects I paint are motivated by personal experience. I paint things I know but also things that create positive emotions and memories within me. Several things appealed to me about this scene, the primary one being the house itself. I have always been attracted to structures and at one time actually considered becoming an architect. There’s nothing spectacular about the house but in the warm morning light and context of the neighborhood, it created a sense of stability and safety. A little extra push from me through the addition of the family car and children happily playing…and “Only in America” was born.
 
2.  Why is American landscape painting important today, in the 21st century?

Painting the American landscape of our day is valuable, for it is a visual record of our time. It also leaves a record of the style of painting fashionable at the time and tells future viewers something of what the artist and culture considered important. For viewers of today, a well crafted landscape painting can be a means of escape. It can transport the viewer to another time or place and help them recall and experience happy memories. It can show them things in a new way that they may have taken for granted, and it can transport them to places they have never been.

3.  In what locations do you paint?  Why?

Small towns, farms, open rural spaces of America are my favorite locations to paint. I have an emotional connection to these subjects because they generate happy memories and are all part of my formative years. They also represent, for me, all the positive aspects of family, community, security, trust, hope, productivity, independence and freedom.
 
4.  Do you prefer particular seasons or times of day?  Why?
I enjoy depicting every season at all times of the day. I especially enjoy those periods of transition…changing seasons and weather. I like it when nature most obviously expresses itself…early morning or late evening, or when it’s rainy, misty, hazy, foggy, stormy or snowing.
 
5.  How would you describe your style (realistic, abstract, minimal, impressionistic, etc.)?

My work is definitely realistic. Others have classified it as Naturalism. I like that designation, but in reality the work does not fit the true definition of the word. More accurately the style is realistic with a subtle dose of idealistic interpretation.

 
6.  Do any historical movements, periods or artists inspire your painting?

The period of art I am most attracted to would be just about anything from the mid-1800’s through the early 1900’s. The painters of Barbizon, France…particularly Corot, Millet, and Daubigny…continue to be inspirational.

 
7.  Is your painting inspired by spirituality, and if so, how is that seen in your art?

Creativity is first and foremost a gift of God. Being created in God’s image makes every creative endeavor somewhat of a spiritual event. As a child of God, and one who believes He intimately loves individuals, I believe He leads and helps me with every painting decision from start to finish.

 
8.  How do you plan your compositions?
All painting compositions are determined by the concept. What one wants to say and what format and organization of the subject matter elements will best describe the concept is the issue. Rather than follow prescribed “rules” of composition, the final “floor plan” is determined by affirmatively answering two questions: a) Does it feel balanced? b) Does the composition effectively and clearly express all that I desire?
Within every composition, I look for diversity, diversity of value, shapes, edges, size, detail, and color…and yet all working together to form a beautiful, harmonious, cohesive whole.
 
9.  Do you paint en plein air?  What practical advice do you have for those who would like to try it? 
Yes, I do work in plein air. I view my plein air work as an opportunity to study and learn, all for the purpose of improving my studio work. My recommendation would be for plein air painters to keep it simple. Carry out into the field only what you need and organize it as compactly as possible. Limit the palette to just the primaries, plus white. Work on small, light weight supports…a size that can be completed in no more than two hours. Have a sturdy, wide stance easel…and look for shade.
 
10.  What medium(s) do you use, and what are your main technique(s) (e.g., layering, impasto, etc)?

I seldom use a medium but when I do, liquin is preferred. I use a number of block-in techniques but most consistently I begin with a raw umber monochromatic, fully developed block-in. Generally using a very limited palette of just the primaries, local color is developed while matching the already established values of the monochromatic. The painting is developed in layers with most details and impasto reserved for last.

 
11.  What’s your best advice to students on painting landscapes?
Certainly, if one desires to be a landscape painter, they must be a student of nature and all its subtle nuances. The best way to study nature/landscape is to paint in plein air. I don’t believe plein air painting is the be-all, end-all but it certainly is a necessary beginning, becoming a lifelong habit. Really, the subject is not that important, for the principles of good painting are not dependent on the subject. A clear concept, effective composition, accurate drawing (proportion and perspective), simple value structure, and supportive, harmonious color are all necessary ingredients for producing a noteworthy landscape…or cityscape, portrait, or still life. 
 
12.  What does landscape painting teach us about life and art?
Landscape painting, no matter how beautiful cannot begin to capture the true, amazing beauty, subtlety, and variety of this planet. Only a fool would say this just evolved without a wise designer, or that it came about by accident. At best, our efforts as landscape painters are a poor, superficial imitation, for unlike nature, they have no inherent life within them. The power of landscape painting rests in its ability to capture a moment in time, recall a memory, transport the viewer to another time and place, stir the imagination and evoke aesthetic emotions within us.

Landscape painting has little to say about art in general, for it is merely a subject for the artist’s personal expression. But ART as a subject is huge. The very ability to imagine, to create and communicate in this very individual and unique way is evidence of a personal Creator who has endowed each one of us with something of God’s likeness. With that comes a responsibility. With a heart of thankfulness, we should respect, appreciate, develop, and use the gift in a way that honors the One who gave it.

Typical of two-page spread representing each of the 89 artists in Art Journey America: Landscapes

 

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