Bill Davidson was recently a featured guest on the Artists Helping Artists program, the #1 Art Show on Blogtalk Radio, hosted by Leslie Saeta.
Should I therefore be surprised that he gave me a helping hand when an upcoming workshop I was to teach in the Atlanta area was coming up a couple of students short of my minimum? Due to an email blast sent to his fans, the class filled and we had a great workshop.
It’s this giving and sharing attitude that Davidson carries with him into his own workshops. “The number one thing I want to get across in my workshops is to make my students feel comfortable”, he says, “to help them overcome doubt and fear about their work.”
Stressing the importance of having a positive attitude and surrounding yourself with like- minded people, he tells artists that positive people will help you make small incremental steps toward success. Workshops and positive teachers and critiques will pave the path for a more optimistic view and will allay your fears. “Don’t be afraid; many other people have done it, so can you. It just takes gaining knowledge, observing great art, putting ‘miles on the paintbrush’, and being ignited in a forward direction. Always ask what makes a painting good? I love being around the people who are confident they can do it.”
A former trial attorney who has only been a professional artist for eight years, I wanted to learn more about Davidson and am pleased to share it with you.
I really encourage you to listen to Davidson’s radio interview. It’s chocked full of great insights and inspiration. Here’s the LINK.
You recently gave an excellent radio interview for the “Artists Helping Artists” program hosted by Leslie Saeta and Dottie Leatherwood. One of the many great points you made during the interview was the importance of positive self-talk. Artists tend to be pretty hard on themselves, me included. Explain what you mean by positive self-talk as opposed to the alternative. Positive self talk, is what the most successful people in life do, according to modern psychological studies.The love and joy of living must permeate your work…an AAA life: Awareness, Appreciation and Abundance. Most of us grew up believing hard work and happiness could not coexist. I worked 60 to 80 hour weeks when younger. Modern psychology has now proved that most successful people, in all areas of their life, are happier people. They have learned how to work smarter not harder. Simplifying, prioritizing and organizing, they seem to do well. They have learned to surround themselves by positive, supportive people; they appreciate the good things, focus on the good in their work, and the good people in their life. Being around positive and supportive people makes life sooooo much easier. There is no guilt and criticism. We all need to see the good we did in paintings and not just the issues yet to be resolved. Focusing on the negative, or what has not been accomplished, causes insecurity. We must enjoy the journey because we never really get there; we are always raising the bar. If you recognize what you have done well, you stay motivated and life actually becomes joyful and your paintings improve more quickly…a novel idea to most of us. Assuming you had two teachers of the same knowledge and skill level…one made you feel good about yourself and your art journey, the other did not… which one would you pick? Richard Schmid had a great line…and I am paraphrasing, “Don’t berate yourself, just learn what works and try to repeat it.” Keep a sense of humor in your life, take your career seriously but not yourself. Nobody likes an ass or diva, they are driven by insecurity.
How has your former career as a trial lawyer helped or hindered you as you pursue your current career as a fine artist? As a trial lawyer, we had to learn to take complicated matters and simplify them to a sixth grade level. We learned life was not fair, whining or complaining was useless and could become an excuse for not taking personal responsibility. ART IS A COMPLICATED PROCESS, yet when broken down simply, our chance of success increases substantially. It is important to get the mind of your teachers so that you can understand what they’re thinking; this will enable you to repeat the process. Demonstrations are great, but when the teacher explains in simple communication the thought process of creating that piece of art, the student’s growth seems to accelerate rapidly. Setting up the bones of a painting is quite logical, and the passion or spirit that motivated the painting gives inner life to the structure.
You place great importance on personal discipline in one’s life. How does that manifest in your daily life as an artist? Personal discipline. That’s a funny one. We are all human and will power usually fails us, hence, failed New Years’ resolutions. It is only rituals and systems that provide success. Baby steps.You can’t turn a massive ship overnight. I laugh at myself because I always say, “I start the day well and I finish poorly.” Positive internal motivation is the key. I know when I wake up that I will have coffee in bed, read healthy books, try to get my mind positive, and work on my gratitude. I also know I will physically work out 5 days a week because internally it makes me feel better. The added benefit: it’s healthier and uplifts my attitude. It is a ritual now, because it is done most mornings at the same time with similar but varied exercises. I don’t kill myself but slowly increase and vary the exercise while listening to music and becoming aware of how much better I’m feeling, or will feel.
My art is similar to this. I have a process when I paint. I may listen to music, while also taking a lot of breaks…all this in order to come back with fresh eyes, preventing me from making mindless mistakes. The focus of painting “well” requires fresh concentration. Of course, I don’t always enjoy it, but I am slowly trying to remedy that. If one does not push themselves enough they get bored, but pushing too much causes anxiety. The keys to success are rituals, systems, and baby steps , not will power.
Your work reflects the influence of one of your mentors, Scott Christensen, how does one wade through such deep waters in an effort to find their own unique voice? At first we all have teachers, usually one or two will have a strong influence, but that is how we all learn.There is a great book out about how we all borrow from everyone. You have your own voice and passion, unless you are just copying. Your vision naturally becomes stronger as you mature as an artist. Its nice to always be asking, “What do I love to paint and how would I love for it to look?” Your style seems to find you, just like your signature. You will probably be the last person to see it. I see artists that have been influenced by the Hudson River painters for example, but you can see the uniqueness of each individual as they mature and find answers to the above questions.
You believe that one of the most difficult problems to solve as a painter is to create interesting shapes. Please explain what you mean and how you go about solving that problem. A gallery owner told me people see shapes first. Since I was not good at shapes, I did not want to believe that, and for years I had to keep repeating that statement. Da Vinci said, the more varied shapes you have in your repertoire the better you become. An instructor told me if I did value studies for two years I would greatly improve. Both were saying the same thing. By using a warm tonal, I lay out the big shapes in values without the complication of color. I may even work out the shapes within the big value shapes. In effect, you design the painting without the complications of color. Students in my workshops ALWAYS do better when focusing on their shapes and values without having to juggle color at the same time. Get the bones right. DESIGN DESIGN DESIGN. Good abstract design underlies every painting.
Your paintings generally come across as highly dramatic and emotionally charged. How much of that is a result of imagination, field studies, or photography? I like for people to find that my paintings are dramatic and emotionally charged. I try not to paint the painting unless I am strongly motivated. In the field I will wait until something really moves me before I begin. I have only done two commissions in my life and the clients allowed me to design the paintings. Rarely do I base my paintings on photography. My field studies are my basis, and they are primarily for motivation, colors and values. I use my imagination to reset the shapes to suit what I am trying to say to the viewer and to make a more interesting set of shapes that support my motivating idea..
You are currently working with Gamblin in creating a new line of greens. How did that come about; how exactly do you work with them; how will the greens differ from what’s already on the market, and when are they expected to be released? When demonstrating and painting at the Plein Air Convention, Gamblin provided my paints. They are artists working with artists…a great company with a wonderful consistency of viscosity in their paints. I feel there is a need for better greens, and a few other colors in the market. I find almost all greens on the market are either too garish or too gray. Next week, I am sending them a couple of batches I have mixed that I think will be easier to use when painting landscapes. I mix with the idea of being able to adjust these greens to other temperatures and variations, but there will be a general value for light and for shade in trees. The feedback from my students, in over 60 workshops, is that it has helped them get a better read of their greens and values while learning. If they want, they can mix from the primaries, but this is time consuming and hard at first, because we all see greens and blues as stronger than they really are in nature. There are more reds and browns in greens that are not so obvious. Garish greens can kill a painting. I am unsure of the release date and will know more in next few weeks. I always watch and ask the students to see what works the very best.
What are your goals for 2014? My goals for 2014 are more intrinsic. Try to come alive more, try to be more aware of what I love to paint and how to better transform that energy into how I would love it to look. Like Robert Henri says, and I paraphrase, “Live first and than invent techniques to convey your excitement.” I recently painted a plein air piece overlooking Newport, RI and I was able to fall back on what I knew and make a somewhat decent painting. My buddy asked what did I think of it, and I said “boring”. That means it is time to experiment outside my comfort zone. I also always want to keep upgrading and simplifying my teaching methods. There is a great joy in seeing all the others around you succeed greatly. You have to think in abundance. There are plenty of awards , shows , galleries, and sales for us all. As we all raise our levels and our synergy spurs each other on to greater heights, the world will rise to meet the fresher work. I understand the true purpose of goals is to keep you moving in the right direction but not to restrict you. How can one be creative if they say I will paint 40 paintings this year, or that I must have so much in sales. It is quality, classy living that seems worth pursuing on a deeper level. I believe that will give us more pleasure and meaning.
Do you have any shows coming up? I have no shows upcoming, I took on some large galleries this year and I was under pressure enough to provide works. I will be painting in July with the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters in Jackson Hole. A great group of highly talented painters. I have never seen that area so beautifully painted as last year’s show.
Thanks, Bill, for sharing your thoughts with my readers. You are appreciated. To see more of Davidson’s work, click HERE.
Next week, please don’t miss it…a two-part interview with the incredible Jeff Haynie, a master of FANTASY.
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE