Garin Baker was raised in a home of creative parents…his father was a writer, director and filmmaker, and his mother was a creator of knit ware for McCall’s magazine. Garin remembers visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mom, and strolling through Central Park in the 60s and 70s when it was filled with antiwar demonstrators and a colorful array of people, music, and cultures. Those powerful influences remain to this day and inform his work.
In high school he was accepted into one of NYC’s specialized public high schools with a focus on art. Max Ginsburg and Irwin Greenberg were among his instructors. His studies continued at the Art Students League under Gustav Rehberger, Harvey Dinnerstein, David Leffel, Bert Silverman and Ted Seth Jacobs. Now, as an instructor at the League himself, he follows in their footsteps.
In this third and final part of an extensive interview I had with Garin, he discusses aspects of being a professional, what it takes, and the commitment involved. I’m honored he agreed to let me interview him. He has a lot to offer. If you missed Part 1 of this interview series…”Garin Baker on figurative painting” or Part 2…”Garin Baker on painting murals”…you may access them HERE and HERE. You won’t want to miss any of this three part interview. (Click images to enlarge)
It seems I’ve been creating and painting all my life.
“Growing up in New York City gave me an amazing bounty of diverse subjects in order that I might never have to repeat the same theme or subject in my work.
“In the marketplace of success for an artist, it seems one clear statement, or being well recognized for one thing or a style, is contrary to my approach. I attempt to create each piece as a new conversation with a time and place all its own. I choose the language of traditional contemporary realism to communicate my vision, because it’s the language that’s most relevant to my experience.
“The challenge for me is to combine an accurate and compelling use of light, form, and color with a fascinating subject…a slice of life; this enables me to document a universal vision of humanity and of our times, and on a deeper level, engaging in a dialog of what it means to be alive as the ultimate expression. If successful, I hope to encourage the viewer towards embracing their own fascination for people, places, and their own sense of awe for our collective human experience.”
How does one find their individuality as an artist? Through authenticity, honesty, and searching for their deeper individual and universal truth; all else will develop and come over time with focused determination and painting miles. Personal style and pictorial sensibilities can be enhanced and pushed. Technique, methodologies, formulas and gimmicks are easily taught, but if a passionate artist wants to stand apart from most of the mediocre works seen everywhere these days, they must be willing to tell a unique and compelling personal story about who they are as an artist. They must be courageous enough to say what they truly feel through their work. Other than that, most others will be nice paintings that will appeal to many and garner many ‘likes’ online with possible sales as well. And, if that’s what an artist is interested in, within a few years of effort and a strategic marketing plan all that will come to pass. However, the former is a long term struggle but so much more rewarding in terms of a life’s work…truly offering something of our times for future generations of artists to learn from.
How does one learn to paint with accuracy and speed? Regular weekly life drawing sessions, repetition and thousands of wipe outs. Get yourself in the batting cage and swing away! It’s is the only proven way to increase you faculties, mechanics, fluidity, internalized skills, and average of successful paintings. Great athletes make it look effortless, as do great painters.
For someone wanting to become a professional fine artist, what three things would you consider critical to their attaining that goal? That’s really not that difficult. Finding someone to pay you for your craft is easy. It’s consistency, and making a livable income over many years solely derived from you art, that’s the real challenge. I suppose the three things that are crucial and/or critical are:1) A personal vision, 2) A consistent level of quality, 3) A regular output.
Being intelligent and consistent, putting your fears aside by getting your work in front of as many potential audiences as possible is important as well. Also, making it easy for a potential clients or buyers to communicate with you. Presenting a client with clear and concise pricing is a big plus!. Contract and copyright awareness also helps, as well as an organized billing and payment system. I guess it’s more than three things, but all have helped me to have relatively consistent sales through commissioned works and public art murals.
All of the above are no guarantee, and many professional artists that I know personally, have had several avenues of income. I basically call it a four legged stool: commissions, sales, teaching, workshops/videos. Any combination of these, and possibly a steady job when you’re starting out, is a good and prudent formula…if there is such a thing.
What does your typical workday look like? I’m up pretty early, between 5-6AM. I try to get most of my emailing, computer work, postings, promotion, and correspondence done by 9-10AM. Because of a fairly busy teaching schedule at the Art Students League, at least two days a week I’m heading to the City to teach. Now, during Covid, for my Zoom classes, I set up a digital broadcast, preparing for a painting demonstration or a slide show lecture that features some of the great art done throughout history. At least four days a week, I focus on my own work…several studio paintings in progress, commissions, or plein air painting. Weekends, before Covid, I usually scheduled a model to come to my studio for a painting session or for a group painting session. In Spring and Autumn, I schedule several weekend workshops here at our place in the Lower Hudson Valley. We have a large 1790 property and we’re always renovating the old stone house and studio. My wife, Clara, and I often invite artists and students to visit for a couple of days so we can paint along the Hudson River or from a model in the studio. We shop at local farms and prepare meals together with our guests. With the availability of several wineries in the area, that’s a major plus. Basically however, we create art and enjoy each other’s company. We’ve had some marvelous times over the years during these special weekends, sharing art, life and good times with other artists, students and friends.
For more of Garin Baker’s work, click HERE.
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