One could easily assume by reading George Van Hook’s responses to my interview questions that he is a quiet, few words kind of guy, who carefully and thoughtfully ponders and measures each word very carefully before speaking, and then, and only then, does he say just enough to make his point. As I learned in a short conversation with him, but more importantly from an interview he had with media mogul, Eric Rhoads, that assumption would be totally incorrect.
Van Hook is wound tight…a spring that can hardly wait to release its energy; you can actually see it in his work. He is like an inflated balloon released into the air, full of boundless energy, enthusiasm, passion, and knowledge, pent up, just waiting to be released. I think the picture of him, seen below, reflects that.
He is a voracious reader, blessed with a sharp, quick, inquisitive mind, so quick that the words coming from his mouth cannot keep up with his thoughts. If you haven’t heard his incredible interview with Eric Rhoads, you need to; you’ll know what I mean. You may access that HERE.
Even though George’s responses to my questions are short, they are to the point. I’m so grateful to him and his wife, Sue, who assembled his responses, for their contribution to this blog. Enjoy this interview. (Click on the images to enlarge).
“I think of my paintings as primarily a visual response to the selected environment, be it landscape, figure or still life. I want the color to be beautiful and the drawing firm and secure. The paintings are a marriage of external and internal forces. What emerges on the canvas should be a reflection of both the beauty of the world and the artist’s most inner response.”
When did you decide to become an artist, and how did that come about? I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. Four of the six siblings are professionally involved in the arts. It is just what we do.
What kind of training have you received? I’ve painted all of my life, studied with many people, attended several schools, but the most important training has been copying master paintings in art museums.
What would be your definition of art and what part does it play within society? My definition of art is limited. My definition of art is the very best painting I can do. What role it plays in society won’t be determined for at least two generations.
As a painter of plein air landscapes, what do you hope to communicate? The only person I need to communicate with is me. I paint to find out who I am; what the outside world sees in that is up to each one of them.
How do you go about choosing a subject; what are you looking for? Anything can be a subject. I’m not looking for subjects; I’m looking for design, color, and composition.
Since most of your work is done en plein air, when creating a landscape painting in the studio, is your approach the same; if not, how does it differ? All of my landscapes are painted en plein air; I never create a landscape in the studio. In the studio I paint figurative pieces and still life’s. My work is based on what I see.
You work on some fairly large canvases outdoors; how do you manage that; are they painted in one session? Please explain your process. Large paintings outdoors can take up to two years. I simply work on them until they are finished.
What colors are typically on your palette? My palette is ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light, cadmium orange, viridian, cad yellow medium, cad yellow light, and titanium white.
Heavy paint application and use of texture is a striking feature of your work; I’m interested in how that originated; was that something you were taught, or did it evolve naturally? I’ve always painted with a full brush and I’ve always followed the dictum – let the paint do the work. It is a natural extension of my physicality.
I believe one’s technique/style is directly tied to one’s personality; what does your style say about you? My approach is direct and purposeful.
Do you consider the process of painting more important than the result? I consider them one in the same.
What are the three major things you have learned as a painter of plein air landscapes? Three? How about three thousand ?
When selecting a subject to paint, is that selection spontaneous or more analytical?…meaning…”I like this motif because…” I am painting all of the time. The images and the painting, and my existence, are all constantly in flux.
What are the key points one needs to know when creating a true sense of atmosphere? Value, temperature, and edges
There are varying points of view as to what qualifies as a plein air painting; what’s your definition? Painting outside.
Please put these words in order: value, framing, concept, technique, composition, color, drawing. Value, concept, technique, composition, color, drawing, framing
How do you know when a painting is finished? To quote Michaelangelo, “When I am done.”
What’s in your plein air kit? Paint, brushes, panels, umbrella, French easel, bug spray.
You are primarily a landscape painter, so what benefit have you discovered when painting still life and figurative works? I trained as a figurative artist, as all western art since the renaissance is based on the figure. All good art stems from knowledge of the figure. Probably half of my work is made up of still life and figurative work.
How do you go about promoting/selling your work? From the very beginning, I’ve let galleries handle my work. It has been a very successful relationship.
Do you find it necessary to set yearly artistic goals? Absolutely not.
What has been the highlight of your artistic career to this point? Picking up a brush this morning.
If you were to teach someone to paint, how would you go about it? Draw, draw, draw, draw.
If you could spend the day with any three artists, past or present, who would they be? Sargent, Sorolla, Zorn – same as everybody.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and why? Sue, sweet, Van Hook, my wife. All great art springs from love.
How would you define “success” as an artist? To quote my marvelous artist friend, Martin Wong, “Art is not a race, it’s a marathon dance from one who is standing at the end.”
If you were stranded on an island, which three books would you want with you? I read incessantly. There are hundreds of books stacked around the house. Three is a non-starter.
To view more of George Van Hook’s work:
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