“Being an artist is, one part calling and one part choice,” says master still life painter, Jeremy Goodding. “Ultimately, I was created to be an artist and I live with a certain compulsion that I can’t escape. My choice is to align with it. This takes study and determination. Painting is something that I love doing. It is fulfilling in its own unique way. I have a deep appreciation of beauty, discovery, and personal growth. Painting provides all of these things, and more. Every painting is an experience of new expectation. It’s like crossing over a hill and getting to see into the expanse.”
Goodding’s paintings are extremely exquisite, elegant and sensitive. They appear simple in concept, but don’t be fooled, what Goodding achieves in his work is far beyond simple. “Painting has a way of really humbling you. Just when you think you’ve got it, you see the how much further you have to go! This can lead to periods of doubt where all I see is what is lacking in my work. The positive side of this is that I usually fall back on my propensity to search for answers. If I look for answers, it is common to find them. Being an artist is a vast endeavor with unlimited options. This can be difficult but it is also what keeps me engaged.”
Goodding strives to create paintings with a captivating visual idea through the abstract beauty of paint while retaining the essence of reality. The paintings are sensitive, yet dynamic, using the subtle drama of light, color, and movement. His paintings incorporate subject matter, harmoniously arranged, from pottery to simple leaves.
It’s such an honor to bring you this fascinating interview with the brilliant painter, Jeremy Goodding.
Why are you a still life painter? There are a number of reasons. First, I really enjoy the outdoors and nature but I seem to thrive in the stillness of the studio where deep focus can take over. I prefer painting from life. Still life subject matter lends itself well to the “light and shadow” style that I enjoy so much. There is complete control over every element. I like the fact that every painting is composed from the ground up. It can be difficult to do this day after day but my paintings always tell me the truth about my level of understanding. With time, the world will eventually see me paint some portrait, figure and landscape but still life will likely retain it’s place at the forefront.
How would you describe your style? I see myself as light and shadow painter.
That style, your lighting and compositions, make your work very distinctive; how did that come about? Dramatic light has always captivated me, so this was pretty foundational from the beginning. I’m really attracted to light beaming into a dark room from a window or peering through the clouds to illuminate part of a landscape. One turning point for me was realizing I could manipulate light/shadow in a meaningful way. Leading the eye through a composition can be done with props but the power seems to always be in the light and shadow. This realization got me started with a more limited use of props. I kept asking myself, “Does this leaf or stone really need to be here?” I started eliminating things until the visual idea had real clarity to me. The other part of this is simply listening to one’s inner voice and getting to the bottom of what resonates with you.
I want my work to communicate the presence of light and form with quiet strength, balanced simplicity, truthfulness and humility. Ultimately, I hope to communicate a sense of profoundness and draw attention to the existence of beauty and truth that is ultimately from God’s hand.
Are all your paintings done from life? Yes, every painting starts with a “still life scene”. This serves as my reference point for most of the painting. As the work progresses, I find myself relying on the physical “scene” less and less. The painting eventually starts to tell me what it needs. This is when things really get fun and work moves beyond the literal.
Your drawing is perfect; what advice do you have for those who struggle with drawing similar objects? Focus on size, placement, proportion and symmetry. Find a way to break your visual bias. I do this by turning paintings on their side or upside down frequently. If you look at it right side up for too long, the drawing starts to look correct even when it is wrong.
What’s your thinking about composition; what principles do you always adhere to? My compositions center around a clear idea. It can’t get complicated or have too many things competing for attention. Coming up with a visual idea is a matter of watching relationships between all the various aspects of the scene while I construct it. I don’t think much about compositional rules other than to say that the eye needs a way in, a path forward and a place to rest. To some extent, I try to balance compositional weight side to side and top to bottom. I’m always amazed when the composition takes shape. You can tell you have something good when the scene relaxes and you can sense the logic.
You have taken what many might consider simple pottery and presented it in an extremely elegant manner; what artistic principles are you using to achieve that? I’m grateful to hear that my work is interpreted as being elegant. The first thing that comes to mind is restraint. Usually, the most elegant solution is a simple one. I try to restrain myself from starting a painting prematurely, before I have a clear vision of what I want to communicate. It takes restraint to stick to that vision; not getting side-tracked by tangents that don’t contribute. The temptation to make things more complicated is a powerful force. Also, elegance is lost when you do too much of something. It can be too many hard edges or too many soft edges, too much filled spaced or too much negative space.
Each painting should enrich, bless, and evoke a sense of wonder concerning truth, the natural world, the world of the painter, and life.
Your subject, composition, color, and lighting are very consistent from one painting to another; you must have strong feelings about being recognized for doing one thing really well? There are two things at work here. First, I think this “look” is rooted in being true to myself and what I want see in my work, at this time. Second, is the affirmation of others. I feel incredibly blessed to paint what I love while hearing that people are inspired and blessed by it.
Each object in your paintings has a strongly defined form which gives them great solidity and presence; how is form created? Form is a major part of communicating reality because of the three-dimensional illusion it creates. Form is largely a matter of managing the transition between values. There are three areas where I try to watch these transitions closely.
First, is the edge between the light side and the dark side. Some objects have a gentle turn, so this transition is going have more light bleeding over the edge before the light completely slips off the surface, resulting in shadow. In this case, I pull paint from the light side up to the shadow and soften the edge where they meet. If the form is large and has a gentle turn, the edge will be soft and broad.
Second, is the transition from the highlight to the form. It needs to have an edge but too much edge, or the form will feel flat. Pulling some of the highlight out gives the impression of light striking the surface and pouring over the form.
Third, getting reflected light in a shadow can be really fun. I see a lot of painters over shooting values here. Take care to keep the value well below the light side of the form. Since this area is part of the shadow it has to continue to recede.
Fourth, is paying close attention to values. If the light side gets too light it will blow out and advance too far beyond the dark side. Conversely, if the dark side is too dark it will suck in and feel like a hole in the form.
One other thing to watch is relative temperature. I usually interpret light as being cool and shadow and as being warm. This relationship causes the light to advance and the shadow to recede; this contributes to the sense of dimension.
For something to be art, it needs to be the result of creative effort and skill. I see art all around me, from the creation of the natural world to the things we humans assemble. Painting is my place for creation and the expression of what I see and what moves me.
You obviously have strong opinions about keeping the light and shadow separate; do you assign a certain range of values to each? You are correct about keeping light and shadow separate. I make my best guess on the value range early in the painting and refine this as the painting develops. I try to be sensitive to the mood that I want to create while taking some risk with how close together or how far apart I might be able to push the values, while keeping in mind what is necessary to communicate form.
What method do you use when transitioning from shadow to light? I treat this transition as an edge that varies in it’s hardness, depending on how fast the form turns. Faster turning forms generally have harder edges. Color is also more neutral at the point of transition due to the small amount of light that stretches over the beginning of the shadow.
Most of your paintings depict the light coming from the top/left, why that choice? It creates a left to right movement where the eye can move across the top of things with ease. Also, it helps define monolithic form with edges naturally placed against the background and a strong shadow that grounds the object on it’s foundation. It is not the only way to light a still life but I find that it works well for me.
You must have a large collection of beautiful vessels; what do you look for when selecting them, and what makes them beautiful to you? I do, and it is growing all the time. I look for shape, texture, color, pattern or anything distinctive that can be developed. I like pieces that show some age along with contemporary studio pottery.
Do the vessels themselves have intrinsic beauty or is it more how you portray them? Sometimes, a particular vessel is perfect like it is. Others are adjusted in various ways. It could be the embellishment of a lesser quality or a redesign of the shape pattern, color or texture.
Please explain your painting process. The construction of the “scene” is really the beginning of the painting. Once this is done, I choose the size of the linen panel. Next, I paint in the size and placement of the objects with very simple massing. From here, I usually start estimating the shadow values before laying in light and color. Most often, I work on the area of the primary object and move out from there. My process isn’t always set in stone. I have found that when the “visual idea” is clear it will guide me to the finish from any number of starting points.
Please put these words in order: technique, framing, drawing, value, concept, composition, color. Concept, composition, drawing, value, color, technique, framing.
What colors are typically on your palette? Titanium White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue. I also have a fairly large library of colors that I supplement as needed.
I don’t see many dried leaves, grapes, or glowing oranges, typical of so many other still life paintings; what’s the deal? It is ironic that you bring this up because I have three recent paintings with oranges in them. Although, I admit to avoiding the grocery store as much as possible when searching for props. A lot of the produce I see in the store almost seems fake. I tend to like the solitary structure of sticks and rocks and the texture of things after they are dried. The most interesting things to me are what I find outside, or things that remind me of nature and it’s effect on objects over time.
How much does the local color of the main vessel affect the background color? The important thing here is to communicate a sense of distance while finding the proper balance between contrast and harmony. For example, a cool colored piece of pottery can stand off from a warmer background nicely and might help limit the amount of value change needed to separate the two.
You take great care in capturing the surface texture of each object; what techniques do you use to capture texture? If you look at a textured surface you can see miniature forms. Communicating them becomes a matter of light and shadow, edges, and impasto, just on a small scale. Smooth surfaces are mostly a matter of getting paint to lay down. Glazed surfaces can be tricky because there are two things going on. I often paint my estimation of the pottery surface and glaze or scumble over dry paint with something lighter. The important thing is to see the darker color underneath coming through.
Who have been your greatest artistic influences past and present? From the past, Hovsep Pushman and Emil Carlsen stand at the top. Their work has so much presence and I love how they handled spacial relationships. I have been quite captivated by Thomas Moran also. He had an incredible ability to get things to relate and connect to each other that really challenges me. For living artists, I have been fortunate to study with Sherrie McGraw and Jeff Legg a few times. I owe them both a great deal. Sherrie helped me to understand what it meant to have a “visual idea” and was the first professional to say “you could really do this” while graciously pointing out deficiencies that I needed to address. By the time I painted with Jeff Legg, I was on a mission and pushing myself pretty hard. Jeff helped me to be grounded and let growth come naturally. I learned how to listen to the painting and how to refine the elements that are important to the visual idea while leaving things that are less important in obscurity.
How would you go about teaching someone to draw? I’m going to address this from the perspective of a painter. My method is to use a larger brush, held far out on the ferrule, and limiting myself to some variant of umber for color. Forget about lines, focus on size, shape and placement. Don’t be too specific. You can true things up as you get into color and can better carve out shape with background and edges. Wipe it off and repeat as many time as necessary. I like this approach because I can work out a lot of the composition without getting overly committed to the painting.
If you weren’t an artist, what could you see yourself doing? Prior to painting full time, I worked for a lighting company. Managing and mentoring people was the most rewarding component of that career. I would probably end up doing something along those lines again. I’m a big fan of do-it-yourself projects so I could keep busy just working on the house and fixing the cars.
If you were stranded on an island, what three books would you want with you? The Bible, “How to Sail by the Stars” and “Boat Building for Dummies”. However, if the island is one of the Hawaiian islands, you can forget the last two!
What are your future goals as an artist? In the short term, I have a list of shows I’d like to be in and galleries I’d like to work with. In the long term, I’d like to do something to help other artists find their way. I am most interested in the next breakthrough that will take my work to a higher level.
To view more of Jeremy’s work, click HERE
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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)
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