John Buxton has had a long career as a professional artist. Beginning as an illustrator, he worked for some of the top corporations, book and magazine publishers. His love of American history, particularly the Colonial period, prepared him well as he transitioned into the fine arts. Although his move to fine art was not without its difficulties, his work eventually became noticed, so much so, that today he is recognized as one of America’s top historical artists.
I hope you have enjoyed this four-part interview with Buxton. In this final installment, Buxton shares some final thoughts. If you haven’t read Parts 1-3, they are easily accessed from my homepage. Just click on Blog in the menu bar and you’ll find them all there. (Click images to enlarge)
You’ve been painting professionally for over 55 years, what’s the most difficult part of painting for you today? Yes, I have enjoyed a very long and successful career. I have been very blessed for sure. The most difficult part of painting now is finding the time. I am the sole caregiver for my sweet wife who has dementia. I want to be with her for as long as I am able to care for her increasing needs. I have been managing to sneak in a few hours of painting each day, stopping to check on her about every half hour or so. Of course this is not the most favorable way to paint, but not painting is much worse.
Do you think it’s important for an artist to concentrate on a particular genre? Being known for my style or subject matter as an illustrator was important; I see no reason to believe it’s not the same for a fine artist. I think people, galleries, collectors, and museum shows all expect a certain thing from you, the artist. It’s especially true if you’ve garnered a following. They all expect consistency.
Most young artists will naturally try many different subjects and styles of painting; that is simply learning the trade. Collectors will buy what they consider your best work. Hopefully, it will be what you enjoy painting most because it will show in your work. As a young illustrator, I struggled to meet deadlines; I struggled to find my style; I struggled for consistency. Yes, becoming an accomplished artist is difficult, BUT, remember, YOU chose this profession. There was a reason you chose it, hopefully it brings you pleasure…enough, that you can weather the storms that will surely come.
Congratulations for winning the “Narrative Excellence Award” in the recent National Oil and Acrylic Painters 2021 Fall Online International Exhibition; how important is it to enter art competitions? Entering competitions can be gratifying and they can help you judge your place among your peers. It can be frustrating. It can wear on your confidence when your favorite painting is rejected. However, each judge or judging committee is totally different. It is not easy judging hundreds, if not thousands, of paintings.
Truthfully, many paintings will go unnoticed, even overlooked. Young painters should not let this setback deter their ambition. Don’t let it own you.
Who have been your greatest artistic influences? Why? The greatest influences for me have been the older generation of illustrators because in my formative years I dreamed of someday becoming an illustrator myself.
Why are you an artist? Why am I an artist? Hmmmmmm? I suppose it’s because I refused my aunt’s offer. She offered to pay for all of my education if I attended the North Carolina State College of Agriculture. Upon graduation, she promised to give me one of her three large farms and allow me to manage the other two as I saw fit. No one ever said I was smart. (Ha Ha )
What’s your definition of art? “ART” can have a broad definition. Some say it’s in the eye of the beholder.
My query, when I left illustration…What exactly is FINE ART? So I consulted the dictionary:
Fine Art: Art that is concerned with the creation of objects of imagination and taste for their own sake without relation to the utility of the object produced
Fine: Something that is clever, ingenious, cunning, superior in character
Utility: Usefulness, power to satisfy
Hmmmm? Art without usefulness????? Am I reading that right? Art just for art sake, I guess. Okay, from this I guess I’m still an illustrator. I have heard gallery owners say, “If it has a narrative, it’s illustration and not Fine Art.” (The interviewer believes this to be a ridiculous opinion)
How does your work reflect your personality? When I was an illustrator, a young artist told me that my artwork was much like my personality. I had no idea what she meant because illustrations are what someone else has directed. Did she mean my personality was subservient? So now as a fine artist, I suppose I am a stuffy old history freak. Who knows?
If you were stranded on an island, what three books would you want with you? Why am I on this island…and probably without paint, brushes or substrate? Guess I’m gonna need fire, so I’d want the biggest three paperback books for starting a fire…unless one is “How To Build A Boat”. That one I’ll burn last. If I just wanted three books to read, they would be: “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand; a book about J.S. Sargent, and a book of Anders Zorn paintings.
How would you like to be remembered? How I’m remembered, or my work, is not up to me. I have enjoyed a great run, but I would hope that my paintings, now in museums, will be equally respected for as long as those exhibited beside my pieces. I hope our family remembers that I tried to be a good father and husband, that I respected everyone I met in life and was appreciative of their friendship. Good grief, that’s depressing!
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