John McCartin Interview

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“I see my role as an artist, to convey to the viewer what I see and perhaps what I feel, and in so doing, stir the heart and lift the soul of the viewer.”
These are the words of Australian artist, John McCartin. I had the great privilege of seeing his work for the first time, earlier this month, while attending the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art 30th Anniversary Celebration, held in San Antonio, TX.

John McCartin – Self Portrait – 30.75″x 24.75″ – Oil

In speaking with Mark Smith, co-owner of the gallery, some weeks before the show, he expressed great excitement about this new artist that had just been added to the gallery line-up. Apparently, Mark had discovered John’s work in an International Artist magazine in which John had just won the grand prize in the magazine’s “Art Challenge #64…Favorite Subjects” competition.

Dairy D’Light – 26.75″x 39.37″ – Oil  (International Artist magazine grand prize winner)
The Rocky Cove – 21.75″x 43.5″ – Oil

McCartin displayed artistic talent as a young boy but it wasn’t until 2002 that he was able to begin a full-time painting career. Although he has no formal training, he developed his craft through constant practice and study of famous artists including: Hans Heysen, Elioth Gruner, Arthur Streeton, James Fetherolf, Richard Schmid, and others.
Today he is recognized as one of Australia’s finest artists exhibiting extraordinary drawing skill and versatility with a wide range of media.

My Artist Friend, Wytt Morro – 49.25″x 43″ – Oil

It isn’t often that my wife likes an artist’s complete body of exhibited works. Hey, she doesn’t even like all my paintings, but of all the works McCartin had on display at the Greenhouse Gallery, she liked everyone of them.
I was interested in learning more about John and his work in order to share what I learned with you. I contacted him. That was followed by a whole lot of questions in which I hoped he would thoughtfully answer at least a few of them. Well, he not only answered all questions but did so almost immediately…further confirming my belief of his absolute professionalism.
One thing that sort of bugs me is when I hear artists say, that when it comes to painting, the process is more important than the result. McCartin says, “I pay a great deal of attention to perfecting my craft, but the result is always paramount in my mind. Both are very important but I tend to lean toward the end result.”

Pippa – 19.69″x 15″ – Charcoal

While accomplished in so many genre, I wondered what is the major thing he looks for when selecting a subject. “The subject needs to impact me on the emotional level. I try to keep my mind open to many possibilities rather than choosing a subject just because it’s there.”

Lady with the Parasol – 24.75″x 20.87″ – Oil
Spring is in the Air – 27.25″x 40.87″ – Oil

On seeing Spring is in the Air, the truthfulness of this piece in capturing atmosphere…well, it’s just dead on. Asking him about how he does it, he said, “Tone and color subordination are the key points to remember. When I’m painting a landscape, I’m really painting light through atmosphere. Things like mist, air quality, sun, dust, and the prevailing light temperature all influence that sense of atmosphere…and I must be exact in translating my observation to canvas or that sense of atmosphere is lost.”

Spring Morning, Crompton’s Farm – 17.31″x 35.43″ – Oil

John creates a charcoal drawing in preparation for each painting. These highly refined drawings, works of art in themselves, help to highlight any compositional shortcomings. When beginning the painting however, the only drawing he does on the canvas is a rough outline showing where things are, indicating their correct position.

Study for Winter Morning Kangarilla – 14.18″x 18.12″ – Charcoal
Winter Morning Kangarilla – 32.25″x 43.31″ – Oil

Around his palette in this order you will find these colors: cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow deep, yellow ochre, titanium white, viridian, ultramarine blue, indigo, transparent red oxide, alizarin crimson, and cadmium red.
When blocking in a painting, he does a transparent monochrome lay-in mapping out the main shapes. This is followed by a full color block-in once that underpainting is dry. 
I wondered if plein air painting was a significant part of his work. “Plein air is very important though I paint the majority of my work in the studio. When I wasn’t painting full time I was forced to rely on photos a lot of the time because of family and work commitments. I did plein air work when I could over a number of years. I still go outdoors, though not as often as I would like. Fortunately, I can draw on that experience when working from photos. I find working from life is good for picking subtle variations in color temperature whereas a camera cannot. I nearly always work from life when doing still life because of that very reason. Also larger, more detailed works are impractical to execute outdoors so I will rarely paint on a board or canvas larger than 12″x16″.”

Symphony – 11.75″x 23.67″ – Oil

John also uses plein air painting as a way for him to get revitalized. As with all artists we can become discouraged and feel that the well is dry. In those times McCartin will take a short break, do plein air painting or a charcoal drawing on the side of the road. “Changing  from landscape to still life or even changing mediums is a great help, also browsing the work of great artists (past and present) can be very stimulating. These positive things have enriched my work in ways I wouldn’t have known had I not experienced those “flat” spots.”

The Holiday – 35.80″x 17.32″ – Oil

One last thing, John…What advice would you have for a young artist/painter…and for a first time collector?
For the artist, “Never give up if you are the kind of artist who must paint or die. Don’t let others tell you what to paint and never become a formula painter. Observation and truthfulness to your own vision is the key. Discouragement is crouching at the door always, so doubt your doubts and persevere. You will reap rewards if you don’t lose heart and give up. I’m speaking from 30 years of hard experience.”
For the collector, “Good art will always increase in value. Look to invest in the kind of work that has stood the test of time.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting John McCartin. I trust his work stirs your heart and lifts your soul as it does mine.

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