John McCartin Revisited

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My Australian friend, John McCartin, has a wonderful feature article in the current issue of International Artist magazine, Vol. 91. In the article, “Painting the Cotswolds”, McCartin says that the distinction between what you physically see and how you paint what you see, makes all the difference.

I first became aware of McCartin’s work back in February of 2012. We were showing together at the Greenhouse Gallery in San Antonio, TX during its 30th Anniversary Celebration. John had just won the Grand Prize for “Art Challenge #64 – Favorite Subjects”, sponsored by International Artist, and was new to the gallery. His work was an instant hit. I was so impressed with his work that I contacted him and asked if he would allow me to interview him. He is not only an amazing artist but also a wonderful person, so I truly enjoy sharing more of his work with you.

Bourton on the Hill – 26.38″x 39.38″ – Oil


He only began painting full-time professionally in 2002 and is now regarded as one of Australia’s finest artists across a range of genres. He is currently preparing for a solo exhibition of his works to be held at Morpeth Gallery, in the Hunter Valley, NSW…coming up in July 2013.

Before leaving however, I couldn’t resist asking him a few questions:

Waiting at the Gate – 29.12″x 20.5″ – Oil

How would you define “success”, as an artist?  No simple answer to this question. My definition of success as an artist will be different from that of another artist. My personal idea of success is to be in a position whereby I can fully develop my craft without having to spend large amounts of time doing other things. To come close to reaching my full potential as an artist while encouraging and inspiring other artists along the way.

Is it possible to be a good landscape painter without painting en plein air?  It is possible but not likely. Painting en plein air trains the artist to be selective. The limited time at his disposal forces the artist to focus on essentials. The most important aspect of painting from life is observing the subtle colour changes which are not apparent in photographic images and understanding how light behaves in the natural world.

The Gardner’s Cottage – 13.75″x 15.38″ – Oil

What are the main problems encountered when translating a field study to a large studio work?  The biggest problem is how to maintain the simplicity and spontaneity of the smaller painting done in the field. Because time in the studio is not restricted, the tendency is to add more detail then is necessary. This has a way of weakening the composition. The initial emotional response to the subject (the reason you painted it) and the emotional impact of the painting is often diminished.

Study for Aroona Gums – 13.75″x 18″ – Charcoal
Leafy Lane – 18.5″x 26″ – Oil

What qualifies as a plein air painting?  One that is essentially done on location. The majority of the painting needs to be done from life. Tidying, touching up or completion work in the studio should be minimal.

How do you know when a painting is finished?  A painting is finished when nothing can be added or taken away without it being detrimental to the whole. That’s the theory. In practice it’s more of a personal thing. A gut feeling. John Singer Sargent’s answer was simple…”When I say it is”.

To read John McCartin’s complete February 2012 interview, please click here.

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