“Tell the world what we love” is sage advice from a painter I greatly admire. I took a workshop from Joe Paquet in 2017. He is philosophical and thoughtful when he speaks of creating art, stressing over and over again the importance of being authentic (of undisputed origin/original). The brilliant landscape paintings of Joe Paquet brim with truth and originality.
A few years ago I conducted an interview with Paquet. His insights remain just as current today as then, so I’m sharing once again this important interview. You’ll greatly benefit from this. (Click images to enlarge)
If you speak with Joe Paquet for any length of time, you will quickly discover that he is very passionate about painting…about creating ART…not just churning out a PRODUCT. “The need to say something is a far cry from the need to be heard,” he says. “There is art and there is product and they are rarely the same thing.”
He is opinionated and decisive. He’s not afraid to take a stand, buck the norm, even stand alone if necessary, in order to make a well-reasoned point. For example, he believes many artists do not properly value their intellectual property. “Monetizing one’s knowledge and creations is harder now than ever before because of social media. If artists don’t value their own content, no one else will.” Paquet also believes that artist’s insecurity often translates to a lack of self-value. “We are often asked to contribute content, or the art itself, with the proviso that we will enhance our careers – the old line – “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
He’s a brilliant painter. Using a palette of: Lead White, Cad Yellow Lt, Cad Yellow, Cad Orange, Cad Scarlet, Cad Red, Alizarin Crimson, Manganese Blue, Cobalt Blue, and Ivory Black – he creates works that are powerful in their authenticity and truthfulness. Almost all his work is done from life, for he believes as more senses are engaged in the process of creating a painting, the richer the experience for the receptive viewer. “What we get to do everyday is create. We construct something that never existed before, bringing something into the world and shaping it with our own hearts and hands. Painting for any other reason than a love and desire to show the world what I love, is a waste of my time.”
Do you believe that the profusion of free instructional material and the massive amount of art on the internet is a problem? Why or why not? These things are always a blessing and a curse; while access to many forms of instruction are now readily available and folks appreciate that, it opens the door for artists who will do anything to get noticed. The scrum gets larger and larger, the loudest get heard and quality no longer plays much of a part.
There is so much poor “art” flooding social media; do you feel it lowers people’s expectations of what art is? Undoubtedly. You are what you eat; if you eat enough processed food you don’t taste the chemicals. Social media has given the lowest common denominator a voice.
You have said that so much of what is posted today on social media, including all the free YouTube instructional videos, devalues the artist and really feeds their insecurities. Why do you feel that way? Many artists are including the world in what was once their private decision making process. They become driven by what is popular, which is the fastest route away from what was once a natural, organic path and ultimately an authentic, singular vision.
“I don’t churn out work or create ‘product’, but endeavor to make art”
You’re a well-established artist. People greatly respect what you do and the knowledge you have acquired so they are willing to pay for it, but what about young artists that are just getting their careers started; how do you suggest they promote their work and have it seen by the general public? It’s a good question. I would still tell those intent at making a life of art to get some serious skills and take the time to bring those skill sets into alignment so that their work is somewhat consistent in quality before they splash it all over the market. Then, absolutely take full advantage of all tools available, including social media. I think it’s important to remember that how you use those tools tells a lot about you- Do you actually have something of value to add to the noise, or do you just need to be heard?
You call this age of the worldwide web the “new wild west”; what do you mean by that? There are no controls and even less self-control. One bad apple with an axe to grind can create a storm of rancor. I think folks are less apt to have an open, honest opinion when they are repeatedly shot down. It waters down real discussion and creates a fear of speaking up…fosters a shallow political correctness, so nothing actually gets said.
Through articles and talks, you are generous in offering advice to fellow artists advising them how to achieve a personal vision, how to deal with motivation, and even self-doubt; what can you share with our readers about these important topics? This will sound ridiculous to some, but I think making art and making a living are incongruous. I believe there is art and there is product. The former is about refining some sort of personal vision and a genuine desire to express. The latter is creating something attractive that others will buy. How others choose to do it is fine with me, I can only tell you what works for me. Regarding motivation, I wander and study and let the world in; when I find something which holds me, I follow the thread. Because I work almost exclusively from life it is a longer process. It promotes immediate organization as well as a personal calligraphy, so I am less apt to overthink and be self-conscious. When the work is completed I think about the business of selling it. The best way I know to deal with self-doubt is to get outside of myself, enjoy family & friends – do something for someone else. Additionally, I think it’s important to remember that all artists go through it. We all share it.
In your view, how should a professional artist conduct their business? What works for one does not necessarily work for another. I do know for certain, however, that doing each piece of work in one’s career with equal care and elegance is important, whether that be painting, teaching, writing or speaking.
Do you think an artist should discount their work? No
How do you recommend an artist establish prices for their work? Start with quality, which is intrinsic; build value, and work towards an authentic personal viewpoint. Keep your prices consistent everywhere, including if you sell it yourself. Show your work with others that share your price point.
What marketing tools do you find most effective? I use a multifaceted approach: I work with good galleries but don’t count on them to make my living. I’ve run my own studio for the past 20 years and have a very specific method I teach. I have trained a number of fine painters who are out there making their mark, and I teach workshops across the U.S. and Europe. Anyone who may be interested won’t have to go too far to avail themselves of the training. I also write a monthly e-newsletter. It’s like putting pins in a map. I always try to cast the widest net possible.
Is there a definition of art you’re comfortable with? The best I’ve seen to date: from Rollo May, “ART is where the individual finds themselves between subjective and objective poles.”
Now I’d like to discuss your work. Why are you an artist, and why a landscape painter? I need the physicality and immediacy of working from life. It is much akin to when I played football; give a hit, take a hit, full contact and fully in the moment. I love being outdoors.
“Creation rarely occurs without friction”
Your paintings are very authentic, accurately depicting nature as we perceive it; how much artistic license is taken with your subjects? There is a great deal of subjective choice-making in my work; edit, subordination, organizational grouping, and such.
Most of your work, amazingly, is done from life. Please take us through the process, particularly when working with large canvases on location. It is always driven by the complexity of the painting and how fleeting an effect I’m after. Regardless, my goal, if possible, is to cover the entire canvas on the first day in order to establish relativity. Before I take it out again, I assess the areas of greatest need to go after. It’s all about the hierarchy of the judgement calls.
Does your approach, when beginning a painting in plein air, differ from one started in the studio? One is simply more self-conscious than the other.
“Be grateful, be humble, be open, and create without fear”
You delight in painting scenes that many artists would consider less than beautiful, yet you make them extraordinarily beautiful and appealing; how do you do that and why do you select such subjects? Given the opportunity, I’d rather elevate the commonplace than celebrate the obvious.
What’s important to know when trying to achieve a convincing sense of atmosphere and light in a painting? Close, cleanly painted tonal shifts.
How much of your work is imaginative versus painting what you see? After 30 years of painting outdoors I can tell you I paint what I know as well as what I see. That being said, I also care to remain open to being surprised.
What are some key helpful tips you can offer those wanting to try plein air painting? You will save a great deal of time and effort by taking a good class. Having an approach to confronting a light effect and streamlining one’s gear goes a long way to easing a very difficult undertaking.
What’s your typical workday look like? Honestly, it depends what aspect of my career is in front of me. When I teach, all I think about is doing the best job possible for the students. When painting, it can take days to get me to that magic place of reflexive creativity. When I vibrate to that frequency, quite frankly, I become an idiot to all other things; it’s the same when I write or speak…mono-focus.
Wow, Joe Paquet, what a great interview! I’m sure the readers will agree. Thank you for your willingness to be interviewed, your amazing work, and your thought provoking insights…all, very much appreciated and worthwhile.
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