By chance, I met Stuart at the South End Open Studios in September while he was watching the space of a friend who suggested the artist exhibit some of his own work. I’m so glad he did. Stuart has such a great mastery of acrylics and a limitless imagination which are evident in his creations. He showcased gorgeous landscapes, realistic still lives, and compositions of a more playful nature, which in my opinion really covered the gamut of people/tastes who would be trapesing through his doors.
His paintings are easy on the eyes.
I learned that many of his landscapes were of World’s End in Hingham which he cited as an area of inspiration for many artists.
(Woods of Hingham)
This discussion sparked a hajj later that month with an eager dog and a Zipcar Mini Cooper to see this place I had only viewed in pictures. While this post isn’t about World’s End, I must say it is a park worth visiting if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a minute. 250 acres at your disposal with all sorts of varying topographies and landscapes. One minute you are walking through a shady tree-lined grove, past a thin strip of sandy beach, through a wide leaf littered pathway that seems like a still out of Pride and Prejudice, and end up stumbling upon a rock quarry.
I DIGRESS, I had asked Stuart a bit about the process of an artist approaching a gallery with work. Essentially, he shows up with his portfolio, the curator flips through yes/no/no/no/no/yes/no…until they have a grouping they are happy with, or send him on his merry way. On one occasion, his landscapes and still lives were passed right over by a curator and by chance, the artist had thrown in a few paintings of mice he did for fun.. they were immediately set aside. His furry friends received so much praise that he decided to expand on the series.
This situation is an interesting example of art as a business. Plain and simple, some things sell, other things do not. As an artist, how do you stay aware of market conditions without letting that knowledge directly effect or compromise the integrity of your work? I think it’s a fine line between staying true to yourself and keeping a roof over your head. To me, Stuart excels at this delicate dance because he saw an opportunity to hone in on a new market, instill the same amount of love and imagination into the pieces so it isn’t a churn and burn operation, and now has these little furry creations in his portfolio which are so masterfully done and palatable to most anyone.
I picked up a painting of a wee mouse hoarding Goldfish crackers and along with my purchase Stuart included a signed copy of his book An Artist’s Life.
“Dunkel addresses issues that have troubled artists throughout time. In this heartfelt, introspective look at his own experience in the arts, he shares with you his thoughts, insights, and spiritual quests and conclusions.”
I would highly recommend snagging a copy of this valuable resource if you are a painter, aspiring artist, or someone just interested in learning about an artist’s process. A book full of insights written by a local artist you don’t know isn’t something that would normally jump to the forefront of your Amazon queue, but I seriously learned a great deal from reading it. It is written in such an honest, endearing, and humble way that you can’t help but feel.. warm and fuzzy(aside: I need to go kick someone in the face to counteract all this mushiness.)
On the technical side of things, An Artist’s Life gave me insight into the fundamentals of painting, that I’m sure would have been hammered in had I gone to art school, but using his own paintings as examples, shows in a user-friendly way how he applied different techniques to achieve certain effects.
“The basics are crucial; they not only free you from technical doubt, but help you when you get off track and are at a loss on how to proceed.”
So many times I have painted and looked at my creation only to think “something” was not right..if I had an understanding of the basics, I could go through a check-list of possible issues and essentially troubleshoot my work in hopes of making the necessary changes to make things feel more cohesive. He discusses the importance of composition, eye movement, lighting, atmosphere, gesture, spatial relations and so on.
One big take-away for me was the concept of a “local color”, that in the context of his works I took to mean as an underlying color that sets the mood and is your unadulterated t=0 color of sorts. And that by adding a small amount of that local color to other elements of your piece you can achieve that desired cohesion and assists in working shadows and light into your composition.
Stuart is a local artist with a great heart. It is apparent in his works and musings. Check out his website for more information on this amazing individual or take a gander at An Artist’s Life. I hope it inspires you, as it has me.
“To answer the age old question, ‘Am I an artist?’, I would answer that you are an artist the moment you have ruined your clothes.” -Stuart Dunkel ♥