Welcome to the Blank Canvas Series – An interview with an Artist. These amazing artists have offered to share their insights with the Master Oil Painting Community. Please Note: The views expressed here are those of the Featured Artist and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Master Oil Painting or Bill Inman.
TODAY’S FEATURED ARTIST: Ezra Tucker
“The ability to use the knowledge that you accumulate on demand, and to use it appropriately and effectively, is priceless and life changing.”
Q: What methods, approaches or techniques do you use to capture ‘intelligence’ – how do you breathe such life and beauty into your wildlife portraits? Can you describe the purpose and process of some of your techniques such as mixing colors on the canvas rather than on a palette, your use of palette knives and brushes and how you achieve incredibly luminous colors and vibrancy usually reserved to oil paints – using acrylics?
A: I paint my subjects as if they are in three dimensions by manipulation of light, shadow, and perspective. Paying close attention to the eyes of my subjects is how I recognize personality and intelligence in humans and animals. I usually paint the eyes last. This brings life to my subject. How I place the highlight in the eye and how I paint the shape of the eye is very important to describing the temperament of the animal at that moment that the viewer engages with the painting. I desire an emotional reaction from the viewer when they look at my animal portraits.
I am imagining the finished color and light when I am doing my preliminary sketches and research. Mixing color on the canvas or board affords me the opportunity to see and feel immediately the impact of the image even if a brush stroke or wash of color was unintended.
The way that the human brain interprets color, texture, depth and motion is interesting and a mystery to me. I like the puzzle. I regularly experiment with color and push traditional boundaries. I often happen across wonderful color combinations that break traditional color theories. I layer my brush and palette knife work and washes of color. Multiple layers of transparent and opaque color, plus texture, give my paintings the depth of color and vibrancy that I desire. The nature of acrylic paints allows me to use this technique effectively.
My thumbnail sketches and multiple drawings are key to me capturing what I want to say about my subject. I hope to capture an essence of each creature that fascinates me. Or, I may choose to reveal something about my subject to a viewer that I feel has not been highlighted enough. When I paint my wildlife subjects, I use a palette knife and multiple brushes and brush techniques to capture the information that I am wanting to share with a viewer.
Light, shadow, composition, texture, edges and attitude is what I like to manipulate in my portraiture. My use of color is spontaneous and individual. The only universal color theory that I use is warm against cool color. Impressionistic brush techniques and palette knife use prevents me from over explaining my subjects. I am always aware that I am creating an impression of my subject and not attempting to do a photographic representation.
Q: You talk about the quiet intelligence and uniqueness of each animal’s individual character and personality and how that often provides glimpses into human nature. Why is that important to you? Can you describe your thoughts about this so that we might apply that insight in possibly reaching deeper and enhancing our own artwork? And can that idea be applied to other subjects such as landscapes?
A: I have had the opportunity to observe creatures large and small over time to see that they all have unique and different temperaments and moods that influence how they interact with each other within their species and how each creature goes through the process of survival. I also observe Humans displaying temperaments and moods that determine the choices that they make and the quality of their existence. Dominance and submissive behavior for example.
My observations of animal and human behaviors are simply a personal interest. Acute listening and observation is helpful to me gaining knowledge about my subjects so that the results of my representations satisfy my vision or the concept that I am wanting to share with a viewer.
Landscape artists can use their skills in a similar manner.
Q: Why do you leave areas of many of your paintings ‘unfinished’?
A: I don’t think of it as leaving areas of the painting unfinished. My intent is not to over define my subject but to allow the viewer to use their intellect to finish the painting. This also helps to breath life into the painting.
Q: Do you believe your career as an illustrator for Hallmark and then as an independent illustrator in high demand for 28 years prepared you to pursue a fine art career? What principles, ideas or skills did you learn that you might not have learned had you pursued a fine art career right out of college, and would you recommend a similar course to young artists today?
A: What I am currently doing as a fine artist is what I have wanted to do from childhood with my talents and interest.
I benefited in multiple areas from my previous career as a commercial illustrator. My personal drive and ambitions have been the foundation of my choices and accomplishments with my art. The route that I took to secure a BFA degree in Advertising Design was convenient for me. And yes, my artistic development was enhanced tremendously by my experience as an illustrator.
I am currently using all of those learned lessons daily, but I do not believe that all should travel the road that I took. Wisdom is a accumulation of knowledge. The ability to use the knowledge that you accumulate on demand, and to use it appropriately and effectively, is priceless and life changing.
Q: You were working 18 hour days nearly every day of the year because of your success as an illustrator – was that by choice or is that the typical requirement of successful illustration careers?
A: It was my choice to work the long hours. My drive and life ambitions guided my choices.
My definition of success is unique to me, and I determine how and what I want to accomplish. I believe individual commitment will determine success.
Q: Mark English, another highly successful artist, encouraged you to “take risks and to never, ever stop experimenting, because that’s how you become original.” What does that mean to you and how have you followed that advice?
A: My whole life has been about taking exceptional risk and individual development. Mark English and other mentors simply gave me validation and words to describe my philosophy of life.
Q: You’ve won numerous awards and been included in prominent museum shows and exhibitions such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., The Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia and the Society of Animal Artists. Your artwork commands very respectable prices ranging from $8000 to $75,000. What can you teach our community about building a successful painting career – for those just beginning as well as seasoned painters?
A: Decide how you want to live and how committed you are to accomplishing your goals in life.
Listen, observe, learn and connect yourself to like minded talent that inspires and motivates you. Consciously structure your life to have it all come to be as you desire.
Q: Would you do anything differently if you could turn back the clock?