Sunday, June 7, 2015

Artist on Artist Interview with Paul Batch.

Today it gives me great pleasure in presenting landscape and portrait painter, Paul Batch, to the Artist on Artist Interview project. 

Paul Batch is another artist who I discovered through vast artist community of Facebook. His dreamlike tonal landscapes with a splash of colour are what first caught my attention. The purposeful lack of detail and the subtle quality the 'artist's hand' in his wonderful handling of the paint in both his landscapes and portraits is what I found appealing. He carries over the dreamlike quality with his sense of light in his portrait paintings which in contrast to his landscapes have more refined details, given their inherent nature of being portraits. 

And now without any further adieu here is Paul Batch's interview along with selected works. 

Artist on Artist Interview with Paul Batch 

Polly - Hi Paul!! And welcome to the AoA Interview project! It's a pleasure to have you here with us today!! Ok, let's get started ... would you mind giving us a little background about yourself and your world perhaps; where are you from, where are you living now, that kind of thing, etc? 

Paul - Hi Polly thanks for having me here on AOA. Like most artists I've always loved to draw. I liked comic books as a kid and would copy my favorite super heroes, drew cars I thought were cool and other important things like that. As I got a little older I thought I might be able to get a gig drawing Spider-Man. I also did horrible in all of my academic classes in school so letting me go to art school was kind of the only option my parents had. 

 I ended up going to Hartford Art School because it was about an hour or so away from my folks in MA. Far enough away so I could do my own thing but not to far in case I needed a hug. When I got to art school I think a few months in there was a faculty exhibit. This is when I came face to face with my first Stephen Brown self portrait. It blew me away. I had never connected with another human being before like this. I didn't know Stephen at the time, and it would be another year or two before I would begin studying with him but I knew right then that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to try and create something that could move people like this. 

 I have to add in here that my Dad and many people in my family, on both sides, are deaf. I grew up using sign language at home and I think that this visual language has played an important part of my need to express myself visually. 

 So with this need to express myself visually, and this incredible experience with Stephen Brown's self portrait I decided to become a painter. 

'Through the Mist'. 24" x 30". Oil on Canvas.

Polly - I would say your ability to translate light into the visual is fluent! And since you chose to become a painter, you work in oil(s) (correct?); what prompted you to choose working in oil(s) and would you mind telling us about your palette - what colours you use?, paints - preferred paint maker(s)?, mediums - if any and why?, and materials - canvas or panel, both? Etc. 

Paul - I paint with oils because they look better than the other mediums. The only other medium I like is egg tempera but I haven't given myself enough time to work with that since I was in school.
My "everyday" palette consists of ...

Titanium White- Gamblin 
Flake white replacement- Gamblin 
Ochre- Old Holland 
Transparent Red oxide- Grumbacher 
Cadmium Yellow Light- Gamblin 
Cadmium Orange Yellow- Old Holland 
Alizarin Crimson- Michael Harding's 
Pthalo Green- Gamblin 
Ultramarine Blue- Gamblin 
Mars black- Gamblin 

 I use this palette primarily out of habit, I've been using it for years and I'm comfortable with it. I'll add more colors as needed and whatever is in the tube that's close to the color I need is the winner. It took me a long time to unlearn that it's ok to use black and you don't have to mix yellow and blue to make green when you can just squirt some out of a tube. 

 As for a medium started using Gamblins Neo-meglip about a year ago and I love it. Before that I used liquin...lots and lots of liquin. Again I've messed around with all kinds of different mixtures but at the end of the day I just want to paint. If I can just dump some stuff out and it's good to go, then that's what I'm gonna use. 

 For surfaces I use both MDF and birch panels. I get them from Home Depot, chop them up in the garage and then gesso them. I still use canvas for larger pieces but will be trying out Dibond soon. I prefer working on a hard smooth surface. 

Paul Batch's palette.

Polly - Can you tell us what your studio space is like? Is it at home or, do you rent a space? It is large or, small? What kind of lighting do you prefer? What kind of easel you do use? Etc. 

Paul - Someday I'll have an actual studio space in my home. For now I keep small works in progress over my kitchen cabinets and pull those down to work on those in the evenings when the kids go to bed. I use a small table top easel on the kitchen table. Larger works are done in the garage on an easel I "borrowed" from college on the last day of classes. (Ssshhhh don't tell anyone.) For those larger works in the garage I have to coordinate a "daddy work day" with my wife so I can I can make sure I have a good chunk of time to paint. I have 5k flood lights in the kitchen and garage to try and get things close to daylight but there's still room for improvement. The bright lights also help keep me up all night ;). 

 I've also added a Thursday night portrait sketch group to my schedule which is great. I've able to get some plein-air done when we go out to parks or lakes as a family. My paints and set up are fairly small and mobile so I'm able to bounce around a lot.  

A work-in-progress in Paul's working studio space.  

Polly - I admire your dedication to your craft! You recently had a rather big milestone in your painting career as being a finalist in the Portrait Society of America Competition (a big Congratulations to you by the way!). Can you tell us a little bit about that whole experience; what it is was like, how it happened, what you did to prepare for it, and what kind of impact do you think it has had your art?

Paul - The Portrait Society of America competition has been a great thing. I actually got in for the first time last year. I went to the conference and got to see all these great artists and was so honored to be included with that group. I honestly felt like my getting in was a fluke thing and since I got in with a drawing I just figured that not many people entered drawings. 

 The piece that got in this year was a painting of my friend Nick. I had done some other portraits but I knew he would make for one that had a chance of going back to the PSOA. Firstly I love painting black people, I don't know if you can see it in the picture but the colors that you are able to use in the flesh tones are so exciting. When you see it in person there's a bunch of orange, purple, turquoise and reds. It really was a joy to paint. Plus he's got cool hair which was fun to play with. The fact that I got in a second time, for me, really validated that last year wasn't a fluke and I earned to be in the group. 

 Since I do portraits pretty much for myself it's really nice to be recognized on such a high level. The only impact I think it's had on my art is that I have to remember to do whatever I want. It might sound silly or egotistical but I have to do what I want, what I'm passionate about. Most of the times when I concern myself about whether or not something will sell or things like that the work tends to be quite mediocre. I'm actually quite happy where I am right now creatively and as always looking forward to the next painting.

'Nick Campbell'. 18" x 18". Oil on Panel.

Polly - That's wonderful attitude to have and I agree with you; painting what you want makes for better art! I'm curious (as are most people about artists); Are you able to be a 'full time' artist in that you are able to make a living with your art or, do you have a secondary job as a form of support for living? And if so, what is it that you do and how do you balance out your creative time? 

 Paul - It's a very popular question. I always answer it by first saying that my wife has a real job. I quit my day job two years ago when we started having children. The first six months without that steady income were scary as hell. My wife and I went from two people who were living quite comfortably to three people depending on one income. It was and continues to be a challenge. 

 Since I left my day job I have tried to earn the same while staying at home, and working less hours. (A couple of kids to watch surprisingly takes up a lot of time ;). The first year was tough, the second year was worse and this year I should beat my former salary. Can it be done? Sure. Is it easy? No. 

 When my wife and I first started dating I was flat broke. I had a good job but I was way upside down in a house and things were just financially messed up for me. Occasionally people would want to commission a portrait or some kind of painting and offer me fifty or a hundred bucks. My wife would see me politely decline these kinds of offers and she eventually was like "you didn't have enough money for lunch today! Why aren't you doing things that can earn you money?" I told her that if I do that for fifty bucks, then it's worth...fifty bucks. I told her it was worth way more than that and we'd just have to wait. Fast forward to today and now she's complaining I'm not charging enough and selling myself short. (Lol) In all seriousness though without her love, understanding and support I wouldn't be having the success I've been having lately. 

'Day Break'. 24" x 36". Oil on Canvas.

Polly - Can you tell us about your influences and inspirations; perhaps some of your favourite artists and why? 

Paul - I've made an honest effort the last couple of years to look at less art and look more at my life and the world around me. I still look at way more art than I should but I can't help it. Looking at other artists is great and there's a lot to be learned but the temptation to mimic, copy and steal is just to great. I'll still look to the past when I come across problems in my work; I mean there's no need to reinvent the wheel every time a problem arises, but I'm trying very hard to be honest and sincere in each and every painting I do. 

 As far as artists I like to look to for help. Here's my top ten in no particular order. (This list is subject to change.) 

1. Stephen Brown [*]
2. Rembrandt 
3. Anslem Kiefer 
4. Winslow Homer 
5. Scott Prior 
6. Gregory Gillespie 
7. John Frederick Kensett 
8. Turner (especially the nocturnes) 
9. Charles Warren Eaton 
10. Donald Jurney

Stephen Brown. Self-Portrait. Oil. [*]

Polly - Indeed, in today's world especially with social media at our finger tips, it's difficult not to see more art on a daily basis and I completely understand your sentiments. Though, if you could apprentice with any artist dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Paul - I wouldn't make a very good apprentice. I don't like stretching canvas all that much and when I do I sure as hell wouldn't want someone else to paint on it. 

Self-Portrait at 24. 20" x 24". Oil on Canvas.
(Paul is 36 years old presently)

Polly - In your own words, how would you describe your style of painting? 

Paul - I'm somewhere on the realistic side of the spectrum.

'Breaking Light'. 8" x 8". Oil on Panel.

Polly - If you could your hand at another medium or genre what would it be and why?

Paul - I'd like to restore old cars. I don't know how but I think I could get into it. My dad worked in auto body most of his life and I just think it would be cool. I'm either changing diapers or expressing myself through paint most of the time, it'd be a nice change of pace to go work in the garage for a bit.

'Waleska'. 18" x 24". Charcoal and Pastel on Paper.

Polly - Earlier you indicated that you face the challenge of depending on one income; I'm curious what other challenges do you face as an artist and what your thoughts on being an artist?

Paul - Oh going from two steady incomes to one was just crazy. I've got a wife who really believes in me. She gave me a great gift by letting me quit my day job and just go for it. I hope some day to be able to return the favor. (She loves her job and would still work anyway... but probably not as often.) 

My biggest challenge as an artist is making better paintings. 

'Beckon'. 9" x 4". Oil on Panel.

Polly Tell us what's happening in your studio now; are you working towards a show or on any interesting projects? 

Paul - What's happening now? I'm working on making some larger versions of some of my tiny seascapes. I'm trying to get in as much plein-air and portrait sketching as possible, which isn't as much as I'd like. I'm also teetering with the idea of doing a large double portrait of my kids out in the backyard. Not sure how I want to approach that one.

'Paul Mitchell'. 18" x 24". Charcoal on Paper.

Polly - Changing topics ... This is a question I ask all the artists I interview; if you could spend the day with one person, dead or alive, famous or not, who would it be and why?  

Paul - I'd grab an extra day with my dad. He passed before my kids were born so I'd like him to meet his grand kids. He'd probably take the opportunity to smack me for quitting my day job and tell me that I need to call my mom more. He was a great dad, his time here was just to short. 

Polly - In your professional opinion, what do you think constitutes as a good piece of art? 

Paul - For me a good piece of art is something that moves you, touches you inside and the less you can explain why is probably better.  

'Kerri (in warm light)'. 16" x 10". Oil on Panel.

Polly Would you mind sharing something about yourself that most people don't know about you?

Paul -I hate blueberries but I like blueberry muffins.

'The Last Pines'. 30" x 30". Oil on Canvas.

Polly - HA! That's funny you hate blueberries but like blueberry muffins. Well, thank you so much Paul for this wonderful interview ... as we close out do you have any final thoughts you'd like to say about you and or your art, any wisdom you may have to offer to young, and aspiring artists? 

Paul - Best advice I was given in school..."Keep painting, life is hard and you have to figure out a way to live and keep painting."


Polly - That's wonderful advice and please allow me to wish you the best with your art and your artistic journey!

To learn more about Paul Batch and his art please visit his website, blog, and Instagram ...

Instagram: paulbatch