Artist Daily Member Spotlight: Keith
|Early Morning by Keith McCulloch, 12 x 16, oil painting.
When I first saw Keith McCulloch's
paintings, I took a deep breath. It was an involuntary reaction but a telling
one—the airy, openness of his paintings made me instinctually breathe in the
wide-open ambiance of his work. The sense of atmosphere was welcoming, and how
Keith uses light and spatiality in his work has a lot to do with that. Here's
what he shared with me.
Artist Daily: Is art-making
Keith McCulloch: Painting, art-making,
looking at art is my life and passion...although I do have to fit it around a
full time job with health benefits.
AD: You are drawn to landscape
painting. How did you come to realize this?
KC: I remember laying on a hill with my
brothers and sister, staring up at the shifting clouds and seeing elephants
morph into funny faces. As a teen I was awed by the paintings of the Hudson
River School. In college I admired the abstract expressionism taking hold in
American art, some of which, to me, were just landscapes of color. Yet at the
Art Students League of New York, I studied figure drawing and painting and
became addicted to the beauty of gesture drawings. This has been very important
to me because my best plein-air landscapes are in fact gesture paintings. They
show the gesture of how the light reveals the elemental character of the
forms of nature.
||Wakulla Beach by Keith McCulloch, 16 x 20,
For your studio paintings, how do you
keep the look and feel of the outdoors so fresh?
KC: Most of my studio paintings derive
from my experiences onsite. In the studio I use onsite color notes, my memory,
and photos. The color notes are critical, the relative tones are so important.
I can do anything but I don't dare change those relationships.
AD: As a plein air painter the process
of working outdoors can be challenging. Do you have any methods for when you
work en plein air?
KC: The biggest challenge to me is
working fast enough before everything changes, especially early day or late in
the afternoon. I take a photo before and after I finish for reference.
Overcast, cloudy mid-days give me a chance to work longer because of a lack of
long cast shadows. Many times I try to go back to the same scene at the same
time to get more information.
AD: What oil painting techniques are
particularly important in your process?
KC: Working wet paint into wet paint
is my normal process. But many times, especially on larger pieces, I will have
to paint over dried areas. In that case I apply a retouch varnish or a thin
layer of medium before applying fresh paint.
|Mossy Glade by Keith McCulloch,
24 x 18, oil painting.
Are there any great resources that
you can share?
KC: Looking closely at good original
work is some of the best instruction you can get. I have collected a large
library of how-to art books, and now am collecting some videos of masters doing
demos. I find the Internet to be a huge asset in finding art. There is
something called the Art Project powered by Google. You can zoom in at
incredible levels to see details of Old Master paintings. The site needs more
images by a million fold but it is a great start!
Keith also told me he's a strong believer in
artists getting and receiving encouraging remarks and critical analysis from
instructors and peers, and I couldn't agree more. Working so closely on a
painting or drawing can sometimes give us blinders, so having
an outside perspective to assess your work is key. The American Artist magazine special publication, Workshop with the Masters, manifests this approach cover to cover.
Instructors give quality instruction, guidance, and tips that readers can
really grow from, improving their process and evaluation skills. Enjoy!
And I hope you'll add your own recent drawings and paintings to the Member Gallery—I'd love to see what you've been up to!