– By Chris Miller PAPNM
Question — How and when did you become interested in art and when did you become a full-time
Answer — I’ve created art since I was a child. I’d draw on anything I could get my hands on. There was a very
specific moment I became an illustrator. I was doing graphic design in Los Angeles and walked into an art director’s office. Pinned to the wall were four small monochromatic portraits that just stopped me in my tracks. They were illustrations by Bernie Fuchs. On the way out of the office, someone walking down the hall asked who I was and what I did. My answer – “I’m Lyn Boyer and I’m an illustrator.” He
said, “Great, here’s a magazine cover job.” And that was that.
Q — Who or what are the major influences in your art?
A — The great painters and illustrators of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Sargent, Sorrola, Van Gogh – Winslow Homer, J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, Maxfield Parish, Bernie Fuchs, Mark English.
Q — What is art? How do you define it?
A — Art is a unique creation. A ‘master copy’ is not art. It is education. Art must be a personal interpretation. An expression of a feeling. A completely new combination of ideas and materials unique to that particular artist at that particular time. Art requires the impetus of the spirit.
Q —You travel a great deal. How important is travel to your art, especially to stimulating ideas and discovering new subject matter for your paintings?
A — For me it is absolutely essential and something I will always do. I am incredibly curious and am compelled to know what is around the next corner. It is not only the things I see that inform my work – it is the people I meet, animals I meet, random experiences. This all refreshes and inspires me.
Q — How important is teaching art to your continued development as an artist? Do you enjoy teaching?
A — I absolutely carve out time for teaching because I was born wired that way and am compelled to find a way to pass the baton. I don’t think it would affect my development as an artist if I didn’t teach, but a benefit of teaching is that it makes you organize concepts that have become automatic and intuitive over time into a form that is cogent and understandable.
Q — Many artists say art sales post Great Recession have still not fully picked up. Where do you show your art and how have sales been?
A — I sell art at events and competitions, through my website, out of my studio gallery, through galleries and occasionally off the easel when out painting. Sales are consistent, but they don’t fall in your lap and having multiple avenues of selling helps. The markets ability to support viable prices is beginning to recover. You just need to figure out where your art fits in the market and find that range of buyers and collectors.
Q — What do you strive for when you paint?
A — What I call ring of truth and sense of place. Everyone has a lifetime of experience gathering images in their subconscious — sunrises, sunsets, the way light hits something. Whether you’re going to be interpretative or impressionistic, if you get those things wrong people won’t respond as well to a painting. They know on a subconscious level that something is not quite right even though they can’t tell you what it is. When someone sees a painting I want that sense of truth of rightness of moment and time to be communicated. And to do that I need to understand those things in order to get them right.
Q — And how does this pertain to what you’re hoping the viewer will see and enjoy? Talk a bit about your style of painting.
A — My style would be most accurately called impressionistic realism. I allow it to vary a bit on a scale from tighter to very loose depending on the subject and what I’m trying to communicate.
Q — Your palette?
A — I use a fairly common palette with a warm and cool of the primaries, Titanium White and one earth tone. I change it up a bit depending on where I’m
Q — Values?
A — I make sure every painting is based on a very specific, strong underlying value pattern.
Q — Warm and cool?
A — Whether a painting leans warm or cool depends on my subject matter and what I’m trying to communicate.
Q — Atmosphere?
A — If you’re referring to atmospheric perspective it’s incredibly important if you’re trying to carve that third dimension into the canvas on a landscape. We have to actually exaggerate it out West here since the air is so clear. If you’re talking about atmosphere as a mood, that is something different, like a park bench in fog.
Q — Brush work?
A — I consider brush work to be incredibly important. It’s a skill that’s often neglected that needs to be understood. It’s a higher level skill and can be easily mishandled. I’ve seen paintings where someone has obviously learned a new way to use brush work and then will impose it on the entire canvas which immediately flattens out the picture plane. Skilled brushwork brings nuance to a painting. I think good brushwork can be taught and learned. With practice it becomes very intuitive. It gives me a more pure and immediate response
when I’m painting.
Q — Edges?
A — It’s another essential skill.
Q — Many artists find that participating regularly in a critique group helps to improve their art.Do you participate in a critique group, and if so, what do you gain from the group?
A — I don’t participate in critique groups. I’ve found that that some people use little sound bytes they’ve heard about what makes a good painting without understanding the ‘why’ – the myriad solutions to a problem. If you want to do a group thing I’d recommend making them not so much a ‘critique’ as an enjoyable social event for folks to get together and share their paintings with each other and just talk about why they painted it, things they discovered, what was fun about it. If an organization wants to do a group critique I’d suggest bringing someone in who is qualified.
Q — How important is plein air painting to your art and your
continued development as an artist?
A — It is essential and something I will always incorporate into my practice. It stands on its own and it also informs my studio paintings. I believe if I ever gave up plein air painting my studio paintings would suffer. It keeps me connected to what I choose to paint.
Q — How often do you paint plein air?
A — I paint plein air consistently between April and November. There’s a limit to what I’m willing to put up with while trying to paint. Painting in the pouring rain is impossible and trying to paint when my paint is frozen and won’t come off the brush is a waste of time. I’ve painted having to hold my gear down with one hand while painting with the other because of the wind. Honestly you just do what you have to do. You need to be prepared. I will change up some of the pigment brands depending on the temperature. Take sun screen, bug spray, and try to anticipate what you might run into. You have to train yourself to focus in the face of distraction. But, if a storm comes up behind you, you leave rather than being killed by lightning! I take orange cones and a flag in case I pull off the side of the road to paint so cars will see me. Be smart.
Q — Is there a group of people with whom you generally like
to paint plein air?
A — I have a few particular friends on the plein air circuit I particularly have fun painting with. We enjoy seeing each other at events. I paint alone a lot and approach it a little differently than some folks because it’s my vocation. I don’t view it as a social event.
Q — When painting plein air how do you choose what to
A — I’m never looking for things to paint. I’m looking for interesting shapes, patterns, lighting effects, oddities. Something that makes me want to slam on my brakes for whatever reason. I’m not interested in painting pretty paintings. One may end up being pretty, but that isn’t what I’m after. There are things I specifically veer away from since I’m pretty sure the scene is so darn pretty my painting will end up looking like a cheap gas station calendar. You get a cobalt blue sky going, aspens at their peak, snow on the mountain tops, a road curving into the distance and you’ve got to work pretty darn hard to find a way to see that in a new and interesting way.
Q — Do you have favorite areas and times of day in which you like to paint?
A — I enjoy painting just about anywhere and anything. In fact, if I’m xperiencing something like location fatigue, where you get so used to painting something that you stop looking and start using little tricks, I’ll move on to something radically different. I paint absolutely anything at any time of day. I get up to paint at dawn and I paint at sunset, but I also paint at high noon or any other time. In Steamboat Springs (Colorado) I went out at midnight with friends to paint a nocturne. It all has to do with the light source, objects and atmosphere, how they interact, and being able to interpret that.
Q — Do you generally view your plein air paintings as studies for studio paintings, or are you striving to get frame-able paintings that you can sell?
A — I go out and try to learn something, answer a question, learn a new skill, paint what has intimidated me, do the hard thing. I never know ahead of time if they’ll be a useful study for a future painting, a nice piecethat will stand on its own, or just an exercise in learning.
Q — What were your best and worst days painting plein air, and why?
A — Best: I’m not sure there is a best. But, I’d say one of the really good days painting came at the end of the day when I saw something I had to paint and slammed on the brakes. I only had about an hour and it started raining just as I finished. It’s one of my favorite paintings. (This painting, Classical Gas, was awarded Honorable Mention at the Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta). The reason it’s such a nice memory is that it was a moment where I was able to make quick, correct decisions on the fly to pull together a fun painting in a short period of time. To do that, your core skills have to be developed to the point where you can draw on them intuitively.
A — Worst: That might be when I was in shorts and flip-flops, was all set up to paint, standing at my easel, and realized with a pretty big dose of horror I was standing on top of a giant ant hill. There was a bit of jumping around and yelling.
Q — Any other thoughts before we conclude this interview?
A — Stretch yourself. Don’t stay in your safe zone. If something intimidates you, hit it head on and wrestle it to the ground. Measure your progress. If you’re painting at the same level at the end of a year, figure out why and what you need to do to start moving forward again. Work with absolute integrity. Shelve your emotions when you need to. Sometimes things will be fair. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes you’ll feel something wasn’t fair, but when looking back from a place of greater development you’ll realize it was. Be true to your own vision and stand by it, but never use that as a cover for lack of skill. Celebrate your personal victories when you conquer a skill that had been busting your chops. Never stop painting.
To learn more about Lyn Boyer and her art visit her website: https://lynboyer.wordpress.com/
Chris Miller is a regular contributor to the PAPNM newsletter.