Category Archives: Featured Artists

Featured Artist – Cory Graham

Artist Cory Graham
Artist Cory Graham

Hi Cory, thanks for taking the time!  Tell us about yourself – when did you become interested in art?  And was there any turning point at which you began to take it more seriously?

Eric, thanks so much for letting me share my work on your site! It’s hard to believe only ten months ago I had come here looking for tips using oil pastels. Now here I am sharing my work! Crazy.

So, for the first question, my answer begins when I was just a kid. After watching my first Disney movie, The Black Cauldron, at a California drive-thru I was hooked. Yeah, I was a kid and kids like cartoons, but I took it seriously to the point I’d wake up at 5:30 on schooldays to watch old Johnny Quest and Looney Tunes reruns before school. Heck, I’d barely sleep Friday nights in anticipation for Saturday morning cartoons!

Around the age of 12, I had begun drawing a lot of cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Batman. I’d sit content copying from my old comic books for hours. This eventually led to the drawing of my own cartoon strips and comics of my own design. However, this didn’t last.

Cory Graham Self Portrait
Cory Graham Self Portrait

Once puberty hit, drawing no longer seemed cool. Sure, I still did artistic stuff like models and painting miniature soldiers, but my energy flowed into writing fiction and poetry. The last real thing I can remember drawing was in my Junior year of high school. After that, I did NOTHING for 12 years.
Nearing the end of my twenties, and after dabbling in fiction writing for 7 years, I needed a break. With three novels under my belt, but no editor or publisher interested, perhaps it was time to move on. Right before I turned the age of 30, and watching the ’98 adaption of Great Expectations (a so-so movie) which had a theme of a struggling artist, something clicked. I realized I had just rediscovered my love for art.

In my free time, I passionately began sketching and drawing again. This turned into charcoal pictures which then turned into oil pastels. I’ve always loved oil paints but the harsh solvents, smells, price, and time to complete a painting was a turnoff. So I gave oil pastels a chance (Note, I had used soft pastels in the past, but the chalky nature turned me off). It wasn’t until I got my first set of Senneliers when I fell in love with this medium.

In early January of this year, my full time day job of nine years ended. Needing a holiday, I traveled to Southern California to visit family. While exploring Laguna Beach’s wonderful (and very numerous) art galleries, I felt the urge to pursue and paint art full time. I also realized that I’d never been so happy or content when drawing, painting, and creating. The joy of following one’s dream and being happy is like nothing else in this world…even if that means I’m a starving artist in the meantime, haha.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

What is your creative process like?

Living in rainy Oregon, almost all of my work takes place in my studio. Sure I enjoy the outdoors, but a solitary studio helps me to think and concentrate. Once I have a reference photo, either my own or from the internet, the lackluster part begins. I say this because the fun part comes in the painting! However, as in writing a story, you need research and planning out the composition. You could call this phase a rough draft as it usually just involves sketches in either charcoal or pencil…and then a lot of “editing” to get it right.

When I’m ready to paint, I’ll transfer my sketch via Saral transfer paper onto Ampersand Pastelbord (This is an awesome board which I find works much better than canvas or art paper). Another thing to note is I’m not entirely an oil pastelist, as I do incorporate India Ink. Almost all of my paintings are heavily outlined in bold black ink. Nonetheless, I’m still an oil pastelist in heart!

I won’t enter into too much detail concerning how I apply the oil pastels or what techniques I use as most of these can be read from your site or others. To put it simple, I work in a very chaotic, yet energetic way. Within an hour of starting, my once clean studio is a whirlwind of disaster due to the high energy and passion I spill into every piece of work. Because of this, most often or not, I’ll finish a piece within one sitting or two. What feels like a few hours can really turn out being eight. The art almost never turns out the way I intend, but I’m happy with it. Living in the moment and letting my passion turn the piece into something unexpected is quite exhilarating.

Coffee in the Red Room
Coffee in the Red Room

And yes, music is also very important to my process. Depending on my mood or what I’m working on, I always have some type of up-beat song playing. The music seems to give fuel to my energy or synergy, or whatever you want to call it. The stuff of late which has been playing on my Pandora site is mostly ‘80s music. Some Michael Jackson to Steve Winwood seems to do the trick!

Are there any particular artists who you admire or are influenced by?

Yes, the influence of artists and others have really propelled me to where I’m at. Beyond the comics cartoons of my past helping to inspire me, fine art has done even more. I’ve never been one who created more realistic art, so when I found the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists, I fell in love. Their movement really connected with me, and constantly inspires my work.

If the Impressionists like Monet, Manet, and Degas opened the first door, then the Post-Impressionists like Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin opened the floodgate. I enjoy the Expressionists, too, like Kirchner, Munch, and Schiele. These three, and Van Gogh’s later stuff, showed me it’s OK to use bold colors and even black outlines (which I use in just about everything). I began heavily using the impasto effect, too.

My knowledge of current artists isn’t as learned, but I do enjoy the late Basquiat and the great and living Francesco Clemente. He is truly amazing. I also enjoy Salvador Dali.

Daffodils and Absinthe
Daffodils and Absinthe

What oil pastels artwork of yours are you most proud of? (and why!)

Honestly, I feel, with each piece completed that I’ve grown, and growing, so nothing really stands out. I am proud of my “Daffodils and Absinthe” piece. I feel Mr. Van Gogh would enjoy my use of compliment colors and bold lines. However, once a piece is done, I’m more excited about what comes next.

What attracts you to working with oil pastels? Any particular strengths or qualities you find that distinguish oil pastels from other mediums? Any challenges or frustrations you have had with oil pastels?

What attracted me the most was how much oil pastels can resemble oil paints. As I already said, oil paints have numerous turn-offs so oil pastels seemed like the best substitute. Sure I’d like to give oil paints a try again, but as of now, I have no interest.

As with any medium, there is a learning process, and for me that was the biggest frustration. A lot of trial and error went into learning how to use and manipulate these little sticks. I can be impatient because I want to know how to do it now. It took acceptance of the fact that it takes time, and so, it did. Finally, after about nine months I realized what works best for me concerning oil pastels. One day it just seemed to “click” in my head, as if I finally figured out some great unsolvable equation. Once this happened, my work took off. My point is it’s a learning process and one in which the artist needs patience. Believe me, it’ll pay off for your work.

Any parting words for readers? Words of wisdom to fellow oil pastelists?

Yes, there’s a lot of parting words I’d like to give, but I’ll try and keep it brief!

First, remember to fresh up on all the basic compositions of art. Knowing your colors, their tones, correct perspective, and good focal points will really make a difference between an average piece and great piece.

Pouring Wine
Pouring Wine

Second, confidence, patience, style, and good feedback are essential. Accept nothing will happen overnight as it takes time. I’ve found as with writing, you can’t write a novel in one sitting. Take your time and learn all you can. Also be patient in figuring out what works best for you. Your style should come natural, so don’t force it. For me, I learned I’m more of an Impressionistic like artist although being a realistic one sure would be great. Hone your natural skills and don’t worry about all the other types of art. This doesn’t apply to everyone, because some people are naturally good at many forms of art. Just because you’re not, doesn’t mean you’re a bad artist. Once you have great confidence in yourself and your work, feel free to branch out into a different style. Just be careful as not to get overwhelmed.

Also, feedback is crucial, and will help build confidence. Ask other artists for help, or even join an online art forum like wetcanvas.com. Positive and negative feedback are great as you can always learn something new, or be reminded of something you forgot. Also note that because oil pastels are a less known medium, those that do partake are usually pretty cool people who are always willing to help and give advice to a fellow parishioner.

Third, invest in artist grade materials when you’re ready to get serious. Yes, this will cost money, but the results are day and night better than what you’ll find at a local craft store.

Finally, have fun. If you aren’t, then why are you doing this? If you’re not happy, ask yourself why?

In closing, I just want to say thanks, Eric, for the chance to share my story. This has been a great experience! I know I have a long ways to go, that I’m still growing and honing my talent, but I’m happy, and excited for what may come.

 


Cory’s website can be found at: CoryGrahamArt.com
You can also email Cory at: corygrahamart@hotmail.com.


 

Featured Artist – Rose Russell-Herczeg

Rose Russell Herczeg
Rose Russell-Herczeg

Rose, could you tell us about yourself – when did you become interested in art? Was there any turning point at which you began to take it more seriously?

Hi Eric, I want to thank you for inviting me to be a featured artist on OilPastelsArtist.com! I’m thrilled to talk with you here about art and my favorite medium, oil pastels.

A little about me: I am a full-time wife and mother of 4 wonderful children, 2 grown and 2 boys at home. I live in northeast Florida in a little place we call paradise (Ponte Vedra). I am an avid reader, love anything about health and fitness, and enjoy creating and sharing my art with the world.

From as early on as I can remember, I was always jealous of my father’s natural ability to be able to draw from his imagination. I remember that he had a Jon Gnagy “Learn to Draw” kit in hall closet and he’d often let me take the kit out and try my hand at drawing. I don’t know that I was very impressed by any of my work back then but loved the feel of a pencil in my hand. I remember watching Bob Ross on tv and being fascinated by how he brought his canvas to life with a few brush strokes.

Plumeria
Plumeria

My first serious interest in art began when I was a single mom in the early 90’s. I was living in Smithtown, Long Island and there was a small art store in a village nearby. I went in one day and purchased a few tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolors, some brushes, and some paper. This began a ‘weekend painting’ routine that helped transport me to another place. I fell in love with the colors and I was able to find some peace and healing during a very stressful time in my life. I wasn’t overly serious about art at that time, which was great because I was able to just have fun with it. When I remarried in 1994 I was once again immersed in full-time parenting, but I continued to paint and explore other mediums in addition to watercolors. I would call this my exploratory time.

In 2005 I joined WetCanvas and started doing some ACEO projects in the watercolor section of the forum. This began an interest in ACEO size art and I hosted many ACEO projects for the next few years. It kept me in the creative process and I was able to try out all different kinds of art supplies to get an idea of where I wanted to go with my artwork. I continued to to do ACEOs for a long while in mixed media and experimented with all kinds of supplies, including oil pastels. During my hosting period, I met an oil pastel artist on WC and loved the look she was getting with oil pastels on black card. Tanya and I began corresponding and she gave me tips on how to use oil pastels as well as what type of surfaces I should use. At least four years have passed since I first got a taste of oil pastels but picked them up again this past November and became serious about learning just one medium inside and out. I realized that I was spending too much time in various mediums without knowing any one of them intimately and that it was time to make a decision and go for it. My long-term goal is to learn all I can about oil pastel and explore it to its full potential.

Morning Glory
Morning Glory

I have admired the work of daily painters for many years and have always wondered what it would be like to be a full-time artist. It finally dawned on me that I will not be successful in an art career unless I am DOING art. Too many years of my life were spent thinking about art and reading about art, but not actually creating art. It was with this revelation that I began to direct more of my thoughts to taking my art a step further. I also think that turning 50 gave me a push in that direction, that life is too short and that I want to be living my life doing something I love and can be proud of. My children are older now and there is more time to devote to art, and this will soon enable me to paint larger soon. It is all about priorities and I found that if I make a schedule to paint or draw for at least an hour a day, that I could only get better.

What is your creative process like?

I find inspiration in photographs because as a busy mom, I don’t have a lot of time to paint from life. I spend a lot of time searching for photos on Google or Flickr, I just browse until I find a certain combination of colors or lines. I love to paint flowers and this is where I find the most pleasure. I look for close-up shots of flowers with a lot of bright colors. Once I find a photo that I like, I crop it to give it the best composition, then make some simple sketches of possible backgrounds and color combinations before I begin. Lately I have been using Pastelbord by Ampersand as my support, and I try to keep to a smaller size (5×7) in order to finish a piece in one sitting. Eventually I would love to get do larger pieces but for now this helps me focus on accomplishing one piece of art each day, which is a goal I set for myself in the beginning of the year. I mainly use Neocolors but have recently purchased a set of Senneliers that are a wonderful complement to the Neocolors. Neocolors are a bit firmer and great for the initial blocking in of color and the Senneliers are super soft and creamy, they are the best for highlights and blending over color.

Oil Pastels Painting For me, creating is all about getting into the “zone”. I always have music on, prefereably jazz music or music with a beat; music definitely makes a difference. I also like to make sure there is at least an hour or two to devote to a piece so that I can finish in one session. My computer is nearby in order for me to have a clear reference of the photo(s) I am working from.

Any particular artists who you admire or are influenced by?

There are many artists I admire, but two that come to mind are August Macke and Georgia O’Keeffe. I enjoy Macke’s artwork because it is expressionistic and avant-guard, he uses lots of bright color. O’Keeffe’s art is very sensual and curvaceous. Between these two artists I have found my style. I have studied many of O’Keeffe’s paintings. She had a lovely way of expressing her sensuality by using natural forms like flowers and mountains. When I am painting a flower, I want to be able to accentuate the sensuality of the flower by the use of lines and color, by describing the softness of a petal, or by the use of soft or bold color. I am learning how to develop a more 3-D look that is becoming my style. I believe that each person’s art is so very personal, and that when we create, we paint a picture of our inner self. With each completed work, I find there is another piece of the puzzle that comes together in my search for identity as an artist.

Oil Pastels Painting What oil pastels work of yours are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the first oil pastel I did for my uncle. About 6 months ago my uncle had been looking over some of my work on my blog and pointed out an oil pastel piece that he liked and wanted to know if he could purchase it from me. To his dismay, it was ACEO size and I had laminated it into a bookmark. He had no idea that it was so small and asked if I could do a larger size for him just like it. Having NEVER done a commission before, I really didn’t know if I could pull it off, and I struggled with my confidence in being able to do so. But I found a 5×7 piece of matboard with a black acrylic background and gave it a go. He was so impressed and encouraged me to continue making more art as he felt I had a talent in this area. The original and painting I did for him is below. My confidence has truly taken off since that first piece and I owe it to the continued encouragement from him as well as my many friends on my blog and FaceBook. 

What attracts you to working with oil pastels? Any particular strengths or qualities you find that distinguish oil pastels from other mediums? Any challenges or frustrations you have had with oil pastels?

I think what I love most about oil pastels than any other mediums are that they are ready to use whenever I am. I can pick them up whenever I have a free minute and not have to do a lot of setting up or cleaning up. They are easy to use and the color is always bright. Oil pastels are easy to blend
by using a tortilion, a paper towel, or fingers. I find the very act of just blending is very satisfying, to see colors mix together and create other colors. Oil pastel paintings have a vibrancy to them very much like oils but without the harmful solvents and the brushes.

As with all mediums, there are positives and negatives, and I think one of the negatives for me with oil pastels is that the finished work has to be framed under glass. I have to be very careful in how I handle the painting when I am finished for fear of smudging because oil pastels never truly dry. I have not used any varnishes on my paintings and I know that Sennelier makes a fixative for their brand of oil pastels but I have not tried it yet. Storing paintings are also a challenge as well. You must be careful to not place one painting on top of another and be aware of how heat/moisture can damage a painting. Living in Florida means oil pastels will not travel well due to the heat.

Full Bloom
Full Bloom

Any parting words for readers? Words of wisdom to fellow oil pastelists?

I would say that if you’ve never tried oil pastels before, to treat yourself to a small tin of Neocolors by Caran d’Ache, Holbeins, or Senneliers and a piece of paper with some texture to it, like Colourfix or Canson Mi Tientes. Allow yourself to play like a child would with crayons, uninhibited. Enjoy the bright colors, the freedom of not having to use a brush, the easy set up. Get to know the medium by blending colors together with different kinds of strokes, by using solvent, or with your fingers. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Learning how to use oil pastels takes some time and patience, so don’t’ give up. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have, I’d be happy to help 🙂

 


Rose’s website can be found at: RoseHerczeg.blogspot.com
You can also check out her Facebook page: Rose’s Oil Pastels and Watermedia Paintings.