The shared thoughts and artwork of Jeff Ventola.
Jeff is a visiting artist from Danville, NH. His work will be on exhibit at the Melrose Arts Festival from April 26-28, 2013.
Q. What does Art mean to you?
Art is my life and I didn’t realize that until I resumed in 2008. I’m sad I let it get away as long as I did, but I’m happy because it has given me motivation that I did not have before. It showed me something about myself…something about my character. It showed me how important it is to stay with something that means so much to you…never let anything take you from it. Painting is my way to express what I am feeling…It’s a part of my soul, it’s who I am and that’s what I try to put in every stroke…a part of me.
Q. What inspires you to paint?
My instructor is very inspirational…her passion for the arts drives me to want to be better. She is a phenomenal artist who is also the person responsible for getting back into painting. I get my inspiration from many different places….Different subjects inspire me…beaches, clouds and beautiful sunsets.
Q. In your bio you mention that you had once taken a 15 year break from your artwork. How did that break influence the art you create today? Are your current paintings consistent with your earlier work?
It’s actually more like 18 years…I stopped in 1991 to do other things and in 2008 my good friend who is also my instructor said to me “you’re so talented, what are you doing?” From that day, I ordered oil paints and pastels, enrolled in her class, and have never looked back.
That hiatus opened my eyes to how much I love art and enjoy sharing it with other people.
My current work is completely different than my earlier work. Not just in subject, but medium. I was an illustrator and I painted with water color primarily still life now I paint only with oil and pastel mostly landscapes.
Technically i’ve only been painting since 2008…I’d love to know where I’d be had I not left for so long.
Q. What is your creative process?
My creative process begins with finding a subject that inspires me…once found, I decide which medium would suit it best and which one I feel could execute best for the subject. Once a decision is made to go with pastel or oil, I will either tone my canvas or do a quick local color block in regardless of the medium. With oil, I primarily paint on linen and build my layers thin to thick. With pastel I will lightly layer the pastel usually on Kitty Wallis sanded paper. This paper is similar to sand paper and can accept aproximately 25 layers of pastel. Once the tooth is filled you are able to really push the pastel around and achieve a very painterly affect with the pastel. I try to use Terry Ludwig or Diane Townsend pastels. When I paint with oils, I will work on a section, bring it up to one level and move on to the next section bringing it up to a similar level while not finishing the section completely. This takes much more time, but gives you much more control while painting. Once the painting is complete, I frame my own artwork and hang it in my studio or submit to an upcoming show!
Q. As artists, what do you think drives us to capture what we see?
I’m driven by the challenge of trying to paint something I feel will be difficult for me. It’s much more gratifying knowing you’ve completed a painting that was a challenge to begin with. For example…I often struggle with clouds so I I know if I paint clouds and they look satisfactory then it’s a wonderful feeling in the end.
Q. What do you hope to share through your artwork?
I’m a very private person…I hope my art allows people to see who I am and that there is a side of me that they may find simple and intriguing. My art reflects who I am and allows me to express what I’m about. I am very intense and wear my heart and emotions on my sleeve. I put a lot of that in my art by using dark colors, hard strokes, and sometimes contrasted with soft strokes and simple subjects.
Q. When painting, what is the most important element of the piece that you concentrate on?
I try hard to concentrate on the values of my subject matter. If your values are incorrect it can throw the whole painting off from start to finish.
Q. Your portfolio consists of oil and pastel works; what influences your choice in technique on a given day?
When I resumed painting I purchased a set of oil paints and a set of pastels and truly had no idea what I was doing. My first oil painting was an apple which ironically sold at last years Melrose Arts Festival and to this day is one of my favorites….I’ll never forget it….it had TONS of paint on it, it was a small 6×8 and literally took 5 weeks to dry! Pastels are much easier for a life style on the go…you can leave them out, grab a stick, throw a splash of color on your canvas and run out the door. There is no paint mixing, cleaning brushes or harsh odors.
Today when I look at a subject many things come in to consideration…from what size would work best, to how much time do I have, also where my confidence level is with each medium relating to the subject, which medium do I feel will benefit the subject matter and allow me to produce a high quality piece…literally down to do I have the right color pastels or material in either medium.
The subject matter will also dictate how I approach the painting once I decide which medium to paint with. Does it require an underpainting, what type of texture do I want the finished painting to have.
For example, I have a much easier time creating clouds in pastel than I do with oil paints. You don’t have the color control in pastel as you do in oil. Oil paintings take me much longer because I still have much to learn regarding paint mixing and medium.
I try to work on a painting in each medium at the same time. They both compliment each other if you continue to paint with the same technique in mind…paint shapes, values and color. When you follow this fundamental you see things in one medium you didn’t necessarily see in the other which in turn helps you become a more well rounded painter.
I try to paint with an impressionistic style with a hint of realism. This gives me a little more freedom with my strokes, but still allows me to keep some detail which I really enjoy.
Q. What is the experience of painting in “plain air”?
Outdoors and painting…what’s not to love! I really enjoy it, but it is very challenging and very different from painting in a studio or from a photograph or still life. The light changes so dramatically so there is no room for second guessing what you see. You’ve got to be very sure of your colors and values and have the confidence to put the stroke down and move on to the next.
I’ve only been plein air painting about a dozen times and they have all been wonderful learning experiences. Last year I sold a painting right off the easel while painting outdoors in Amesbury!
Q. What role did art play in your life as a child?
This is where I developed a love for creativity. It shaped me at a very young age. It showed me it was ok to be different…to express myself artistically was something I was always comfortable doing. It showed me it was ok to to be proud of everything you do. I played sports, and many other things, but when I was done I couldn’t wait to come in and draw, make something out of an milk carton, color, model with clay…anything I could get my hands on. Ironically painting was one of the things I did the least of.
Q. What words of wisdom would you give to an artist that hasn’t picked up his/her paint brushes in a while?
Don’t be afraid…Don’t let anyone or anything drive you away from something that is truly a part of you. Being away from my artistic side for so long has left a void in my life, I can never get back. One of the only regrets in life I have.
Q. What is your current work about? What are you trying to explore and how has that evolved since you started?
My current work reflects the things I love. From figures to animals, boats to cars I do anything that looks challenging and will help improve my skills. For example…one of my goals this year was to get my oil painting on the same level as my pastel work. Currently I feel I’ve achieved that. More specifically I wanted to refine my cloud painting ability. I’ve liked them, but never loved them…they are so challenging…always moving…so many shapes, color temperatures, values…just beautiful…they deserved to be captured accurately. I’m still working on that, but am in a much better place now than I was six months ago.
I look at some of my early paintings and I am VERY proud of my progress in five years. When I began painting in 2008, I relied mostly on instinct I’ve come so far and learned so much. There is so much more to painting than just putting a stroke on canvas…so much to think about, so much to absorb…I take class two days a week and I continue to learn. I’m driven to succeed and have the passion and motivation to get better. As long as I have that I feel I will continue to grow.