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"Strawberries in Colander"
6 March 2002 — To kick off this new page I’ve decided to show a preview of a question and answer dialog I just completed at the request of The Artist’s Magazine. The editors are collecting a dozen or so responses from characters like myself from around the country. Aside from my wife Peggy, no one has read this yet. So what follows may or may not end up edited, shorten or revised. With warts and all, here it is:

The Artist’s Magazine - How do you come up with new ideas for painting subjects?

Charles Sovek - Painting from life solves a lot of problems, here. Keeping my eyes open, both indoors and out, I seldom am at a loss for what to paint. The trick is how to keep the initial “wow” intact all the way to the last brush stroke. I function best doing “series” works. Like last week I got a lot of momentum going doing some still life themes for a show I’m having this spring. The first couple were not very good and I was discouraged. But I kept plugging away. And here’s a good chestnut IT’S NOT SO IMPORTANT HOW WELL YOU PAINT, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU KEEP ON DOING IT. By being tenacious, even my darkest moods eventually fade and I’m back in the groove of trying to snare a masterpiece. Changing subjects can also be a good remedy. Also changing mediums or formats, like small to big or vice versa. Then, if I’m still blue, I get out my concertina and take a shot at Lady of Spain. Finally, if still zip, I get out Part 1, 2 and 3 of the Godfather, take a day off and submerse myself in movie magic. That hasn’t failed yet.

T.A.M. How do you know when it’s time to try something new?

C.S. When I know how the painting is going to turn out.

T.A.M. Are there any exercises or tricks you rely on to get your creativity flowing?

C.S. With landscapes, I have a couple of special locations I save for blah days. These places never fail to inspire me. There’s a point on the beach in Provincetown where the old Unitarian church meets the houses in a skyline configuration that artist’s have painted since Hopper and Demuth. I can see why. The magic is there. So too, with places in Taos and Mendocino and New York City and Paris. Places that always seem to want to be painted. Indoors, music usually gets me in the mood. Being a night person, a quiet studio, music, a good still life or figure motif in front of me... doesn’t get much better than that.

T.A.M. What’s the most creative thing you ever did?

C.S. 1992. Had written three books, done dozens of articles for you guys, had a zillion adoring students and sold well in galleries. Yet...I was a closet colorist. Really afraid to let it rip. Tone was king cause I could control it. I saw a catalog from a show in San Francisco of a group of artists called The Society of Six. Subtitled, California Colorists, I was first intrigued, then boggled and finally smitten. I got on a plane (from New York) flew to San Francisco, went to the gallery to see the actual paintings, took a week tracking down the places the artists painted. Most were either condos or had fences around them. But I found a few intact, set up my easel and began for the first time in my life painting with PURE color. The experience was intoxicating. Never have used earth colors since. Some of my collectors and galleries squawked. Too bad. Even ten years later, I can still feel the tingle of liberating myself from a lot of traditional baggage. Lew Lerhman wrote about me and included that experience in his second book called “Successful Artists, something, something, something. North Light published it and you might even have a copy on your bookshelf.

T.A.M. What do you consider to be the secret to maintaining artistic inspiration?

C.S. None. Like van Gogh , you need to believe in yourself and trust that the muse of the arts has favored you. But you only find this belief and trust by working your butt off just as hard as you can.

T.A.M. Any other thoughts on the subject?

C.S. Being an artist is a privilege. It’s not about money or fame or even pleasure. It’s being in a special place where the currency is expression, originality and serendipity. Kids know about the place without ever being taught. So do the students who ask hard questions and aren't afraid to trust their gut when given pat answers. It’s not really about craft so much as using whatever tools that are at hand to show how you feel about what’s around you.

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