Having the chance to interview an artist either before or following a show is one of my favorite things to do, both as a blogger and as an art lover. For his upcoming show, Artist J. Louis explores a new direction in his art through figuring drawing and I’m so grateful that he shared his new direction and new techniques with me.
What interested you in pursuing figuring drawing and what do you enjoy the most about figure it?
This is a loaded question for me. There is so much that I love about drawing and painting the figure that it’s difficult to put into words. I guess that’s why I choose to make images instead of writings. Although I love the technical challenges, I find the most enjoyable aspect of figure drawing to be the emotional power of the marks I make. I find body language and facial expression to be the most direct pathway to a viewer’s mind and I love the opportunity to explore that space from a different angle in every work of art.
How is it working with models for your sketches versus photos etc that you typically use for your animal paintings?
When I am working with a model our time is spent doing a photoshoot. This is an opportunity for me to not only orchestrate exactly what I am envisioning for future work, but a great opportunity for the model to open new opportunities in the art that I had not imagined.
Do you or the models decide on the poses?
Whenever I work with a model I consider it a collaboration. I have an idea of what I am looking for and I express that to the model. I also insist that they respond to how they are feeling at the moment. Ultimately I want genuine emotion in the photograph. Genuine emotion is at the root of my work.
You’ve done techniques with a silver (striping) and adding silver leaf for your newest works. Tell me a bit about the process.
I have worked silver leaf into my charcoal drawings. The heavenly luminance of silver contrasts wonderfully with the velvety sand of charcoal. My process when working with silver leaf and charcoal is thoroughly planned using a variety of charcoal tools and traditional gilding techniques.
Out of all the pieces you’ve created for the upcoming show, which piece is your favorite?
This is another very difficult question. Each work has a special meaning to me for unique reasons. I won’t choose a favorite, but feel free to ask me why I love any work at the show.
You will be having an Oil Painting Workshop in Charlotte, what do you enjoy most about teaching at workshops?
Teaching workshops is a unique opportunity to connect with other artists and to get nerdy about art-making. I love sharing the skills I’ve developed in an atmosphere charged with a passion to learn.
Although you grew up in Charlotte and attended art school in Savannah at SCAD, you now call Chicago home. How would you say the city of Chicago has influenced you as an artist?
Chicago has given me an opportunity to experience world-class art any time I would like. It’s remarkable to have so many incredible museums and galleries just outside your door. I’ve loved that, but the greatest influence on my work while living in Chicago is my wife, Lilly. She’s an incredible inspiration to me every day. I draw on her energy every day as we experience the great city of Chicago together.
What drew you to the city?
Lilly and I moved to Chicago after Lilly was offered a job.
Is there a particular place you go when you need some inspiration or an artist who inspires you?
I wouldn’t say there is a specific place. I find a great deal of my inspiration while traveling. I decided to make this show the way it is because of my experiences in Bali earlier in the year. I am inspired by many artists. It’s too long of a list, so I will spare you this time.
What is a typical day in the studio like? Do you have something you can’t start your day without?
To keep everything moving smoothly at my studio I follow a fairly strict schedule. Most of my days start at the gym, then my local coffee shop, and then the studio until I’m too tired to continue. I try my best to push myself and my work a little further than I’ve ever been every day. I wouldn’t say I can’t go without it, but I’m a sucker for a good cappuccino and will never turn down an espresso.