Lynette Haggard’s Art Blog Weekly Artist Interview – San Francisco
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Lynette Haggard (LH): where do you live and work?
Howard: I live on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, CA. My studio is at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco.
LH: Did you receive any formal art training?
Howard: 1 year of college as an art major. Fullerton, CA
LH: What is your media?
Howard: Encaustic since 1987, interspersed with periods of oils.
Encaustic on panel 40 x 72″
LH: Can you describe a bit about your work in general?
Howard: My work has a very philosophical underpinning. Most of my artist statements go into relationships between things. Real/imagined, natural/manmade, etc. My premise is that there is no separation and that everything is nature itself. I try to communicate this in my work by combining disparate elements and then allowing them to integrate.
However philosophical I might be, my paintings are made to be observed and felt. Titles can be a glimpse into the artists’ mind, but I’m happy to let people discover what they will.
I’ve always worked in a serial fashion. I’ll pursue a theme until it gradually morphs into something else. My work also has a modular feature. Combining panels to form a larger piece, sometimes irregularly shaped.
I generally work on one piece at a time. However, I will set a painting aside and start another if I’m really stumped. An art teacher once told me that “painting is fixing mistakes”. He also suggested that if you are stumped, to blot out your favorite area of the painting. His idea is that the one favorite area, while good in itself, is holding back the resolution of the entire piece. I have used this idea successfully.
LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get “in a groove” and what inspires you?
Howard: Regarding my studio work, I have a saying…”just show up”. I take weekends off, but come to the studio all other days. I find that being in the studio is just as important as picking up the brush. My style is a slow but steady one. Paintings flow from one to the next as a continuous thread. Growing by doing. In fact, an art teacher once told me to just finish 100 paintings and I would surely improve. I’m a person who values freedom and independence. I think creativity depends on those conditions. So, when you have the two, it’s a good combination.
LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?
Howard: Starting from very young, I loved working with my hands. Either drawing or making things, that was my passion.
There is also the issue of genes. On my father’s side, there is a strong artistic tradition. My grandfather raised himself from 12 years old to graduating from the Chicago Art Institute. Unfortunately, he was forced to give up his art to support his family and died very young.
So, art became the logical choice in my life, but I never believed it could be a career. For one thing, I was on the west coast in the 60′s, not thinking about careers. Instead, I was attracted to the back to the land movement. While developing skills living in the country, I also made jewelry. Nature was and is a very strong influence in my life. A great teacher as well as a muse.
Ultimately, in my mid 30′s, I struck out to “become an artist”. I moved to Santa Fe, which was full of young artists, doing what I was doing. It was a wonderful time to grow as an artist because not only were we young, but the economy was strong. I discovered and dove into encaustic in 1987. I also did a lot of monotyping in those days.
Installation in Houston
LH: Can you mention any artists who influenced you? Howard: My most significant influences early on, was art that was currently being made. Work that I personally liked to linger over and admire. Polke, Richter, Twombley, and Kiefer are in a permanent like column. Others, like Bleckner, Schnabel, and Winters I liked a lot when I was getting started. Nowadays, there is more art than ever to look at. I find now, that I get the most enjoyment from looking at photographs, especially painterly ones like the Starn twins.
LH: What is your workspace like?
Howard: Work space is very important and I’ve been fortunate in this regard as well. I’ve had five studios over my 25 years as a working artist. Among them was one that I built. A 1200 s.f. passive solar studio in New Mexico. Currently I have a studio at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyards in San Francisco. It’s a decommissioned base that now houses 250 artists, the largest artist colony in the country.
Hersh at work in his studio, pouring wax
LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
Howard: I approach each painting with a vision of what I’d like it to be. Of course, they almost always turn out differently. Sometimes better than imagined, sometimes disappointing. Those are the paintings that take longer and are more of a struggle. Art making for me is muti-dimensional, drawing from creative inspiration, craftsmanship, and problem solving. Communicating in a silent way, paintings must nevertheless, still communicate. This is the challenge every artist faces.
LH: Do you have any web links/site/blog etc. you’d like to share that show your work?
Howard: My website, http://www.howardhersh.com, has over 10 years of work archived. In addition, there are reviews, artist statements, and a printable resume. I also have a facebook page.
LH: What are you reading right now?
Howard: Anything by Edward Abbey, a longtime favorite author of mine. His love of nature, particularily the desert southwest, his biting humor, his fierce spirit of non-conformity and independence are wonderfully inspiring to me.
LH: Do you have other jobs other than making art?
Howard: A full time studio artist since 1985
LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Howard: Some paintings flow really easily and some don’t. The ones that don’t, just take more time.
LH: Where would you like to be with your work in 5 years? Howard: Taking one day at a time and remembering to smell the roses is my plan. Nowadays, this seems more prudent than ever.
LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you’d like to mention?
Howard: The next show that I’m working towards is at Gallery One in Nashville, TN.
Thank you Howard!