Interview with Russell Gordon of the Wells Gallery
Huddled in the Grapevine o/l 8x8 unframed
Interview with Russell Gordon whose works can be seen at the Wells Gallery in downtown Charleston, SC the month of February.
What kind of research do you do for each piece or series?
I usually have a familiarity with whatever I’m depicting to begin with. The objects in my still lifes are often chosen because they are familiar to me and have built up layers of meaning and symbolism. The birds in my recent works are ones that I know from my gardens and woods around our home here in Cambridge, NY for the most part. So actually, it’s only after getting to know something pretty intimately that I will begin to come up with painting ideas for it.
How do you challenge yourself as an artist?
I’m probably the greatest critic of my own work and only produce 18-24 pieces per year so I’m constantly challenging myself to paint better. Like most artists I have an ideal in my head that I try to achieve and while that shifts over time I always think ‘I can do this better if I try hard enough’. Lately, and ironically, going back to the subjects I was drawn to as a kid are creating a wonderful challenge. I think any artist’s ultimate challenge in the visually driven, media soaked world that we find ourselves in is to somehow find their own unique voice. I think I may finally be doing that.
What do you want to convey to viewers of your work?
I have always been pulled into the microcosmic view of things in this world. I (for instance) see the tiny melodramas enacted amongst blades of grass between a ladybug and an inch worm on the lawn during outdoor summer concerts (instead of what’s going on onstage). My attention as always drawn down and in and almost always rewarded. So I guess I’m a details guy. I want viewers of my work to stop at 30′, be drawn to 5′ for a closer look and then finally almost press their noses into the canvas to discover something precious. In other words ‘don’t just stop and smell the roses, look into the buds and see the little sugar ants…what are they up to.’
What do you want viewers to take away from your work?
I really hope people will stop and appreciate the fact that there are artists working today in the US who quite pride themselves on the craft and technique of painting and go more than the extra mile to create art which we hope will survive far beyond our own lives.
Apart from painting, what other interests do you have?
That’s an easy one. Painting better.
What are you currently working on that we can look forward to?
I’m pretty excited about painting birds right now. I’ve always been entranced by birds and grew up admiring avian artists like John James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson. I went to art school and trained classically and feel inexorably drawn to find my own synthesis between classical realism and traditional naturalism (too many ‘isms I know). I want to do more complex and larger bird paintings in the coming year so look for those.
How long have you been a career artist?
I began drawing at an early age. In those days in school you could read or draw as soon as you were finished with an assignment so I learned that the benefit of doing well in class was the privilege of being left alone to draw. I loved drawing and found art to be the best way to record what I saw in nature and to express ideas and emotions. Most importantly I had supportive parents and even some close neighbor/friends who took me to lessons with the very accomplished artist Peter Egeli. From Egeli’s studio I found a hugely supportive teacher in my first year at St. Mary’s College of MD named Thomas Rowe. Rowe told me quite clearly that I would never learn to be an artist in any college in the US at the time but sent me to the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore, MD where I studied for 6 years with Ann and Hans Schuler and apprenticed with Will Wilson. I graduated in 1992 and have had the great good fortune of painting full-time ever since.
What do you find is your favorite subject matter?
I truly hope I haven’t found my favorite subject matter yet because I want to look, look, look for it for a long time to come. I LOVE painting.