Monday, June 29, 2009
Following a series of interviews with artists, this time The Art Inquirer brings to its readers the opportunity to get to know John Stires, an artist who paints the sea life.
TAI - Thank you for accepting to give this interview to The Art Inquirer.
Let us know about yourself and how it all started.
JS - I was born in Glendale, CA. I've always like art and I've always liked fish. I just never thought about combining the two interests. In high school, they both were hobbies and when it came time to chose a major in college I went with fish (biology major at UC Santa Barbara) thinking that art was an ineffective use of my time at college. I made this decision about a year or two before the explosion of the digital arts and by the time I was a junior in college I realized that I probably should have majored in art. While I enjoyed biology, I was pretty bad at it. Luckily, I did take quite a few art classes in college, which pretty much saved my GPA. After college I moved to NYC, considered an architecture career, but soon realized that as with biology it was too technical and I would never enjoy it. So I waited tables, considered writing a comic book and ended up working as a graphic designer and creative services director at Marvel Comics. After 6 years there I transitioned into the wild world of Internet startups and landed a job as a product manager at a video product review website called Expo TV, which is where I work today.All this time I pursued creative avenues but avoided painting, mainly because I had no clue what to paint. I wanted to have a purpose with painting and felt there was no reason to consider it unless there was something I wanted to paint. By this time I had been involved with reef aquariums for almost 20 years. Last fall it finally hit me, I could paint fish and corals and other sea creatures!I consider myself to be more of an expert with reef aquariums than I consider me to be an expert in art. In fact I probably consider myself to be more of a novice at art when it comes to technique. I really don't have much technique when I paint and I'm trying very hard to learn various ways to work with paints. I do feel that I have a very creative mind and feel that in time my technique is going to catch up with my mind. While I am happy with some of the things I have painted, I still feel that I am searching for exactly what I want to convey.
TAI - How important do you find your knowledge about the species that you convey and how does that show in your paintings ?
JS - I think my knowledge of the species adds quite a bit to what I choose to paint. Understanding the behaviors of the fish and corals helps me bring forth unique personalities and movement in the subject. I am very interested in trying to capture distinct expressions from the fish rather than simply painting beautiful sea life. I think the beauty comes from the mood the animals bring. That is probably why I focus on such intimate portraits rather than large seascapes.
TAI - Wanting to paint the waterworld has forced you in study the water species with more perseverance ?
JS - Definitely. It has helped me explore certain fish and behaviors much more. It's great because the research is a wonderful learning experience and has has even helped me explore aquarium husbandry more.
TAI - When doing a portrait, be it of a human or animal, one of the objectives of the painter is to transmit the model's character or mood.How do you cope with the objective when portraying a living being from the waterworld ?
JS - Trying to capture the mood or character of a fish is pretty difficult. Fish don't express themselves with eyes and other facial expression. They express themselves with their bodies. So movement is key when trying to transmit a mood. Even though fish don't express themselves with their facial features I still think it is possible to illicit a feel through their eyes and mouths. Many fish have down-turned mouths and wide open eyes so that generally makes for sad, wary, and paranoid looking subjects. I actually like that and I think it touches on the environmental concerns of our oceans today. It is as if all the fish are wary of the humans viewing them, wondering if humans really have the best intent for their environment.
TAI - Besides painting with oils, what other mediums and venues do you use to transmit your art and work to the public.
JS - I actually dabble in quite a bit more things besides oil painting. I've always been interested in the Internet and building successful website, so I look at everything I do on the web as somewhat of an art form. My site is as much of an art project as my paintings. Through my site I do alot of digital art with wall decals and I also reproduce my artwork on t-shirts, coffee mugs and other products through Zazzle. It is another way for me to express myself and jumping into the online world helps keep me engaged with my artwork. Although I do admit that the time spent online doing this stuff also takes away from my time spent on actual painting.Recently I started taking video of various corals and fish and cutting together small clips of them. I started a new site called Reef Video and I look at this as a different type of artistic expression. There are many behaviors that need to be shown on video that I can't really do with a paintbrush. This goes for corals especially. In paintings corals look like plants or sticks or other static objects. With video you can show how they blossom and move and feed. It is quite spectacular and alien to watch a coral move and feed. Many people don't realize that they are animals and are always surprise by their unique behaviors.
TAI - How people react when looking at the subjects that you paint ?
JS - This is one of those questions that is very hard for an artist to gauge. My art is pretty new, I consider myself a novice so when people view my art I can never as to what level people like my paintings. This is where I rely on the internet to get true reactions to my artwork. If I notice that people start posting my artwork around the internet or if more and more people start coming to my site, then I'll know that people are reacting well to my artwork.
TAI - What are the species that you most like to paint ?
JS - Well, clownfish are just fun to paint. They are probably the most popular fish out there and there is good reason why, they just have wonderful personalities. I've been playing around recently with various types of corals and while I like to paint them I find them extremely difficult to paint well. I think that is one of the areas I need to improve the most.
TAI - Can you be caught painting or sketching at an aquarium or oceanarium ?
JS - Not yet, however I can be caught taking video of various corals and fish tanks in local aquarium shops. I am going to be visiting the amazing Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta in a couple of weeks and hope to get some behind the scenes interviews and video while I am there. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
TAI - Please tell us about your artistic plans for the future and if you have any upcoming exhibitions.
JS - Plan to see more paintings, wall decals, video and other things. I am looking around at printing my own greeting cards with some of my work on them and selling them through my site. I still need to create a larger body of work before I can approach someone about showing my work. It's a long process but I could see myself displaying some artwork hopefully by the end of the year.
The artwork of John Stires can be seen at his website.
In a constant effort to offer its readers a pleasant reading, based on quality and relevant content, The Art Inquirer has already granted a new series of interviews.
Posted by Jose Carrilho at 9:31 PM