Thursday, September 25, 2008

Artist Interview: Halima Washington

Tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? If so, who were your instructors and how did they influence you?

Though I was born with a natural talent for art, I still sought formal training because I was drawn to traditional methods of Fine Art. I received my B.A in Visual Arts and Art History from Occidental College (a small Liberal Arts college in Los Angeles) in 2000 and my M.F.A in Fine Art (Drawing/Painting) from the Academy of Art University-San Francisco in 2005.

Carolyn Meyer was one of my Instructor at AAU, she pushed me to use color and to pick up the palette knife.

Tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

I was mostly influenced by my Grandmother, Dominica Bell. She painted as a hobby even though she did amazing work. Every summer I would take lessons from her…it was fun but not easy. She knew that I was serious about art and really pushed me. Even though I continued to draw and paint well into my teens, I decided to make art my career after my first art class during my Undergraduate studies. I decided my goal in life was to be an artist full time and teach art as well. When I told my family I got mixed reviews, I was studying Biology at the time. My Dad did not speak a word to me for several months! Everyone soon got over themselves, they saw how passionate I was.

How would you say that your work has advanced over time?

Over time my work has matured. My drawing abilities are much stronger, I have mastered the fundamentals of painting all subjects and I utilize my strengths. Once I was able to paint very realistic and traditional, the hard part was finding my style. With a lot of experimentation and wasted canvases and paint I have come into my own.

Can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

I study a photo or life reference of my subject for awhile. This way I have a plan of attack! I figure out the composition and color so there will be less guessing when I start applying the paint. My style is Impasto (thick paint) applied with a palette knife, in sort of a Post Impressionist feel. With this style I have the freedom of more contemporary paintings and exaggerated color. I sketch loosely with a brush to avoid over working it, block in color and then proceed to layer on the paint. When I take a huge step back and the painting has a sense of depth, light and emotion…I put down the knife.

How do current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

The “everyday” impacts my paintings. I am recording more of my environmental surroundings than current events. My cityscape paintings show a perspective of our urban life while driving and my still life paintings bring attention to the little things in life.

Tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

I paint what I see everyday. I take the ordinary and add a twist. The twist is inviting the viewer to see and feel my passion for painting.

Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

I love oil paint because of its buttery texture and pure color. It works well with my current style of painting. I add liquin and impasto gel to speed up drying time and preserve the texture.

What is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music?

I am used to working in my bedroom because of living in San Francisco with a load of roommates. My studio is currently in a small room in my home. I usually paint at night when it is the quietest. I paint from about 1am to 5:30am after a few glasses of wine! I put my headphones on and rock out to my ipod mixes. If you were to open up the door while I am in my “office” you would crack up. I dance and sing. I like to be loose and happy when I paint. When I have to paint for a client or a gallery, I listen to jazz, drink water and paint in the afternoon and stop around dinner time.

What are you working on at this time?

I am preparing for the Atlanta Cityscapes show at Anne Irwin Fine Art where my work is housed.

In your opinion, what are some of the problems facing artists today?

For all artists I think knowing the business side of art needs to be stressed more. For professional artists I think getting stuck in a rut, recreating work that gets attention and sells often can become a problem. The “bread and butter paintings” are good for paying the bills, but your artistic soul has to move forward and change with you. Take a risk and try something new once in a while, take classes from fellow artists you admire and trust your gift.

The Internet is changing how we discover and view art. What sites have empowered you as an artist?

My own site that I created on gives me the boost of confidence I needed to get my self out there. Being professional is key, updating my website every other day is needed, this is a business after all! It keeps me on my toes and in touch with people from all over the world.

What are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

My goal is to keep learning and growing, I never want to become comfortable where I am. I love a challenge.

What is you website URL?

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