Amber is a 19-year-old student at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco/ fine arts. Amber and I know each other through a still life painting online class, which has deeply affected us both. Our teacher, John Wentz, has had a significant importance in our evolution as artists. I owe him a lot, and am blessed to have met him.
AK: How did you first become an artist and why do you continue to be one?
Amber: I became an artist very simply. I was fourteen, and, to stave off boredom, picked up an old sketch pad and some felt markers. Things evolved from markers and paper to canvas and paint; but it wasn’t until a year later when I took a pre-college Still Life painting class at the Academy that I knew what had started as a simple hobby would become a lifelong passion.
I am an artist and I know I’ll always be one because the first time I did a realistic painting, something just clicked and it was like… here you go, this is destiny.
So even when it’s hard, and sometimes it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done; that sense of rightness never goes away, and that’s something to be treasured and held onto forever.
AK: What do you do for fun beside art?
Amber: Well, I’ve been playing the violin for about three years, and that’s great fun; although it still, embarrassingly, squeaks sometimes. I spend almost all my free time reading, mostly SciFi/Fantasy books; and I love to spend time with my dog. I always try to make my school assignments as fun as I can, given that that’s what I spend most of my time on nowadays.
AK: What artist/personality has influenced you and why/how?
Amber: Someone that really made an impact on me when I first started painting was an artist named Bob Ross; he had a thirty-minute television program here in America called The Joy of Painting and he could whip out a finished, beautiful landscape in that limited time. At the time it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen an artist do and I was enraptured. I copied his style for a brief time and while I have moved on to other things, his philosophies and attitude about art have stayed with me.
He believed that every mistake could be turned into an opportunity, he called them “happy little accidents”, and that if you weren’t enjoying yourself you were doing something wrong! He thought art should bring joy, and inspire happiness; and that’s something I want to emulate in my career.
AK: What inspires you to paint?
Amber: Oh, it sounds like a cop out to say everything, so instead I’ll say that anything can. At any moment ideas can pop into my head, far too many to actually do, from either my imagination or a glimpse of something that sparks a thought.
But as for specifics, I’m often inspired by light. The way it glances off objects, makes colors change, the way it can affect a mood or feeling in an art piece. Light can enhance realism in art almost better than anything else, and I want to master this approach to painting.
AK: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Amber: My dearest wish is to move to Israel and establish myself in the art community there. I want to start a family and be a full time artist, but I also want to find a way to help people with my art, be it teaching art to children or becoming involved with some sort of charity or non-profit organization.
I don’t really have any concrete plans, I’ve seen too often that life never turns out that way, so I plan to take opportunities when they come and work hard for worthwhile things, and always dream of the best possible future.
AK: Is painting like a release for you or is it emotionally draining?
Amber: I guess I would say it’s neither; it’s more like moment in time where I can just…. be. Whether I have plenty of time and an exciting project or things aren’t going well and there’s a deadline, there’s always some amount of time where things kind of slow down, hours can pass and I’ll hardly notice, and everything fades but for what I’m working on.
Sometimes this can be relaxing, or say, a release, and sometimes not; but having a moment of stillness from an otherwise hectic world is invaluable either way.
AK: What’s the best and worst part of being a full-time working artist?
Amber: I’d say the best part is being forced to constantly activate your creativity; this can be hard sometimes, but like a muscle the more you exercise the stronger it gets and it’s amazing to realize your capacity for creative thinking has grown. The worst is if you let frustration or impatience take hold. These can ruin an artwork by messing up your thinking, and even if they don’t it has robbed all the enjoyment from the experience.
AK: What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
Amber: When things get tough or tedious, and they can even if you love what you’re doing, I find that interrupting my concentration helps. If something has been stared at too long or things aren’t working, I just get up, walk around, stand back from the art piece to take in the whole picture or turn it upside down to get a new perspective; any kind of break in the pattern can help revitalize the determination to get it done.
AK: I know you love to paint still life. What is it about still life paintings that keep you painting them?
Amber: Still life painting is fun because it’s the everyday objects of our lives transformed into something new and interesting. Taking things that we see every day and recreating them in another form to produce art is a process, done in many mediums, that has always appealed to me.
And as I hope to move on to painting people soon and I’ve always preferred portraiture that had an environment and objects in it, painting still life is a great start.
AK: What advice would you give to an artist who is just starting out?
Amber: The best advice I could give is to not worry one bit if you haven’t got a lot of what some would call “natural talent”, what really matters is desire and determination.
If you truly want to be an artist, no matter your level of artistry, go for it. Talent is all well and good but it doesn’t mean a thing if you haven’t got the will to improve; willpower and tenacity are the best assets you can have for being an artist.
AK: Who has been a mentor to you during your career?
Amber: An early mentor of mine was a teacher named John Wentz, who taught the online pre-college class on still life painting that I took when I was fifteen; he was a major influence on my decision to become an artist. At a time when all I could see about my work was negative, he showed me how far I had already come, and that I could go further. He was enthusiastic and supportive and said just the right things to make me see that I was capable of making art my career
My parents have also been great role models; they’ve always supported my dreams and decisions and showed me that if you work hard for something it will happen.
AK: You’ve always looked at the world with an artistic eye. What does color mean to you?
Amber: Color affects everything in this world. It’s the lens through which we see our lives. Color means the vibrancy of life to me; it’s the variation and vividness and excitement. When you learn about color, it’s a revelation, tint and shade, hue and saturation and value, they all become clear and you wonder how you never noticed.
And when you learn to notice color something special happens, you begin to notice it in places where you thought there was none.
So even if it’s sometimes dreary, who cares if you can see the beauty in shades of grey?