INTERVIEW with FELICIA FORTE
Detroit, Michigan. Actually it's a very small city surrounded by Detroit called Hamtramck. It's a diverse working class "neighborhood sized" city with a long history of being a landing spot for waves of immigrants and creatives. But there's no recycling and all the pickles are sweet even if the label clearly reads "DILL!"
Fine Artist/Painter and Instructor
WHAT IS A LITTLE KNOWN FACT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
Almost every time my boyfriend asks me what movie I want to watch, I suggest (in earnest) Jurassic Park.
YOU'VE DESCRIBED YOUR TECHNIQUE AS "LESS IS MORE," WHICH IS DEFINED BY A VERY DELIBERATE PROCESS THAT YOU HAVE DEVELOPED, UTILIZED, AND TEACH. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROCESS AND THE MINDSET BEHIND IT?
Actually I did develop a process to improve my own skills which I do teach to my students, but I don't use it now as simply or constantly myself as I have done in the past. The point of my teaching is not my process. In my teaching I illustrate the process that helped me, but I also try to explain why it helped me reach my own goals, and which of my questions it helped to answer. I offer parts of it as tools for each student to pick up or leave when building their own process. I want to teach people how to take agency and responsibility for their own education and creative experience. I use exercises in limitation to isolate problems, allowing students greater focus and steadier progress. I encourage students to focus not on the ambiguous task of making a "great painting," but instead on separating out simple goals and attacking them one at a time.
To give an example, if a student has muddy and disorganized color I might ask them to paint the next study with only one brush. This limitation will force them to clean their brush constantly and to really intensify their awareness of what they want on that brush and whether or not they have it.
It seems that the impression that prevails is that to paint great paintings you must find great secrets, and that it will be unimaginably complex. This is putting the cart before the horse as far as a student's concerns should go. First you must learn a craft which is separate from learning to be an artist. Then you can learn to be an artist, which is really just about age and wisdom, and bravery. But this craft… it's about objectivity and experimentation, problem solving, practicality and developing the kind of curiosity that will carry you through the hard work.
YOU PAINT EVERYDAY, AND FOCUS ON DEVELOPING YOUR SKILLS FURTHER EACH DAY. HOW DO YOU CONTINUALLY PUSH YOURSELF TO THAT NEXT LEVEL? ARE THERE SOME EXERCISES YOU WOULD SUGGEST TO OTHERS?
I paint almost everyday, unless I get my boyfriend to watch all three Jurassic Park movies… But when I do paint... How do I push, drag, crawl and scrape to the next level? Anyway I can. Basically showing up no matter how you feel is the most important thing. Painting regularly makes you a better painter. Sometimes you feel driven and inspired, sometimes you hurl the apathy at the canvas. Regular practice puts you on the path to discovery.
WHAT ARE YOUR "GO TO" TOOLS AND WHY?
Tools… well honestly I am pretty scrappy. I didn't even know about varnish until about 5 years ago ( and ya know what? I didn't have anything worth varnishing before that anyway!). I will use whatever my budget allows to a point. Obviously I don't want student grade paint that has almost no pigment in it, painting is hard enough as it is. I find that the surface and paint contributes quite a bit to the overall look of your work. It's important to try a lot of things and then decide what you like and stick with it for a while... I guess that's if you care about a consistent body of work.
That being said, I paint most alla prima studies on Arches oil paper, it's a surface that allows a dynamic range of effects. I have developed a set of brushes for my students that are high quality and affordable through Rosemary and Co. My Paint Palette at the moment (and it changes all the time): Ivory Black, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarine crimson, Transparent oxide red, Cad Red, Yellow Ochre, and titanium white.
The New Wave POSH palette is my palette of choice, the large 16" x 20" one with the pretty grey coating! I have given mine a real beating and even forgotten multiple times to scrape it clean, but it's still awesome! Actually the patina of paint seems to provide added protection to the grey coating.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UPCOMING SHOWS OR CLASSES?
I have many upcoming workshops across the country, listed on my website at www.feliciaforte.com. I give online classes and one on one private lessons in my studio, further information is available on my website.
I have an upcoming 3 person show at Abend Gallery in Denver, Colorado:
On the Periphery
Benjamin Björklund, Felicia Forte, and Lindsey Kustusch
September 2 - October 1st, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, Sep 2, 6-9 pm