JEREMY LIPKING
Interview by Das Bork

PAINTING AND DRAWING IS JEREMY LIPKING'S LIFEBLOOD. WELL KNOWN FOR ATTAINING ARTISTIC MATURITY EARLY IN HIS CAREER, LIPKING'S PAINTINGS OF FIGURES AND NUDES HAVE A MYSTERIOUS AND SOMETIMES HAUNTING QUALITY. THAT QUALITY-- COMBINED WITH GREAT SKILL AND TECHNICAL ABILITY-- IS QUICKLY MAKING LIPKING AN INFLUENTIAL ARTIST TODAY.

Das Bork: To get started, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your influences.

Jeremy Lipking: Well, I really liked the naturalist painters, like Jules Bastien-Lepage, Emile Friant, and [Pascal-Adolphe-Jean] Dagnan-Bouveret. What I liked about naturalist painters is that a lot of them were amazing draftsman, and that they really wanted to capture what was really happening and what was really out there. And also their ability to create some huge paintings, and most of the time they painted outdoors.

DB: That was the movement where they started painting what they saw.

JL: Yes. And a lot of them built these glass studios so they could have some protection from the elements in order to make it as close to painting outdoors as possible. And in painting what they saw they still had plenty of work. They still had to have some elements of design and composition. So the problem they had was to make a naturalistic painting, but still incorporate good design and composition.

DB: So is that what got you interested in plein air work?

JL: Well, no, not really. I didnít really get to know about those painters until later on. As far as painting outdoors, I liked Edgar Payne and William Wendt, and a lot of the California impressionists.

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DB: As far as subject matter, what has influenced you to paint the subjects that you paint?

JL: Well, [John Singer] Sargent is a big one for me, as well as Anders Zorn and [Joaquin] Sorolla. They all painted figures. That is probably where it started for me, as far as artists that I liked who were figurative painters.

DB: In terms of training, Iíve seen a lot of great artwork coming from the school [California Art Institute] you went to. What was it about that place that made that happen?

JL: A lot of good things have come from that school, but Iím not really sure what it was. Because when I was there, I felt like I was missing out on something.

DB: Because it was a small school?

JL: Yeah, it was a small school. But I always felt that I needed a more academic type of training.

DB: Why is that?

JL: Well, we didnít really have any long drawing poses or long painting poses-- maybe six hours was about the longest. I wanted to be able to paint and draw figures for as much time as I needed to then.

DB: How long does it take you to do a studio painting?

JL: On average, about two to three weeks for an average-sized painting. Then, for some reason, Iíll do a painting that will take twice as long, but usually around that time.

DB: Your paintings have a cool color palette. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about how that works or how you achieve that sort of look.

JL: For me, the palette or the key of my paintings actually became cooler when I moved into my studio, where the walls were painted blue. At first, I didnít really like it, and I was going to paint over the walls. But I did a couple of paintings in there with a blue background and I just started to get used to it. I started to like it.

DB: So it branched out from there?

JL: As far as I can remember it, yes.

DB: Color harmony is a mysterious thing. How do you achieve it in your work?

JL: You really have to try not to lose sight of it in the big picture. When you're working on a section of a painting it's easy to forget about the rest of it and how it relates. So every piece of color, every shape and brushstroke is a part of the bigger picture.

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DB: As far as drawing goes, how do you go about it, or what's your thought process?

JL: As far as drawing in my painting goes, I donít do much drawing at all during the lay-in stage in the beginning. I just block in big shapes and lines with my brush to get the placement of the subject. I never do any drawing with a pencil, even in my charcoal drawings. As far as drawing on paper, Iíve been trying out a lot of different types of paper in charcoal. Lately Iíve been using Strathmore 400 paper.

DB: Why do you approach drawing that way? Is it to keep the painting looking fresh?

JL: If it was all drawn out first it would feel a bit boring, because it would end up looking like I was just filling in shapes. Also, I like to use my whole arm and body when Iím painting. It helps me to feel less restricted, and it allows me to paint more freely.

DB: Iíve read on your site that after school you trained on your own.

JL: Well, I took classes for about a year and a half at the Art Institute. I was mostly doing drawing classes, and I started to do a little bit of painting. After about a year and half I started teaching a drawing class there. Eventually, I taught a few classes a week. I still considered that a part of my schooling or training.

DB: So what would you say you got out of your training?

JL: Well, the one teacher I studied with the most was an illustrator, Glen Orbik. He does comic book covers. His style of drawing was really tonal-- it was like painting in black and white. In other words, it was drawing in charcoal, but it wasnít linear. It was really tonal.

DB: So did you then take that into your painting?

JL: Yes. Because you are basically using the same elements that you need to have in painting, such as values, edges, and shapes. The only thing missing is color.

DB: Your artwork now has such a cool mood to it. Iím not sure how to describe it, but I was wondering how you achieve that.

JL: Iím not really sure if there is one thing that does it. Itís probably a combination of things, such as the subject and the colors. But I would say it's mostly because of the light.

DB: What do you paint with in the studio? Do you use windows, or do you have a setup of lights?

JL: I light the model with natural light from a window. I like it so much better than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. I donít really have a north-lit studio, but Iíd like to, just for the consistency in the light. However, I donít like the quality of the light as much compared to light just coming from a window.

DB: The models you use, who are they?

JL: A lot of them are professional models, but a lot of times itís somebody that was recommended by another artist, or somebody that has offered to model for me. Sometimes Iíll see somebody that I think would be a great subject to paint, so Iíll ask them. Like the model in my Bedside painting... I met her at a party where they had a naked catering company. They were all painted in body paint. It was for somebody's birthday party. So she was there, and she had a nice look and a nice figure.

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DB: So you just asked her to be in a painting?

JL: Yep. Thatís how it happened. Most of the models I have had lately arenít professional art models. I always like to paint new people or different people, because you just get a whole new set of ideas for painting.

DB: What do you look for in a good painting?

JL: It can be about that one thing that you notice first, whether itís the color harmony, a nice design, or even just the lighting. Itís different for every painting. But being able to capture that theme is what really can make it special.

DB: Iíve heard people say that everything has already been done in painting. What do you think about that statement?

JL: Well, Iíve heard that a lot, too. However, I donít really think itís hard to do something new. I mean, people have been writing stories for a long time and itís all in the same language, but they all manage to say something new. Itís the same for painting. We all paint in the same language, but we manage to say something new.

DB: Thatís very true. Iíve got one last question for you. I have to ask you this because we try and ask this question to everyone we interview: in your opinion, do dogs have lips?

JL: Boy... that's a good question.

DB: Do you have dogs?

JL: I have one dog, but I donít know.

DB: Itís the debate here, and we havenít really come to a conclusion yet.

JL: Well, I would say... (pauses) no.

DB: Alright. Thanks for doing this, Jeremy.

JL: Thank you, Das Bork.

CHECK OUT THE WORKSHOP WE DID ON JEREMY BY CLICKING HERE.