Sunday, September 27, 2015

Neil Linsenmayer Solo Exhibition: "Going Back In Time"

"Scrimshaw", by Neil Linsenmayer
The North Shore Arts Association presents Rockport artist Neil Linsenmayer in a fascinating solo exhibition he has entitled "Going Back In Time". Come 'imagine history' through the eyes of an artist whose work has graced the covers of many Cape Ann community publications including North Shore Magazine. The Exhibition runs Thursday, October 1 through Sunday, October 24.
We asked a few questions of our own of this multi-dimensional artist, the answers to which, you'll find below. Come to the "Meet The Artist" reception and ask your own questions about his life and his wonderful artwork!

Interviewer: What is your daily routine as a working, professional artist? Has your routine changed over time?

Neil: That's a good question to start with. I, like a fair number of artists I know, never set out to be a professional artist. I have always sketched, doodled, and dabbled in painting from time to time, but with very mixed results. My daily routine for several decades after entering the workforce left little time for art. So as far as art was concerned my routine was pretty haphazard, finding now and then odd moments to do it.
This began to change when in 1968, I first visited Cape Ann. It was an eye-opener. I had never before been exposed to so large a community of talented artists, nor to
"Vineyard Victorian", by Neil Linsenmayer
surroundings so perfectly suited to painting. During annual summer vacations in Rockport, I began regularly attending the painting demonstrations at the Rockport Art Association, and then to participate in workshops by Bruce Turner, Marilyn Swift, Ferd Petrie, and Charlie Vickery. Back home in Northern Virginia, I began signing up for local art festivals, and to my astonishment some of the pieces I entered actually sold-at very modest prices. Sometime in my mid-forties I decided that if I really wanted to do art, I should learn how to do it. At about that time I discovered the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia, housed in a converted torpedo factory on the banks of the Potomac. The school is dedicated to providing quality instruction on a wide range of visual arts to part-time students interested in improving some aspects of their artistic endeavors. Some 2000 students enroll each semester.
On my first visit there, I was fortunate to wander into a painting class taught by Diane Tesler, a highly accomplished painter and an outstanding teacher. I enrolled the next semester and remained with her Sunday group for the next four years. I am deeply indebted to Diane for her special insights on color, composition and-as she puts it- the "power of light to reveal form".
"The Child's Barn", by Neil Linsenmayer
In 1992, I managed to pull together a large enough body of work for a one-artist show held at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The show was up for six weeks; a third of the paintings sold, including two added to the NIH permanent collection. Also that year, in a stroke of good fortune, I was admitted to the North Shore Arts Association as an artist member.
In 1993, I took an early retirement and we moved to Rockport. Now my time was my own-except that the vintage 1840 home we had purchased cried out to be renovated, so painting was put on hold again. For two summers in the mid-1990's I did share a gallery on Rocky Neck with artist Carol St.John, an enjoyable experience, but unfortunately, one that didn't do enough to pay the bills for our "This Old House" project. So it was back to full time employment, this time as the computer systems person for Senior Care in Gloucester.
Now all that is all in the past and my art routine has at last become more regular.

Interviewer: Who are the painters who influenced you most?
Neil: Apart from the "greats" we all admire, I'd say that John Singer Sargent and Edward Hopper have influenced me most. In one of my classes in Virginia a fellow student commented that I was trying to emulate Hopper. I'm embarrassed to say that at that point I had never heard of Hopper. Since then I've become much better acquainted with his work. I especially like the way he handles light and shadow. I also noticed in a show of his work in Washington, DC, his use of a lot of non-muddy neutrals to allow the bright colors to pop. As for Sargent, I sure wish I could paint with his fluency!

Interviewer: Do you paint on location or in your studio?Neil: In my earlier days I never really had much chance to work on location, so I never really learned how to cope with certain difficulties. Shadows that changed, boats that would leave the harbor just when I was trying to get them down, and other assorted problems forced me to rely on photographs. Photography has been a hobby since my teens and even now I take a lot of shots. There are serious pitfalls in using them, particularly their tendency to lose details in shadowy areas. Fortunately photographic equipment and software have come a long way toward eliminating some of the drawbacks.
I seldom, if ever, base a painting on a single photograph; I need several taken from different vantage points to reconstruct what I'm trying to paint. For landscapes, photo-editing software can be a real help in arriving at a better composition. I never trace or copy a photographic image onto the canvas, preferring to draw or block it in with brush and paint. That seems to preserve some spontaneity. Usually, about two-thirds of the way through I find myself relying less on the photos and more on what the painting tells me it needs.

Interviewer: What ideas do you find that you return to often; that you feel are most important to communicate to your audience? Do you use symbols?

Neil: In my landscape and harbor paintings I like things that are just a bit run down. Old boats, old trucks, old houses and the like. I don't think it's nostalgia. It's just because they're really fun to paint. I have also enjoyed doing still lifes and portraits, and have decided to do more of these in the future.
"Greenwood Farm", by Neil Linsenmayer
I don't intentionally use symbols to convey any sort of philosophical message. The fact is though, that whenever we try to recreate a scene or an object, the paint we push around the canvas at best becomes a symbol of what we're trying to represent. I use this, though, to remind myself not to obsess over details, which I have a tendency to do.
It also happens sometimes that after finishing a painting I begin to see or sense a mood or feeling that I didn't intentionally put there. One painting I recently completed is of a market in Lugano, Switzerland. At the center of interest is a shop girl, waiting for a customer who is searching in her purse for her wallet. The shop owner is nearby sorting grapes and putting them in a bin. The three people are solitary and unconnected-a bit "Hopper-esque" in that way. The shop girl is the one that surprised me. She's staring off to her right, her thoughts obviously miles away. She's wistful, maybe a bit sad. There must be a story there. The thing is, the girl in the photos didn't look that way, and I certainly didn't intend to paint her that way. I started to "correct" this, but then decided that's how it was supposed to come out. So I left it alone.

Interviewer: How do you see your work has evolved over time? Is your work looser or more direct?

Neil: I think it is somewhat looser now, though when I compare it to some things I did 25  years ago I confess I don't see a huge change. I seem to recall a passage in one of my books on Sargent that he sometimes applied a brush stroke, scraped it off, and reapplied it several times until he got what he wanted in a single stroke. I don't know whether that's true, but I do find myself, late in the painting process, redoing parts that seem too labored. During the coming winter I hope to return to doing some watercolors. With these I hope to experiment more than in earlier watercolors; with the loose effects that can be achieved painting wet into wet. I have some books on the subject and look forward to giving it a try.

Interviewer: Is there a work you are most proud of? What were the circumstances that led to its creation?Neil: I have no absolute favorite, but I'd like to mention "Chris' Shop", the painting selected for the NSAA New Members' Show after I was juried in. It shows Chris Goodine, the son-in-law of my car pool partner, standing in
"Chris' Shop", by Neil Linsenmayer
front of his shop in the village of Washington, Virginia, located in the Blue Ridge Foothills. After a hitch with the military in which he was a photographer, Chris took up jewelry making in New Hampshire, in association with craft guilds there. Using the hammer shown in my painting, he developed a unique style, hammering small "s" shaped links out of gold and silver wire. He combined these into intricate pieces of jewelry that soon became quite popular. My painting had its beginning as a tiny Polaroid shot, from which I did a pastel drawing. Chris liked the drawing and used it for his brochure. I decided to try a larger version in oil, so I went back and took a number of additional photos. I had a lot of trouble getting the perspective right, because of the unusual shape of the shop window. The steps into the shop are also highly unusual. I was pleased with the painting, but also with the fact that it involved good friends.
By the way, the small watercolor "Blue Ridge Foothills" in my current NSAA Exhibition "Going Back In Time", depicts Chris and his wife Jean's attractive cottage behind Chris' shop.

Thank you, Neil, for your time and for your very thoughtful and considered answers!

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