INTERVIEWS WITH ERIC J CHAPMAN
By VoyagePhoenix | Published March 21st, 2019
Today we’d like to introduce you to Eric J Chapman.
Eric, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Like most kids, I began drawing at a very young age. From what my mother tells me, my first drawing was of a roadrunner (the actual bird, not the cartoon character) when I was 18 months old, then I dabbled a little for six months. At age two, I began drawing constantly. From that point until now, art has always been a part of me. I drew for a lot of years and often could make a little money here and there from classmates wanting something. I finally began painting when I was around 22. Painting came at just the right time for me. Drawing had lost some of its appeals and it became more work than fun. Oil painting had revitalized my love for making art. Looking back, I’m surprised that I took so long to make the jump to oil painting, but the expense of it was a deterrent, plus I really wanted to feel that my drawing skills were good enough to advance to painting. Painting is still something that brings me joy every time I pick up a brush. I have been fortunate enough to sell to private collectors throughout the US and abroad. I have participated in some group shows at the Springville Art Museum and there are a couple of businesses around the valley that have my work in their offices.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I doubt that any pursuit in life is prone to go smoothly. Art is definitely no exception. It’s a rather unusual business and doesn’t have quite the same road map that you see in a more traditional corporate environment. In addition to the struggle of establishing myself in the art market, I’ve faced many of the challenges that come with raising a family. In 2011, my wife of seven years passed away in consequence of a mental illness that she was battling. This left me caring for three very young children on my own and my whole life got flipped upside down. When this happened, I was working as a painter for a commercial art supplier and I was absolutely hating it. My relationship with them soon ended and I devoted my time and energy to my children. All this was very emotionally and physically taxing. I later remarried and had another child and from that, the dynamics of a blended family added to many of the joys and challenges that I was experiencing. While all this has given me some inspiration as to where to take my art in the future, it also can be difficult to juggle art and family. Sometimes I feel like I’m being pushed away from the canvas rather than towards it. This is the two-edged sword of doing art, you have the freedom to produce your work how you want to produce it, but you are also responsible for your results.
I have since learned that sometimes, a break from things is not only fine but necessary. A timeout can help me recharge my batteries, help me evaluate my direction and realign, if necessary. I think my challenges enable me to grow and improve.
Please tell us about your work.
I have always been fascinated in the world around me, especially those things that often go overlooked. Frequently, I find myself distracted by mountains, clouds, wrinkles in fabric and paper, texture on food, the way light is hitting something, etc. As a realist oil painter, I try to emphasize these things in my work. I prefer to use strong, vibrant colors that still retain a natural quality. My subjects are typically bathed in diffused daylight which allow a smooth gradation of values and shadows. While my still lifes often serve to emphasize the beauty of the objects I paint, nevertheless, sometimes they are steeped in meaning. For example, in my painting, ‘Mausoleum’ I have depicted a human skull encased in a group of art books. The formation of the books resembles a mausoleum. Behind the skull is an image of Caravaggio’s “The taking of Christ.’ This painting is an allegory for representational art history. The skull, like the bones within a mausoleum, represents the revered and deified dead art masters of the past, complete with religious imagery pushed to the shadows. The books, chronicling realist art movements and realist artists through time are the structure that carries this revered, but seemingly extinct tradition. Some reverence this discipline and seek to add to it, while others see it as dead art, relegated to the past. I like to work with meaning and I try to infuse narrative in what I paint and how I paint it.
How would you describe the type of kid you were growing up?
I grew up in a wonderful home where my parents taught me good principles and I felt loved. They also encouraged me to read a lot, learn new things, develop talents and be kind to others. I believe I have always tried to have a friendly and approachable demeanor. I believe that everyone has value and worth. I try to make friends or at least be friendly with the people that I meet. This has always been my approach to society. When I was young, my family often referred to me as “the peacemaker.” I’ve always been happy with this moniker.
Aside from my interest in art, I am also a guitar player. I have been playing since 1995 and it truly is a passion that is only surpassed by drawing and painting. I played in bands over the years and I love the interaction it creates with others. I love not only playing the instrument but also modifying it. I’ve expanded into also modifying my effects pedals and one day hope to build some instruments and effects from scratch.
My brain seems to hyper-focus on one interest at a time and every so often will switch to the next interest. So, for example, I will become obsessive over modifying a wah circuit and I will spend my time tweaking wah pedals, then my brain will switch interests and then I will obsess over guitar building and I’ll go shopping for wood, research the process and buy some tools, then I will obsess over a particular painting idea/method/piece, etc… This cycle goes on and on and touches all kinds of interests, from model building to electronics, to guitars, to art, to cooking and so on and so forth.
All this contributes to my personality. When I find people and interests that I love, I become dedicated to them. I am devout in my religion. I seek to perfect my talents, I maintain the friendships I developed in elementary, middle and high school. I write in a journal. The flip side to this coin is that if I’m not entirely interested in something, then my attention to it will be lacking. I have to remind myself that it shouldn’t require a profound interest to get most things done, otherwise, there would be many necessary things in my life that would not get the attention they deserve.
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By khuantru | Published November 3, 2011
My name is Eric J Chapman, I’m an oil painter and a devout advocate of realism.
Q2: How did you get into the field of your work?
I first picked up a pencil at age 2 and art has since been the passion of my life. Over the years I determined that there really isn’t anything else I’d rather do than painting. Every commission that I have done thus far has been by word of mouth.
Q3: Do you have any current favourite artists, comic artists, photographers who may have influenced you to become the artist that you are?
In my teenage years I was a comic book fanatic on one hand and a realist on the other. In this period I was heavily influenced by Jim Lee (especially when inked by Scott Williams). I still love his work, but stopped collecting comics when he went on sabbatical in the mid 90’s. From that point I completely pursued realism and at 18 I discovered the late Chilean master Claudio Bravo. In my opinion, there is no current artist that compares to him. His work resonates with me in a way that can’t be explained. I’ve collected a considerable amount of literature on him and have gone so far as to personally contact Chilean director Hugo Arevalo in order to obtain a very rare documentary on Mr Bravo.
Q4: What are the main tools of your trade?
I love my Renaissance crank easel, I use Escoda, Isabey and W & N Monarch brushes. I prefer Old Holland stretched canvas, but am willing to paint on near anything that can take oil paint.
Q5: How was it for you to learn the process of that? Did you teach yourself, take classes or learn from other existing artist’s tutorial?
I am, for the most part, self-taught. I never pursued any education outside of high school. Mostly I find myself learning through observation, books and the occasional instructional DVD. Ultimately, practice has been my greatest teacher as well as trying to decipher how a painting was executed by analyzing the original.
Q6: Do you think its possible for you to describe the process of your art style, what are the dos and don’ts, the important aspects you set yourself to achieve your style of design?
My process and style begins in the mind and eye; art is a mental process. Much like fluency in any given language requires the capacity to think in that language, art is the same. For me, I grew up with virtually no artistic influence and that enabled me to process art in the way I saw it. My mind would process reality “as if it were painted” and that would be the style I would seek for. We each are individuals with our own personalities, we each have a vision that we can rely on to express ourselves. This is my advice to anyone seeking to create their own style: delete all the outside influences, ignore markets and paint as if you’ve never seen anyone else’s work.
Q7: What are the biggest struggles you encounter as an artist?
I believe that finding a compelling subject matter is most daunting.
Q8: Do you have any other future plans that don’t involve creative art?
Not really. Art dominates what I do and what I wish to pursue. I am also a musician, an avid guitarist and I like to spend time modifying instruments, distressing them and building my own. I’m not a luthier by any means, but wish to make guitar building and composing music a part of what I do in addition to painting.
Q9: Do you have any personal mottos, quotes or existing quotes that motivates you to do what you love doing? Can you share it with us or provide words of wisdom from your experiences for those who look up to you?
I once read that Norman Rockwell, if I recall correctly, had “100%” written on his easel. This was a reminder to him to give 100% to each piece he did. Personally, I’ve adopted this practice and have done the same. Over the years I’ve learned that 90% or even 99% is not enough, I have to devote 100% for anything to get done at all. That’s the way I am. I can be a procrastinating and complacent guy, if I’m not fully passionate about something, then the results will suffer. I’ve been in situations where it was requested of me to paint in a different style or genre and I can honestly say that not only does that not feel like painting, but it drains all passion and drive. Do what you love and do it to the fullest extent.
Q10: What do you think the future will hold for all artists from all backgrounds from now?
I believe that there are some real shifts currently occurring in the art world. While the recession is taking a dramatic toll on artists, the internet is also providing the means for many to market themselves to larger audiences. Those artists that are innovative will prevail.