In honor of his exhibit in Arcadia Contemporary’s recent group show, The Frame Remains The Same, we caught up with John to hear the latest. In this show, 50 internationally acclaimed artists feature 50 paintings, all in identical frames from Jerry’s Artarama. The paintings are on Raymar panels. The show ran from May 12-26, 2022.
And now, without further adieu, our June 2022 Artist Interview with John Brosio, Part 2!
JLS: Congratulations on your exhibit in Arcadia Contemporary Gallery‘s latest group show, The Frames Remain the Same! We love your tornado paintings. For those who don’t know, how did you start painting tornados? What draws you to paint them? No pun intended. 🙂
JB: Thank you, Jessica! What draws me are my inspirations, my inquiry. When one experiences something impressive or incredible I think we all, in some way, ask, “what was that? Can it happen again?” And maybe with art I think someone is invested in realizing something that they want to either understand or experience again. I’d say that painting tornadoes is just about the same as painting a large seascape – an ocean of air vs. an ocean of water. I wouldn’t think it all that weird or unique really. I sometimes think that painting “more” seascapes can be weird hahaha! But recall too that I am very inspired by the natural sciences: planets, weather, animals, etc.
JLS: Interesting! Indeed. I can see the similarities in tornados and seascapes. Since the last time we interviewed you back in 2017, how has your work changed? New subject matter? Different palette or materials? Alternative approach to painting?
JB: There are probably more made up scenes, settings. And a lot more work from memory, when I can. I expect that, with any time, things will get less “realistic,” if you will. Recently asked, upon turning 100, what Wayne Thiebaud “learned,” his first response was, “I wish I valued memory more.” And that is ironic since so many of his images are completely made up.I wish I valued memory more. - Wayne Thiebaud Click To Tweet
JLS: Very cool. Drawing and painting from memory is something I aim to accomplish some day. Do you work from photographs occasionally? Do you ever paint en plein air?
JB: Oh, I definitely work outside and now, rarely from any photographs at all. A photo can be a starting point or something to remind me, let’s say, how many windows there are on a bus, etc. Or if I make a model, I’ll photograph it from a few different angles and use those as notes to invent a space that takes the strengths of all of them. Use of photos is something we have to be very, very careful about. It is usually quite easy to spot a painting that is just a transfer from photography. Most all of my tornado paintings are made up as I go.
JLS: So impressive! Thanks for sharing. Our students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. What is your most valuable painting tool or brand of paints you can’t live without? Any tips?
JB: Mmm. A big range of large, bristle filberts, and decent oil paint. I mainly use Winsor and Newton and I pretty much need all of my colors – about 18 plus white. I now use some gel medium and Galkyd Lite (by Gamblin). But there is no one thing to which I am particularly addicted. I recently used sticks and wadded up newspaper to paint with, in a large storm painting.
JLS: Thank you for letting us know. Pastimes’ Founder/Instructor, Linda Wehrli also recommends Winsor and Newton Water-soluble Oil Paints to her students for the Oil Painting 401 Course. I understand you were a student and friend of the great Wayne Thiebaud (1920-2021). For those who don’t know, Wayne Thiebaud was an eclectic American painter known for his colorful works depicting common objects with an architectural palette. How has Thiebaud affected your painting style and approach?
JB: Wayne was an incredible teacher. I wouldn’t say ‘friend’, actually. We have common friends so I might end up on the sides – haha. And, though it doesn’t look like it, I actually still use the palette he had us lay out in class! I added Olive Green Dark but otherwise it’s his set up. It’s what I learned on so have no reason to change. But he taught me seriousness maybe – that there is a whole lot left there for us to mine. And he truly elevated the standards of anyone listening. Talked about how much audacity is needed to enter “the Rembrandt business.” And he talked a lot about how much failure was a consistent part of it all.
JLS: That’s quite an impact he has had. What a life-changing experience it must have been to study with him. I feel the same with some modern master painters; even this interview is inspiring! What other great artists have greatly impacted your career?
JB: Oh everyone is a Sargent fan but Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, Chaim Soutine, Diebenkorn, Frank Auerbach, Kathe Kollwitz, Edward Hopper, Whistler, Munch – it goes on. Lately I have been looking at some Mexican Folk Art.
JLS: Wow! I’ve not heard of some of those artists, but I’m definitely going to look them up. Thanks! What advice would you give young artists studying at Pastimes for a Lifetime?
JB: Advice? As if I was a good student?! Haha. I’d say look at and learn about everything that has been done. Go to both the galleries and museums and fall in love with it all. And stay in love with it. And make what you want to make. What you need to make. Do not make other people’s requests or ideas unless you are pursuing a career in illustration or film, etc. That is kind of a different animal.
JLS: LOL. Thank you for the sound advice. So true. Do you ever teach workshops on Zoom or at your studio? My boss is hinting at inviting you to host one at her beautiful Valley Glen Studio…
JB: Haha! I do teach in person time to time but never by Zoom. I’ve talked by Zoom but there is no way to convey the very tactile experience I believe is necessary for an inquiry into painting and drawing.
JLS: Ah, understandable. You asked me to remind you about the Olympic athletes who dropped out of competition – there was something they said that touches on performance and misery. Please enlighten us. 🙂
JB: Oh! That I think was Naomi Osaka. I think. But she basically said she got to a point where winning was no longer a victory or an achievement but only a relief. The pressures involved had gotten to the point where I think (in my take) that her reasons for having pursued the sport were basically gone. And it can feel that way with deadlines in an endeavor where deadlines really aren’t part of it at all. I mean, if I’m under enough pressure such that every painting I am working on HAS to be good, then something is wrong. One needs room to fail badly or they are actually not painting.
JLS: That makes total sense. Thanks for sharing. The pressure must take away from the joy of painting. Speaking of, I recall you once saying art isn’t “fun”. Lol – I can relate; it’s easy to get frustrated! Can you please explain further what this means?
JB: No, it’s not “fun”. It is stimulating. And it is an arena in which we can realize things for ourselves that are very important. And a lot of this is compulsive too. But fun can show up in the corners from time to time. 😉
Thank you again, John for another insightful interview! It’s a pleasure and a privilege catching up with you. Our students appreciate it as well. Until next time!
Want to learn more about this brilliant artist? Check out on his website and on Instagram!
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.