Known for his highly practiced and refined pencil techniques, Florida Artist Michael G. Hughes captures the energy and fleeting moment of nature, in his unique drawings.
Be sure to check out Michael’s Artwork at his website at the following URL:
Q – What medium or mediums do you work with?
A – For years I worked in a variety of mediums, with an open mind, exploring each until I felt enough sense of accomplishment to enable me to say; now I can move on and try something else. My love though is drawing and for 10 years now I have been working exclusively with pencil. In this medium there is still years worth of exploring and practice to go to achieve perfection, that is if perfection is ever achieved. The possibilities are endless and thus the results can be very exciting. The more I do with pencil, the more confidence I have to know exactly how I want to treat each situation. At the end of the day I wish to be highly proficient in this area of study and be able to consider myself a Master of one of the most basic, yet challenging mediums. A medium that is probably the oldest in history and has intrigued and challenged many of the worlds greatest artists.
Q – How long have you been an artist? How did you get started?
A – I think I was probably born an artist! But to answer your question seriously, when I was 8 years old (so almost 40 years ago) I was spending the summer at the cottage with my Grandparents. After a few weeks I was getting kind of restless so my Uncle Wayne (who lived there) had some oil paints in the garage, that he had stored since his school days. He gave them to me and said paint a picture of the willow tree that overhung the lake. It just flowed from me and I was astonished by my first painting and my ability to create. After that art was my world and has always been the most prevalent thing on my mind. I still have that first 9×12 painting of the willow tree.
Q – Do you have any formal training or are you self taught?
A – A combination of both. When I couldn’t get myself to the next level I sought out help. For 4 years I attended a private art school in evenings and weekends. The late Deece Doran was the teacher who really opened my eyes to my potential. After that I attended one of the greatest schools in Canada (sadly now closed) The Central Tech Arts Center. After graduating from 3 years of full time study at Central I came out a different person with a creative attitude towards anything I approached, not just in art but in business, problem solving or life in general. Murray Hadaway was the one teacher at Central who had the most profound effect on me in this regard. He had so much energy and enthusiasm and took an out-of-the-box approach towards teaching. In fact at one point I was going to quit the school because of money. Murray recognized something was wrong and when I told him he asked me to do renovation work to his studio for extra money after classes – he kept me in.
Q – Do you have any favorite art supplies that you would like to recommend?
A – My tools of choice are Faber Cassell pencils ranging from 4H to 5B and when possible to get them 6,7 and 8B. The purposly limited color in my work is achieved with Faber Cassell polychromos although I am still looking for a harder color pencil. Traditionally I have worked on paper but am now leaning towards stiffer cold press surfaces like illustration boards or heavey weight papers. I find the board more rugged and less prone to Florida humidity. Generally I use surfaces with little tooth. Pencil like paint must be a process of layers to give the work depth and translucity. Textured papers make the job faster but but take away more deliberate approach of building up of layers via controlled pencil strokes.
Q – Do you work with any specific styles or subject matter?
A – All of my work comes from outdoor sketching (usually natural not man made). I don’t ever work from photographs because I find the temptation to copy kills the energy of ones work. Rather I stop, do a 360 degree lookabout and find a subject with natural composition that suits me. Usually I record that moment in time with a 10 to 30 minute drawing that captures the essense of that moment and then I complete the work in my studio at a later time. Most times I’ll do 4 or 5 differnent drawings from one vantage point. There is no limit to subject matter in nature – in fact I often think about all the time I wasted when I was younger staring at a blank canvas wondering what to paint. It is all right there in front of you, all you have to do is see.
Q – Can you recommend any books, videos or other resources that will help new artists?
A – For new artists (or any artists for that matter) the trick is to see as much of other artists work as possible. Go to the art shows, galleries, museums, look at the work hanging on resturant walls or sculptures in government buildings and malls. The reason being is that if you seriously want to be an artist then eventually you are going to have to sell your art too. Therefore awareness of the art around you serves several different purposes. It teaches you pricing and marketing. It teaches you trends. It teaches you what you like and don’t like. Look at others techniques, use of color and methods of presentation. Most of all it trains you to see. My teacher used to say art is everywhere. It is so true because everything around us came from a creative concept and in most cases a drawing.
Q – How do you get ideas to create a piece? What inspires you?
A – My work usually starts with nature but becomes an impression of the energy in a moment and a study in technique. Layers of pencil build to create texture and tone. When I find myself being too literal or getting stuck in an immitation mode I turn my drawing upside down and work on it that way for awhile. I trust in the pencil and I trust my arm that guides it and the the work, through focus and technique, will unveil itself. Having said that though I stick to some personal guidlines about my subject matter. For three decades many artists, not just visual artists, have used their influence and talent to shock and sometimes horrify the recipient. It has spilled over into our culture and is reflected in the viloence and attitudes of younger generations. My work is intended to stimulate the viewers sences, but in a positive and peacefull or content way. Just like everyone else I have many negative opinions about our world today but I refuse to let negativity get intrenched into my passion and moreover I refuse to pass on my negativity to others because therein lies the breeding ground of many of the world’s problems.
Q – Are there any artists that have influenced you and why?
A – Absolutly Tony Onley, Andrew Wyeth and Van Gogh. All had determination, focus and developed rigurous control over a medium, in a quest to be Masters. All went out into the world (into nature) and captured moments in time and returned those moments to paper (or canvas) as an impression for the viewer. They all incorporated into their work a hint or a suggestion that leaves one without the entire storey so the viewer may use their own vision and creativity to fill in the blanks. They all brought home subject matter that most people don’t ever have the chance to see or don’t notice.
Q – Do you have a website you would like to share?
A – To come – interm site www.artistsites.org/MichaelHughesDrawings/
Q – Finally, do you have any last words of advice for beginner artists?
A – Practice constantly. Be intentional and deliberate with every stroke of your brush or pencil. Treat everything you start as work that will be completed and hung for viewing by the public. If something isn’t working or looking right don’t tear it up – fit it. And most of all be aware of your surroundings. Always be looking and seeing what is around you because there is subject matter, tone, color, texture and composition in everything you look at. I can’t say it enough – art is everywhere!