Interview with Artist Miranda Aschenbrenner

Artist Statement

Miranda AschenbrennerMy work fits into two very different and unrelated categories: realism and abstract. Each style allows me to challenge different parts of my personality. Drawing realistically indulges the side of me that loves detail and is a perfectionist. It challenges me technically and I am always pushing to create more accurate drawings. The abstract works reflect my interest in color and form. I am able to work loosely and fluidly, reacting to the painting as I go. It is sometimes a relief to shift from the tight discipline of realistic drawing to this type of work, but it can be equally relieving to go from these open-ended paintings to getting lost in the details of a drawing.

Q: What medium or mediums do you work with?

A: I love working with traditional drawing media: graphite and charcoal. Graphite is great for tight, accurate drawing, but nothing beats charcoal for loose, gestural sketching!

For my paintings, I use mostly acrylics, but have been experimenting with oils lately as well. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy the wonderful texture of oils and its ability to blend, but I love the immediacy of acrylics. In my paintings, I also incorporate other materials like pastels and oil sticks.

Q: How long have you been an artist? How did you get started?

A: I’ve always been creative and interested in making things, but it wasn’t until late high school that I really developed a passion for art. A friend of mine could draw amazingly well and I wanted to be as good as she was! I taught myself how to draw with a combination of library books and websites.

Q: Do you have any formal training or are you self taught?

A: I consider myself to be both self-taught and formally trained. I taught myself the technical side of drawing, practicing shading and proportions. When I went to school, I could already draw and had also experimented some with painting. While earning my degree in Fine Arts, I learned a great deal about theory. I also learned how to push myself creatively, and stepped out of my comfort zone and into the realm of abstract art. Both my own knowledge of drawing and my training is invaluable and informs the work I do today.

Q: Do you have any favorite art supplies that you would like to recommend?

A: One art supply that I really enjoy is willow charcoal. It’s a much softer charcoal with a velvety smooth texture. It won’t go as dark as other charcoal, or even graphite, but it’s lovely to work with and produces some great drawings.

Q: Do you work with any specific styles or subject matter?

A: I work in two very different styles with very different subject matter! I do realistic drawings and I do abstract paintings featuring geometric shapes. For me, each of these is a necessary form of expression. They are related and exist together, but like two sides of the same coin, you’ll never see them both at the same time.

I started my art practice with realistic drawing. This indulges the side of my personality that craves order and predictability. I love the technical challenge of creating a believable, realistic image.

At school, I broke away from the representational image to focus on my obsession with color, form, and space. I find that I can express these ideas better without the contextual meaning an image would bring to my work.

Q: Can you recommend any books videos or other resources that will help new artists?

A: When I first became interested in drawing, and obsessed with drawing portraits, the best books I found were those by Lee Hammond. She does several books about drawing realistic portraits that break the process into easy to manage chunks. Her illustrations clearly demonstrate the ideas she is trying to get across. My drawings hugely improved after reading these books!

Q: How do you get ideas to create a piece? What inspires you?

A: My inspiration could come from something as simple as an interesting image or a color combination. I’m constantly driven to create, and experiment, and find new or better ways to express my ideas. Often, when I complete a piece, something within it will suggest a new idea. It could be something that I struggled with, or something that happened by accident, but it provides a new direction for the next piece.

Q: Are there any artists that have influenced you and why?

A: Lee Hammond’s work was a big influence on me when I was starting out because of her incredible skill with the pencil.

Artists that influence my abstract work are Abstract Expressionists like Rothko and Newman, as well as Mondrian. I am drawn to their bold use of color and the way they don’t make any excuses for their picture planes. Their work is paint on canvas, nothing more.

Q: Do you have a website you would like to share?

A: Because I consider my art to be quite separate, I have a website for each. My online gallery is at www.mirandaaschenbrenner.com and features my abstract paintings. My portrait work can be found at www.customportraitsonline.com.

I also have a blog at www.learntoart.com where I regularly post art lessons and tips.

Q: Finally do you have any last words of advice for beginner artists?

A: My advice to artists is to get comfortable with themselves and accept their artwork as it is. Don’t feel pressure to paint or draw in a certain way! For a long time, I felt like I should have to choose between my realistic work and my abstract work. I’ve now come to embrace both, realizing that each one challenges me in a different way.

Do the type of art that you’re drawn to, but never stop pushing yourself to try new things!

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