July 2015 Artist of the Month | John Bayalis

Congratulations to our July Artist of the Month, John Bayalis! He was a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine‘s Annual Art Competition! His painting Awake is below. Keep scrolling to read more about the artist’s process and which medium he prefers above all others!

St. Petersburg, FL ~ www.bayalistudio.com

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Awake (watercolor, 30×22)

I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember and my mother arranged for me to take painting lessons when I was nine-years-old. I spent hours drawing and experimenting with different subjects and went on to achieve a BA and MFA in art from the University of Delaware. I’ve painted professionally since 1975 and worked as an art educator in the Delaware public school system and adjunct professor of art. I retired in 2001 to work full time in the studio.

I’ve used oil, acrylic, pastel and colored pencil, but I’ve always preferred watercolor. It works best for me, my subject matter and the level of detail I desire. In my still life paintings I like to create arrangements that indicate a person nearby that is about to enter the field of view or has just departed. My love of game boards and popular culture inspired me, as these subjects create feelings of warmth and interaction with friends and family. When looking at the painting I want the viewer to feel as if they can walk into the composition and, in this case, play the scrabble tiles for the next turn.

I like to experiment with set ups and scenarios for still life works and take photographs of varying arrangements and angles of view. Sometimes I find a composition from the first effort but I usually go back and rearrange things based on what I’ve discovered from the initial images. I print digital photos that match the size of the painting I’m trying to achieve, tiling them if necessary and trace transfer the basic outlines of the image. I work in a traditional transparent watercolor method, going from light to dark. I prefer hot pressed paper to keep the surface details and lines very crisp. I use masking solution when needed. For instance in Awake the edges of the basket and pears, the cacti and pottery, and the teacup are masked. For the darker areas, such as the background in this painting, I use layers initially “staining” the areas I wish to build into the darkest. I like combinations consisting of complementary color mixtures. I avoid the use of black unless it’s for items like newspaper print or car tires.

I will spend about 60 hours on a painting like Awake, which includes preparation and creating the set up. With the angle of view here, there are many planes of focus and I had to determine how sharp I wanted each to be. I like to use back lighting for still life works, preferring to show more information in the darker areas than the viewer would see in real life. The most difficult part of the painting was the pot and cacti. I needed to show enough detail to make them convincing and yet not overwhelm the scrabble board area.

I look forward to the many painting challenges ahead. There are so many things yet I want to paint. I have always been a visual person and on any given day, I may be attracted to the way the light strikes a commonplace object or notice the atmosphere it creates. This captures my attention and generates ideas for paintings.

My family has been so supportive and inspiring, particularly my wife who is also a professional artist. There are so many advantages to living with someone who has the skills, experience and respect in the arts that you are able to communicate with on a daily basis. Her feedback is invaluable when I am working on a painting.

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