HOW HE GOT STARTED IN ART: “When I was about seven years old I did my very first drawing, and I’ve been drawing ever since. I took up painting in the early 80s when a friend introduced me to an art teacher in our town. I met her about two months before I went into the army, and she took me in for those two months and introduced me to colors, color mixing, brushes, & mediums. While in the army, I took every opportunity to paint and read as many books as I could find about painting techniques.
When I left the army, I continued to study, especially some of my favorite artists such as Caravaggio, Rubens, Harnett, and just about all of the Old Masters. Even today, I continue to experiment with new mediums and techniques.”
ARTISTS HE ADMIRES: ?I have a great admiration for Caravaggio and the Old Masters for their skill, Salvador Dali & Rene Magritte for their surrealism, William Harnett for his trompe l’eoil technique, and a few contemporary artists as well.?
MEDIA AND GENRE: “I work in oils on Masonite. The Masonite is prepared with gesso and sanded down to a smooth surface; the smooth surface lets me paint as realistic as possible.
One of the problems with the smooth surface is that the paint slips and slides all over the place, so what I do before starting to paint is to transfer my drawing to the Masonite, then mix modeling paste and water into a creamy substance and apply a thin coat onto the Masonite in order to create a “tooth-coat” so the paint will adhere to the smooth surface.
Modeling paste is an acrylic and marble dust solution that gives the surface a fine sandpaper-like finish. I paint still lifes in three categories: realistic, trompe l’eoil and surrealistic.”
WORKING PROCESS:?I start every painting with very rough pencil and color sketches to work out my ideas. Once the concept has been established, a precise drawing is done on tracing paper and transferred onto the Masonite board. Next, I start the underpainting, completing a full value study with heavy applications of gray paint (also know as grisaille). Color is the next step; the middle tones are applied semi-opaque. I complete the painting by applying glazes in the shadow areas, putting in all of the details, and finally adding the highlights.
I use several mediums to apply color: A mixture of stand linseed oil, damar and beeswax to mix into my colors, and for glazes I use a mixture of Liquin and linseed oil. Several other mediums are used to speed up or slow down the drying process. As for my palette, I try to keep it very simple. I prefer to mix my secondary and intermediate colors as opposed to getting them from a tube. I like to add yellow to white in order to warm it up, and I like to mix raw umber & cobalt blue to create a wonderful black.”
INSPIRATION FOR THIS PAINTING: ?The inspiration for Hot Pepper came from my love of paintings using a play on words. I was sitting in a restaurant one day and noticed a bottle of peppers on the table with the word “hot” in a little flame on the label, and from that an idea clicked. My first idea was to incorporate a candleholder with a pepper on it and a flame on top. As I played around with the idea a little more, I came upon a prop that I had used in a previous painting, and that’s when the idea clicked.?
John Elliot lives in the Hudson River village of Upper-Nyack-on-Hudson, New York. He’s been a juror and member of the Salmuagundi Club, and his paintings have appeared in several prominent museums.