Oils & Acrylics|
View Artist Statement
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Gallery Direct Interview with RUSSELL BENTLEY|
Russell's work is full of detail and realism, yet he has the ability to explore the surreal aspect of a subject and give it a slight "Disney" quality. His scenic and wildlife pieces have a delicate and peaceful feel, as if you were looking out an open door or window and seeing something that in real life would only be accessible from a great distance.
What are your earliest memories of creating art and what was your medium of choice in these early years?
Well my first memories would be my first grade art class, when I would paint or draw a picture....usually a race car or an airplane, a lot of my friends wanted me to draw a picture for them....to bad I didn't know about Giclee' prints back then.
As a young boy were you encouraged by family members to pursue your art and was there anyone in particular who gave you the most encouragement?
All of my family has encouraged my art over the years, but my Mother has always been my biggest fan.....to this day she still wants to know what I'm working on. Also my Aunt who lived next door, was an artist....she worked in oils and mostly painted still life and portraits.
I understand you are self taught. Do you feel you would have benefited by having a formal education in the arts and tell us why you feel the way you do?
Probably so.... Simply because it takes longer to learn methods and techniques with trial and error, as opposed to having someone on a daily basis showing them to you. But I've always enjoyed learning on my own and feel my paintings carry a certain originality because of it.
During your career as an artist, who or what has given you the most inspiration?
Wildlife artist Charles Frace'.....I first met Mr. Frace' in 1974 at a private showing in Atlanta. I had been a fan of his work for about a year, when I found out the day of his show. I left work that day knowing that I may not get to the location before the show was over, and when I arrived at the gallery the parking lot looked vacant. When I entered the Gallery I was stunned, because as I looked around at the originals hanging on the walls, I suddenly realized that the only others in the room were the gallery owner and Mr. Frace'. He was extremely nice and spent about thirty minutes telling me some of his techniques about painting animals and encouraged me to keep painting. Over the next ten years or so I attended many of his shows including a clinic at his publisher "Frame House Gallery", and he always would take time to critique my work and give me helpful advise.
Have your life experiences influenced your choice of subject matter?
Very much so...I grew up in a rural part of Georgia, where most of my childhood days were spent hiking, camping, playing in old barns, dirt roads, trying to build tree houses, just being in the middle of nature and taking it all in. My disire to paint wildlife as well as rural and childrens paintings is a direct reflection of my life surroundings.
Do you have a sketch or an idea before you begin a new piece of work?
An idea yes, but I very seldom sketch out a painting...the only sketching I might do is on the actual canvas, but even then it's very basic, maybe just to get placement of certain subjects correct.
Was there any particular thing that inspired you to do your children's room series and how did you develop the ideas for these works?
Well the inspiration is children themselves, to paint something that a child would want hanging on the walls of their room. I've got several grand children and they love to come into my studio and look at what I'm painting, so one day I decided to do a series of paintings that they could relate to. And for the Ideas of these paintings I just related to my own childhood. For example, the painting "The Architects", came from the fact that kids in my neighborhood were always trying to build treehouses but never seemed to get the house part finished,,,so there were a lot of trees in the town with a few boards nailed to them.
What are your favorite pieces of work you have done and why are they your favorites?
The Redan painting is one of my favorites because it's a painting of my home town as it looked when I was a child, the town, as it was back then, has long since been leveled, and no photos existed, so the painting is totally from memory....and it has been my best selling print. Other favorite paintings are "Changing America", because I was able to capture a certain vision in my head and put in on canvas exactly. And "Sneaking Out" just because the three little boys in the painting are based on my Grandsons and they got a real kick out of knowing that.
What has been the biggest challenge for you during your career as an artist?
Exposure....Advertising is very expensive and it's always a challenge to find ways to market your artwork. Fortunately with on-line portfolios such as Gallery Direct and personal web sites it's really beginning to help.
What other interests do you have besides your painting?
I'm a musician and played professionally from 1970 thru 1985, my instruments are Trumpet and Bass Guitar, I love many styles of music, my favorites to play are rock, jazz, and blues.
What was your greatest success and your biggest setback during your career as an artist?
Being featured in a popular Georgia magazine for a six month run and having a full page dedicated to my art was one of my greatest moments. As far as setbacks....I really can't think of any except that time i ran out of titanium white..LOL!
If you were to give a young aspiring artist a piece of advice, what would that be?
Enjoy the gift that you are blessed with and use it to the best of your ability.
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