I wish to thank all friends who are sending the replies. For the benefit of readers may I be allowed to publish some of the most interesting answers, like the one by :Minnie W. Shuler
QUESTIONS FOR ARTISTS
1. Where did your schooling in Art take place? or you have picked up painting on your own. How did you incline towards fine arts? The only place I was exposed to art was at home as a school age child. There was no art in our schools. We were rural America and art had little place. I was more involved with music as I played the piano and the clarinet in the band. However, many local people took notice of my artistic talents and they provided me with a huge variety of projects to work on. They have followed me throughout my life, always interested in how I was using my talents. My father died in an accident when I was 12, but mother was always ready and willing to keep my sister and I supplied with art materials. There were commissions from the community and they paid for the art supplies, always allowing me to keep the leftover paints, brushes, etc. I’ve done 3 different murals for the community; one is hung in the upper rooms of the County Court House. It is a scene of the Apalachicola River at a place called Alum Bluff (8 feet by 20 feet). A fourth mural was a scene of Christ and children of the world done for a church. Individuals in the community paid for the materials for this piece. It is an 8 feet by 12 feet piece, which I have stored in my studio. This community involvement has continued throughout my life. I attended some art classes in college. I graduated with a teaching degree in mathematics and have taught in public school and at colleges. Where ever I taught, I took some art classes on the side.
2. As a student of Art, who were your contemporaries, who later became renowned artists? As I wasn’t really a formal art student, I do not know which of my contemporaries have become renowned. My sister-in-law, Mildred “Tookie” Gentry taught herself to paint and she is quite well known regionally. She is 83 now, and has been unable to continue painting. Her work is still prized and sought after. She has been a great inspiration to me. I did not study with Dean Mitchell, but I know him. He has been a great inspiration.
3. Who were your teachers during your studies ? There are some I cannot remember. Dick Vale at Chipola College was a wonderful friend and a great help. I studied drawing and painting from him. He has one of my river paintings hanging in his office. I studied under graduate students at Florida State University. I studied process camera, graphic design and lithographic printing at Florida A&M University. I cannot remember the professor’s name but he was well known in the community and the source everyone came to if they needed help with printing problems. I studied under Sharon Barns at Gulf Coast Community College and an adjunct professor whose name was Ryan. I studied privately under Victoria Bush and Penny Call Morris, both well known artists of the South. I also took some correspondence courses for commercial art. Did anyone/some ones inspire your work at the initial stage as a student artist. Yes, I have always loved the work of the American Illustrator Norman Rockwell. I have collected books and prints, collector’s plates and cups of his work and studied them in great detail. He influenced me, especially in the few humorous pieces I’ve completed. I love the religious art of the great masters and have spent many hours studying their work. In particular, that of Rembrandt, Botticelli and Reubens.
4. What were the major difficulties that you faced during becoming an artist and later while establishing yourself as a visual artist-in your country and then abroad. I am still working on the abroad part. My major difficulty was time. I taught school full time and raised 5 children…both of which are full time responsibilities. I always seemed to find time to work my art in. For me, when I submitted to a show it didn’t matter if I won. I won just by getting a presentable piece done on time and submitted. My husband, David, has helped supply me with materials and provided me with time to work on my art. He is not particularity a fan of art but has not objected or inhibited my efforts in that direction. Another difficulty, space, was solved when my father-in-law, Parley S. Shuler, gave me an upstairs area at the family place of business as a studio space. I find it makes a great deal of difference when you have plenty of space and you can move your work from the kitchen table and back porch. It is hard to do a mural on your kitchen table, but I have done them on my back porch.
5. Can you classify certain important significant landmarks in your long art-journey? I suppose, those I have already named plus a couple more. While I worked teaching in a nearby city, I rented a studio space. It was nice to meet the other artists, talk about their projects and have the time alone needed to think and produce. I stayed a couple of days a week to cut down on travel time, and spent a great deal of time at a local art/gallery – studio. I met many artists here, some who are famous such as Dean Mitchell. The other, was my early retirement from teaching. I suppose had I not been ill and retired early, I would be far behind in my career development. When the family owned business closed in 2000, then I was able to have that much coveted time. About 2003, I started in earnest to put my art up on the internet. There have been several sites that are helpful. I have online sales to almost every state in the USA, and to many foreign countries. My personal site is still under construction. In 2007, I began to produce fractal art, with the encouragement of an online friend, Paul D. Pannell. Paul and I have composed several fractal compositions together, yet each of us also do some on our own. I have always loved fractal shapes and mathematical graphs. Fractals have given me a chance to explore math in a way I never have before. I have not left off my traditional work, it has become more important to me as that is the art my children love the best. I have done many commissions, however, my children are my best customers—and they get first choice on anything I do before it goes out to the public.
6. Who are the major artists, who have inspired you or your work and why? I have named several of these already, but there are so many great artists that I could list. I love the more recent work of wildlife artists, Robert Bateman and Bob Kuntz, the floral art of Paul de Longpre, Martin Johnson Heade, Pierre Joseph Roudte and Catherine Klein; the landscapes of many of the older English artists like Quinton, and John Constable , and of course the figure work of Rockwell, Andrew Loomis and Howard Pyle (who helped me a great deal with composition)
7. Your paintings are a blend of inspirations gathered from various sources. Which culture has a greater impact on your art and why? I am mostly influenced by the west, but it maybe that is because I have not studied the work and culture of India and other countries very much; certainly a great loss to me.
8. You have been underlined as a creative artist using multi-media for your various forms of expression. What has been your central concern? I want to find ways to blend my hand generated art with the digital generated fractals in more than a superficial way. Using the computer and photographic programs requires more than just a knowledge of how to use the programs…it takes a great deal of time and artistic talent to blend the two together and produce something that is not just a copy of nature or photographic looking. I am always surprised at the creative genius I see on the internet in this area. The beautiful scenes, almost photographic, produced digitally are impressive, but I am more impressed with something a little more creative and different. I tend to have a ‘loose’ style rather than ‘rigid’.
10. In any series of paintings you have blended the images of the East to those of the West, What was the reason thereof and how did it bridge the occidental and oriental sensibilities? I am still working on this. I love the deep rich earthy colors of India and the attention to detail. Other than an occasional object in a stilllife, I do not consider myself very competent in this area. It is something that interests me.
11. What major difference do you feel between the Indian art scenes today as compared to the contemporary art world of West? My knowledge of the Indian Art scene is too inadequate to give a good comparison. Certainly the videos and art that I have seen at the ArtLab site and others have been so outstanding. I feel that I need to study the Hindu religion to help in studying the art.
12. Taking a global view of modern world art, how do you rate major Indian artists and their art? Who are artists you know from India? In the past, most of my acquaintance with the art of India has the mass media contamination of the widely produced stories by Kipling, as in The Jungle Book and from the Hollywood impression of the country in various movies. I met and have many good friends who have immigrated from India throughout my teaching career. I have taught them in my class, tasted their food and been their guest. In the global view, I would hate to see the image of India through these favorable mediums diminish, but I long to see the real India Art. It is such a beautiful country, I would love to do some landscapes or cityscapes. I consider Dr. Challa a good friend and artist, I am glad that she shared her art with me and offered also the much needed background for each piece. I am looking forward to meeting and learning to enjoy the art of other Indian artists, especially those who are finding ways to mix art with mathematics and science. I feel a strong sense of individualism expressed by the Indian artists, that keeps their art unique and creative. I do not always feel this is true in western art. Dr. Challa is taking the time to teach me a little at the time of the problems facing India Artists including problems with the internet. Things I don’t even think about like the fees for copyrights and for using a copyrighted piece that is priced in the higher valued dollar making the cost unreasonable.
13. Public art as an urbanization trend is picking up gradually in developing countries like India. What should be its aesthetic direction and dimensions? How the modern art works can literate common men's vision towards life and art? The architecture of India is unique and I would hate to see modern trends destroy this. Certainly, public art should be pursued. Historical pieces, pieces that tell of Indian lore and legend and religious pieces should all be pursued. The problem with too much modern art is the soul of people get smothered away in a vain attempt to be different. I hope this does not happen. Most of the common man’s vision is still about survival, families, love and sadly hatred. I hope Indian art will lift uniquely Indian ways into the vast arena of what makes us all so similar and yet so different. I have not always been a fan of modern art, it has had to grow on me. I think the vivid work with raw color with the fractal images has increased my appreciation for concepts such as design, composition, and color combinations. The fractals do not look like things as we normally think of them like a pitcher of water, fruit, a portrait…yet, the have to have a certain balance of size, color and placement for me to compose a suitable piece to me. I call it composition in the raw. That will always have a place in art…modern or traditional. I am of the opinion that good art should trigger an emotional reaction within the viewer and if possible still be beautiful. If you stick with that standard, it will be art appreciated in the truest sense of the word.
14. What is your assessment about the recent boost in art market of the world? Has this trend negatively influence artists or the orientation of contemporary art. I am at a loss for this one. I focus on production of art and I do not follow the markets as well as I should. I fear, trends and popularities have little influence on me as an artist. I look at the works of some of the great artists of the past and realize that many of them did not get suitable monetary reward while living. Whatever the trend in the art market, it is fleeting at best. I figure if I never sell another piece, there still will not be enough of my art to meet the demands of my posterity. I am glad if it brings something to someone else’s life that they had not thought of or felt. I am of the opinion that art should not be generated based on market demands or trends but rather out of the soul of the artist. Let it stand or sink, at least I’ve done my part to share a little piece of life with the patron. Art generated to meet market demands rather than fulfill the inspiration of the artist’s soul lowers it to a level of craft rather than fine art.
15. How have persons other than those of the art field inspired your work and who are the chief personalities of philosophical, intellectual, literary and allied fields who have contributed to the shaping of your creative orientation? I am impressed with the American, Helen Keller. She was deaf and blind, yet made a place in the world. She said, “I am only one person and I cannot do everything; but I am one, and I can do something.” I think that has given me a driven purpose and optimistic hope to continue when circumstances just seemed impossible. I also have been deeply influence by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who said…”The heights by great men reached and kept, were not obtained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upwards in the night. The last, I do not know the author, “That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but our power to do it has increased.” These have given me hope in hard work. Writers like Henry David Thorough have helped me understand the beauty of living simply.
16. What in your opinion is the creative correlation between tradition and modernity? Have some of your works given an evidence of such a co-existence? I’m not sure I understand this one. I can only think of some of my portraits of my family using old photographs, creating a modern piece and adding the photographs in very unusually and blending ways. I did an abstract of fish and fish hooks and included a portrait of my dad (he loved to fish) in varying sizes, opacity and orientation. Not the traditional portrait , I know, and I wish I had painted his portrait rather than using the antique photograph…perhaps I will next time. This has great potential, especially in the blending of emotions of or about the person and their image as they were known among their contemporaries. The same could be done of wildlife or special items, and I have done that on a few pieces, blending the abstract fractals with more traditional renditions.
17. What is the meaning of being an Indian near you, when for the past so many decades you and your wife are staying permanently in a country like Canada? Do you sometimes miss India and for what reasons? I am not from India. I think perhaps it would be hard living somewhere else permanently and I would hope I would not revert to the stranger’s traditions, but maintain attributes of my native land. I wondered about answering these questions, as this interview is obviously geared to you native countrymen.
18. What is the significance of being experimental while working multi-media? Experiments, even the failed ones, help you learn to grow and use the materials in ways no one else has imagined. That is one of the things I love the best about art…it lends itself to so much experimentation. I love multi-media, I continue to learn how to use different mediums with products that produce unusual effects. It’s the chase for the new knowledge that is so addictive, sometimes even taking over the need to create the art. I can understand why Leonardo da Vinci studied so many different things. He, got caught up in the chase….and wouldn’t let go (Thank goodness).
19. What is the latest that you are working on and when is your next solo/group show(s) scheduled and where? I am working on a smaller version of the mural of Christ and the Children of the World, this one is 3 feet by 4 feet. I do not rush projects and I do not know when it may be finished. In a piece like this one, I ponder each part many hours before I will even pick up a brush to work on it, sometimes making many pencil sketches. My next group show is in Quincy, Florida in the Gadsden Art Gallery, it is concurrent with another group show in Marianna, Florida at Chipola College. I am not as prolific as I would have hoped and if I complete 10 to 12 new pieces per year, I am happy.
20. Have you to say anything special on governmental patronage of fine arts, especially with reference to art institutions established for protection, Promotion and development of art and artists? As long as the patronage does not define what is art or what can survive. We have lost far too much of the world’s art by archaic institutions determining who or what is significant. It should be the love of the masses, not the patronage of the few that determines the classics. I look at the ancient European art, certainly a world standard, and wonder what we might have had if more was preserved by public means rather than the Catholic Church. I am glad to have access to their creative holdings, but oh what might have been if the common man could have decided what to commission.
21. Have you to say anything to budding and upcoming generation of new artists? Do not give up, proficiency comes at different times for individuals. If you work on your art your whole life and never feel pleased with it just remember the day you are unable to criticize your art is the day you stop growing. Criticism is important to your development, learn to love it early on and it will be a great asset to you. Robert Wood said that everyone should do outdoor sidewalk shows occasionally, meander around with the crowd unidentified and then you will really hear what the people think of your art. You have to be tough to do this.
Minnie W. Shuler
has appended 5 excellent photos too! Our sincere thanks to him all. HEMANT SHESH