Linda is a talented landscape artist living in Florida. As both a successful gallery artist and workshop teacher, she has gained a wealth of information over the years, some of which she has generously shared here.
First, a brief description of Notan, taken from the book Composition, by Arthur Wesley Dow.
"Notan. There is no one word in English to express the idea contained in the phrase 'dark-and-light,' I have adopted the Japanese word 'notan' (dark,light). It seems fitting that we should borrow this art-term from a people who have revealed to us so much of this kind of beauty. 'Chiaroscuro' has a similar but more limited meaning...Darks and lights in harmonic relations - this is Notan, the second structural element of space-art." pp 113.Orange Shop @ Linda Blondheim 2008
Linda, you have studied the principles of Notan , and apply them to your work. What drew you to this concept and how do you use it in your painting practice?
I discovered the study of Notan back in my art school days. I was lucky to have one of the best design teachers, Jack Nickerson, who made design fascinating for a young art student. Notan focuses on light and dark, so it is essential for understanding value structure in painting. For years I used color as a crutch because I really did not understand values. About two years ago I decided it was time to revisit the learning process of Notan. It was the best thing I ever did for my own painting technique. My work has improved greatly and oddly enough, my color palette has improved as well. Studying Notan helped me to develop a five value family system which shrinks the normal value range down to five. It has made handling values so much easier for me.
Have you always been a landscape painter, or did you come to it through different subjects?
I have been a landscape painter for 30+ years. i also enjoy still life and florals, and abstract landscape painting.
Cattle Ranch @ Linda Blondheim 2008
Why do you think you are drawn to the landscape?
The landscape offers so much variety and approach. It's simplicity is deceptive. It looks simple but is very complex. I've always loved the land. When I was young I fished and hunted all over north central Florida. I know many farmers and ranchers and have a deep respect for them and their work. I love dogs, horses, and cattle, and so I feel a deep connection to my work, and the history and culture of people who understand the land. The South has an agrarian history and my ancestors were farmers and ranchers, so it comes naturally to me to love the land. Painting these farms, state parks and ranches moves me deeply and they are sacred places to me.
When you are seeking inspiration, what sort of things go through your mind?
Just about everything I see. I have never lacked for inspiration. I am always on a quest for the next painting. I am a research and study freak. I like to develop palettes and experiment with them. I like doing Notan exercises, and I like to experiment with lots of different surfaces and mediums. Each year, I set a study subject for myself and spend time throughout the year working toward completion of the project. It may be architecture, wave and water patterns, flowers, Notan/values, atmospheric study, backlighting, clouds, etc. I usually pick something that I am afraid of or that is difficult for me.
Tomoka @ Linda Blondheim 2008
What do you consider the most important skill that every painter should develop?
I like to consider the "Big Three" as the most important skill in landscape painting. Composition, Values, and Color Mixing. Those three encompass many techniques and skills, but nothing is more important that those three areas of study. All of my workshops revolve around those skills in some way. They are vital in my opinion.
What is the funniest experience you've had as an artist?
There are many funny stories and a few that I wish to repeat :>) Most of them revolve around professional paint outs I have been to. It's one of those things where you had to be there. Paint outs are a different world for artists. We are taken out of our regular routine. They are essentially marathons, where we are working 12 to 15 hours a day, turning out paintings like machines. At night, we socialize and funny things do happen but I would not want to share them or embarrass other artists. There was one night when the 'boys' decided to grill dinner and blew up the grill with too much propane. It went up like a rocket!
What is the most unexpected thing that you've learned as an artist?
I think it would be that I was surprised at how much maturity helped me to become a better artist. The idea in this culture is that youth dominates and that older people are marginalized. That is not the case in the landscape genre'. Most of the top painters in Florida are over 40 and many are around 60-70. I didn't even start to get recognition and make a name for myself until I was 50. I am just starting to learn how to paint and I have many more good years to improve and grow. Maturity gave me the wisdom to recognize that I needed to improve as a painter. Maturity has allowed me to let go of my ego and focus on the important part of being an artist and that is the process of painting. I no longer focus on my position in the art world. Now I just paint.
I wanted to follow up on two of the threads in Linda's answers, so I emailed her a few more questions, which she graciously answered.
Can you recommend any books that are particularly good at explaining the fundamentals of Composition, Value, and Color?
There are three books I can recommend:
- Art Fundamentals, Theory and Practice, Fifth Edition ISBN 0-697-03316-3
- A Painter's Guide to Design and Composition ISBN 1-58180-643-4
- Vision and Invention ISBN 13-942243-9
I will soon have my first book out based on my Plein Air Monthly Class. It is designed for groups or individuals with 12 lesson plans and other information based on my research and techniques. It will be called Plein Air Monthly, self published with blurb.com. It will be on my web site, lindablondheim.com.
Fall Marsh @ Linda Blondheim 2008
Do you have any other words of wisdom?
First, let me way that it is wonderful to be an artist. But most people are little prepared for what it takes to become a successful artist. They do not know the huge amount of time that must be spent in marketing and selling. At least 50% of my time is spent in non-painting activities to promote my art. The rest of my time is devoted to practicing and researching my work, in order to improve, so that it will be purchased. Essentially, I am a workaholic.
The pros I know, who actually survive on art and teaching, work 16 hours a day, as I do. It takes a great deal of energy, commitment and ingenuity to be a successful artist. You must be driven and unwilling to fail. I have had many hard days in my long career which would have broken others. If you are a successful artist, it consumes your life. It's not a job, but rather a way of living.
Honeymoon Palms @ Linda Blondheim 2008
All images used with permission of the artist.
You can find more information about Linda's art here. You can read about travels, recipes, and Linda's process of painting on her blog, Linda Blondheim Art Notes.