Friday, 25 September 2009

James Michael McCracken (Stpeteartisan) Feature

AG: What is your name?

JM: James Michael McCracken

AG: Where are you from?

JM: I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. (East Tennessee) U.S.A.

AG: How long have you been drawing?

JM: As early as I can remember. When I was very young I drew mostly females, and flowers.

AG: Is Art a chosen career choice or a hobby?

JM: Art was an escape as a child for the loneliness I endured. My parents were NOT very supportive of my art. It became a choice of career early on around 10 years old. I wanted to be a Hollywood makeup artist first, a fashion designer and later a card artist.(I have made many latex masks in my life. I studied the Westmore's techniques when ever possible, and I taught myself to sew on a machine.)

I was blessed to have some very "high quality" art education in my public school system. My art was published a few times at grade and high school level. I won several awards, and even made the local newspaper.

After I graduated high school, I was hired by two local companies to do brush work both in packaging design and fabric print. They were miserable for me, painting 8 hrs a day and offered no freedom of personal expression. The pay was barely above minimum wage. I lost all desire to paint at home.

I did a hand drawn flyer for a gift boutique illustrating each item they sold with a witty description.(I hand personalized many items for them in the store.) I also made a short lived debut in an Uptown Ladies boutique circa 1983 with high end hand made art jewelry, and painted Men's Dress Jackets with some images inspired by French Artist Toulouse-Lautrec, Jeweled and studded, which all sold very well.

I soon after started my medical education, and then later joined the U.S. Air Force. I realized art was a vital part of my life, and could be revisited,if not my primary income source. I completed only about 5 paintings in that twenty years. I seemed to allow "everything" to get in the way of my art.

I still somehow seemed to volunteer my services to current employers for brochures and flyers.

AG: Do you possess any formal training i.e. college, workshops, through
work experience etc?

JM: I would have to answer No. Any pro training I have had, has since been replaced with computer technology in the work place. I do have a college education, but was not able to attend any formal art training.

I have since I can remember as a child, been fascinated by artists and have read every "How To Book" I have ever seen regarding art and technique. I still find myself getting every book, from any public library I visit. I have a great love for realism, and an emotional attachment to both expressionism and impressionistic techniques. It is very important to go to museums and see famous works of art. They often appear very different in person than print,often you can find clues of technique within the actual painting.

AG: Which media do you most enjoy? Least enjoy?

JM: I most enjoy watercolors. They are extremely affordable and portable. My most favorite would be oils, but I am not able to tolerate the chemical fumes without getting nauseated.(Even low odor is too much for me.) My biggest challenge is to master Acrylics, and hopefully be able to satisfy the love of both.

My least favorite would be markers. I really like to be in control of both the flow and stroke. I am not a big fan of mixed medium either. I think this is partly because my instructors encouraged me to use pure mediums.

In an art show "Mixed Media" pieces are usually shown in a more amateur section, albeit the same could be said about watercolors. With digital imaging mixed in, it is becoming more difficult to discern what is actually a real painting or a digital print that has been enhanced to an untrained eye.

AG: What is your creative process? Do you have one?

JM: Yes, actually I do. It always starts as something I have seen in life, or on television. I often write down a few descriptors when something additional or a particular image comes to mind. I keep several pieces in the works like this until something emotional solidifies.

I have to add here that some of my favorite works were created on the fly with minimal preparation and close deadlines. I have yet to be able to devise a method that assures success both with online collectors, and at sale. It is usually most popular in one or the other it seems. Although I have sold every painting I have ever done, I still consider myself evolving in technique and genre.

AG: What is your main source of inspiration?

JM: Often I am inspired by the world around me something will trigger a thought. I did a long and enjoyable series of over two hundred painted portraits donated by young Men for Metropolitan Charities..promoting healthy self awareness, and the "need" for building community.

I do enjoy painting male musculature. Initially, I considered my work to be erotic, after much feedback on deviant art about that classification, I have become more comfortable with it being modern male figurative study. I really still enjoy painting animals, flora, fauna and still life's. I suppose I am a Portrait Artist best classified. I do work with digital photographs, often several, and have built some very meaningful relationships with photographers on dA and abroad.

Did you know that the late nineteenth century, and early twentieth century artists, paid the highest prices for early photographs and sustained photography in the beginning?(We still have much to share with each other.) History channel is great for inspiration for me, as is deviantART. There are many wonderfully talented dA stock providers, and contests here.

Some artists feel that concept is more important, others feel technique. I agree with the latter, if you can't engage the observer with technique, they will often lose the concept.

AG: Do you have any favourite artists?

JM: Too many really, from unknown 800 BC, to Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Ruben, Matisse, Monet, Moderns include Wyeths all of them, Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta, many dA's.

AG: Are you currently working on any projects?

JM: Yes, I am currently working on a permanent exhibit for the New St. Petersburg College Arts Complex, and The American Stage Theatre. I have just finished Two illustrations for a celebrity cookbook, and currently doing caricatures for a celebrity greeting card line.

AG: Has your work ever been published?

JM: Yes, as a young artist and then again just this summer, and all over Spain. I have been featured many times on the Internet. The cookbook should be out for this holiday season mainstream bookstores. The card line is awaiting each celebrity's signed release, and expected to also be out soon. I am not allowed to discuss either by agreement until after marketing.

AG: Any advice you would like to offer to our aspiring artists out there?

JM: Yes, don't get discouraged if you do not feel as talented as the artists you admire. Desire and diligence are the true definition of talent, repetition will bring familiarity. Utilize both yourself and friends as models. I sometimes feel I can paint better than draw. The brush seems to tie it all together for me. I would encourage any artist to not create anything they may be personally ashamed of later.

Your genre CAN limit your future possibilities. Experiment all you can, and with all the mediums you can. I would start small, even an apple or a cored cabbage heart make excellent study for all media. As your self confidence grows with your technique branch from there.

AG: Cake or Pie?

JM: Definitely cake. I don't care much for pie crust except "fried pies"..

AG: Any other comments?

JM: Believe in yourself ,and love and respect yourself then others, after that the rest is a fun ride...

Thanks James! You can see more of his awesome work at DeviantArt.

Images©James Michael McCracken (Stpeteartisan)

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