John MacDonald worked as both a full-time freelance illustrator and landscape painter for nearly twenty years. He won awards from Print Magazine as well as having work appear in the Society of Illustrators annual show. Since the late 2000’s, he has been painting full time. His paintings can be found in private, corporate, and museum collections throughout North America.
Professional memberships have included the Society of Illustrators, the Illustrators Partnership of America, the National Association of Plein Air Painters, the Graphic Artists Guild, and the Oil Painters of America. John is certified through the Creativity Coaching Association as a creativity coach and brings his coaching experience to his workshops.
We are looking forward to John’s return to the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops July 6 to 10, 2016, to teach his class From Plein Air to Studio, working with acrylics and oils. This Workshop has 3 full days of hands-on painting and instruction – it should be a spectacular and inspiring time of year to be painting on location in the scenic Catskills!
How long have you been teaching and what got you started teaching?
After sporadically teaching for years, in the last five or six years I’ve been scheduling a yearly calendar of workshops, usually limiting it to a half dozen so as to give myself as much painting time as possible. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and it seemed to be a natural extension of my art.
What is your favorite part about teaching?
Seeing students grasp a concept, apply it to their paintings, and then seeing their joy as they see the quality of their work leap forward.
What would you tell your prospective students are three best reasons for taking a workshop?
Workshops give students an uninterrupted period of time in which they can focus solely on their painting. Such times are rare. Our lives are so busy.
We only learn when we’re trying something new. Workshops are an ideal environment–supportive and safe– in which to put ourselves on our edge, try new techniques, make mistakes, and learn.
Art making can be a lonely activity. It’s wonderful being in a group of fellow painters as everyone struggles, learns, and celebrates together.
What are you currently working on in your own art?
Lately, I’ve been doing fewer small, plein air paintings and more larger , studio canvases, attempting to inject some of the spontaneity, simplicity, and freshness of plein air work into my larger paintings.
Where is your art currently being exhibited?
Currently, I’m in five galleries:
The Iris Gallery. Boston, MA; Aspen, CO
Warm Springs Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
Sorelle Gallery, New Canaan, CT; Albany, NY; Saratoga Springs, NY
Christopher-Clark Fine Art, San Francisco, CA
Rich Timmons Studio & Gallery. Doylestown, PA
What hints would you give to artists looking for gallery representation?
Create a body of work that is of your best quality, that is consistent, and of a subject matter that you’re passionate about.
Do your research. Find galleries that sell work similar to yours and in your price range. Study the gallery’s website.
Contact them for submission guidelines. No cold calls.
Be patient. Don’t get discouraged. Finding the right gallery is often a long process.
Do you sell your work in any online gallery?
I don’t sell through online galleries but have begun to offer a few paintings for sale directly from my website. It’s important not to compete with my galleries and so I’ll be selling only small paintings directly.
What is your favorite art quote?
I have many. Here are three:
“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun.” – Christina Rossetti, poet (1830-1894)
”If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.” – Michelangelo, sculptor, painter, architect, and poet (1475-1564)
“Art enables us to find ourselves and to lose ourselves at the same time.“ – Thomas Merton, monk. (1915-1968)
Describe your studio.
Too small. Now that I’m working larger it’s a bit tight but it’s cozy, warm, and an enjoyable place to spend the day painting.
Name five of your “can’t do without” tools/products.
Prussian blue. I love it. If it weren’t unhealthy for me, I’d probably eat it.
Worn and disheveled brushes that give unique and accidental effects.
Frames. I can’t tell if a painting is finished if it’s not in a frame.
My 50% gray palette. It’s so helpful when judging the value of paint mixtures.
Mellow, moody background music and a pot of black tea.