07/17/14 By Olivia Bartz
Looking at Jim McConlogue's stunning landscapes and seascapes it is hard to believe him when he says that he started out just like everybody else. "So many people believe that they can't do it. But you aren't given the ability to draw a landscape. Those are things you teach yourself. I try to help them believe that they can do it."
As a child, Jim admired those who could draw and began drawing cartoons in order to practice this art form. In high school he drew for the school newspaper, but he ultimately did not attend an art college—most of the art classes he took were through U.C.S.D. extension courses. "In a lot of ways, I was supported by my friends and family creatively, but they also wanted me to get an education in another field so that I would have options. But I always knew I wanted to paint." Jim received a political science degree with an art minor and worked in Washington, DC for a number of years. But his relationship with art stayed with him while in DC. "That's where I got to study at a lot of museums. Every Sunday I would go and study one section of the museum, whatever key exhibit was in town at that time." Though Jim was internally motivated to pursue art, it was studying other painters—early California plein air painters and the Laguna Beach plein air painters—that really motivated him to put together a body of work that he thought was "art gallery quality."
Jim speaks pragmatically of his relationship with art—he describes it as a "burning desire that comes from within" but one that is also still evolving. "For some its a longer path to being a success—for some, this means making a living, for others it means being the best you can be as an artist. I think I fall in the middle between those two."
Jim has tried out several different mediums before his unique experience with oil. "When I discovered oil, the qualities of the paint really captured my attention. And when I studied these past masters during my visits to museums, I would be enthralled by their brush strokes and the way they'd lay down color. It really caught my eye. The ones I was really drawn to were the ones that had texture in the brush strokes." Jim is pleased to work with oils, whether in plein air or in the studio. "The buttery tactile feel of oils being dragged across a canvas is what really made me like that medium more than others. That, and the fact that the colors are so beautiful and do not change like they can with acrylics."
Jim offers a tip about color use when working with oils: "With watercolor, you're basically using the white of the paper as your whitest white. With oils, I color the entire canvas with a base color and work from there—maybe a yellow ochre or another neutral color, and then build up from there."
Jim loves seeing the effect of his paintings on people the most.
"Its really nice as an artist when you can touch somebody's soul. That's when you feel like you've touched greatness: when you can make an emotional impact on someone's life. That's really satisfying."
He also enjoys the challenge in painting—of seeing a landscape or rendering a figure correctly. "Its a constant struggle and battle and you keep working toward your goal. For me, this struggle is toward achieving a representational but painterly feel to my work—I want my paintings to look like the subjects I am painting but I want people to feel the paint as well. I enjoy the challenge of rendering the landscape in a realistic but painterly way."
Jim finds this challenge of combining representation with artistic interpretation in his work to be a wonderful part of the job. "The great thing about being an artist is that you can use that license to do whatever you think helps the scene." For example, he added the Eucalyptus trees along the edge in the following painting. "It's a compositional challenge—you don't want the viewer's eye to run off the page but to be held within by some of the compositional features that you painted."
Jim is inspired by his local environment in Encinitas, California. "I just happen to live by the prettiest coastline in the world. Sometimes I'll be driving home and see a glorious sunset and I wonder if I should 'do' that sunset."
Jim believes that everyone has "artistic blocks" but qualifies this idiom: "I don't ever consider them blocks; I just consider them life getting in the way sometimes. I don't think the passion of painting ever dries away but I think life sometimes encroaches more than you would like it to." Jim's remedy for "life getting in the way" is to have a dedicated space. He says that "the real difficulty is when you don't have the space or the time." (Stay tuned for a glimpse into Jim's studio soon!)
Jim's main piece of advice to aspiring artists is to follow your passion and to not allow yourself to make excuses.
"If you can find a reason not to, you won't. So find a reason to paint."
To see more of Jim's artwork, visit www.JimMcConlogue.com
Olivia is the Marketing Intern for Quarto Publishing Group USA and is excited to graduate from UC Irvine this June with a B.A. in English. She is happiest when reading a good book or writing about her adventures abroad, and continues to be inspired by all things outdoors. Olivia loves to try out new art mediums and techniques but has yet to be disappointed by a pencil and sketchpad.
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.
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