Painter and photographer Lynn Bishop was the featured artist for May 2009 on Cow Art and More. Lynn received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of California and originally pursued a career in veterinary pathology. She found the call to pursue art was too great and began painting full time in 1985. Currently, Lynn lives in Colorado and enjoys capturing the realism of animals in many forms.
Why do you paint?
Each of us has some form of creative energy that longs for expression. My emotional responses to life are varied, but when it comes to outwardly expressing my response to something I've experienced, creating a realistic image, through painting or photography, seems most natural.
How did you get started?
I drew a lot as a kid and my mother, who I suspect wanted to be an artist, encouraged and supported me as best she could, even somehow finding the money for some art lessons when I was in high school in the late 1950's. Unfortunately the teacher wanted to teach abstract painting and I wanted to learn realistic painting, so that experience was somewhat disappointing. Later, when I was an art major in a small college, someone told me I couldn't be "a real artist" and focus on equine art. So I showed them...I quit art and became a veterinarian instead! But the art muse wouldn't leave me alone so nearly two decades later I turned back to art.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Life! Something I see - usually animals or people - grabs me emotionally and creates the urge to capture and express that emotion in a painting.
Where did you learn your technique?
Well, I'm not so sure I have a consistent technique. It seems I never approach two paintings in a row in exactly the same way. I've learned a lot by taking classes and workshops in university and art school settings and by studying books about art. The single most important influence, however, was a six-week stint with Charles Cecil at his academy in Florence, Italy, where he teaches classical techniques of drawing and painting. He taught me the sight-size method of working - positioning the drawing surface such that the image observed is the same size as the drawn image - and that helped me solve some major problems I'd had with my drawing. All that aside, it's the innumerable hours at the easel that have taught me the most.
How do you decide what to paint?
The subject seems to choose me...that is, something about the subject strikes a chord in my heart and I simply have to express what I feel through painting.
What is your technique?
My paintings are realistic/representational, done in oil paints, often mixed with Winsor & Newton Liquin, which dries overnight, facilitating reworking. I have a poor visual memory, I love detail, and I love to portray an "instant in time" so my paintings are based on photos I've taken. For most of my career I used a non-electric slide viewer to look at slides of the subject as I painted, but I've now entered the digital age and view images on a laptop computer set up near my canvas. Although I rely on photographs as the basis of my paintings, I freely move subjects around and combine images from multiple photographs. In one large triptych of horses, I combined images from more than 2 dozen slides.
How long does it take you to get an average painting?
I've completed a 3' x 4' painting in 4 days while some 16" x 20" paintings have taken a month or more, so there is no "average" time. The length of time it takes depends a lot on the complexity of the subject, how well I'm focusing on the process, what else is going on in my life, and, sometimes, a lot of luck in having fallen in love with a subject that just has all the right elements in it that make a good painting.
Do you ever have goof ups or work you don’t like?
Oh, yes! I'm impatient by nature, so I tend to tackle a painting without doing a detailed underdrawing or underpainting. Often a fast simple sketch on the canvas is sufficient, but sometimes I get part of the way through a painting and find I need to change the composition or make other corrections. Fortunately oil paint is a rather forgiving medium so it's generally possible to scrape off mistakes, but it would be much better to start with an accurate foundation so as not to waste time and effort. And, yes, sometimes I've abandoned a painting entirely because I can't make it work.
What else do you do besides painting?
Recently I decided to take photography more seriously as an art form in itself rather than just as an aide memoir for places I've visited or as reference material for my paintings. I love taking photographs of birds, especially the larger wetlands birds such as egrets and herons, but am looking forward to photographing many different subjects. Another exciting canvas is our garden, which my husband I have been rescuing from years of neglect by previous owners. After 8 years of organic attention, it's finally providing more pleasure than exhaustion, although there's still plenty of work yet to do, but it's worth it to be able to eat fresh tomatoes and apples and enjoy cut flowers out of our own garden.
What would you like to do more of in the future?
More animal drawings, paintings, and photographs. And poetry, another "natural" form of expression for me, but one I've never developed.
What advice do you have for aspiring painters?
Learn to draw. Learning facility with drawing materials is the fundamental skill in painting, regardless of whether you want to do realistic or impressionistic or abstract painting - take a look at Picasso's magnificent early drawings. By learning to manipulate the fundamentals of form - line, edges, and values - in gray scale, without having to deal with color, makes the whole process of learning to draw not easy, but a bit easier.