"I have always been drawn to visual art. However, it seemed so futile, uneconomic, unimportant, as the common sense voices said. Without a living mentor/example, it was difficult to see a way forward. I have tried to deny it, to avoid it, even to give it up. At times, survival seemed all that I could manage. But I returned to art again, and again. Nothing else fits the expression of who I am." Larry Hatfield
I met Larry Hatfield at a shoot for a Cable Show in the works. As I interviewed a guest I noticed that Larry, sitting on the other side of the studio was sketching and was impressed to see he had made great sketches of the guests I was interviewing. As you know, Art immediately catches my eye and there you have it!
|Fountain at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco|
Hi Larry. How are you?
Your work is beautiful. Very detailed and colorful watercolors. I love the fact that I recognize many of the places you paint.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Rock Island, Illinois, part of the Quad Cities, once the farm implement capital of the world, Weyerhauser started there bringing logs down the Mississippi until the dams and bridges went in. The first Railroad Bridge over the river was there. Where the Rock River and Hennepin Canal flow into the Mississippi. The home of Criminal, John Looney, who was portrayed in the movie "Road to Perdition". They changed his name to Rooney. The last battle with Native Americans East of the Mississippi, The Blackhawk War, was near there. There was a large encampment of Sauk and Mesquakie in Rock Island
Wow Larry. Thank you for that bit of education. I love it! What were you like as a child?
I played a lot outside with friends, caught crawdads in the creek, made bows and arrows and slingshots, climbed trees--we lived next to a large wooded area.
What were your creative activities as a child?
Our neighborhood group of kids invented games, built tree-houses, underground houses that filled with water and spiders and were abandoned. After I had some art classes in school, I remember going out to draw on my own a few times. I remember watching my mother practice the Vibes in the living room (this was an influence that I recognized much later)
Do you remember if you thought “I’m an Artist” when you were young?
No, I don't think I had a category of "Artist" in my brain to place myself into. I didn't know anyone, hadn't heard of anyone, who was an artist. In high school I learned that a neighbor had gone to Paris to study painting, but he was a proprietor of a small neighborhood grocery, not a practicing artist.
What medium(s) do you like to work with most?
I have always liked pencil, but the last three and a half years, I have been trying to learn to paint with watercolors.
What types of things inspire you to paint?
Briefly I'll say that I am a Christian and I look at the landscape as God's Creation. Which means that being creative is not random/accidental, but in tune with the highest reality. There is a great deal of diversity but also an order, kind of like Jazz with its improvisation but also with the standards. J. S. Bach would write J.J. and S.D.G in the margins of his compostions. Sometimes he spelled them out, Jesu Juva (Jesus Help), and Soli Deo Gloria (only God's Glory).
You’ve visited other Countries in the name of Art? Where have you been and what would you say is the difference between what you saw and learned there and here?
I have traveled to Western Europe a few times. My wife and I lived in London for about 18 months. I am not qualified as an art critic or historian. It seems that sometimes Americans have followed European trends and sometimes the other way. In general, I would say its more acceptable, legitimate, to be and artist in Europe than in America. There isn't much of a cultural space for artists here. We are either very pragmatic, utilitarian, or celebrity oriented to see that painting is worth doing unless you can become a celebrity artist.
What is the Plein Air painting experience like for you?
Plein Air, just means painting on site outdoors. It comes from the French "en plein aire" if my French is right. The gamut of color and light that is present in the outdoors can't be captured on camera. The color gamut of photography is considerably smaller, and commercially printed pictures are very much less full of the color of the creation. The experience of being there encompasses everything you can think of, light, color, sound, weather, etc. and that is part of "seeing the place". The challenges are that the light is always changing, shadows move, bugs crawl on you and the painting, birds bomb you. In Oregon, I had a squirrel perch above me and drop bark and pine cones on me while chattering away, protesting my presence.
Do you have other Artistic outlets?
Right now I am concentrating on watercolor. In the nearly 30 years that I was working full-time and couldn't paint or draw, or was too discouraged to. I found that growing flowers was like painting my yard with color. And coaching soccer had a satisfaction of seeing patterns and rhythms of combination of players with the ball.
Who are some of your favorite Artists?
I'll have to limit this to painters, even then there are too many to list all. Most of what I like is representational. This may not be in chronological order, but here are some that come to mind: Albrect Durer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Goya, Turner, Cole and the Hudson River School, Rouault, Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth. Contemporary artists : Makoto Fujimura, John Taft, Michael Reardon (Oakland Watercolorist), Carol Aust www.carolaust.com and many others.
What is your opinion about the ‘State of Art’ right now?
The "Art World" has lost direction. There is no more Avant Guarde rebelling against the Academy. The ideas of Truth and Beauty and the link between them was abandoned by the philosophers some time ago and now everything drifts. If anyone is interested in this, others are better than I am at analysing these culturals trends. I just finished a book that I would recommend, Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey. She is a Christian woman who comes from that worldview. She is writing primarily to the church in general, but if you are not into church, you can still get a lot out of it because she does a great job of explaining what ideas lead to what trends in Art from the Enlightenment to now in Western Art. And she gives a framework for understanding how big ideas translate into visual art, and music, and other arts.
Do you sell your Art?
Yes, at shows, galleries and open studios. I have one piece at the Richmond Art Center Member's Show now. At the end of July I am in the Benicia Art and Wine Festival with 2 other watercolor artists.
Do you have any inspirational words you can offer other Artists?
I don't feel qualified to be a mentor, but all I know is that I was made to do this. It took many decades for me to really know this for sure. I tried to ignore it, abandon it, forget it, but I wasn't really happy or fulfilled by all the other things I did except in small ways that I could be creative in those roles. So, if its in you, do it.
Where can we find out more about you and your Art?
http://www.LarryHatfieldArt.com is my poorly maintained website--way out of date. My more up-to-date 2011 Watercolor album of paintings on Facebook is here: Larry Hatfield
People can get on my mailing list by emailing Larry.Hatfield@gmail and send an address or just indicate email only, and I will send 2 to 4 postcards (or just email) a year about shows and exhibits where my work can be seen.
Thank you so much for this very eye opening and educational interview Larry.
My pleasure Steph, thanks for your interest.