Friday, 30 November 2012

M/M Interview with Eric Silver

Image of Eric Silver is provided to Manner of Man Magazine by Blue Ridge Oil Paint. All rights reserved.

Interview with Eric Silver, owner and paintmaker of Blue Ridge Oil Paint was conducted by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in Asheville, North Carolina during August 2012.

How did your interest in paint begin?

Like most painters I have always had an interest in drawing and other creative endeavors.  It wasn’t until I left architecture school to pursue my true passion of painting that I truly fell in love with oil paint.  While in art school there was no denying the joy, and almost emotional connection, one feels when painting with oil paint.  The physical characteristics of oil paint gliding under the brush can be quite addictive, and I was hooked.
Oil paint is also very forgiving.  If you are unhappy with what you have done, just scrape it off and start over.  That fact alone makes you feel like anything is possible.  You can keep pushing yourself and sometimes those “mistakes” become a type of beautiful timeline of the progression of the painting.  The possibilities are only limited by the artists’ imagination.     

How does the process for a new colour begin?

Typically a new color is born out of conversations with customers and learning what they use, and what is useful to them.  It would be no problem to just make hundreds of mixes, but whether they are useful to the artist is what really matters.  Once I have an idea of a color I begin mixing colors, rubbing it out on canvas and tweaking where it is needed.  The best part is that once I have come up with something nice I am then able to take it home and put it to the test myself.  I am my own research and development department.  Sometimes I quickly learn that what looks good on the glass isn’t useful at all in the real world.  I also have a lot of good customers who are more than happy to be my guinea pigs for new colors.  The feedback is vital to creating a good color or taking it in a different direction if need be.  Because of the endless uses for these colors it is impossible for me to know what will be a useful color, without this feedback.  Something that is useful for portraiture may not be so great in the landscape, so to come up with a universally helpful color is the end goal. 

Why is it important to you to oversee the entire process of your products manufacture through its ultimate shipment to the consumer?

When you create something from nothing it becomes a part of you, no matter what it is.  I think most artists deal with this at some point in their careers, where you put so much of yourself into a painting that you will not compromise.  Having passion for your craft forces you to always strive for perfection, and for the end user to have the best experience possible.  The thought of my paints sitting on a big box stores’ shelves for months on end would keep me awake at night.  Having control from beginning to end allows me to not only make sure everything is up to my standard before it ships, but I am also able to carefully pack each tube of paint.  If I am going to take the time to make something I am proud of then why would I pack it for shipment with any less care?   Another equally important aspect of retaining control and selling direct to the artist is the life changing relationships I have formed with other painters.  The interaction with fellow painters is vital to me as an artist, but also as a paint maker.  If I lose this interaction with the customer then I simply can’t progress my craft as a paint maker. 

If you could have your portrait done by any painter living or deceased who would it be? In addition, where would it hang?

That is a tough one.  There are so many amazing painters, past and present, who I would love to meet and sit for.  However, the first artist that comes to mind is Paul Cezanne.  This decision is mainly due to the simple fact that I would love nothing more than to spend the time picking his brain.  I am not certain that I would be able to sit still long enough for one of Cezanne’s storied portrait sittings, but it is a nice thought.  Even though he is not known for his portraiture, they are some of his best examples of his ideas of color modulation and composition.  The tenacity that he approached painting with is simply inspiring.  To push ones vision to the limits is a life-long challenge, and one that is rarely attempted.  Cezanne had his own unique ideas about creating form and space using color that has always captured my imagination.  Sitting for him, aggravating him with my questions, would be absolute bliss for me.

This portrait would have to hang in my home.  I believe in masterpieces being shared with the world, but in this case I would have to be selfish.  The first time I was able to study the actual paintings at the Met, instead of in books, was a life changing event.  To be able to study a Cezanne painting anytime I like would be equally life changing.  

The above interview with Eric Silver 2012 © Manner of Man Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.