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Gary Hartenhoff – Featured Member of SDAA

by Stacey | Apr 6, 2016

Stacey: Good morning Gary! I had the pleasure of visiting with you not too long ago; remember you handed me an application for SDAA (SD Artists Alliance or sdartists.net)! I obviously took your advice & joined. Can you tell us what benefits you have received by being a part of SDAA and how long you have been a member?

Gary: I remember our conversation well and enjoyed talking with you. I look forward to doing the same again.  I joined SDAA several years ago while living in San Diego, so I was not active just supportive. I think it is important for artists to support one another. Some of us have been practicing this profession for many years. I know how hard it must be to learn and practice when you must have a day job to bring home the bacon. So, I am always ready to share any expertise and experience I might have including many books and CD’s. The CD’s could be viewed by groups of members. SDAA is a fine association and I hope it expands with many members.

Stacey: Gary, you are giving me some great ideas! I am thinking “Coffee Break; Featuring Gary Hartenhoff!” Ha ha  So, I want to focus on your experiences to start and how they have shaped you as an oil painter. Your bio online speaks about the sky & fields of SD. How do you think the atmosphere of SD has influenced you and your art?
Gary: I spent the first 18 years of my attempt to be a fine artist in San Diego, and I painted the California landscapes. I am still trying to learn to be a fine artist. I hopefully am progressing but I will never complete this process to my satisfaction. I never did think Southern California was a very pretty country. Actually all it contains is desert and bare mountains. I did like the Eucalyptus trees and of course the climate. South Dakota is plush with beautiful rich greenery, trees, fields and lush colors. I find it more inviting to paint. The sun is much deeper in South Dakota. Southern California sun is exceptionally bright.

Stacey: That answer makes me want to pack my stuff and head outdoors to paint NOW!
Ok, so do you think there is a difference in the Art Culture in CA compared to SD?
Gary: The art culture seems mostly the same across the whole country. The differences are the galleries. East, West, South and North artists are the same but the markets aren’t.

Stacey: Could you name some Artists that you have taken workshops by/with or have had the pleasure to paint alongside?
Gary: I took many workshops. Some were great and some just turned into social gatherings. The first few years in San Diego I studied with instructor Lela Harty. She still teaches and is a close friend. I’ve studied David Leffel for years. I have all his books. Also I have all of Richard Schmid’s books as well as a few CD’s. Leffel’s work is very rich [Gary Hartenhoff Painting] and he uses values to the limit. I also like the work of many of the early California plein air painters.
I think workshops are good if the teacher is really interested in teaching. Too many just make suggestions. I like the ones that actually take a brush and show you how they would do it. Leffel once looked at a painting I was doing that was about half way through. He picked up a brush and destroyed the painting and told me to start over. That is teaching.
One book that all artists should read over and over every few years is Robert Henri’s ‘The Art Spirit’. It should be kept as close as a dictionary is kept and used as much if not more. I painted at many art festivals throughout Southern California so I have painted with many artists.

Stacey: I enjoy Robert Henri’s ‘The Art Spirit.’ Now I have to dig it out and thumb thru it!
I see you have been to the Scottsdale School of Art. Can you share a little about that?
Gary: The Scottsdale Art School is one of the best in the country. They have many art instructors throughout the season. And most are very professional teachers who leave you with some real sound information. It’s been around for 30 years or so and they know what they are doing.

Stacey: Ok, now I would like to focus more specifically on your process. How do you determine what you are going to paint? How do you decide upon a subject?
Gary: The years in California I painted everything. If I liked it I painted it. After I began to get gallery representation the gallery usually suggested what to paint. And every painting had to be in a gold leaf frame. Fortunately Tijuana was close and cheap with gold frames. I basically painted landscapes and still-life in sizes from 8”x 10” to 36” x 48”. Right now I am working on several Bison pieces, small to medium. Next I will be looking at still-life. I have always enjoyed painting still-life.

Stacey: How long does it take you to finish one painting? Do you use any mediums to help with the drying time?
Gary: I do use mediums once in a while. Usually Gamblin’s Neo Megilp or Daniel Smith’s Classic Painting Medium. Mostly to change how paint flows.  Hard to say how long a painting takes to complete. I have some I worked on for years. I may put one in a rack and not look at it for months. Most of what I paint I hang or stand in my living room for days or weeks and glance at them once in a while. Hanging in the living room places them in the environment they most likely are to be viewed in. It is amazing how one day I might glance at one and eureka I know the answer, or at least think I do. Sometimes I take them out of the gallery to rework them. I also ask for critiques that are real, not accolades. And I get them from my artist daughter and my neighbor who knows nothing about art.

Stacey: Ha ha, that is pretty daring of you!  Tell me about your color palette? Has it changed thru the years?
Gary: I change my palette regularly. I am always trying new paints and combinations. The basic of course is a warm and cool of the three primaries. Recently I am working with greys. Not sure I am good enough for this venture but it is interesting. I guess it depends on what I am painting. Plein air is kept very simple. Studio can be more experimental. I just started using Gamblin’s Asphaltum and like the results, but not on everything. I also use black once in a while.
For example an interesting plein air palette is Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, one choice of several reds, Permanent Crimson, Medium Cad Red or Quinacridone Red and Cremitz White. Paint over Utrecht Professional gessoed panel of your choice.

Stacey: Hmmm, I haven’t specifically arranged a palette based on the warms & cools of the primaries. Now I have to look at my palette and see if I am missing a warm or a cool.
I’ve seen you do really loose expressive work, some with fine detail and others that seem to be more pattern focused. Are you using the same brushes from painting to painting?
Gary: I use mostly Isabey and Utrecht 209 Bristle Filberts. I also use Sables and liners for fine work.

Stacey: Gary thank you so much for your time. You have shared a lot of useful information. Its always fun to hear about your experiences as an artist.

To read more about Gary Hartenhoff, go to http://www.sdartists.net/gary-hartenhoff.html & http://garyhartenhoff.com. He is currently represented by Rehfeld’s downtown Sioux Falls, SD.