This artist is one of my favorite painters West of the Hudson River. He really knows how to capture and reveal the beauty of what happens naturally with light, reminding us of visual intensity and how it affects us and our moods. Here is a little Q & A with Todd Doney:
1.) MC: An artist goes through so much thought which finally leads him/her to a point where it’s realized what the main theme for their body of work will be. When you finally decided to paint that which you depict so vibrantly in your work, what was it about the subject that made it so obvious to you, that it would become your exclusive theme?
Todd: While earning my MFA degree, I was struggling to come up with subject matter for my thesis exhibit. One of my fellow students was of Cuban descent and his body of work reflected his Cuban/American upbringing. Another student had battled breast cancer and her thesis show reflected that experience. With that in mind, I tried to figure out something about me to delve upon that would make good subject matter. I decided to paint something very close to me. I chose my surroundings…my environment. So, I painted the landscape around my house, which happens to be that Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge.
2.) MC: I’ve seen your ability to paint portraits (in every medium). Why do you choose oils as the medium for your paintings? What is it about that particular medium over all the others, which appeals to you and how does it contribute to your work?
Todd: I’m sure that I was influenced by all the landscape painters before me, most of who painted using oils. Also, I began my career as an illustrator and the artists that I admired, Bernie Fuchs, Mark English, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle all worked in oil. So, I guess if they all worked in oil, they must know something. As far as why I stayed with oil, I suppose that I like the slow drying time and the fact that the color is true. It doesn’t change when it is dry like acrylic, gouache, and watercolor does.
3.) MC: Is there one particular artist who consistently influences Todd Doney?
Todd: George Innis, Henry Twatchman, Claude Monet, J.M.W. Turner, John Fabian Carlson, Abbott Handerson Thayer , The Pennsylvania Impressionists. – Daniel Garber, William Lathrop, Edward Redfield.
4.) MC: When was the first time you felt that feeling of reward which comes from something you’ve created and how did it contribute to the direction for the rest of your of your life as an artist?
Todd: Oddly, it was drawing cartoons in high school. I drew little sketches during class when we were suppose to be studying. My friends loved them and it made me feel good.
5.) MC: Early on, did you always have your family’s support to be an artist/illustrator?
Todd: Yes, My father was a cop and my mom started out as a nurse. They always supported me. I guess that they thought it was a special talent.
6.) MC: You seem as though you’re always pushing yourself to “Reach the Next Level” (whatever that me be). You don’t seem satisfied with staying on the same plain. Perhaps that is part of the reason you’ve managed to accelerate in every medium. Would you say that is an accurate assessment? If so, please explain.
Todd: Yes. I never stay satisfied for long. When I finish a painting, I like it a lot. But, after a day or so, I start to see things that I wish I had done better. I envision better colors, or a different application. I then try to add those elements in the next painting. I want the next painting to be better and different from the last one. Although I am painting pretty much the same subject matter, (trees and swamp scenes from around my house,) I want every painting to be different.
7.) MC: Many of your contemporaries feel that you are a genius at capturing what happens with light during the most colorful part of the day. Do you feel that you’re onto something during it’s creation and if not, what early signs indicate to you, an area may need more work?
Todd: Well, I wouldn’t say “genius”, but I seemed to capture the affect of light. I have always been attracted to sunrises and sunsets. I think it is a primal response. Many ancient cultures worshipped the sun. It signifies life to me…something spiritual or sublime. So, I decided that is something that I would like to tackle as a subject matter. I was lucky enough to have captured the effect that I wanted.
8.)MC: If you could talk to any ONE of the great masters in the history of Art, who do you think you’d desire most to converse with?
Todd: George Innis. Now, he was a genius.
9.) MC: What satisfies you the most about teaching your craft?
Todd:When I see students go from being ok as an artist to becoming professional.
10.) MC: Do you feel it is important for an artist to work from life?
Todd: Sure. It is an important training tool and something every artist should do. However, as one becomes mature as an artist, I feel his inspiration could come from anything…photographs, computers, memory, imagination, etc.
11.) MC: Do you own any paintings from any of your mentors and if so, what’s the significance of having those paintings on your walls? How does their presence in your home help you routinely?
Todd: I have a painting from my teacher at the American Academy of Art, Irving Shapiro. He was a master watercolorist. It is one of his more simple paintings, but I am amazed how the painting shows so much with so little work. When I look at it, I am reminded to keep my work fresh.
Also, I own many paintings from my friends who are artists. I love viewing all the different techniques and styles. They also keep me thinking about being fresh…not to get caught up in doing the same old thing.