Interview with Karel Balcar
q) Well, first of all please tell us a little about yourself.
a)I’m a figurative painter, living and working in
q)How would you describe your work?
a)My work contains contemporary topics executed in depictive painting, which takes inspiration in Renaissance, Mannerism and Baroque – especially works of Bartholomeus Spranger and Hans von Aachen, the court painters of emperor Rudolf II. (those days working in
q) Did somebody encourage you to become an artist?
a)Basically, I’m a typical self-made artist, at least in first period of my development. Later on, when my decision was quite firm, I got lots of support from my family, especially from my sister and my wife.
q) What is your favorite medium?
a)Mostly I work in oil only, with little use of gouache, alkyd or acrylic colours.
q) Generally speaking, where do your ideas come from?
a)Sometimes I give myself a task, like I did at Academy, when working on theme of the death ( resulted in The Abortion, Section I & II, Variations on The Suicide of Lucretia paintings ), but mostly my ideas are abstract, or I take inspiration from music. Simply speaking, I have a kind of “feeling” and I’m trying to paint it using figurative form.
q) How long does it take to complete a piece?
a)As I work in superimposed layers, it’s difficult to say “how long does it take”, it varies also depending on the size of a painting, since smaller pieces can be done (with use of fast drying colours for underpainting) relatively continuously and finished in terms of several days or weeks, whereas larger paintings are executed in oil only (on gouache imprimatur), with longer drying periods for each layer, so finally it makes several months altogether. I would like to mention, that I rarely use primed canvasses, I make my own “old style” gesso, so this extra work takes some time too. And also, a painted picture is not just a mere result of paint transfer from palette onto canvas, there’s some “brain work time “ too, “waiting for inspiration” time, “do it again” time (when not satisfied with result of a day’s effort) .... and still not speaking about self education, relationship investments ... J
q) Who are your favorite artists…and who are some artists you are currently looking/listening to?
a)It’s interesting, this question I find very difficult to answer when speaking about visual arts. Maybe, the reason could be , the more I go back into past, the more compact life work of artists seem to be, and on the contrary, the more I go forth to contemporary, sometimes only one or several pieces I like, and it even changes, one name replaces another ... maybe the reason of difficulty lays in “professional” aspect – one famous soprano singer, when asked what kind of music she listens to in her free time, replied “ I prefer silence ..” . If I would have to name at least several names from art history (painters), following wouldn’t be missing : van Eyck, Rogier van der Veyden, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Tizian, Caravaggio, von Aachen, Spranger, Velazques, Rubens, Rembrandt .. Magritte, Delvaux .. . When working, I often listen to music, either classical ( Bach, Wagner, Grieg, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Janacek, Martinu, R. Strauss, Schoenberg, Dupre, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Verdi ..), or “easier” (F. Zappa, Young Gods, Ministry, ZZ Top, Vltava, Natasha Atlas, Faith No More, Dire Straits .. (nice mixture, isn’t it ?). I never listen to a radio when working, unexpected contents disturbs me, so newest things I listen to from radio in my car, but I don’t find any reason to remember names of authors ... just “consuming”)
q) Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
a)I am cooperating with several galleries in
q) Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?
a)When I enter my studio in summer, then with teapot in one hand and glass of water in other. In winter carrying banana box with wood in both hands. In any case I say “ good morning”. Then I sit on the sofa, drink tea and think of the day’s task. When all disturbing thoughts are far away and I feel ready for work, I prepare colours on my palette, prepare brushes I expect to need, sometimes eat a piece of dark chocolate, sip my tea from time to time. When feeling like, I listen to music, till lunch classical only, starting with sth soft (like Janacek “In Mists” or Grieg’s “Heart Wounds”). After lunch, not to fall asleep, I listen to more rytmical, energetic music, never classical. When I feel the day’s work is over, I look for the last time at the painting, and if I decide to leave, I never look at it again till next day (on “Sundays” I avoid looking at work in progress at all, not to start thinking about it). I clean brushes and palette and leave as quickly as possibile. I say “good bye” before I close the door of studio.
q) What is your favorite a) taste, b) sound, c) sight, d) smell, and e) tactile sensation?
a)Taste – of kiss ;-) , spicy, sweet
Sound – human voice, preferably soprano
Sight – landscape, human body (preferably women)
Smell – smells, which remind me of childhood, heavier exotic scents
Tactile – human skin ( preferably .... J )
q) Do you have goals that you are trying to reach as an artist, what is your 'drive'? What would you like to accomplish in your 'profession'?
a)a difficult question, a friend of mine has told me once some Asian proverb - “work well (good), not better ”, and with knowledge of this it’s difficult to say “I’m trying to make better compositions, I try to paint my topics in a better way, generally speaking trying to make better paintings”, and so “ to make a good painting” sounds reasonable to me.
q) When have you started using the internet and what role does this form of communication play for you, personally, for your art, and for your business?
a)I started using internet couple of years ago, I don’t remember when. Since then, internet has important position for me, as means of communication first. Not so much for direct business, as my paintings are not those sold via e-shop. But some people got known me through the internet, no doubt. Nevertheless, personal contacts, galleries and exhibitions are still of biggest importance for “the business”. I’m not browsing all the time, looking for inspiration etc., what internet gives me, is feeling of being a member of artistic community, possibility to give and get moral support (as artist’s life isn’t that of easiest ), to see other artist’s development and results, which gives me subliminal whisper “couldn’t you work just a little bit harder ?” J
q) What do you obsess over?
a)... reminds me of Woody Allen’s “What’s your perversion ?” J I was on the way to tell how it surprises me, that I haven’t been thinking about this topic yet, but it wouldn’t be true .. When at the
q) Do you have prefered working hours? Do you pay attention to the time of the day or maybe specific lighting?
a)I prefer working in daylight, just because it’s best for painting. But unfortunately, I’m not the one, who likes getting up early and even my brain seems to wake up after 9 am (it means around 10-11 am is reliably in working mode). So, from around 9.30 am till approx. 1 pm is my first phase of work, then after lunch I go on till I complete intended part of work per that particular day (mostly finish when light gets weaker before twilight). Basically, I don’t like starting after lunchtime, so first “opening” phase of work in the morning is very important for me – sometimes, if I don’t succeed to start painting, it may happen, that I will not paint that day at all (sometimes it’s the way my instinct tells me this day isn’t suitable for working (I’m too exhausted, the weather is changing ..)). When working, I don’t respect days in week, I proceed in the way painting requires, taking “sundays” when I can’t paint from some reason ( and of course, there are “sundays” when I have to manage sth for my family etc.)(.. sometimes nervous when having too many Sundays in a week J).
q) Do you do commissioned works?
a)I have no problem with working on commission, provided ... it interests me, it doesn’t affect my freedom and it serves as a means for my artistic development. (I’m learning from my past J )
q) Any tips for emerging artists?
a)I think it’s important to discern things, you should change in your art from those you should keep, it means where to be stubborn and where to “feel the wave” (if it’s not all about “following instincts” J ). And of course, you’ll never plough the field by turning it around in your head” (J. Joyce), so practising your art as much as it’s reasonable.
PS I consider myself to be an emerging artist too J
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