e v e n t s  Publications

The Pastel Journal magazine, July/ August issue

The Journal's editor, Maggie Price, interviews Brad in his studio.  Illustrated. The text of the article appears below.

Brad Faegre is a Master Pastelist, Pastel Society of America. He attended Pitzer College and received a degree in Fine Art from California State University. His work has won many awards, among them the Top 100 Arts for the Parks (1998), and is included in numerous corporate and private collections. He is represented by four galleries in California, and teaches
occasional workshops. For more information, visit his website at www.faegrefineart.com

Brad Faegre's studio is in a quiet neighborhood of Los Angeles, in a brick building occupied by various offices and a bank.
The first room is his showroom. "People like to have a place they can come see the work," he says. "It gives you a place
to show pieces that aren't currently in a gallery, and helps sales." It also gives him a place to shoot slides of his work. On a large wooden easel is a framed work, ready to photograph, tripod in place before it.  The desk opposite holds a shiny new computer. "My plan has been to take digital pictures and load them onto my website, so I always have new images," Brad says. "But I haven't had as much time to work on that as I'd like. It's hard to try to do everything."

He does a little of everything in his painting, though he's mostly known for his landscapes. In his workroom, adjoining the showroom area, paintings of a variety of subjects cover the walls. He works frequently in the studio.  "I think my best work is done in the studio," he says. "But I do work outside a lot. I work small, because what I want to do is get the thought
down; then I can work large later, in the studio. On location, I feel I tend too much to paint what I see. It's too literal. When I get back to the studio, then I have time to think, to imagine the painting as I want it to be.

"I think mostly about shapes," he says. "I don't paint things, I paint shapes.  If I'm looking for a subject, I'm caught visually by the shape and not the subject itself. It's a very personal reaction."  Brad makes a lot of changes to a composition from the original study or physical subject. "I've never seen a tree I liked," he laughs. "I always have to change it." His compositions are carefully thought out, but in the process of painting, a shape may occur that will change the direction. "If
I like a shape as it develops, I let it happen, rather than forcing it back to the plan," he says. "I let the painting evolve."

He frequently works on a dark surface. "I originally began working on Canson paper because I liked the colors," he says. "But I was concerned about the thinness of the paper. Then I tried various heavyweight watercolor and printing papers, Fabriano and Arches were the first, followed by Strathmore black museum board, which I still use. I found working on black eliminated the muddying effect of black pastel and gave the colors a richness and sparkle that I loved. In addition to museum board I now enjoy La Carte Pastel, by Sennelier. This pastel board comes in a variety of colors, including many nice darks, and has a velvety texture that invites beautiful blending transitions as you let up on the pressure
of the pastel stick."

Brad loves pastels the most, although he works in oils and acrylics as well. "One problem I had with other painting mediums is getting interrupted. You know, when you're an artist, you have to do everything, promotion and marketing work, and so on. It seemed when I was using acrylics, every time I got to working the phone would ring. Pastels are easier that way-if you get interrupted, you stop, come back and there is no problem."

He says pastels also fit his temperament better. "There's no instrument, nothing between the artist and the mark. The colors are just there, you just grab them; there's no mixing. I think the range of colors laid out in front of you encourages experimentation. If you're mixing oils, you might not mix a certain color, thinking it would be too bright-but with pastels
the color's there and you try it, and it works. And I like the direct pressure of the fingers on the pastels.

"It's also a lot like drawing and painting combined, and I love drawing," he says. "I do a lot of sketching, in pencil, just for fun. Drawings don't sell but they are good exercise, and just a pleasure."

Brad's pastels reflect that love of drawing. He doesn't blend them, but puts a stroke down and leaves it. Looking at some of his pastels up close, it appears that every stroke, every application of color, was exactly right the first time, and never touched again. Brad laughs a little at that idea. "I do strive for that," he says, "but I often make mistakes. In fact, as a
tennis player I often say all my best shots are accidents. It's true to a point! Practice makes my aim more reliable, but still my best shots are in a sense accidents, surprising even me when they hit an inch inside the line. Mistakes can be a good thing, they can lead you in a new direction.  You have to respect it when that happens, leave it at least for a while,
see if it will work.

"I find if I keep going back and noodling with it too much, I screw it up," he adds. "I would say I remain vigilant whenever I work. >From the moment I begin drawing or painting I'm looking for that point when I suddenly see something I really like, something magical. It can be twenty seconds into a drawing or two hours; it can even be a gesture of just three or four lines that says to me, 'This is a completed work; mark another mark and you'll probably lose forever the spark it now possesses.' Or, as a surgeon friend of mine says he learned as a student, 'The enemy of good is better'."  Brad starts every painting with a drawing. Working on a colored surface, he draws with a broad-tip chisel marker. The lines created by the marker often show in the final piece, and he feels they add interest to the surface. "I don't have any absolute rules," he says, "but I like to start with the middle values if I'm working on a dark surface; yellow ochre, for example.  I use that to figure out where I'm going, work out the major and minor shapes and direct the viewer around the painting. Then I move to the middle darks, the middle lights, and then the final highlights.

"But, if it's a portrait, and the first thing I notice is a highlight on the face, I may start there. If it seems like the right thing to do, I do it. I like to paint intuitively rather than by rules.

"Someone, I don't remember who, once said, 'All rules can be broken if done well.' I believe that's true, and the key to doing something really well is, of course, practice."

While he uses on-location sketches and occasional photographic references in developing his compositions, Brad relies a lot on memory. "Even when I work from a photo, I study the photo, think about what interested me, and then put it away and work from memory."

The exception is when he's working on a commissioned painting of a specific place. "I got started painting golf courses quite a while back," he said.  "No one else was really doing that, and it turned out people really liked them. But golfers know their courses, and you can't make many alterations or take liberties with the landscape.

"I have to use photographs of golf courses," he explains. "You can't stand in the middle of a fairway, painting.  It's dangerous.  So I work from photos." Brad paints a lot of golf courses, and portraits of golfers.  He also does quite a few paintings of houses, large estates owned by people who could afford to have their homes memorialized in a painting. It was a good way to earn money making art, but he does a little less of that these days.

"It's nice to be able to afford to say no at times," he says.  "The money from commissioned work is good, but it's more fun, there's more mystery in it, when painting a subject of your own choice."  When he travels, Brad sometimes carries a small set of pastels, but when that's not practical, he always has a sketchbook and camera.  "It's difficult to paint when traveling, especially when you're traveling with family, or other people," he says. "But I rely on my memory a lot.
Sometimes you see something that just arrests you, knocks the wind out of you. Those images stick with you.

"I've drawn so much, studied drawing so much, that I'm comfortable drawing from memory.  I understand how light striking an object describes its form; I understand the mechanics of nature, how things are articulated.  This makes drawing and painting easier and a very liberating experience.  "Sometimes I think about an image I once saw-I have a head full of images going back to my childhood-and it's like I'm seeing a ghost image now.  It stays with me, so even if I couldn't draw it at the time, later I can see it again and draw it," he muses.

"It's a great thing about drawing and painting. You can create something tangible from a memory or a daydream, or just a thought you had, and share the idea with others.

"To really communicate with the viewer, though, I find you have to keep it simple, and paint from the heart. It helps me to visualize my audience.  I remember in a writing class in school, the instructor said, 'write to one person.' He meant to think of one person as your audience and write just to that person. So I've applied it to my painting, I have a friend whom I think of when I'm painting, and it helps keep it clear and personal."  Brad pauses to think a minute. "I remember an essay by Ray Bradbury titled 'Feeding the Muse.' In that essay, Bradbury wrote about his father, a blue-collar type, not a man prone to poetics. But when his father would reminisce about something he really loved, Bradbury noted that his father's words and meter would change and at those moments he was a poet.  "I think all of us are poets, in that way. We can be poetic in our art if we tap into that pure clear place of talking-painting-what we love.  When you hit that place, then you really communicate with the viewer, you strike a common chord.

"That communication is so important," he concludes. "Artists often don't get feedback from buyers or viewers, which is how we find out how effectively we've communicated. One of the things I like about show receptions is the opportunity to hear the comments of others.  "This painting of a London scene was an example," he says, pointing to a small painting on the wall. "It was in a show, and I heard someone say, 'oh, I can feel the cold air!' It was so great to hear that. Money is important, we all need it to live, but that one comment was worth more than a paycheck."

Maggie Price is a pastel artist and writer, and editor of The Pastel Journal.