Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ernie Marjoram: An Interview

Ponte Vecchio
oil 12 x 16"
Ernie Marjoram

Inspired and influenced by renaissance masters, Ernie Marjoram explores with traditional and contemporary tools the environments, faces, and figures around him.

Do you work in more than one medium? If so, how do the two (or more) influence each other?

I work predominately in oils, but also acrylics, watercolors, pastels, charcoal, pen and ink, and graphite. I think there are a lot of similarities between them. One of the things I try to focus on is light and shadow in whatever medium I’m working in and on color.

There are different idiosyncrasies; acrylics dry fast; when I am paintings outdoors I like acrylics. Oils dry slower and I use oils in the studio much more. I like the simplicity of graphite and pencil – to just go someplace and sit and sketch. You can stick them in your pocket and you’re on your way.

Where do you your find inspiration for your works?

I try to travel a lot, when I’m in an interesting place I look for interesting views, interesting architecture. My background is in architecture so I like to draw perspectives of different environments. So I’ll go to traditional monuments as well as unrecognized places. When I’m in a new town I try to find places off the beaten path as well as postcard kind of views.

I also work with figures. My next show coming up is Figures and Faces I use live models here locally in the Los Angeles area so I’m inspired by life and the people around me. I think that’s going to be a different direction. I’ve never exhibited this stuff before.

oil 36 x 24"
Ernie Marjoram

Is that scary?

I’ve come to terms with it. It is a little scary, but I’m getting to a point where I want to put out the stuff I’ve painted just for myself and see what happens.

Whom do you make art for?

Lately I’m trying really to do it for myself. Over the years I actually got into art because I made art for architects, interior designers and situations like that – I did a lot of commercial illustration and still do. That’s kind of bread and butter. That’s allowed me to travel to places and paint for myself. Lately I’m doing more and more of painting just for myself, because of the economy and because of my own desire to explore things on my own.

Does art serve a function beyond decorating walls?

Yes, I think so, particularly for the artist. For me it’s self-expression, it’s trying to show other people the way I see the world. I try to paint in an optimistic way. I like paintings which are pleasant and happy and colorful and not necessarily threatening or making people uncomfortable. So for me it’s a way of saying something to the people I know and maybe people who don’t know me, but just see the work. So it’s trying to express my view of the world. I think for the people that buy the artwork it potentially reaffirms their own outlook on the world. If they have an optimistic character I think then they relate to work that is optimistic. If they’re edgy and have more of an attitude then I think they buy artwork that reflects their own taste. I think it serves a lot of purposes.

Is there anyone else in your family that is an artist?

My son. He is a 21-year-old junior at USC studying video game design. He’s had full run of my art studio since he was 7 years old and has taken off and gone in a whole new direction. He illustrates for the Daily Trojan on a weekly basis. He does pen and ink sketches for their editorials. He has done a number of concepts for video games. He has been an intern for USC and is very comfortable both with analogue pen and pencil as well as digital tools He does modeling in Maya, Photoshop…all that kind of stuff.

Is there a separation between your "normal" life and your artwork?

No, not really. In many ways my normal life involves artwork. I’m very fortunate that even my commercial work and my income come from art. Even though it’s for clients and it’s illustrating their projects, it’s a big part of my life. I think art is an integral part of what I do.

In addition I teach at the American Film Institute in their production design department so that’s another big component where art is a part of my normal day to day life.

Can you teach somebody to be an artist or is it an innate ability?

I think you can teach it. I think in many ways desire is more important than talent. If somebody really wants to learn, I think they can.

I’ve explained to my students that it’s a lot like learning how to read and write. If you spend as much time learning how to draw and paint as you do learning the alphabet and vocabulary and syntax and grammar and things like that, you can become a competent artist. Not everybody becomes Shakespeare, but you can get to the point where you can write something that’s pretty good.

Same thing with art. You need to go beyond the technical aspects. But, you can learn the technical aspects, absolutely. The people that want to do it, the people that really work hard are the ones that get better. Somebody that comes in that has the innate talent and already thinks they’re really good at it, sometimes they plateau.

What excites you about painting?

The challenge of it, the not knowing whether it’s going to come out right or not. I do try to push myself. One of the reasons that I paint faces and figures is because it’s not easy for me. To try to make that come out - it’s really exciting when it clicks. Sometimes it can be frustrating when it doesn’t, but I just try to say the next one’s going to be better or put it away and look at it again in six months or paint over it and see if I can improve it.

You have to evacuate your studio due to a fire, flood, or tornado coming. Along with your important papers and family photos you can only take one piece of your artwork. Which one do you take and why?

I have a painting over my piano that is a view of Florence, Italy. Florence is my second favorite place, my second home, one of my favorite places in the world. I studied there as an architecture student. My wife is from there and we get to go back every year. That particular painting has a lot of sentimental value to it. It’s a sunset over Piazza Michelangelo looking at the church.

Ernie Marjoram

Ernie Marjoram’s next exhibit at TAG Gallery opens March 2, 2010.

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