Nate Owens Talks the Talk With 1stAngel Arts Magazine

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When did you first become interested in art?

My real interest was sparked by a classmate when I was in the 11th grade… this kid was sickeningly good. I mean here’s a 17-year-old doing art like Frank Frazetta. It was like pouring gas on a live flame for me. Since grammar school, teachers occasionally asked me to help illustrate backdrops for school plays and other things, but I only had a passing interest until this encounter in high school

Other classmates began asking me to do art on their t-shirts and jackets… and paid! (you get paid for this? it’s like getting paid to eat ice cream!)

What style of art do you use most?

What I have the most fun doing also is the most popular and most widely published… the humor. I do other subjects, but the wacky cowboys and critters have been on cards and other products published by Leanin’ Tree since 1980 – also been used for magazine, book, ad and newspaper illustrations as well as a bunch of other stuff. How much fun is legal?

"Bandits on the Bank" oil on canvas
“Bandits on the Bank” oil on canvas ©Nate Owens

Has your style changed from when you first began as an artist?

It has hopefully improved… I grew up on a steady diet of Mad Magazine and artists like Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Frazetta, Norman Rockwell… I like to dip them all in a bucket of humor and see what emerges.

What medium do you use?

Since the mid 90’s I do it all on the computer and often mix a bunch of techniques and software to get the look. The computer doesn’t make you an artist any more than a pencil or brush can… it is a tool and only as good as what you can make it be.

What made you choose that medium?

I made my bones and paid my dues doing airbrush, oils, acrylics – the computer is usually faster, and I don’t want to go back to the messy, smelly mediums… cutting friskets for airbrushes that spit and sputter, and cat hair in the oils.

For practical purposes as well as for commercial reproduction all the art that isn’t digital gets scanned and made digital. It is faster and less expensive to provide the publishers digital art to begin with – for them and for the artist.

The option to save art/sculpts as files in stages can be a lifesaver if some disaster happens – accidents, lost originals, client or artist revisions. Better than going back to scratch with an oil painting. Many illustrations and 3d files can be used for other applications, either parts or the whole in digital format.

"Bugged" mountain man done in acrylic on illustration board
“Bugged” mountain man done in acrylic on illustration board ©Nate Owens

There are many reasons for me to work digitally. Most collectors who like my work are satisfied with prints – they like the subject and don’t care if it smells like an oil painting and don’t see it as an “investment”. Financially, in the long run, multiple sales of a print, card, figurine or book far surpasses revenue from an original painting.

Do your ideas come from life or imagination?

Some of both. I grew up on my grandparents’ farm as the only kid around until we moved to the city for school… I played with critters and bugs and my uncles told some of the most outlandish tall tales – no TV available. Such beginnings exercise the imagination far more than the current diet of tv, horror comics, etc. which seem to breed a constant stream of the same stuff over and over. I lived in the west for years (Oregon and Arizona) and started doing stuff that was eventually picked up by Leanin’ Tree – that environment provides a plethora of material in scenery and characters.

Do you work in a studio?

I guess that’s what it is… a room in the house so my mess doesn’t spill over and contaminate the rest of the household. It’s a computer on a table and piles of stuff surrounding me. My two cats visit regularly for a petting. The wife checks in now and then. Our ten dogs have the run of the rest of the house… ours is the original “animal house” (great movie from the 70’s).

"Duet" Watercolor
“Duet” Watercolor ©Nate Owens

Who is your favourite artist?

Still the ones mentioned in number 3… add in some contemporaries like Peter DeSeve, William Whittaker, Howard Terpening (western artist). There are others listed on my blog at http://natesartpad.blogspot.com/ – also a good place to see updates, how-to videos and other stuff.

What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?

Hard to pick just one, Included in the montage below is “Looking Up” the cowboy hanging upside down under his horse – apparently the most popular illustration and card I’ve done.

Montage - digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop
Montage – digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop ©Nate Owens CLICK TO VIEW LARGER IMAGE

How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?

When doing illustration and meeting deadlines you have to pace yourself and do what is possible to meet the deadline, Many projects don’t have crucial deadlines, those are nice and often the clients will cut slack to accommodate getting more detail, spit and polish. Not an issue when painting for myself, but those often have to get set aside for later due to commissions.

How well do you take criticism?

You have to be your own harshest critic most of the time… if your client’s knew the answers they would do it themselves. I show things to my wife, on-line, and take all the input into consideration. With some clients it comes down to their ego… their way or the highway… just do it, get over it, and flush it (don’t show it to anyone). I hear many good ideas that I take advantage of and on occasion rework the project to accommodate them…. sometimes at the 11th hour I get those ideas and redo if possible… making it good is the ultimate goal. I’ve got stuff floating all around the net and elsewhere that I would redo if I could… it seemed to work at the time I did it. Always be looking at what other artist’s do… no such thing as the best ever of anything – whether it’s a baseball player, singer or artist.

    "Mickey Rat" - 3d digital sculpture done on the computer - some of these to be developed into figurines for mass market through retail chains. Software: Sculptris (rat) and Rhino (trap) - A brief description of the process from file to figurine is here = http://www.nateowens.com/promo/Computer%20Sculpting.pdf
“Mickey Rat” – 3d digital sculpture done on the computer – some of these to be developed into figurines for mass market through retail chains. Software: Sculptris (rat) and Rhino (trap)

A brief description of the process from file to figurine with regards to ‘Mickey Rat’ is here = http://www.nateowens.com/promo/Computer%20Sculpting.pdf

What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?

Burn the midnight oil until it is right. Look through other work I’ve done and tell me that I did it before and I can do it again. Sometimes go to bed for a couple of hours, get up and hit it again with a fresh eye. Prop it up, look at it on another computer in another environment, sneak up on it, flop it (flip horizontally or even upside down), take a walk outside (I live out in the country).

How do you know something is ‘finished’?

I have some projects that have been unfinished for years… those “someday” projects. Others you sometimes just say, wrap it, finish it and move on… not sure what the answer is to this… I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that I couldn’t go back to and try other options. I haven’t finished learning to be an artist yet.

Have you had exhibits in galleries?

When I first began painting a museum/gallery owner actually bought many of my works – some he put into his collection, others into his gallery for resale. It was the Favell Museum in southern Oregon. Gene Favell was a gem and I thought of him as a patron that got me rolling in that direction. (I’d done commercial illustration for many years prior to painting).

I’ve been in galleries in Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico and a few others. Also did shows in Dallas, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City (the Cowboy Hall of Fame).

"Where's the Beef?" Print for Leanin' Tree - digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop
“Where’s the Beef?” Print for Leanin’ Tree – digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop ©Nate Owens

Have you any exhibits in galleries planned for the future?

Not at the present… other irons in the fire.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working with a licensing agent, doing illustrations and 3D concepts for figurines… some are in production, other prospects loom on the horizon.

What are your plans for the future?

Keep on keeping on, or as cartoonist Robert Crumb admonished, “keep on truckin'”. Pet my puppies and cats, enjoy the country life and God’s amazing creation and continue thanking him for His grace and gifts like letting me learn to doodle.

"Santa's Surprise" Christmas card for Leanin' Tree - digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop
“Santa’s Surprise” Christmas card for Leanin’ Tree – digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop ©Nate Owens

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

The best is yet to come – you ain’t done yet. Be a bulldog, tenacious, persistent, never give up and fish with all your worms – (you don’t have to do everything the same way all the time… it’s your pencil).

What advice would you give new artists?

The best is yet to come – you ain’t done yet. Be a bulldog, tenacious, persistent, never give up and fish with all your worms – (you don’t have to do everything the same way all the time… it’s your pencil). It’s a gift… don’t you dare misuse it or ignore it… feed it, nurture it… don’t be a dummy.

Have you done any courses to help you?

I get software (demos first), read manuals, go to forums, ask questions, work tutorials

Do you use social networking in your day to day life?

Every possible way… emails mostly, and these sites…

http://natesartpad.blogspot.com/
http://issuu.com/nateowens
http://www.linkedin.com/in/nateartist

and the sites listed at beginning of this article. I use others and have been inter-netting since 1992, so if you Google me you’ll find the stuff all over the planet… some in languages I don’t know (hope they are saying nice things).

"A Man in Black / US Marshall" - digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop
“A Man in Black / US Marshall” – digital, Corel Painter and Photoshop ©Nate Owens

Are you available for work (commissions)?

Depends on the requirements, if I can meet the deadlines and other factors

Have you got hobbies?

Apparently with 10 dogs, I’m a dog collector, target shooting, photography, experimenting with computer graphics programs, doodling, looking at mountains and visiting Oregon when time permits.

Where are you based?

I live in the countryside in rural South Carolina, USA, and from my home in the sticks service clients all around the world – digital art and the internet makes that possible

Comments

  1. // Reply

    Thanks for the comment… This has been a popular painting… the nostalgia – a place where we’d all like to spend time. I grew up on my grandparent’s farm in the Florida panhandle… nice place to spend a childhood


  2. // Reply

    Love your art work. The cats creaping along the bank whilst the boy and his dog snooze, is great. My friend used to love fishing, so my other friend and I would go along with him. He would sit intently waiting for a bite. And we would relax on the bank in the summer sun. Often we would spot large fish swimming past his line and point it out him, it was like the fish were taking the mickey out of him. Which we both enjoyed and took part in, yes fishing can be fun!


  3. // Reply

    Thanks, 1stangel for the cool interview… hope folks like it