The Nerdly Painter Talks the Talk with 1stAngel
[message_box]Dr. Regina Valluzzi explores abstract scientific concepts through complex geometric paintings. Many of the subjects of her abstract drawings and paintings are taken from topics in Physics research. Soft Matter Physics and Biological Physics ideas are often seen, arising from Dr. Valluzzi’s main area of research for many years. In addition to motifs and ideas drawn directly from molecular biology, biophysics, and nearby fields, her art often incorporates aspects of self-similarity.
There are self-similar (or fractal) elements in the way the color, shape and thick and thin line geometries relate, their local arrangements, and the way they coordinate to fill and texture a defined volume.[/message_box]
When did you first become interested in art?
My grandfather was a printmaker and my father was an artist who’d let his day job take over. He kept drawing, painting, experimenting with materials and media, and taking classes/workshops even after he stopped trying to sell his work. I remember sitting with him as a young child, going through books on the surrealists, expressionists and other art movements and artists of the 20th century. He’d critique them with me, and every so often we’d head to NYC as a treat to see what was happening in the museums. Art was always just there.
What style of art do you use most?
Abstract, but with a subject. I have a strong science background – I’m a published researcher. When I was actively researching, so much of what I had to process was abstract – abstract ideas, mathematics, weird geometries; also abstract-seeming patterns that were all very meaningful and information-rich. So my work looks abstract, but it’s always commenting on how the world is put together and how we interpret visual information.
I also sometimes work with landscapes, but only if I can bring something really new and fresh to the idea. Lately I’ve been creating landscape subjects that coalesce from ribbons of noodle-like extruded acrylic media. I like the way the ribbons bridge each other, leaving some air underneath. They also manipulate light and color in unexpected ways.
Has your style changed from when you first began as an artist?
Has my style changed over 30 years? I’d have to say yes. I’ve always favored pen and ink and drawing. When I was younger I drew a lot from nature, with a strong focus on texture and stark negative spaces. Over the years I’ve slowly experimented with and reinterpreted these ideas. I’ve also transferred a number of ideas back and forth between drawing and painting media, experimenting and adapting them each time.
What medium do you use?
oil, acrylic, pen, pencil, sometimes watercolor and pastel, surplus optics, cellophane, sand, rope, cloth, string, whatever works to get the work of art where it needs to go.
What made you choose that medium?
Different media are very well optimized to provide different properties to the final work. Media will also affect an artists’ process. I prefer to focus on the work and what I want to convey when I select media. I can adapt my process, and any missteps in the adaptation process usually wash off with strong soap and hot water.
Do your ideas come from life or imagination?
Because there is nothing else in the world besides what we can see and copy in front of us and our wild un tethered imaginings? Sorry 90% of my own life experience is “both and neither” – same goes for my art.
How do you choose your images and colours?
Impulsively at first. A blank canvas is just a sea of “too many variables”. Getting something – anything – down on the canvas limits the possibilities enough to begin working. This is true even when I have a definite subject in mind.
Do you work in a studio?
I have a workspace in the basement. My significant other has asked me not to share photos because “it looks like an axe murderer would hang out there”. He also freaks out and needs to be stopped from dialing emergency when I work with a lot of red paint.
Who is your favourite artist?
Klee, early Mondrian, Noguchi, more others than I can name
What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?
How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?
From start top signing, usually about two weeks. Even with acrylics the layers of paint and media need time to dry. I was amazed at how fast acrylics can be when I started working with them, so of course I had to find a way to make them as slow as oils. I stagger works so that there are around 10 in progress at any given time, and almost always 1 or 2 that are ready to continue working on. When everything is wet and gooey and untouchable, I draw.
How well do you take criticism?
Reasonably well when I respect the source.
What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?
I put paint on the canvas. When I was painting more sporadically I would frequently hit a point where nothing seemed to work anymore and all my new work just fell flat. Then I would step aside for a few weeks and possibly switch to more representational subjects for a while. It’s hard to be blocked when you know you’re going to paint a fish, for example. I’ve found that maintaining a certain discipline about studio time and practice has pretty much eliminated creative blocks. Now it’s more a problem of time management and keeping the ideas in order.
How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?
I post an email to Charlie Spear and ask There are two stages to “finished”. The first is getting a complete idea down. I know that I’m at that first step when i step back from the work and see lots of little niggly clean-up things that need doing. The second stage to finish is working through all of the paint smudges, broken lines, thin areas needing glazing, etc. to get a really polished and well crafted professional quality piece. That stuff is just done when it’s done. It’s very easy to walk away after that.
Have you had exhibits in galleries?
I’ve been in a National show in a co-op gallery in the NY area, and in several other shows in non-profit spaces. A few small museum shows, 2 local/regional and one National exhibition coming up. No commercial galleries yet, but I haven’t approached them yet either. i’m in my second year trying to sell my art, and I do believe in the adage “act in haste, repent at leisure”
Have you any exhibits in galleries planned for the future?
No, just one National group show in a good small museum.
What are you currently working on?
A mixed media “Tree of life” series. It takes the tree of life motif to comment on the state of life in the world and takes tree imagery to comment on our beleaguered ecosystem.
What are your plans for the future?
Build out my personal website, start talking to commercial galleries, build up some initiatives with MIT, develop closer ties to publishers (for licensing – still too soon for art publishers), show show show until I’m familiar to the collector base in my region
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
The very first time I stepped out and tried to sell my work was at a local indoor art fair. The people in the next booth told me “people won’t buy from you the first time they see your work. They need to find you again, maybe a two or three times” I find this is true for anything that isn’t a simple impulse buy. Prints and cards are purchased impulsively, originals are a relationship.
In terms of artistic practice, the best advice wasn’t advice – it was a critical review in a paper. I was doing semi-abstract semi-figurative ink drawings. I was just out of my teens, the idea was difficult, the medium unforgiving, and I hadn’t had the deep experience with figure drawing to get the ideas to hang together cleanly. I learned that the choice to abstract doesn’t replace the need for solid fundamentals (but I also learned not obsess about those fundamentals to the point of mannerism)
What advice would you give new artists?
Don’t worry about what styles you think are “popular”. There are so many people trying to work in those popular styles that you’ll simply drown in a sea of inanity. There are people out there who will understand your “unpopular” unique style, but you have to be brutally honest with yourself about whether your skills and ideas are well-developed enough to show the world.
Have you done any courses to help you?
Not for a long time. I took a bunch of courses in college, enough to get a solid grounding and experiment on my own. I started studying color theory and shading, proportion, perspective very young, with my father.
I find the strong focus some artists have on courses very odd. In the sciences, accomplished professional researchers don’t take each others courses and workshops. They’re supposed to have attained a level of expertise where reading the literature and working it out in lab is more effective and a better use of everyone’s time. In other words, a professional is someone who has learned how to learn. Students, technicians, and people who aren’t working as independent investigators are nudged towards the courses.
Art techniques and ideas can be tried and learned through a little reading and a little “lab work” so much more readily than, say cryogenic electron microscopy or spectroscopic ellipsometry (both of which I largely taught myself). What’s with all the courses?
What do you do to market your work?
I show, I network offline, and I use the internet to keep my offline contacts interested and to do market research. I have a website integrated with a blog, which I update regularly. The blog is linked to Facebook and Twitter. I also have a mailing list. Mostly I just show a lot, and I show in some venues that are too young to rally provide collectors for my originals. The local twenty and early thirty somethings do love my prints, and they’re my pipeline of future collectors.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
Are you available for work (commissions)?
Have you got hobbies?
Gardening, backyard astronomy, sometimes I still pop by my old lab and fix the X-ray diffractometer
Where are you based?
Boston area, Massachusetts (but I ship worldwide)
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