Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MOOD Joan DaGradi

 Joan DaGradi is a painter in New Orleans, LA. Her artist statement and bio are included in the interview below.  She describes the areas of her home where she works as spacious and well lit - no surprise there, look at the vast space she created in this painting below.  It and others can be seen at

"Before the age of five, DaGradi was introduced to, and became good friends with, pencil and paper. They were her constant companions in childhood, spending countless hours of enjoyment drawing figures jumping, dancing and running, from memory. There was an innocent joy and pleasure in feeling the movement of the figures on the pages as she drew using the primitive visual language native to us all. During college, she drew the figures of the National Guard as they were stationed on her campus, graduating later to paint pastel portraits at Malcolm’s Art Emporium in Provincetown. DaGradi began her studies in color and painting at the renowned Cape School of Art in Provincetown, MA, a colorist's university, far removed from any urban strife.  
Like many artists, Joan has explored oils, watercolors, pastels and sculpture in the vigorous pursuit of self expression. Having won awards for her work in all of the aforementioned media, DaGradi chose painting as a vehicle to experience and share her contemporary vision of reality. While always looking forward, DaGradi has never forgotten the many amazing artists of the past, who set the bar high and continue to inspire her."

What are the themes and medium of your art?
I work in both watercolor and oil media. My work is always representational and drawn from my own experiences, observations, emotions and memory. 
For the past 30 years, I have painted regularly on location, outside in the fresh air, sunshine or rain. Today, this is known as plein air painting, which as been around since the invention of tube paints in the mid 1800’s. I also paint still life in plein air, but most often enjoy painting still life indoors using natural daylight.  Still life painting is very labor intensive often requiring weeks or months to complete and it is just not as practical due to the changing weather, to work on still life outdoors for an extended period. 
In my landscape work, I have usually painted small oil sketches on location and then returned to the studio to complete a larger finished piece. Recently, I found that I prefer to start a piece with a watercolor sketch, or a series of sketches, and then proceed to paint a larger oil from those. Occasionally, I will reverse the process and take an oil sketch and paint a watercolor from that. I enjoy both mediums for their unique qualities and value them equally. I sometimes use photo references that I've taken as a starting point, but always change everything in the painting. For me, photos are extremely boring and I don't copy them.*
 What is the best way for people to buy your art? 
Currently the best way to buy my work would be to contact me  through my website or to contact Paula Korńye Tillman at(817) 763-5227 for my work in oils.
What’s your work space like? 
I work out of my home. I have a large studio room set up on the  second floor of my residence, where there is north light and I usually paint all of my still life work in that space. I also am fortunate to have a separate studio space in a cottage that fronts my property. I use that space primarily for painting landscapes and figurative work in either oil or watercolor. It has gallery lighting and would be a suitable place to set up a small show.
Do you ever create outside of your studio? If so, please tell us about your traveling set up. 
I frequently work outdoors, weather permitting, sometimes painting in the French Quarter or traveling to Wyoming or wherever to paint on location. I adore painting mountains. When I paint on location far from home, I use either a half-sized French easel which easily fits overhead in a plane compartment or a tripod with an adapter to hold  canvas or paper support and a shelf. I prefer the tripod set-up for watercolors, as it’s easy to adjust the tilt. I've used the French easel so often that it feels like a third arm. I often use it indoors for painting still life as well
 When is the best time for you to create?
I work primarily in daylight. If I’m traveling, then all day is my favorite time to paint. At home, I prefer painting either early in the morning and/or from 2-6 in the afternoon. From experience, I have learned to fight the temptation to paint at night as well, because I have found that the next morning, aside from being tired, nothing looks quite like it did the night before. 
 Are there any special conditions you enjoy or even require?
The most special condition that I love most is painting on location in the mountains, with a light cool breeze and the sounds of birds singing.  Barring that, I’m happy to work on location in the city, but I find it very distracting to have people frequently ask me questions or just talk at me while I’m working. Last week, while I painted on location in the French Quarter, someone came up and started talking at me. It sounded like Chinese at first...then gradually I realized that he was speaking English. All I could say was “I’m sorry”. I had been so concentrated working on the watercolor, that I couldn’t snap back immediately. I soon realized that he was in my face, telling me that his medium was photography (?). Another fellow did the same thing earlier, before I was able to concentrate, this time looking at what I was painting and taking his own series of photographs. “Done”, he said proudly, while I continued to work.
In my studio, I prefer to keep it as organized as I can, which means I clean it fairly often- removing the piles that spring up overnight. I usually paint with music or silence- never the TV. That would be a deal breaker for me. My husband, a wonderful musician, plays saxophone and his office space adjoins my still life studio in our home. I really enjoy hearing him practice when I’m painting nearby.
 What feelings do you hope to evoke from your audience with your art? Is there anything about your work space that helps you channel those energies? How do you know when you've made your message clear or if people “got it”?
I never know if I’ve made any message clear until someone buys a piece, but a collector comes to my studio fairly often and she’s wonderful about giving feedback. I don’t necessarily try to evoke a feeling from an audience as much as I try to nail down the feeling that I have. I can’t please everyone or even anyone, and I don’t have any control over someone else’s perceptions. Its always a thrill when someone responds positively. Some responses are very touching and surprisingly tender.
Is there anything else you want to say about how you work or what you do, or any aspect of this topic?
 Being able to paint and create is a privilege. I constantly try new things, new ways of working while using the best time-tested materials available.
Artist Statement:
Painting, for me, is a vehicle to transcribe my emotional response to the external, visible world.  I enjoy painting because my impressions are visual and it is easier for me to express joy through color, rather than through words. Using either watercolors or oils, my end goal is always a poetic statement.
I use paint as a vehicle to experience a quiet, joyous, upbeat and contemporary version of reality.  Whether surrounded by mountain vistas, the pulse of urban living, or watching as light reveals the beautiful color harmonies of still life objects, I am grateful for the ability to see and respond. 
How does the mood in your studio affect the mood of your art?
I have set up both of my studios to be as conducive as possible to creating art by being places that I enjoy and want to stay in. When I paint, the last thing I want to be concerned with is my environment. When I am comfortable and free to concentrate on the work at hand, then laying the groundwork for painting is much easier. Since painting comes from a place of joy, for me, the mood takes care of itself if I am able to concentrate, which is supported by having the tools I need be relatively organized. I’m not excessively neat by any stretch, but I don’t want to waste time and energy looking for basic stuff. For landscapes, I use a large handcrafted taboret with palette space that I purchased from AU Frames. It has a generous palette area, with a glass top for oils, a built-in turp area, and a small amount of desktop storage.
The walls in my still life studio are lined with rows of still life objects that I find interesting or beautiful in some way. In the landscape studio, I recently had a carpenter build a large table across one wall with multiple storage racks for large oils. Having adequate storage is key to keeping any studio comfortable and organized. Both studio spaces are painted in colors that I find soothing and both have at least one viewing wall with gallery lighting, to be able to replicate as closely as possible what the painting will look like when it is shown in a gallery setting.


I want to clarify one sentence that I wrote last night, bc it could easily be misinterpreted.
It was added in haste, to the first question about mediums, I think.
I added it bc its a real 'thing' for beginning painters to copy photographs and then call it their own work.
I wrote:

For me, photos are extremely boring and I don't copy them.
What I meant to say is that I find copying photographic references very boring, not the photos themselves.
In copying a photo or another painting, the artist has completely lost sight of what painting really is: a personal interpretation of something. It can be abstracted or realistic, but there's always some idea or thought that starts the process to finding a solution. When an artist copies a photograph with the intent of copying the photograph, where's the room for the personal interpretation?
I believe that photography does some things very well, that painting can't compete with.
I also believe that painting does some things very well that are not the province of photography.
There may be overlap in the hands of some genius photographers-artists-paiinters, but for the average person, why start out trying to replicate another art form? Pick the one that suits you best and learn how to fully use that media to its fullest.

**Thanks again for taking on this project. I thought it is a great idea and I also felt that your questions were well conceived.

In terms of images, I am happy for you to take anything off of my web page or from my blog at I really like the last image posted on the blog of a marsh scene with a moody sky. 

No comments:

Post a Comment