Please find the part 1
of the interview here.
Me: People say that art is genetic to some extent. So did you belong to an artistic family? Were there other members in your family who are into this? What is your view on this?
BH: I can’t think of anyone in my family who created art at the time when I first developed an interest; however, my maternal grandmother (Amy Richards Sparkes) enjoyed and appreciated art. She nurtured my artistic quest by collecting poetry and photos of paintings for me.
My grandmother had moved from England to Newfoundland (then, a British colony) as a war bride, after the First World War. As a nurse in Spain during the war, she collected the autographs of many soldiers who were in her care (several of whom were artists). As a child, I spent many hours listening to stories about the soldier-artists, and savoring their inspirational drawings, watercolor paintings, and poetry in her autograph books.
I digress – back to your question on nature versus nurture! In my humble opinion, talent is a process of self-discovery, throughout which an individual acknowledges that he or she possesses the interest and motivation to become exceptional in a specific area. With commitment, patience, and dedication anyone can turn their “talent” for art into skill. As I would often tell my students, “To find out what a talented person looks like, go look in a mirror”!
On this same point, my Mom began developing her talent for art in her fifties, by taking courses in drawing and painting. Her artistic endeavors provided her with an interesting hobby, as well as several awards in local art exhibitions. Today, at 82, Mom is still painting, and exhibiting and selling her works.
Me: Wow.. That is indeed inspiring. What is the overarching theme in your pictures?
BH: Great question, Sundar! The theme of many of my paintings seems to encompass the sharing and comparing of points of view. Sometimes I illustrate my own beliefs, and other times, I challenge the viewpoints of others. Most of the people in my paintings are self-portraits (my spiritual being; not my physical).
Serendipity (Oil painting by Brenda Hoddinott)
Through the eyes of a young boy (Benny Fong), in a painting called “Serendipity”, I share my philosophy on growing older. In the background, two dragons are flying away. Benny does not dwell on their departure; rather, he chooses to observe a newly-hatched baby dragon. Hidden within the dragon’s nest of twigs are many other fascinating critters, yet to be discovered.
Detail view of Serendipity
In other words, this painting illustrates that happiness is a choice. My body is getting old, but I refuse to let go of my childlike curiosity and fascination with life.
_Outreach to Conscience_ Art Critiques Media_ (Oil painting by Brenda Hoddinott)
In another painting (“Outreach to Conscience; Art Critiques Media”), I critically examine visual media through the eyes of a young girl dressed as a clown (Kate Ross). Generally speaking, news media seem to focus primarily on horrific events and atrocities. Hence, are people becoming desensitized to the misfortunes and catastrophes of others? As a result, do they continue to go about their lives as if all is well in our world? Or, are they simply going about their lives while masking their horror behind false personas? In my painting, the painted-on smile of the young girl attempts to cover her sadness; she holds fast to a juggling toy as if feeling a need to protect herself. The chaos of the background surrounds her, and she seems oblivious to the small child grasping her sleeve.
Me: Where do you get your ideas from?
BH: Some of my ideas for paintings come from emotional responses to my observations of humanity, as in “Outreach to Conscience; Art Critiques Media”. For example, I was deeply saddened by the deaths of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. Even though the media heralded their accomplishments, they also dug deep to find and report negative innuendos.
_Philip_ (Graphite drawing by Brenda Hoddinott)
My drawing of one of my most memorable students (Philip Power) contrasts his intimidating physicality with his kind and gentle nature (as revealed in his facial expression). Hence, my portrait of this young man is a juxtaposition that promotes a message to be accepting of, rather than judgmental toward individuals based on their clothing and body language.
On the other hand, many of my paintings and drawings are simply intended to depict the simple joys of life, such as digging in the sands of a beach on a warm summer day.
_Serenity_ (Oil painting by Brenda Hoddinott)
Me: Wow, these are really amazing. Do you see photos and draw or is it out of your own imagination?
BH: Both, actually! I enjoy the challenge of achieving a likeness to a person (mostly from photos), and also love letting my imagination run free to create its own imagery. Before my skills were well developed, I was never happy with drawings from my imagination. Thankfully, in recent years, my technical skills have caught up with my mind; now, I find myself able to successfully tackle almost anything I can conceive.
Over the years, I have talked to hundreds of aspiring artists who became disillusioned with creating art, because they could not draw from their imagination. In my humble opinion, artists (who are not blessed with photographic memories) can’t possibly produce good artworks from their imaginations without solid technical skills and a visual familiarity with their subject. For example, if you aspire to create flowers from your imagination, you first need to perfect the required drawing techniques. After that, draw a thousand flowers from life or photos. Only then will you be free to use your imagination to draw (or paint) flowers.
This is a close-up view of a small section of a painting that was created from my imagination
Close-up view of a small section of a painting that was created from imagination
Me: Can you give some technical tips for pencil sketchers?
BH: Thank you for this question! Professional artists have many “secret” ways to make sure their drawings turn out well. The following five tips can improve an artist’s technical skills with very little effort:
1. Find your natural hand movement: Try your hand at drawing sets of slanted straight lines. Pay attention to how you make these lines. Use many different ways of moving your pencil or changing the slant of your lines. Some will feel comfortable and others will feel awkward. However, there will be one motion that feels the most comfortable. This is your natural hand movement, and you should try to use it to your advantage whenever possible.
2. Rotate your paper as you draw: You should rotate your drawing paper as you work to take full advantage of your natural hand movement. Remembering to always rotate your paper takes lots of practice. But, before you know it, you are rotating your paper all the time without even thinking about it.
3. Hold your pencils correctly: The way you hold your medium affects the look of your drawings. If you move only your fingers and wrist, your lines may end up looking shaky and rigid. Creating smoothly flowing lines requires broad, gentle movements of your whole arm. Adjust your chair and table until you can easily move your hand, arm, shoulder, and upper body as you draw.
4. Don’t blend your drawings: Most beginners can’t resist the temptation to blend their shading. Expecting blending to fix shading problems is totally unrealistic. For blending to work well, an artist must be very skilled at rendering graduated values. After all, there has to be something to blend.
5. Draw slowly: Many beginners to drawing expect to be able to sketch quickly, and achieve professional results. Very rarely possible, I’m afraid! Take your time when you draw. Practice each new technique by working very slowly. As you work, continuously examine your subject; you should be spending more time seeing than drawing. You are in essence training your mind and hand to become one. Some skills take weeks, months, or even years to master. With plenty of practice, your speed automatically increases.
Stay tuned for an exciting part 3 interview where Brenda shares more interesting anecdotes.