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John Bartkowiak, Oil Painter (Oakland, CA)

1. So what’s your story?

  • Age: Over 40
  • Hometown: Downers Grove, IL
  • Current City of Residence: Oakland, CA
  • Area of Expertise: Oil Painting
  • How did you get started? I started sketching in my journal while traveling around Europe when I was 25. Before that time I never had an interest in drawing or any other visual art, except for photography. I honestly believe all the hours I spent alone waiting for trains and riding on trains during that summer allowed me to tap into the artistic part of my brain that up to that point had been fairly dormant. When I returned home, I took a few sketching classes and began experimenting with color, first using oil pastels and then eventually with paints. This all happened within a two year period.

3 Kings Seated

[3 Kings Seated by]

2. What helps to keep you motivated?

The satisfaction I still get from putting an idea I have in my head on to a blank white canvas. I'm also motivated by the spontaneity of the creating process. I love seeing different shapes or color combinations evolve while working on a painting that may take the piece in an entirely different direction. It might even turn the painting completely upside down.

3. When you’re creating, where do you get your inspiration?

Lately, I find inspiration in simply seeing random colors and shapes that I come across in my everyday life. It can be as mundane as a crimson curtain against an olive green wall or as spectacular as an orange red sunset exploding over the San Francisco Bay. I also listen to music while I paint and definitely tap into the energy and soul of what I'm listening to at the moment.

[First Supper by]

4. What are some words that you live and work by?

My mantra while I'm painting is that the piece has to be honest and true. I don't mean that in a representational sort of way but in a soulful expressionistic way. I think all artist who are serious about their work try to strive for this truthfulness.

5. Who are some of the artists you admire and respect?

Well, I love color, especially bold colors, and I'm always returning to the masters like Matisse and Van Gogh. Lately, I've been looking at a lot of Richard Diebenkorn's earlier abstract work. He was another master colorist.

[Deep Blue Sea by]

6. When do you know you’re finished with a piece?

This has become the hardest part of painting for me. The more tricks or techniques that you have in your tool bag the harder it is to let the painting go. You always feel you can do more to it to make it better. Sometimes, I have to remove the painting completely from my work space and say it's "done."

7. Any tips for other creatives in your area of expertise?

Do it a lot and don't be afraid of failing. It sounds cliche but you do learn from your mistakes. I'd also say to keep trying to experiment and evolve. The life of an artist should be a journey.

[The Gift by]

8. Do you have any upcoming performances, shows, exhibits, releases, new products or publications we should check out?

I'm in the middle of finishing pieces for art show I plan on curating myself. I rent an exhibition space, market the show and basically put on a big party. I've done a few of these events in the past and it's been quite fun . It also gives me complete control on what pieces I want to show and how I want to present them.

[Baja by]

9. What’s the best way for people to contact you for hire or purchase any of your work or services?

The best way to contact me and view my work is my website

*Responses are prepared by the featured creative.

Topics: Creative Corner
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