“I try to overcome any doubts by just posting my work online. I think it’s actually better for an artist to share their work, so that they can have confidence when they’re making it. I don’t think you should be shy when you create art.”
– John DuVal
John DuVal is a Watercolour Artist from Jersey City NJ, who focuses mainly on cityscapes and landscapes. He started drawing at a young age, eventually focusing on Figure Drawing at Rutgers University. Throughout this time, he studied abroad in Florence, Italy. John studied there briefly with an oil painter, and this was where he first picked up a brush. A few years later, he discovered plein air painting in watercolour, and this has been his focus ever since. To find out more about John and his work you can head to his Website, Instagram or Facebook.
How did you get started in following your dream?
I got started when I first applied to Art School when I was getting ready to go to University. I loved drawing and wanted to pursue this – but it wasn’t until I went to college that I thought seriously about art as a career. Although I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, being surrounded by art and art history was very influential for me.
Tell us about your dream and how you got started.
My dream has always been to spend most of my time producing art. At first, I didn’t know what this meant. I studied painters nearly every day – discovering new artists and gravitating towards those whose style I loved the most. I read a lot about different artists of the Renaissance, as well as more contemporary painters. Finally, this motivated me to try my hand at painting and to develop my own style.
Was this always what you wanted to do or did it emerge over time?
After college, I spent a long period going to museums and studying artists and painting through books. I felt a bit confused because I wasn’t really working on what I wanted. I hadn’t given much thought to becoming a painter, but I felt an urge to do so. I suppose I felt intimidated to try. But one day I decided to take a class in NY for still life painting. This is what really pushed me and gave me confidence to paint more. That’s when I first felt that painting was what I needed to do. It actually became an obsession of mine, and after trying several mediums, I finally gravitated toward watercolour.
What inspires you and where do you go for creative inspiration?
I’m most inspired by nature and the natural phenomena of light and shadow. To get inspiration, I usually need to be outside, exploring different landscapes or cities. But I also go the museums quite often – looking at paintings from the Old Masters always inspires me.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome
At first, I had to realize that I needed to develop basic skills in painting. I had a strong drawing foundation, but I needed to learn a lot about the philosophy of painting.
What blocks your success and how do you overcome this?
I think working indoors in a studio kind of stifled my progress in the beginning. I focused too much on detail and not enough on the overall effect of painting. Once I went outside and started painting a lot more quickly, I gained more confidence.
What keeps you going and stops you from giving up.
Seeing progress in my work always helps. But mostly, I just feel that I just need to paint and giving up would mean giving up on the work I most enjoy doing.
What message are you trying to share with your work?
I’m trying to share my fascination with light & shadow, and how this contributes to the story of a landscape. I try to convey this in an interesting way without overworking the painting. I want to keep my message simple, yet effective.
How do you overcome the vulnerability of sharing your work?
I try to overcome any doubts by just posting my work online. I think it’s actually better for an artist to share their work, so that they can have confidence when they’re making it. I don’t think you should be shy when you create art.
How did you learn to deal with criticism?
Constructive criticism is always good, so I try to take valuable advice. However, I’ve learned to take some advice with a grain of salt, since everyone has a personal opinion of how art should look.
What does your creativity mean to you?
My creativity is what keeps me going and what keeps life interesting for me. I’m always thinking and reading about painting and simply art in general. Without it, I can’t imagine what I’d do.
What is it that you love about painting?
I think I just love trying to capture something interesting in a piece. Painting is very therapeutic for me, and I love being able to focus my attention on one simple aspect of nature, without getting too thoughtful or ascribing meaning to anything. I don’t like to overthink a painting.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Practice your art as much as possible and go to museums or galleries as often as you can.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
Don’t worry so much!
What have you learned in the process of following your dream?
It’s a long road, and the objective is not to arrive at the finish line, but to focus on the journey.
What are you most excited for in the future?
I’m always most excited about my next painting!