“A Conversation with Bruce Everett,” by Jill Thayer Ph.D.

IMG_2180Bruce Everett in his studio, Templeton, California, March 27, 2017

Audio Interview: Podcast 

Narrative Transcript: Blog

The following interview is a narrative transcript from my conversation with Bruce Everett, regionalist landscape painter in Templeton, California on the Central Coast. Excerpts of the interview air on “The Art of Life,” my weekly podcast series on Voice of Paso Internet radio Fridays at :15 past the hour at 6 – 9am. The interview includes topics such as Background and influences on career; Photorealism and Professional Practice; Plein Air and Studio – First Glance and Memory; and Methodology and Large-scale Commissions.

Today, I am visiting with artist Bruce Everett. We are sitting in his studio located in Templeton, California on the Central Coast. Bruce is primarily a landscape painter, his photorealistic compositions include sweeping vistas, majestic terrain, and the exquisite intricacies of nature. His depictions are captivating as one is drawn into the presence of the environment that he sees and creates. He holds a Masters in Art from University of Iowa, and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a retired Professor of Art teaching at California State University, Northridge for 35 years. Bruce shares his work, professional practice, and why the region inspires his approach and creativity in his subject matter. For more on his work, visit: http://www.bruceeverett.net

[Full transcript]

Jill Thayer: Bruce, it’s great to see you again. Thank you for joining me.

Bruce Everett: Thank you.

IMG_2132Bruce Everett gives a tour of his studio and works 

JT: You have such a beautiful studio and property. When did you move to the Central Coast?

BE: We purchased this property in 1989, but then we sat on it for about 16 years and didn’t build until 2006. So I moved out lock, stock, and barrel from the San Fernando Valley in 2007.

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The Everett Vista, as far as the eye can see; Patti and Bruce Everett at home on the Central Coast

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JT: Just walking around the grounds and seeing the beautiful landscape, how many acres do you have?

BE: Five.

JT: Can you describe it?

BE: Well, it’s on the hillside, so I have a pretty nice view looking out towards Paso Robles and all the way out, close to Parkfield. It’s a good view, on a hill rolling down into meadows. I count deer quite a bit, you know…

JT: We spotted a couple of turkey out there.

BE: Yes, we had a tom turkey and four of his girlfriends. I had as many as 22 deer out in that field at one time. And it is just amazing to me.

IMG_2097The meadow on Everett’s property served as a landing strip for his ultra light airplane 

JT: I know that you were a pilot, and mentioned the landing strip out there. Tell me about that.

BE: It was a landing strip for an ultra-light airplane, not a regular general aviation plane. I can land it very short in about the length of a tennis court, if it’s an emergency. I used to fly. I don’t anymore. But I flew up here from Moorpark one time, where I had a hanger and landed here, and stayed for about a month. I think it was 1990. It was wonderful month of flying in and out of here and exploring the area.

JT: I understand that you’ve been painting since 1968, what was the first introduction to art or experience that made you want to become an artist?

BE: I felt like I was an artist when I was a kid, in probably about third or fourth grade. I would get kind of competitive when there was something going on in the class that we all had to do, and I looked around and would be kind of judgmental. I was thinking, “You know, I think I am good at that.” So, I started to see myself as the artist by the time I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was the class artist. And I knew I was going to go to school, to college eventually, and be an art major. But I didn’t know if I was going to be an artist for sure. I thought I might be an illustrator, but I found out that really wasn’t the type of thing I was attracted to, once I saw what they had to do. And by that time, I had more of a self-indulgent attitude towards being an artist, that is, I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. And with that said, I don’t want to be troubled by being told what to do.

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I used to go out on my motorcycle in the old days and just get lost, and go around and look at things. I would take photographs, but I wouldn’t paint on location in those days. I’d love to go out and just bathe myself in the golden hour. 

~ Bruce Everett

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Reservoir Canyon Road 34x60Reservoir Canyon Road, Oil on canvas, 34 x 60 inches

JT: I understand you hold a Masters in Art from University of Iowa and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from UC Santa Barbara. How did your education contribute to you career as an artist?

BE: When I think back on my school days, I did learn the basics from a wonderful teacher in college. I didn’t even mention it, but I was in a little college in Nebraska too for a while, and then went to University of Iowa. Well, I have to say that when I first got into graduate school in the 60s, it wasn’t very rigorous at that time. So I was left alone pretty much to do what I wanted to do. I changed from being an abstract painter, which I picked up in undergraduate school, and was accepted into the graduate program at Iowa as an abstract painter. Despite the fact that Iowa is rather sear and not interesting visually,for the most part, it’s kind of flat and lots of crops and that was about it, I was attracted to it nevertheless. And I started seeing that I was doing landscape in my abstracts.

By the time I got to the University of California in Santa Barbara, I was knocked out by the environment there, so much sunshine and beauty and all that, and I was even more attracted to my subject matter. At that time, I started to paint scenes of the freeway. But then I went off to teach at University of Washington in Seattle. And as everybody knows, it doesn’t “sunshine” much there, I was kind of locked into a very dreary Winter. I started to paint small objects that were around me, and more and more, I was having to depend on photographs to paint from. I was doing microcosms, like a box of thumbtacks or a foil gum wrapper, but at about 8 or 9 feet wide. I taught myself to do photorealism, because nobody else had taught that to me, I just had to decide how to do it. So, I developed my own style of rendering things out really tightly. I would say that the graduate school didn’t influence me so much as my environment, and my environment has always been paramount. I paint what I see around me. The term “Bloom where you are planted,” it’s the kind of way I am. If they move me to Hawaii, or if they move me to Texas, either way I would probably end up painting what I see around me. But that’s one of the reasons I am very happy to be here on the Central Coast, because it’s just a wonderful place to paint.

JT: It’s just breathtaking everywhere you look. I have been here three years and every day I am astounded by the beauty of the area. It’s incredible, especially as an artist. As a Professor of Art at Cal State, Northridge for 35 years, how did you see the genre of painting evolve?

IMG_2143A few of the artist’s smaller plein air works

BE: Because I was a Professor I had to continually do my homework. I had to be on top of what was going on or else I wouldn’t be doing my job properly. So, I was interested in what was going on in the art world and encouraging students to go out and keep up on what it is going on. I didn’t always like what I was seeing in the galleries, and I would warn them, I said, “You are going to go in, and you are going to wonder why this work is in there.” I am not interested in trying to extend the definition of art in my own work. I am trying to find the core of my existence here and express it in some way.

My approach to teaching was to have them do pretty much the same thing, find what is going on in the art world that might resonate with them, but also find out what it is that they want to do. I used to give a list of artists that they had to know. In other words, I said, “I would be embarrassed if you came out with a B.A. or an M.A. and you didn’t know who these artists were.” So by giving them a list of artists and their work, I would teach them chronologically… why things happened the way they did, explain why Pop Art happened, why Surrealism happened, and so on. It was a little bit of an art appreciation approach.

I have seen it all happen. The one phase that I couldn’t relate to at all was Conceptual Art. It didn’t have much of a product and it seemed to be little contrived, but not to say that there isn’t some excellent Conceptual Art. Keith Sonnier would be a good example. He used video and installation, and it was pretty smart work. 

JT: It’s interesting, the evolution of painting and resurgence throughout the decades. I remember reading of CalArts on studio and post studio, and the transition of what was happening in the Arts. What are your thoughts on the art market throughout those decades and how painting worked within that context?

DSCN3933Bruce Everett’s paintings in the studio 

BE: Well, there was a huge boom in the ’80s and the early ’90s. There are theories why it happened, but it was pretty active there for quite a while. And then when it fell off, it fell off pretty abruptly. I remember a couple of very well-known painters, who were sending letters out to art consultants saying, “I am lowering my prices now,” you know how bad it got. I am a professional artist and I sell my work in Los Angeles, and have been up in San Francisco and a couple of other galleries. I was in New York way, way back too. In the ’70s, I had great sales with my photorealism. Then I stayed pretty much in the Los Angeles area, had pretty good career going in the late ’80s in that area, the middle ’80s were pretty hard, but it has been steady. We really had a terrific fall off in 2008. You know, that was pretty scary. I think it’s recovering somewhat now. Now that I have retired from teaching, I am painting more than ever here. I am not quite up-to-date on what’s going on in the art centers, so much. I don’t read the art magazines, because I don’t have to do my homework anymore.

JT: I am thinking back to Claremont and the doctoral program, CGU Art brought in Barry Schwabsky who wrote Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting (2002), a compilation of contemporary painting trends. Many of the images didn’t look like painting. They looked like montage or assemblage, or something else going on in digital media, but it was all under the genre or guise of painting. Painting has truly broadened it’s identity over the decades.

BE: I think it’s also one of those things that everybody proclaims is dead or going to die. You know, this is going to be replaced by something else, but it never dies. These big art fairs in Miami and Basel, and places like that… they are selling a lot of paintings. In fact, many of the paintings look like the work that was being done in ’80s and 90s… frankly, a lot of it.

JT: It absolutely does. Painting has certainly seen a resurgence. Whether it’s in Los Angeles or what’s going on in Contemporary Art, but also on the Central Coast. There are many artists from other areas who flock to the region for the inspiration, and for the beauty. Continuing in their passion and work… getting to the heart of the matter. You’re not wrapped up by commodification of culture and what’s happening out there in the art market. You are focusing on where you are.

Your work is included numerous publications and your paintings are in many public, private, and corporate collections with exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. How did you get your first show?

The Foothills of Simi 36x60The Foothills of Simi, Oil on canvas, 36 x 60 inches

BE: Well, it’s kind of an interesting story, because I turned to photorealism just for very personal reasons. And I didn’t know that something was happening in that area. Robert Bechtle was one of the first people that I ever discovered was working from a photograph, and I thought, well, I am not totally alone. Then I noticed more and more, because I was finishing my MFA, that there were people out there painting from photographs, and they were called Super-realists… Photorealists. There were about three or four other names they had. That means that they are being rounded up.

JT: Hyperrealists.

BE: Hyperrealists. Right, they were being noticed and they were being corralled, and I thought, “Oh, we’ve got a movement here.” One of the reasons I had a show with OK Harris Gallery in New York was that Ivan Karp, the gallery owner had been the right hand man for Leo Castelli, and I think he was the one who was responsible for Pop Art. He was the one who discovered Warhol and convinced Castelli to take him on. So, when Ivan Karp saw Photorealism developing, he realized that these were his offspring of Pop Art. I didn’t see it that way, I just focused on very banal objects. I realized that anything could be subject matter, one of the premises of Pop Art that anything could be bona fide subject matter. So, I guess in a certain sense, I was his prodigy, but in any case, he was a champion of Photorealism for so long. I received a letter from him saying that he had seen my work and would like to show it. He said, “If you want, you can have your show this Fall.” This gave me two months, but of course, I said, “Yes!” So, everything got shipped out to New York and I had a sellout show at his gallery.

JT: What year was this?

BE: ’72.

JT: Amazing. How did you know the professional protocols, the acumen, and all the behind-the-scenes of packaging work to bring it to the public arena?

BE: I think I got lucky. I didn’t have anybody telling me the right way or the wrong way to do it. All I know is you send out slides, send a letter, and a self-addressed stamped envelope. You make it short and have a good resume, and that sort of thing. That’s all I did to get galleries in L.A., and there would be times when I would go down for an interview. I remember, I wanted to go to this one gallery, and I made a phone call, and [the gallerist] was so bored. She said, “Sure, come on in.” Then when I got there from Santa Barbara, she wasn’t there. She just had a headache and gone home. And I had gone all the way down to L.A. and then I called her back. She hadn’t looked at my work. When she did see the work, she realized that I was just what she was looking for, but by then I was on to somebody else. So, it was kind of her missed opportunity. I was with a gallery called Esther-Robles that was really one of the topnotch galleries in Los Angeles in the late ’60s. I was very happy to be there and I think that’s probably indirectly how I was discovered by Ivan Karp in New York. But within a few years of being with Ivan, I had changed and moved to nature, and that wasn’t what he was looking for. He wanted Americana. He wanted that relationship with Pop Art, but I was just going into nature.

JT: You raise a good point. Many artists apply for representation and are rejected, but it might not be the quality of the work, it might just be that the gallerist isn’t looking for that particular style or genre. I think that persistence and to continue to hone one’s craft is very important. But what a great story, Ivan Karp.

BE: But the thing is that almost every gallery has daily requests. Maybe three or four a day come in. So it’s hard for them to sift through all that. That’s why they don’t even bother sending back materials anymore. They say they won’t send anything back. “Send us a non-returnable disk,” or something like that and expect not to get it back again. So things have changed.

Santa Maria River 54x60Santa Maria River, Oil on canvas, 54 x 60 inches

JT: When I had my gallery for 15 years, we were listed in Art In America Annual Guide, Museums, Galleries, Artists. We had some critical reviews and would get artist inquiries from all over. It was extraordinary. I can only imagine the inquiries of large galleries, I had just a very small gallery. Consideration had to do with the caliber of the work, how it was presented, and the artist’s professional acumen. I would research the artist to find out the context and their peers, and how they related to the market. It was a fascinating process to go through, to see the intent of the artist, how they measured up, and if it was something that you really wanted to showcase. Now that you are in the Central Coast, tell me about your relationship with galleries today.

BE: When I left Los Angeles, I made it very clear with the gallery I was connected with that this shouldn’t get in the way. I was a little worried that he would say, “Well, now you are getting to be geographically undesirable, so maybe it’s over.” He didn’t say that. I, of course, was holding my breath waiting for that. But I said, “Look, I’ll come down, meet with anybody that has to be met with. I can bring work back and forth if I have to.” That worked okay. I’ve been all right. I’m not with that particular gallery anymore, just as of last year. He changed direction and I can understand that. I saw what he was starting to carry, which has no relationship to what I’m doing anymore. So, I got realigned with a different gallery. I’m very fortunate that I got to know a gallery, George Billis in Culver City. It is one of the few galleries that carries representational painting. And also, I’m with the Winfield Gallery in Carmel.

JT: Excellent.

BE: And they are having a show coming up some time soon, I didn’t get the word yet exactly when it’s going to be, but it’s soon. It’s a nocturne show. They asked me if I had any nocturnes, and I had a few paintings that were painted about a quarter of an hour before sunset, so that qualifies. 

JT: Twilight, dusk…

BE: Yes.

JT: Beautiful. I’m glad to hear this. I’m just thinking about artists in connecting with the broader discourse. It’s not really where you are, it’s how you’re connected, and how you get the work out. So, imagine, artists decades ago before the Internet and before cell phones. How did they connect? How did artists and gallerists communicate with one another? How was their work discovered? They travelled. They might have been published or their people might have referred people to other people. It’s interesting and in this day and age, artists are actually becoming entrepreneurs. Before, they were contingent on the gallery system to be represented, and now many artists are assuming their own career direction.

BE: That’s true.

JT: I find it fascinating, how trends have changed in artist representation and artist exposure.

BE: Well, one thing that’s interesting is that when I first started out, I think the rate of payment was 30/70. The gallery would take 30, artists would get 70. But at that time a gallery would take photographs for you and do the printing for you. They take care of the announcements and all that. And little by little, because the rents went up, I suppose things like that, it became 60/40, the industry standard. Then it became 50/50. And 50/50 is still standard, but I’ve heard that it has actually gone to 60/40 in favor of the gallery too. So, yeah, they do less. But I think most artists are pretty savvy these days about how to get a website, get their work out there, make sure that they have good images archived to sendoff in a hurry, if they need to, that sort of thing. I think that’s probably the biggest thing with the technological upgrades that have happened.

JT: Absolutely. Now the trade shows, auction houses, digital media, and social media have created such a broader market. Artists are more accessible than they once were. But again, you look at the prices. How does that impact or mediate the price of art? It might not have impacted your particular career or work, but it has for many artists, depending on where they are in the industry. How has digital media and information technologies changed their career?

BE: I don’t know. I think prices have stabilized for the moment. They could take a change some time.

Maynards View 30x48Maynard’s View, Oil on canvas, 30 x 48 inches

JT: You were recently featured in Western Art and Architecture as “one to watch.” I like what the author Michele Corriel said of your work. She notes, “Outside he can capture a moment, whereas in the studio he can transform that moment into something not quite so fleeting. There is an immediacy of working plein air.” Do you prefer painting outdoors or in the studio, and how does this influence your approach?

BE: If I had to choose between one or the other, I would probably choose studio painting, because I enjoy being in the studio and being in control of the paintings. I am a very ordered person. I really want to study the work as I’m doing it and make decisions as I go along, to be very precise… some kind of precision in my work. At the same time, working outdoors, which was something I took up in 1993, just because I had noticed the California Impressionists. I thought, these guys haven’t been getting the due that they deserve. There’s some beautiful painting going on here. I didn’t do any plein air painting myself, yet, I did a little when I was in college, but it would be like an art class going outside today and paint. You know, it’s not like really learning how to do plein air painting. But in ’93, I went out and gave it a roll, and I liked it. And there was nobody showing, there was no renaissance of plein air at that time. 

My plein airs are somewhere between a first glance and a memory. You get an impression, get a quick look at it, and then you remember it. You’re not going to find out exactly the kind of tree or bush that it is, possibly it will be a big green area or in the sand or something of that sort, but you get the sense of reality through it. Then when I bring the work back to the studio. I keep it on hand, to kind of keep that spirit, and then instill it in the brushwork of my studio paintings, because I like a more fluid brushwork. And that comes from when I was an abstract painter a long time ago. I always had an interest in keeping it fairly loose.

JT: There is such a fresh feeling to your approach and methodology in your work. I’m very fond of the mid-century plein air painters.

IMG_2150Santa Ynez Bluffs, Oil on canvas, 30 x 54 inches 

BE: In my work, if you get up close to it, you are surprised to see that the brushwork is there. When you back off about 10 feet, you are surprised, it’s a photograph as far as you are concerned. You think it’s got every blade of grass in there, but then again you get closer and think, “Wow, there is a transition that goes on.” And also, the distant parts of my painting are painted very tight like my old photorealistic manner of painting. As you get in closer to the foreground, you’ll notice that it becomes more like a plein air.

JT: There is a timeless quality to it that I see, not just with the composition, but the palette. Then you look at it more closely and there is a contemporary feel to it. It’s really beautiful.

BE: I think that might be because there is a sense of reality to it… to the real world and it’s not contrived. It’s not some kind of fantasy land.

JT: E.B. White of Charlotte’s Web fame noted, “Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” Your landscapes are truly inspired, could you share your inspiration in selecting the location of a given painting?

BE: I used to go out on my motorcycle in the old days and just get lost, and go around and look at things. I would take photographs, but I wouldn’t paint on location in those days. I’d love to go out and just bathe myself in the golden hour. That painting here in the studio (Sand Canyon Road), shows light coming around the corner down a road. There’s that feeling of, if you go around that road you might discover something else and probably you’ll discover another turn. And you want to keep going around that turn over and over again. That sense of wonder you’re talking about is pretty profound I think, because for me in my paintings, I boiled it down to realizing that it is just a big thank you, just so glad to be here and paint… so amazed that I’m here at all.

The Hills of Creston 40x66The Hills of Creston, Oil on canvas, 44 x 66 inches

JT: And we are certainly glad for that, exquisite work. I understand that you work mainly in oil. Do you work in other media as well?

BE: I have, I don’t often. I decided to take some casein paints with me on a trip to Hawaii, and it was getting to be sort of annoying to try to get it on the plane with oil paints, thinners, varnishes, and stuff. You have to really pare it down. And I thought, why not just go with something that’s water-based. I didn’t like it particularly. I thought it would imitate oil painting a little more than it does, it dried too fast and you have to kind of scumble, which means stroking the brush across your under painting and dry brush blending. A lot of people don’t like oil because it doesn’t dry fast enough for them. But for me, I like having the paint wet and workable for days. Like working with clay, you would want to be able to take the towel off and keep working where you left off the day before.

JT: Can you describe your methodology, any certain glazes you use or approaches in your brushwork?

BE: I still use fairly small brushes, it’s surprising. When I have the Open Studios, people walk in and see the small brushes then look at the paintings and say, “Okay, I don’t get it, because it doesn’t look like you are using small brushes!” But I’m using about quarter inch brushes a lot of the time, maybe half inch except for the sky and places like that.

DSCN1158Bruce Everett in the studio detailing a landscape

JT: What type of brushes do you use?

BE: I use a synthetic, but it’s very good, it’s like a synthetic hair that’s made by by Silver. It’s called Silver Bristlon. They are white and very springy, and don’t separate. They stay together and that’s one of the biggest problems with synthetic brushes as they tend to finger out or claw out a little bit. But, that’s the brush I like. I use any kind of oil paint, I’m not too snobbish about what I use. I’ve got everything from Utrecht to Winsor Newton to Grumbacher. I have an awful lot paint that’s left over from when I was teaching. I was given all kinds of paints to test because people were trying to get me to order them for the students. So I had tons of paint tubes in weird colors that I probably would never use. As far as other methods, I use glazing now and then at the end of the painting to give it more of a warm glow. I add a mixture of Alizarine Crimson and a Cadmium Yellow medium and put together a very thin layer that I can put over it and wipe off. It leaves a residue. I call it “liquid sunshine.”

JT: In this large-scale studio piece that you described…

BE: … Sand Canyon Road. No glazing in there.

JT: Yes. The viewer is on the road going around the corner of the mountain. That beautiful mountain range in the distance resembles atmospheric perspective. How did you approach that?

BE: A lot of people think that you paint it darker first and then you apply layers of light over it. But you don’t, what you do is you match that color from the very beginning. Most of the time, people will paint the background too dark.

IMG_2169Painting archives and Sand Canyon, Oil on canvas, 85 x 127 inches

JT: There is such a subtleness to it… it is sublime.

BE: They have all kinds of gadgets where you hold up a card with a hole in it and you see an isolated color and compare it to something next to it to see how light it is. After 50 years of painting or so, you kind of know what you’re doing without having to do all that.

JT: It takes up one wall of your studio. Your studio is so beautiful with the wood floors, slats for canvas storage, a clerestory ceiling, and how windows of light illuminate the space. It’s such a wonderful space.

BE: I have painted in numerous two-car garages over the years, so I always felt that I deserve this.

JT: This is heaven. This is the ultimate artist studio, I have to tell you Bruce! Many of your canvases are large-scale. What is the largest piece that you’ve produced and can you tell me about your latest commission at Cottage Hospital?

IMG_0415Bruce Everett and painting installations at Cottage Hospital, Santa Barbara

BE: Sure, the largest painting was commissioned for the Cerritos Public Library. It was a painting of Malibu Canyon and it was 13 feet high by 10 feet wide. When you put that painting on the wall it looks smaller, but it was enormous when I was working on it. I had to have scaffolding. One of the things about having scaffolding is that when you’re working at the top and you want to see how it looks from a distance, you can’t back up, and you don’t feel like climbing down from a scaffolding just for a quick look and back up again. So you get down maybe a couple of times during the day and you’d actually write down notes saying whether where that tree is meeting the edge of the sky… right there it doesn’t look right… so you have to write that down so you remember when you get back up there to check it out.

That was kind of fun and I was doing it in a classroom of my students so they got to see it from beginning to end. I couldn’t do it in my two-car garage studio, so I used the University facility and they got to see the whole thing being done. That was right around 9/11 as a matter of fact, because I remember the day of 9/11, they cancelled classes and I came in and painted. There are two trees in that painting that I always see as the twin towers, because that was the day I painted them. I also did a series of paintings for Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara of Lake Cachuma. It was installed about four or five years ago. They are doing another phase, another building and wanted me to do another painting, a seascape, which is not normally what I paint. But I have done seascapes and enjoy it. They want one that’s 10 feet wide. They originally wanted it 12 and I said it will be a lot easier if we could just go 10 because the length of the wood available for stretcher bars, and everything else. I said, “It’s going to cover that wall at 10 feet.”

JT: How wonderful. When will you have this finished?

BE: About a year from now. I’m going to start probably in the Fall.

IMG_2162Everett shares a work in progress of the Santa Clara River near Fillmore, California

JT: What are you currently working on?

BE: I’m working on this painting from a photograph I took from the air, when I used to fly my little airplane around. I had this in my archive of images and wanted to get to it for quite a while. It finally got to me and I said, “Okay, this is the year I do it.” This is not a terribly large painting, but it is about four feet wide, I believe. It is Santa Clara River down near Fillmore and Santa Paula. It is going to take about a month to do. A lot of my paintings take about a month or month and a half to do. This is very complex compared to anything I’ve done for a little while. I knew it was complex, but once I started painting, I realized it has just a lot of stuff in it, lots of little things to deal with so it is going to take a while.

IMG_2184Inspirations in the studio

JT: What do you like best about living on the Central Coast in being an artist?

BE: This is a real hotspot for artists and you may have noticed how many artists are up here already. It is very picturesque. I am not attracted to painting vineyards, I have done a few, but it’s not what I’m attracted to at all, rows and rows of greenery… unless it defines a very interesting series of hills and overlappings. I think being close to the ocean, close to the oaks, and close to the hills is what I like about living here. I can’t imagine why anyone once here would ever move, as it really is a wonderful spot.

JT: I’ve been here three years and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

BE: Yes. Actually if you look around my studio there is a painting from San Ardo that’s totally different than what it is like right here. Within 50 miles, there is a desert out there, Carrizo Plain, and the ocean in the other direction. I suppose the only thing I am missing are the Sierras.

JT: That’s right. What is fascinating to me are the micro climates.

BE: Oh, yes. We’re in what’s called the Templeton Gap. Great for wine growing.

JT: You can drive for 15 minutes and it’s a totally different environment, not just weather wise, but the environment and landscape.

BE: Right here on the hillside, I get a view of the skies all the time and the cloud formations are quite spectacular.

JT: I’ve never seen anything like it. Cotton candy skies, the beautiful softness of pinks and violets… I’ve never seen anything like it. It is extraordinary as an artist to see all this.

BE: But you don’t necessarily want to get sucked into that… I like the mundane, that kind of severe quality of the landscape as well.

JT: I’ll give you that, but there’s something about it. It is almost like a romantic version of where you are. It is just so idyllic, I would say. What’s on the horizon?

BE: What’s coming up in the next year or two? I don’t see myself changing much, because I’m always fascinated when I see a painting from about eight years ago, I wouldn’t have done it the same way today. Apparently, I changed incrementally and slowly. But usually, I’m happy with what I see, what I did. I think pretty much more of the same. I’m not going to be doing any major paintings in another country or anything like that. Just keep doing what I have. I have a box full of images that I am working my way through. I’m always adding to it, and I’m a year or two behind in a sense. I always know what I’m going to do in the next three or four paintings, I know what they are going to be. It is almost a year’s worth of work.

JT: Who are some of the artists or art movements that have inspired you and your work?

BE: I definitely love a lot of the people from the 19th Century. I loved George Inness, was somebody I have always liked. There is a painter who you may have heard of, Abbott Thayer, your namesake.

JT: Yes, absolutely. I wonder if we’re related?

BE: I always loved the way he paints the landscape and the figure. There is a California impressionist I like, Hanson Puthuff. Edgar Payne and William Wendt of course, wonderful painters. Hanson Puthuff just really nails it for me.

JT: Bierstadt comes to mind.

BE: Bierstadt was a little bit of a leaf counter sometimes. The Hudson River School, they tried to paint every little thing and I’m not as keen on that. Another one I like is Carl Rungius that is both landscape and wildlife. I’m not particularly interested in wildlife. It’s not that I’m anti-wildlife, it’s just not a subject that I’m after. But, I love the way he paints.

JT: Have you’ve been to any museums or exhibits recently?

BE: I went down to the Autry recently and saw the Masters of the American West show.

JT: Closing comments, anything you’d like to share?

BE: Only one thing I would like to say that I mentioned in that article in the magazine, [comparing plein air and studio]. What I’m looking for in my studio painting is more of a gaze. The sense that I want people to get the feeling that they’re looking through my eyes. I want them to feel like they’re in the painting looking through my eyes. So, a lot of my subjects are chosen in a way that has a certain focal point somewhere that you sense that you are there. It is kind of a double take followed by a long gaze. That’s how I word it frequently and to contemplate it a bit. I think they are very quiet paintings and they are thoughtful paintings. I put a lot of work into them and I really minimize the slapdash quality. If there’s loose brush work, I’m still very, very, focused on the quality of that brush work.

JT: Bruce, it’s been such a privilege to speak with you. Thank you for sharing your art and your contributions to the culture.

BE: Thank you for coming out.

[End of Audio]

Bruce Everett and Dr Jill Thayer_2

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Artist Bruce Everett and Interviewer Dr. Jill Thayer at the studio. Photo by Patti Everett

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Article photos courtesy Jill Thayer, Ph.D.

“A Conversation with Bruce Everett,” from The Art of Life with Dr. Jill Thayer, a podcast on the Voice of Paso (VOP). Jill shares her thoughts on art, culture, and life on the Central Coast including a look at regional artists, professional practice, and topics that affect our quality of life. The weekly series is featured on Fridays around :15 past the hour at 6am though 9am on the Voice of Paso Internet radio. Narrative transcripts © 2017 Jill Thayer, Ph.D. All rights reserved. [Go TuneIn.com, search for “Voice of Paso.”] Promo: https://clyp.it/4pwxiwti and Program Interview Audio Podcasts: Part 1: Background and Influences on Career; Part 2: Photorealism and Professional Practice; Part 3: Plein Air and Studio – First Glance and Memory; Part 4: Methodology and Large Scale Commissions.

Jill Thayer, Ph.D. is an artist, curator, educator, and writer. A native of Sacramento, California, she was a 45-year resident of Bakersfield prior to relocating to the Central Coast in 2014. She received her doctorate in 2011 at Claremont Graduate University in Cultural Studies/Museum Studies, which included a transdisciplinary study in global strategy and trade through Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at St. Peter’s College, Oxford University, UK. She holds a Masters degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphases in gallery practicum, arts management, and MBA marketing management. In Fall 2012, Jill produced and curated, “In Their Own Words: Oral Histories of CGU Art,” a series and exhibition featuring alumni, professors, and professors emeritus of Claremont Graduate University School of Arts and Humanities, including Karl Benjamin, Roland Reiss, Michael Brewster, Connie Zehr, Mowry Baden, Ted Kerzie, and John Frame. Digital narratives of the postdoctoral project are included in Archives of American Art at The Smithsonian Institution. Prior to pursuing her graduate studies, Jill owned a design firm for 25 years specializing in corporate identity and marketing strategy for small business and global companies. As a gallerist of 15 years, she curated regional and international artists through selected exhibitions. 

Dr. Thayer is curator for Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles; and Associate Professor for Santa Monica College, Allan Hancock College, South University, National University School of Business Management, and Post University Malcolm Baldrige School of Business teaching onsite and online courses in art history, global visual culture, marketing, and integrative strategies. She is a contributing writer for art publications in Los Angeles and Miami; and host of “The Art of Life,” a weekly podcast for Voice of Paso Internet radio. As an artist, her paintings and digital media are included in private and corporate collections nationally.