Thursday, December 10, 2009

December Featured Artist - Camille Engel

Camille Engel


When I first discovered Camille Engel I fell in love with her art, especially her animal paintings. She captures the quirkiness of the birds perfectly, and the faces of her dogs have such amazing personality. I was honored when she agreed to be featured as December's Featured Artist here on my blog. I learned a lot from her thoughtful answers and I hope you will be inspired by reading the following interview:


When did you recognize your talent as an artist?
I drew on anything and everything since I could hold a pencil. My favorite Aunt Rae tells me that as a toddler, I drew pictures upside down and hand them to people right-side-up. I’ve never known life without some sort of art or craft.

I always wanted to be an artist “when I grew up.” I was raised by well-meaning professional parents who did everything they could to keep me out of art-- they did not want me to become a “starving” artist. I was discouraged on all levels, even choosing my electives in college— I was an English major and their dream for me was to be a good secretary (I was born in 1955.)

I was 46 years of age (November of 2000) when my pastor said to his congregation, “If you have a dream, and you’ve had it for a long time, it could be a dream that God gave you. I want to encourage you to follow your dreams.” When he said that, my heart just about jumped out of my chest— I’ve always wanted to paint and every time I visited a museum or gallery, there was something inside me telling me, “You can do this.” So, the next week I called a local museum and said, “I’m old, I don’t have time to mess around. Who’s your best teacher?” And I signed up for drawing and painting classes and began with drawing.

What is your favorite medium?
I LOVE oil paints! I love the smell, the buttery texture, the color brilliance.

Do you support yourself with your art? (Is it your vocation?)
Yes, I do support myself through my art, I paint full-time now since 2003. Some years are more difficult than others but I am very happy because I love to paint! My very first sale was my seventh painting, “Dance of the Sunflowers,” 15 x 20 inches, Oil on Canvas, $2000.00. I’ve actually sold most of my early paintings except my very first oil painting, a 5 x 7 loosely painted landscape.

To view “Dance of the Sunflowers” visit my website flower paintings page:

To see my first 20 or so oil paintings, visit my Facebook Fan Page photo album, “First Oil Paintings”

Tell me about your process when starting a new painting?
In a nutshell:
(1) I begin with a blank white canvas or board
(2) sketch my subject lightly with pencil either by hand or by the use of an artograph
(3) spray fixative over my pencil sketches (otherwise the oil paints will just wipe the pencil away)
(4) Then I begin my underpainting... (see below)

I am a self-taught oil painter. Artists who have painted with me during the museum classes told me that I paint “wrong” which at first hurt my feelings. Then once I realized that I am unique, I embraced my different technique. I’ve come to learn that my intuitive, self-taught style of painting is called, “Indirect Painting.”

Indirect painting involves procedures in which the final effects in a picture are built up gradually by placing several layers of paint, one over the other, the upper layers modifying, but not altogether concealing, the lower layers.

I put my first strokes on the canvas with the expectation that I will paint over them again when they are dry in order to change their effect in some way. Therefore when I put on my first layer of paint, called the underpainting, I do not try for a finished effect, complete in final color, drawing definition, and pattern emphasis. Instead at the beginning of the work I concentrate on one or two of these problems, and I depend upon (and make allowance for) the subsequent layers of paint to develop and modify the underpainting until the remaining problems are finally solved.

Indirect methods of painting have been employed in the past by many artists including Van Eyck, El Greco, and Rembrandt. More recently such painters as Soutine, Modigliani, Rouault, Braque, and Paul Klee have utilized the optical effects of indirect processes.

To visually see my paintings in progression, visit my Facebook Fan Page photo album, “How Does She Do It?”

Do you have a studio? Tell me about your workspace.
When I realized my gift for painting, and I had sold several paintings, I became convinced I could earn my living as a fine artist. I hired my brother, a carpenter, to come turn my 2-car garage into my painting studio. I had him add ledges all around the upper portion of the 2 side walls so that I can lean drying and finished canvases around the walls of my studio.

My easel is centered in the middle with a desk to my right where I arrange my palette of oils. I have a couch placed against the wall behind me for friends to come over and visit and watch me while I’m working. In front of me at an angle, I have a stereo and large T.V.-- In preparation for shows, I will often paint 10 to 16-hour days. I love to put the BBC Jane Austin movies on the T.V. Sometimes my friends will come over to both watch me paint and watch the Jane Austin movies and have a glass of wine.

My old graphic design table has found a new life in remaining a flat table for me to do my framing. I also have a large flat file to store paper palettes, sketches, sketch books, papers and clear bags for posters.

What do you do on a regular basis that keeps you inspired? What is your main inspiration?
My main inspiration is my love of God, people, nature and life itself. I tend to be the type person that is inspired by the most unusual things like the old rust formations found on old iron objects, watching the birds at our feeders, or simply observing the way the sun shines on objects and casts it’s shadows. My favorite quote to give on interviews: "Every morning is a fresh opportunity to find extraordinary joy in the most ordinary things. My art overflows out of this joy.”

Reading back over this answer, I am reminded of my abusive past and I delight in how far I’ve come. God allowed something beautiful to be born out of that which was meant for harm. Here is an article written by American Artist magazine about my Oil Painting: “Art that Heals: Camille Engel”

What artist (past or present) most influences your work?
Oh, wow, that is a tough question. I believe am influenced by every artist’s work I come into contact with, whether they are realists or not. I tend to share in their joy of their art... I delight in their creations. I love the Impressionists I see at the museums and will stare at a Monet for an extremely long time, absorbing his colors and his brush-strokes. Renior’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” recently showed locally and I went back to the museum multiple times just to capture it to memory. I was transfixed by the size and colors (photos just don’t do it justice.) I am amazed at Van Eyck. I love the history and the work of Gustave Caillebotte. I simply love art!

What is your dream goal for the next 5 years--where will you be and what will you be doing?
(1) My dream goal would be to create art that would be recognized as important.
(2) To earn a significant living completely through my art.
(3) For my art to be acquired by museums and notable collectors.
(4) My ultimate dream is to experience a “sold-out” exhibition.

Where will you be and what will you be doing?
I will be painting at my easel, surrounded by people I love and who continue to love me.

What is the most encouraging advice you have received as an artist?
(1) As an artist: When my pastor said to his congregation, “If you have a dream, and you’ve had it for a long time, it could be a dream that God gave you. I want to encourage you to follow your dreams.”

(2) Also, In my search to earn a living through my art, I realized that I could earn a better living if I simplified my paintings, painted quick and sold cheap, but I didn’t enjoy the quicker process. I have a dedication to creating rich visual intricacies, and I revel in the painstaking details. My expertise is in the creating of intrinsic texture, depth and color that evoke emotion and draw a reaction from viewers... But creating detailed work takes time and I need to price my paintings to make the time involvement worth the effort.

As a professional artist: My husband encouraged me to relax and not try so hard to “earn a living.” Instead, work on developing my name and creating quality work. Locate the audience who can both appreciate and afford my gift for detail because my dedication to creating rich visual intricacies is what makes my paintings unique.

What is YOUR best advice to offer someone who wants to be an Artist?
Listen to your heart or your gut... Be true to your “voice,” follow your dreams, create art that you are passionate about if happiness is important to you.

For artists who want to earn a living with their art, I always tell them, “If I am not painting, I am marketing. If I am not marketing, I am painting. Being an artist is a lifestyle, not a job. I am completely, passionately absorbed in creating or searching for inspiration or marketing my art. I don’t even take a vacation that is not connected to my art.” (I am grateful to be married to a husband who is a complete and wonderful support.)

HELP others along the way... Don’t live a selfish life but learn to set healthy boundaries and say “no” when a request does not fit your personal goals. Don’t view other artists as competition, but as outside creative energy. You will be rewarded for living and teaching and helping others through your experience.

If you desire to earn a living with your art, you’ll need to be teachable and flexible, listen to your audience and your galleries, and pay attention to color trends. It is a rare artist who will be “discovered” so you need to market yourself, believe in yourself and do not give up no matter what others are saying. I’ve heard that only 1/10th of 1% of artists are earning a living completely through their art... I’ve never researched to know whether that statistic is true or not, but it sure seems to be true.

I believe that the most successful artists are those individuals who are passionate about the work they create and do not let any discouragement shake their belief in themselves as well as their belief in the art they are making. (And successful artists work many hours each day.)

"Colored by Time/7"


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  1. Great interview, great answers and a very great artist!

    Heather I love your finely crafted blog and art as well. Very nice interview.

  2. Great interview, Heather! I love Camille's work so much I'm stalking her on Twitter now! ;o) Camille's birds and dogs have such personality and humor incorporated into each painting!

    Ms. Engel gives us all inspiration to pursue our dreams...I am most appreciative of her encouragement. I wish her all the success she deserves from those talented hands and creative mind!