Bill Buchman is an artist, musician, and teacher whose art focuses on the contemporary nude figure and abstraction. Besides exhibiting his work, Bill also demonstrates and teaches his concepts in his instructional book, Expressive Figure Drawing
(Watson-Guptill), on his five art instruction DVD’ s, and in workshops held around the US. Bill also has his own special line of “Zen” Sumi brushes and reed pens. To see more of Bill’s art and for more details visit his website.
When did you start painting? What made you decide to pursue that art form?
I credit my mother, Natalie Buchman, with planting the painting seed deep in my being. She was an excellent painter amongst a host of other talents. Long before I was born she became a member of the Museum of Modern Art when she was still in high school in the 1930’s. I grew up in a home where MOMA’s latest publications, which contained the newest developments and thinking in art, were piled on the living room coffee table and on our bookshelves. I was their most avid consumer. Our house was filled with a modest collection of original modern art of the day as well. My mother took me with some frequency to the Museum of Modern Art and other New York museums from an early age and I saw many of the great art shows of that period.
I started drawing seriously when I was 13 years old and was basically a teenage art nerd before there was such a term. Thanks to an invitation by my aunt, Arles Buchman, who was (and still is) very much a serious artist, I spent two weeks of my sixteenth summer studying oil painting and drawing at the “Art Barge” in Amagansett, Long Island with Victor D’Amico, a gifted teacher who was the Museum of Modern Art’s first director of education. That experience awakened in me the desire to become a maker of art. When I returned to our home in Albany, I studied painting and drawing with a top American artist of the period , Fletcher Martin, at the Albany Institute of Art. My mother, who was pursuing new interests, turned her art studio, her paints, brushes and easel over to me. This resulted in a torrent of oil paintings, many of which can be seen on my website in a gallery section entitled “Early Works”.
Your work often combines more than one medium. Can you tell us what media you work with, and how you choose which media should be used for a particular piece?
My love of working with mixed media derives from the fact that I place a very high value on process. Every material has certain tendencies and advantages which suggest certain approaches and techniques. Combining several materials and techniques in a single piece requires careful thought and provides natural opportunities to create expressive contrasts. This I find exciting to explore. Of course, the combination of materials and techniques determines, to a great extent, the “look” of each piece in terms of style and expression. Thus working with unique materials in unique ways gives the work a unique appearance. Usually I have an idea of what I am trying to achieve so I pick the materials whose qualities offer the best chance to bring out my vision. Other times I let explorations with my materials take me into new and surprising areas. Although I have my mainstay materials, such as acrylics, watercolors, oil pastels, acrylic gouaches and inks used in conjunction with Sumi brushes and reed pens, I am constantly doing research and experimenting with new materials and new combinations.
Do you have a dedicated studio for your work? What’s it like?
For many of my formative years, my living room was my studio. In the 1990’s I rented a large studio in the commercial harbor area of Copenhagen , Denmark near where I was living at the time and proved to myself that having a dedicated studio is essential if one wants to make real headway. I am most thankful, these days, to have a spacious studio in the industrial quarter of Sarasota which enables me to accomplish a great deal that would otherwise be impossible.
Your artwork is very fluid and expressive, yet drawing the figure can be a complicated and daunting task. How do you balance technical proficiency with artistic freedom?
Aha! How indeed! Now you are asking a question that gets to the heart of all art making! Actually, all joking aside, I have dedicated 175 pages in my book and ten hours of instruction on my DVD’s explaining as thoroughly as I possibly can, my exact prescriptions and methods for achieving this with both the figure and abstraction. But, for this article, if I had to pick a single statement that conveys the essence of this issue, I would pick this one by Picasso: “You should know what you are doing but not too well.” This is a Zen-like concept that students find difficult to put into practice. But it works!
You teach at Ringling College - Longboat Key Center for the Arts. How has being a teacher affected your own work?
Teaching enriches my understanding of how every aspect of the art making process works because I am forced to analyze each aspect in order teach it. It enriches me enormously by making me more aware of what I am doing. But, as mentioned just above, I do not wish to become “too” aware, so I have to watch it.
Sarasota has an amazing, vibrant art community. Do you think it’s important for an artist to live in a community that fosters and appreciates the arts
I think it’s important for everyone, artist or otherwise , to live in a community that they can appreciate and be appreciated by. In this respect I count myself as very fortunate to live in Sarasota. I think that the important value of art in all our lives is becoming more recognized and appreciated worldwide. But it is a gradual process.
What inspires you?
Divinity…Zen… and Beauty in all its forms.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to try abstract painting?
Take out a box of watercolors, a good-sized brush, some water and a sheet of watercolor paper and try it! Then maybe get one of my DVD’s.
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5 years 238 days ago
I just today got one of the spiral Ott Lights for my bedroom reading lamp - it is wonderful!! I can't wait to slip into bed tonight to read!
5 years 240 days ago
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5 years 241 days ago
My daughter and I just visited Ringling School of Art and loved the school..she loves drawing and this year just completed an AP 3-D Studio Art class and is continuing to grow in her talent. We enjoyed reading this interview.
A wonderful interview that gave me more insight into my instructor! Thank you. I really enjoyed it and look forward to classes with Bill again.