I had the great pleasure of interviewing one of the world's greatest living painters: Michael Hussar. He has taught Portraiture-Head Painting for almost 10 years at an art college in Los Angeles and continues to teach painting workshops in the United States and Europe. He paints in the Old Master style and his subjects are often provocative. You can read the full interview in the Winter Issue of Sinical. ~ Danny Stygion
Cherry Pie 2007
Sinical Magazine: When did you know you were an artist?
Michael Hussar: I did my first oil painting when I was 6 years old but had been drawing long before that... as long as I can remember, actually.
The term Artist makes me uncomfortable. I consider myself a Painter, someone who paints in order to process and document his life, not unlike keeping a written journal.
An Artist is something else entirely. A real Artist doesn't make his or her work themselves anymore. They have someone else do it, usually a team of people.
Hans Memling 2006
Sinical Magazine: What inspires your work?
Michael Hussar: The need for answers... and I suppose, on a lesser level, the basic human need to create.
As I suggested before, my work is more like a personal journal.
The work is an attempt at unraveling a tightly woven series of knots. Knots that I believe we all possess. I'm trying to reveal something. What that is, I don't know, but I'm hoping to gain some insight. It's about self discovery. Either that or perfecting alienation.
What FUELS my work are the people around me...friends, family, even strangers, and, historically speaking, the layers of humanity, the very human condition. .. and the tangled experiences that surround.
Still Life With a Smile 2006
Sinical Magazine: Can you explain your oil painting process and personal technique?
Michael Hussar: I work in oil. And I've always worked on gessoed wood panels that I custom make in my studio. I found, early on, that the traditional stretched canvas is too floppy for me. I could never stretch a canvas taut enough, so I started working on a rigid surface.
I mention that first because I believe any painter will tell you, that the 'feel' of painting is everything... and FEEL begins at the surface. I've heard it said that a painter is either a palette mixer or a surface mixer. It seems to me that we all may favor one or the other, but you're always doing a combination of both.
That said, I'm a palette mixer, that is to say, I carefully mix all my tones on the palette and then transfer that mixture to the surface - as opposed to combining two colors on the canvas and stirring them together, known as surface mixing.
I have a general process but no exact formula. In fact I don't think I've ever started any two paintings the same way. The unifying link would be that they're all begun by working from dark to light, considering the effect of atmosphere before all else, and gradually working toward detail.
I've always found starting and finishing a painting to be dreadful. It's exhausting. But the bulk of a painting, the middle part where you lay down the foundation, which generally last 3-4 months is pure heaven. It's sort of like being on autopilot. Time stands still. Hours and days seamlessly become weeks and months. Most of that time I have no recollection of the actual painting.
White Devil 1999
Sinical Magazine: What type of brushes do you use when oil painting?
Michael Hussar: I've never been asked that question before. I start with Hogs hair bristle brushes. Usually start with #18 #12's and 8's. All filberts. And then work down in size as I begin developing detail. Eventually I use smaller natural and synthetic rounds as I begin to refine things and bring out detail. Brushes will change over time... they wear out. . There is a point where it's still considered new, but is nicely broken in. You could say each brush takes on it's own personality. THOSE are the kind of brushes I prefer to use.
You can read part 2 of the interview here.