Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Intensive Painting in Retirement: Eric Spiegel's Answer to Long Artistic Hiatus

What happens when artists stop making art? In this blog series, we hear from artists who have restarted making art after a hiatus and how they got back into their studio practice.  
Eric Spiegel at his easel

Eric Spiegel, Choctaw

Julia Kirt: What caused your hiatus and how long were you not making art?
Eric Spiegel: I was an active artist as a teenager and studied at an evening school for about two years. I was eventually drafted in the military for the Vietnam War.

From that point on, I had no time to sit down and paint which is my medium of choice. Between my being  drafted and returning to the US four years later, I went back to college for a degree in chemistry and then a second degree in Pharmacy. I was asked to return to the military as an officer and decided it was a good career for my wife and son.

Around 1991 when I decided that I would be retiring from the military, I started taking workshops from some of the modern well-known painters of today. I retired in 1997, and eventually moved to France to study art on a full-time basis.  I spent over six years in a private atelier and lived in France until 2008. 

JK: Did you continue making artwork at all during that time?
ES: While spending my time and days in military life, I did not have the time or materials to paint.  I did have a few drawing pencils in a little tin and set up still life items to keep my drawing skills. But honestly it was not very frequent.

JK: Did you miss your studio practice?
ES: I missed terribly not being able to home squeeze out some paint and grab a canvas and get to work, I was frustrated many times, but I would return to these artist homes or ateliers near me and keep their work in my head and heart, knowing that one day I would be able to have my own studio and paint whatever excited me. I would usually go to the local museums in each country where I was stationed and that kept stimulating me to keep thinking about painting again... For example, William A. Bouguereau taught in the Academie Julian  in Paris, but he was born and raised in town far from Paris (La Rochelle) close to the ocean. There is very nice museum of his early work, both complete paintings and some incomplete work... and so many others kept my mind going when my hands didn't have brushes and paints.

JK: How did you restart your art making? 
ES: In 2000 I stopped working as a pharmacist and moved to France, not only to study privately, but also to paint on my own. I went to every outdoor and indoor art show in France within 100 miles of my home. I showed my work in galleries and in many Chateaux in the Loire Valley. I was doing what I liked and sold paintings as well. My wife and I didn't come back to the US because we wanted to..my father called one day and told us that he was diagnosed with vascualr dementia and asked me if I would come home to eventually take care of him. I returned [to Oklahoma] as an oil painter with a wealth of knowledge in 2008 and have been working in my own studio since that time. 

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