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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dianne Massey Dunbar Interview

"I paint ordinary objects and scenes from everyday life. While I have the highest respect for artists who paint vistas and exquisite nudes and the like, I believe that there is a great deal of beauty in the world that often goes unnoticed. The amazing color in raindrops, the variety in fallen autumn leaves, the interesting greens one finds in a stack of French fries, there are endless opportunity for paintings. My hope is that people view the world just a little bit differently after seeing my paintings."

I'm a huge fan of Dianne Massey Dunbar. Her work is exciting and joyful. It reminds me somewhat of Wayne Thiebaud's work, but  I find Dunbar's work every bit as exhilarating. Thiebaud speaks of painting as celebrating the joy of living, the thrill of experimentation and expectation, I think Dianne would fully agree with that. Her works ooze with enthusiasm and controlled recklessness.
What is so amazing to me is her fabulous ability to take the most mundane of objects and transform them into delectable treats. How can someone take a simple tube of lipstick, or plain glass bottles, or even raindrops on a windshield, and transform those things into objects of desire...paintings sought after and cherished? Dunbar does it and makes it look easy. How she does it is what this interview is about.

Red  -  4"x 4"  -  Oil

Not only is Dianne extremely thorough, even fastidious in her preliminary work for each painting, but what is so admirable is her ability to take try new things. I talk to my students about not being afraid to fail, but Dianne lives in that world with every painting. Just examining a "simple" raindrop she has painted, I can only shake my head and ask, "How does she do it?" Each individual drop is not only a masterwork of texture but is also full of reflected color. Paralyzing fear must be thoroughly conquered when attempting a painting such as Driving Through a Downpour. Quite amazing.

Driving Through a Downpour  -  12"x 16"  -  Oil

Driving Through a Downpour  (Detail of raindrops on windshield)

Mark Smith, co-owner of the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art in San Antonio, said, "To view one of Dianne's paintings is to experience complexity in its most artistic form. Most often, her choice of subject matter is quite complex, challenging and can be categorized as "crazy". However, this type of complexity is the stage that most accurately reveals Dianne's stunning sense of color and expert brushwork. Dianne is a master of articulating her inspiration and the "story" that she finds in the most mundane and overlooked objects and moments."

Gumdrops  - 10"x 8"  -  Oil

I wondered how she went about selecting her subjects..."I try to remain open to what I consider interesting subject matter. If I am not interested in the subject before I paint it, I have found the resulting painting looks flat. I carry a small camera with me wherever I go, and when I see something that catches my eye. I photograph it. I may or may not decide to paint the subject matter, but at least I have a subject to consider. My still life's are painted from the objects; the other material is painted from photos. When I take photos I don't limit myself to one or two. I may take twenty or thirty of the same subject, from different angles, cropping them, expanding them and bracketing them. Once I have an idea that I like, I then take the photos or the objects and work on designing the painting. So, I would say the composition or design of the painting is very important when selecting a subject. If the shapes and composition are not strong to begin with, it will not matter how fancy the brushwork, or sophisticated the color scheme or values. The painting will not work."

Cans  -  12"x 12"  -  Oil

I will not be featuring Dianne's complete interview here since it is quite lengthy. Her thoughtful answers have actually sparked topic ideas for future blogs, so you'll be hearing more from her in the future. So, stay tuned.
And now more from Dianne Massey Dunbar...
"I want to thank John Pototschnik, whose work I have been watching for some time now and greatly admire, for asking me to answer a few questions. I have tried to answer these questions honestly and openly and I truly hope that my comments are helpful."

Cityscape in Green  -  8"x 8"  -  Oil

How would you define your role as an artist?  I think we all have an important place in the world at large and are equipped with unique skills and resources. Some of us are called to be doctors, others to be lawmakers or dancers or carpenters or electricians or teachers or florists. My world, my role, is to paint; to use my training and whatever talent I have to create images that are meaningful to me and hopefully have an impact on others. In a way it is like storytelling but my paintings are my voice. There are other aspects to the role of an artist beyond painting that may include encouraging fellow artists, leadership, teaching and involvement. Primarily through, I need to show up at the easel.

Fire Engine  -  5"x 7"  -  Oil

How much of your work is intellectual vs. emotional...and how would you define the difference?   I would define intellectual as rational, deliberate, thoughtful and thought out, planned and intentional. I believe it includes problem solving that in turn fuels creativity. I would define emotional as one's personal likes and dislikes, opinions, sentimentality, excitement, spontaneity, responsiveness and our relational selves. As for those rare moments of inspiration, well I think they are largely emotional, but I also believe they result from an intellectual process. In my work, it takes both the intellectual and the emotional to create a painting.
For me, the intellectual part of painting is the process of designing the painting, the drawing involved, and the problem solving along the way. It is not sentimental and it frequently is not much fun. There is skill and experience that an artist draws on, and every painting, no matter how well it has been thought out, has an area somewhere that is troublesome. There are times when work is tedious or even boring. The emotional part of painting is for me what I like and don't like, the subject matter that I paint, the thinness or thickness of paint, the "play" time I have with a painting, and the colors I may choose. And for good or for bad, I emotionally invest in my paintings.
Finding subject matter that is exciting is personal. I am drawn to simple common images: candy bars, cupcakes, rain on my windshield, jars, dishes, road crews, and reflections. After that, almost all of my preparation for each painting is intellectual and frankly a little tiresome. I study various compositions and value arrangements for my chosen subject matter long before I put brush to canvas. I tape the value studies upside down in my kitchen and study them to see if the design and the shapes are working. Once I have a design, only then do I begin painting. And for me, the beginning and early stages of a painting tend to be thoughtful and deliberate and even a little intimidating.
However, I absolutely love to play with paint, so when I have a painting far enough along, I can then begin to have fun with it. I might decide to smear paint, or flick it. I use any number of implements to play with paint, from the jagged edge of gum wrappers to torn pieces of paper towel rolls to palette knives to inexpensive brushes that I have cut gaps in. Today I experimented with my rubber kitchen spatula (I had fun but unfortunately was not happy with the result!).
I think non-artists have a notion that art is the result of "inspiration". Well, there are times of inspiration, when instinct takes over and something happens on a canvas that I probably can never do again but I look at it in wonder. However, those times are few and far between for me. Being an artist is very much like other careers, there is leaning and thinking and hard work involved.

From the Outside Looking In  (Photo reference}

Describe your typical block-in technique, the thoroughness of your initial drawing, and the part photography plays in your work?  I have more than one process that I use, depending on my subject matter. If I am doing a relatively simple still life, between one and three objects, I will do one or two quick thumbnails on a piece of inexpensive canvas board, and if I am happy with the shapes, I will begin to sketch those shapes in on my canvas. On the canvas, I may do a very simple sketch, or a more complete sketch, either very lightly with pencil or with a small brush. I then paint, working from background to foreground, massing in the large areas of a single value without much regard to detail. Once I have the large value shapes in, I can begin to break them down into smaller shapes, etc. I try to work on gradation and edges as I go along.

Value study

From the Outside Looking In  -  20"x 20"  -  Oil

On the more complex paintings, I generally use photographs and work with a grid system. I might start with 20 or more digital images that I study. I look at the overall design, and see what happens when I zoom in or crop the images. I narrow these down to maybe the top five and I have those printed at my local camera shop. Then I make black and white Xerox copies of the color photographs. After the copies are made, I use inexpensive poster paint in white, gray and black and paint directly on the copies exactly where I think I want the light value, the medium value and the dark value. For each photograph I might do two different value studies, to see what the resultant design is. I do this by hand instead of computer because I can make all kinds of decisions when I work by hand that might go unnoticed otherwise.

Value study for a possible future work

Every part of that image needs to fall into one of those three values (I have been known to work with four values, but that gets very complicated). I then tape them up in my condo and live with them for a day or two, turning them upside down and sideways to see if the design is satisfactory. It is tedious, but I have found this process works for me and I have more successful paintings. After I have a design I like, then I have that photograph enlarged. However, I keep the value study because that is my "roadmap" for the painting. So, I paint the image that I have chosen, using the values of my value study. If I am working on a square canvas, I might work from an 8"x 8" photograph, and work on a 16"x 16" canvas, or 20"x 20" canvas or even a 24" square canvas. The photograph is taped to lightweight cardboard and I use a sewing needle and thread to grid the photograph so that if necessary I can move the thread aside to see what's underneath. I usually use 1" squares on the photograph. I grid the canvas (the canvas must be the same proportion as the photo you are working from) with very light pencil lines, usually in two or three inch squares. I then paint each square, starting from the upper left hand corner and working to the right. After my canvas is painted, then I go back and make necessary corrections, work on edges, simplifying, etc.

Late Afternoon  -  24"x 18"  -  Oil

What colors are most often found on your palette?  I love color! So, you would find a great many colors on my palette. My 'stock' colors are: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Light or Medium, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson (permanent), Dioxazine Purple, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue Deep, Permanent Green Light, Cadmium Green, Sap Green (permanent), Phthalo Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Torrit Grey (Gamblin).
I use other colors in different situations, especially Zinc or Transparent or Flake White Replacement. There are times I really need Indian Yellow. Caucasian Flesh is a very useful color in a number of situations. I also use Venetian Red or Naphol Red and a number of other greens, especially Emerald Green Nova. I mix my blacks, but I do have a tube of black that I use if needed.
Some of these are quite transparent in nature, and some opaque. An artist needs to know the tinting power of different colors and use the intense colors sparingly (Alizarin Crimson and the Phthalos immediately come to mind). However, a lot of wonderful effects can be achieved with a more limited palette, so you do not need all these colors to produce wonderful paintings. Indeed, if you are new to painting, you would probably be best served by using a more limited palette.

Ten  -  20"x 20"  -  Oil

Nancy  -  27"x 23"  -  Oil

How do you decide on a dominating color key for a painting, and how do you maintain it?  I use the subject matter to guide this decision. If it is an overcast cloudy day, then much of my painting will be grayish. If I am painting toys, obviously the colors wil be much brighter. However, too much pure color is overwhelming. I mix almost all of my color. I reserve pure or intense color only for small splashes or small areas.

Cups and Saucers  -  10"x 10"  -  Oil

You have entered a number of significant art competitions. Why are art competitions important to you and how do you go about selecting the paintings for these shows?   I usually enter two to three art competitions per year. I started by entering local and state competitions, and when I was comfortable with those, I started entering regional and national competitions. There are two main reasons that I enter art competitions. The first one is to see how I stack up against other artists. Secondly, I enter competitions to hopefully have my work seen by other artists, collectors, galleries, and even magazines. There are other good reasons as well: meeting other artists, being inspired, and being challenged. Some art competitions have seminars that an artist can attend to learn and expand their knowledge on any number of topics. And, let's face it, competitions can be fun! As far as selecting a painting, when I have what I feel is a good to exceptional painting and a deadline for a show that I want to enter is approaching, I will try to put the painting aside and keep it to enter in the show. Be aware that competitions can be expensive, there are entry fees, shipping and storage fees, and perhaps travel fees if you decide to attend the opening.

Ketchup, Mustard and Relish  -  11"x 14"  -  Oil

What advice do you have for a first-time collector?  Speaking as an artist, it is my hope that my paintings find homes where they are loved. So, I suggest that you buy a painting that you love and respond to. Also, trust your instincts. You will hopefully have it in your home for years; you will look at it over and over, perhaps seeing something different every time. So, before your worry about who the artist is, or how the colors might work in your home, look at the painting and see how you feel about it. Does the painting interest you? Do you want to get close to it and see all the beauty in the brush strokes and splashes of paint and even fingerprints? Do you find yourself thinking about a particular painting you have seen but have not yet purchased? You will know it when the right one comes along.

City Sidewalk  -  18"x 36"  -  Oil

If you could spend the day with any three artists, past or present, whom would they be?  Every artist brings something different to the viewer. I admire so many artists, from Rembrandt to Wyeth, Monet to Van Gogh to Fechin. And, there are many current artists that I greatly esteem. I cannot begin to choose one over another, as they are each brilliant in their own individual way. However, I will state that for many years I struggled to appreciate the work of Vincent Van Gogh. Then, on a trip to New York, almost twenty years ago, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was there that I saw my first Van Gogh in person. I could 'feel' the passion and the painting just by looking at it. I remember standing there for a very long time, with tears running down my face, finally getting it. I have never forgotten that experience. It was profound.

Shopping Cart  -  20"x 30"  -  Oil

What do you think of that amazing interview, folks? Personally, I so appreciate Dianne's willingness to submit to this interview...and being so thorough in her answers. I hope you do also. 

Southwest Art magazine will feature Dianne in its November 2012 issue. To see more of Dunbar's work, click on the links below:

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Making Judgments Again

Judging art shows can be a challenge. It's not an exact science, thank goodness, and it can often leave room for second guessing oneself. 
All art has intellectual, technical and emotional components...and they all need to be considered as part of the judging process. When one component is overwhelmingly emphasized above the others, I'm not sure that makes for a great work of art.

I just returned from judging the 21st Annual Juried Art Show held at the Breckenridge Fine Art Center in Breckenridge, TX. It's always an honor to be chosen to judge a show and this was no exception.
The process began by selecting 127 pieces for exhibition, after viewing all entrant's work on a CD. The thirteen award recipients were chosen after viewing all the accepted original works...on site.
Did I select the absolute best works in the correct order? I don't know. They were certainly among the best...and on that particular day, I was satisfied with the choices. Would those exact choices be the same tomorrow? Possibly so, or maybe there might be a little movement.
In just about every art show there will always be a small group of works that seem to keep calling the viewer back. That was indeed the case for me with the top award winners...and then there are always one or two artists that dominate and you'd like to give all their pieces an award.
Usually when selecting pieces for an art show from photographic images, the biggest issue is the quality of the photography. Artists do not seem to realize that the only thing a juror has to go by is the image photo. A poor representation of the work there, will get you eliminated quicker than you can say, "What happened?"
I noticed something different this time. The quality of the photography was improved, in fact so improved in some cases (using Photoshop), that when I actually saw the originals of those images I was disappointed. A couple of pieces I originally thought would be in contention for awards, were ultimately left out of the mix. So, I offer a word of caution when submitting work to a competition...only do enough Photoshop manipulation to accurately represent the work, no more, no less.
Thanks, Breckenridge, for presenting me with the challenge of judging this show. I am proud to present the award winning works seen below. Congratulations to each of you...and also to the other 114 exhibiting artists.

Randy Meador - Confederate Soldier - 30"x 18" - Watercolor  (Clay Pitzer Memorial Best of Show Award)

Patricia Rohrbacher - Tulips and Siberian Iris - 16"x 18" - Oil  (Lester & Virginia Clark Memorial Award)

Kim Hill - Go Fish - 22"x 29" - Oil  (Fine Art Center Award)

Joseph Fuchs - Botanical Garden, Mendocino, CA - 10"x 13" - Pen/Graphite  (Juror's Award)

Tim Harmon - Raised on the Rocks - 13"x 7"x 10" - Bronze  (Newcomer Award)

Natalie Smythe - Dressed in Denim - 18"x 16" - Graphite  (Patron's Award)

Don Weller - Equine Conference - 22"x 27" - Watercolor  (Honorable Mention)

Flauia Eckholm - In Her Own Name - 25"x 31" - Oil  (Honorable Mention)

Jan Mapes - Too Close for Comfort - 23"x 9"x 12" - Bronze  (Honorable Mention)

Nancy Grobe - Looking Up - 16"x 14" - Oil  (Honorable Mention)

Rebecca Zook - Late Lunch - 18"x 22" - Acrylic  (Honorable Mention)

Sharon McConnell - Puttin' on Miles - 32"x 16"x 12" - Bronze  (Honorable Mention)

Soon Warren - Street Art Critic - 38"x 30" - Watercolor  (Honorable Mention)

I always like to do some kind of art when traveling. Even though it was still over 100 degrees in the evening, I did manage to get in a couple of quick permanent marker drawings of the bed and breakfast in which my wife and I stayed...and the houses across the street.
If you're ever in Breckenridge, TX and need a place to stay, I highly recommend The Keeping Room. Brady and Laverle, are warm hosts. The place is clean and the breakfast is excellent.

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(Next week I will be featuring an incredible interview with Dianne Massey Dunbar. Don't miss it. It's really good)


Sunday, August 12, 2012

David Gluck Interview

"There's always one in the crowd", as the saying goes...and Canadian artist David Gluck is the one.

David Gluck as Charles Bronson

When I received his responses to my interview questions, I found myself laughing out loud. I also realized that when you encounter a guy like's really important how you phrase the questions.
Is David Gluck a serious guy or a comedian? I guess that's for you to decide. Even if he doesn't take himself seriously, one thing is certain, that cannot be said when it comes to his work.

Preliminary head study for The Trapper

When I saw that his painting, The Trapper, won the very prestigious William Bouguereau Award in the recent Art Renewal Center International Salon, I was totally on board...a phenomenal painting indeed, and an award well deserved.
William Bouguereau (1825-1905) in his day was considered one of the world's greatest painters. Many consider his paintings to be absolute perfection. But, as modernist thought replaced the academic, Bouguereau went the way of so many great did the training that helped produce them. Today, some of that solid training is being resurrected and we're seeing the results. David Gluck's work is one such example.

The Trapper  -  30"x 24"  -  Oil  -  (ARC International Salon, William Bouguereau Award)

The Bouguereau award is given to a figurative piece that displays a strong sense of emotion and theme. Assessing whether The Trapper really met these stringent requirements, Gluck said, "The figure; clearly a man. The theme; manliness. Emotion; pfft, men don't feel emotions. The only emotions I feel are rage and hunger, which usually go hand in hand."
How did he feel about receiving the award, "I was actually extremely honored to have received this award. I have been a long time follower of the ARC and they have continued to support my career."
Wondering what he thought of the great William B..."As far as William Bouguereau goes, I know everyone is a huge fan of the guy, but frolicking wussy peasant children never appealed to me. I will say, his technical proficiency is one to be admired."
And now, more from Mr. Gluck.

Medicine  -  20"x 12"  -  Oil

How would you define your role as an artist?  I fill up inconvenient blank spaces on a wall.
How does one find their individuality as an artist?  It should come naturally. I found that living apart from most other artists and being primarily self-taught was helpful in finding my voice. Also, it helps to wear a hat.
Do you consider the process of painting more important than the result?  Not at all, the result is what stands the test of time. Focus on the process is simply post-modernist thought.
What is the major thing you look for when selecting a subject?  A fine balance between manliness and awesomeness.
How much of your work is intellectual vs. emotional...and how would you define the difference?  I am not really a man with either quality, so I am unsure how to answer that.

Still Life with Meat  -  14"x 11"  -  Oil

What colors are most often found on your palette?  My flesh tone palette is Yellow Ochre Pale, Vermillion, Ivory Black, Lead White, and Raw Umber. There is also a yellow stain that might be mustard, but I can't be sure.
How do you decide on the dominating color key for a painting, and how do you maintain it?  Using a limited palette makes it quite simple to harmonize your colors. I feel the color key is often picked in accordance to the mood I am trying to portray.
I love this one...
Do you paint in layers?  I typically only wear layers when painting in a cold climate, but otherwise I wear gym shorts with no shirt while painting.
Does photography play a part in your work?  Sometimes. I work from life whenever possible, photos when it simply isn't an option.

Vanitas  -  20"x 24"  -  Oil

How much preliminary work do you do before beginning the final work?  I would say at least half of a piece is in the planning. I always do a series of studies starting with thumbnails and preliminary drawings for tone and composition. I end with color studies before beginning on the final canvas. I try to leave very little to chance.
What is your major consideration when composing a painting?  Composition of course is key. I try to work this out in the very early stages.
How does your work reflect your personality?  Not very well. Most people are surprised I am an artist.
What constitutes classical painting and drawing, and why the resurgence at this time?  Got me. Maybe it has to do with global warming or something. 
You have the ability to paint incredibly beautiful works while using objects that are pretty common and not necessarily considered beautiful. What is the thought process behind that?  Pretty objects and things don't always make for a beautiful painting. It's like the old saying..."It doesn't matter what you say it's how you say it". 

Hunters  -  16"x 9"  -  Oil

What advice do you have for a young artist/painter?  Make your models bring their own towel to sit on. Otherwise you are stuck with a towel you have no idea what to do with.
What advice would you give a first-time collector?  Buy my stuff.
If you could spend the day with any three artists, past or present, who would they be?  My wife, Rembrandt, and Bob Ross. Actually, scratch Rembrandt, he doesn't even speak English.
If you were stranded on an island, which three books would you want with you?  One would be a choose your own adventure book to keep life interesting, Cooking with Beer, and maybe one super thick book to use as a seat.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and why?  Easy answer, my wife. She is my primary influence being a fellow realist and the main contributor in inspiring my work.
When you become discouraged and feel the well is dry, so to speak, what do you do?  I call my good buddy Jack Daniels for moral support.
Why do you enter art competitions and how do you go about selecting paintings for them?  I enter competitions to win sweet mullah. Apparently I enter the same painting in every competition.

Still Life with Seeder  -  18"x 24"  -  Oil

Thanks David for participating in this interview and allowing me to share your fabulous, beautifully executed works. I'm sure we'll be hearing more of you. I hope it's good.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Overcoming Creative Slumps

It is a fact that one's creative juices can ebb and flow. It's not pleasant when they ebb, particularly when you make your living being creative. I've experienced a few slumps in my day but this current one is the worst and longest I can remember. 
I know people are surprised to learn such a thing is even possible with someone they consider to be an accomplished painter. But it's true and is certainly not uncommon among creative professionals.
That in itself is an important point. It's not uncommon, so it's a truth that first needs to be recognized, and then accepted.

The outlook is bleak, the vision is unclear, and the imagination blurred  in the midst of  a slump

Inherent in every creative slump is self doubt, a feeling that you're losing your creative ability. Of course that's not true but it certainly feels that way. It just reiterates what I've said many times...if we rely on our feelings to be aligned before doing anything, we will accomplish very little. 
During a particularly bad episode last week, when I entered the studio, I realized I couldn't even remember how to start a painting. I felt I had forgotten everything. I mean it. Every attempt at painting just added to a growing sense of hopelessness and frustration.

One question asked of every artist I've interviewed for this blog is: "When you become discouraged and feel the well is dry, so to speak, what do you do?"
Dianne Massey Dunbar says, "I keep showing up at the easel. Keep on suiting up, showing up, and painting". Thomas Reis says he has always worked his way through it. Denise Mahlke stated, "The best thing for me is to do something different for a while, even if it's not art-making; a long walk, gardening, going to a museum, etc. Or I will switch from pastel to oil or draw instead of paint, or read and study instead of drawing. Copying the Masters from a book or online image is also helpful. All of these things can spark creativity and new ideas. John McCartin's approach is similar. "I have a short break (couple of days). Plein air painting or charcoal drawing on the side of the road revitalizes me. Changing from landscape to still life or even changing mediums is a great help while browsing the work of great artists (past and present can be very stimulating." Douglas Fryer summed it up in one word..."work".
Every artist finds what works best for them.

When experiencing such slumps, others have suggested:
  • Don't sit and sulk     
  • Focus on related activities
  • Tidy up the studio
  • Get out and exercise
  • Create in an unfamiliar place
  • Learn something new
  • Start small, build small successes
  • Don't compare your work with others
  • Look for inspiration through the work of artists you most admire
  • Don't hang around doubters or negative people
  • Start sketching. One idea will lead to another
  • Set a creative challenge
  • Don't procrastinate. Get to work.

My usual procedure for overcoming these discouraging slumps is to create many small studies (4"x 6" range), hoping that out of the group I will come up with a suitable painting idea. The other thing that has helped me is to get outside and paint on location...but it's so darn hot, well over 100 degrees out there. See, I just mentioned another hindrance to overcoming slumps...excuses.
All the value studies seen here are my attempts to move beyond this uninspired, unenthusiastic period. The color study followed the value study and the 40"x 20" canvas of this scene is now on the easel...and my feeling, at the moment, is it even worth continuing?

Many artists, when going through such times, have expressed that they have always come out on the other side doing better work...let's hope that's the case.

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(Tune in next week for a very funny interview with David Gluck, winner of the William Bouguereau Award in the recent ARC International Salon)