Artist Spotlight: Dan Schultz

Ojai, California-based plein air gouache and oil painter Dan Schultz @danschultzart shares his love for M. Graham paints,  the role spirituality plays in his art and advice for first-time painters in his interview for the latest M. Graham blog.


By M. Graham & Co.

You tell us that you graduated from Pensacola Christian College with a degree in Commercial Art, then worked in graphic design for a few years before practicing fine art. What inspired you to make the transition from graphic design to painting full time?

Basically, it was discovering that I didn’t enjoy graphic design as much as I loved painting. It was really exciting for me when I met some fine artists after college and began to explore the possibility of selling my paintings through galleries and shows. But it took several years of work before I was able to paint full-time.

What role does spirituality play in your art?

I believe that the creative spirit comes from God, the original creator. For me, the beauty in his created world points to the eternal world for which he made us. My artwork attempts to share that beauty in a visual way. What is fascinating to me is that a viewer will likely respond to any given painting with a different emotional (spiritual) connection than the one I felt while painting it. Perhaps, some of my original inspiration comes through, but something in the piece may reach out differently to the viewer’s unique spirit. Either way, I’m thankful to be able to respond artistically to the beauty I see.

We can see that you specialize in both oil and gouache paints, while most painters choose only one medium to work with. What are the similarities and differences between these two painting mediums?

My favorite medium is oil and I have worked with it much longer than I have worked with gouache. But I like that oil and gouache can be handled in similar ways. Both mediums can be layered and manipulated throughout the painting process. The translucency and flat quality of gouache creates some beautiful color effects. But I will always love the texture and thickness of oil paint and the ability to scrape it away to rework areas.

What makes M. Graham gouache and oil paints stand out from other brands you have tried?

A visit to the M. Graham factory in 2015 prompted me to do some color testing between brands of oil paint. I had already been using M. Graham oils for several years, but my color tests proved a couple of things to me. One, M. Graham’s walnut-oil-based paint stays truer in color over time compared to linseed-oil-based brands. Two, walnut oil allows for more pigment load in the paint, meaning that M. Graham oils have more tinting strength than other brands.

When I decided to give gouache a try, the quality of M. Graham’s oil paints gave me confidence that the M. Graham gouache would be of equal quality. I haven’t been disappointed.

Do you have any artists who have inspired your artistic style?

I’ve been inspired by too many artists to try to mention them all. I think the ones who have made the most impact on my style are John Singer Sargent, William Wendt, Edgar Payne, Joaquin Sorolla, Richard Schmid and the illustrators N.C. Wyeth and Dean Cornwell.

Which four M. Graham gouache paints will we always find on your palette?

Cadmium Yellow Light, Quinacridone Rose, Viridian and Cobalt Blue.

Which four M. Graham oil paints will we always find on your palette?

Bismuth Yellow, Anthraquinone Red, Viridian and Ultramarine Blue. Also, I have to include Titanium White — it’s the color that first revealed walnut oil’s resistance to yellowing in my color tests (See my blog for more about my color tests).

What is the greatest challenge that you have experienced with your art and how did you overcome it?

Artists encounter so many challenges as we work towards improving our ability to create our art. Becoming the best artists we can be should always be our top priority. One major struggle I’ve experienced (along with most other artists) has been finding consistency of sales. In an effort to solve this challenge and support my family as a full-time painter, I opened a storefront gallery in 2011. It allows me to sell my work directly to customers on a regular basis, while still continuing to exhibit in other galleries and shows.

You have also been teaching plein air and portrait painting classes for many years. What is a common mistake you see first-time painters make in your classes and how do you teach them out of it?

Almost every new painter struggles with keeping things simple. Our first instinct is to try to copy every nuance of color, every blade of grass and sparkle of reflection that we see before us. I love reminding my students that simplicity equals strength. The more details we add, breaking down the shapes and masses in our designs, the weaker they can become. In my classes we build our paintings from a place of simplicity and try to maintain that through the finish. We always focus on finding the balance between simple shapes and sufficient detail.

You have received numerous national art awards from the American Impressionist Society, Oil Painters of America, Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters, and the Portrait Society of America, to name a few. As an award-winning artist, what did it take for you to get to that level?

I’m always surprised to receive an award. Art is so subjective. It’s never guaranteed that my work will even make it past the jurying process. The truth is that shows have rejected my work at least as many times as they have accepted it. But I’ve tried to keep a long-term mindset. I have continued entering what I feel is my best work. It has also been important for me to focus on being myself in my art. It can be tempting to try to paint like somebody else who appears to be successful. But the most fulfillment comes from creating art that truly feels like me.


Follow Dan Schultz!
Facebook: Dan Schultz Fine Art Gallery & Studio
Instagram: @danschultzart
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