Mad Art Inc.

Member Interview – John Conti

I’d like to introduce you to a MAD Art member, John V. Conti

Born and raised in New York City, there was lots of art all around me.  I always liked to view many different types of artistic expression and visited museums and galleries, as well as the performing arts, whenever the opportunity arose.  It was quite a while before I became actively involved in the creative process. I enjoyed drawing and painting a bit during teen years, but when it was time for college I decided to major in English.  I stayed in the liberal arts, but eventually switched to Psychology and then Rehabilitation Counseling, and earned advanced degrees in both of those fields.

Seduced by money and job security, I moved from work as a practitioner into administration and in time I rose to Commissioner of Rehabilitation within the Federal US Department of Education. Working in the northeast corridor between NYC and Washington, DC didn’t allow a whole lot of free time but I did manage to dabble vocationally in photography and became a published author of several journal articles and a book.

After leaving the Federal Government, I taught at Hofstra University for five years and had more time during that period to explore my interest in visual arts.   I took a number of courses in and around the NYC area, and concentrated first on oil painting techniques.    I studied with Bruce Testa of the Salmagundi Art Club, and began to develop some preferences in subject and style.  I believe strongly in artists learning from each other, and so although I am primarily self-taught, I have painted with, and solicited suggestions and borrowed ideas from many good artist friends over the years.

Can you tell us a little about your art and your process?

Among the many suggestions of artist friends was to experiment with various media.  As I grew impatient with the slow dry time of oils, I tried acrylics and found that by adding various ingredients I could closely approximate the feel and flow of oils without the mahl sticks and the waiting.  Soon I was wanting it all, and as I admired another artist’s work in charcoal, pastel  or ink, I’d think, hmm, gotta try that too.   In recent years, I’ve tried most forms of drawing and painting and even got to like collage.  Most recently I’ve been working with watercolor.  I find that the type of w/c painting that is most joyful for me is line and wash.  I have such fun sketching a scene with ink and then laying in color here and there, very often changing the whole emphasis of the work when the color takes over.

Most of my painting is done indoors;   In our Long Island home, I have a spare room set aside to mess up, and just recently we had an addition put on our home in Hamilton that I use as a studio as well as an office and study. I do like to get outdoors and paint in plein aire from time to time, even if it’s just as far as our back veranda where we have a wonderful view of the Colgate campus and the entire Chenango Valley. It’s great fun to paint the valley in watercolor and pastels as the seasons change.  At the ocean, I have great fun doing quick sketches with graphite, charcoal and pastel. I think it’s among my loosest work.

I sometimes work from a photograph or series of photos but always make an effort to personalize the subject and think of the emotion evoked in me by the scene or person.  For example when I learned that the famous photographer Kalinsky had photographed the great circus clown, Otto Griebling in his dressing room during intermission, even though Otto was in poor health and performing his last shows, I became motivated to try to capture the tiredness of the old clown in oils. I heard from the granddaughter of the famous clown recently and was so happy that she was pleased with my interpretation. More and more I find myself painting in a more expressionistic way, striving for an emotional reaction from the viewer, and a curiosity about the meaning behind a depicted scene.  Of course, sometimes a beautiful flower is just a beautiful flower, but I find that most subjects allow an artist to paint with real feeling.  And it doesn’t really matter if the viewer gets the same feeling when he looks at it; it might evoke quite a different reaction, but if it makes the viewer pause and feel, then I am glad about it.  I never argue with a viewer about what a painting of mine means; the important thing is what it means to that person and how it makes them feel.

How has the MAD Art Gallery community affected your art?

I have so enjoyed watching MAD Art grow from an idea to establish a place for artists to hang out and learn from each other to much more than that. I have been most impressed with the variety of artists and artisans who come by and join up. Volunteering in the gallery is a wonderful opportunity to chat with people who know all kinds of things from woodworking to textile design.  I so believe in volunteerism – Lillian Carter, President Carter’s mom, (some people might remember Miz Lillian) was the first person to really motivate me to find some time to give to others, and it has been my best decision.  Downstate I’ve actively worked for several art organizations, and headed up the publicity committee for the North Shore Art Guild in Port Jefferson for several years. Here in Hamilton, I find there are so many ways to help.  Early on I worked on the MAD Art Gallery Committee, and now as the organization continues to grow I know there will be lots of new challenges. I feel inspired by the rural beauty around me to sketch and to paint, and to keep searching for the most unique perspective.  Although I’m a part time Hamilton resident, people in CNY have been great in welcoming me and allowing me to exhibit and to pitch in and get my hands dirty in the backroom.

What advice could you offer to emerging artists?

I would encourage new artists to try lots of things until they find one or two or three media that excite them the most.  Don’t be too quick to concentrate on one medium or one style of work.  There are lots of different “yous”.  The biggest mistake that I think emerging artists make is to feel that they must have one distinctive style.  You can have a different style and a different medium for each day of the week and each one can bring pleasure and can connect with someone.

Where can we find your work?

  • At the present time I have work displayed at the Gallery on the Hill in Farmingdale in a show called “America the Beautiful,” and I will be showing also in a show coming up called “Water, Water, Everywhere,” sponsored by the Brookhaven Arts & Humanities Council.
  • On eBay I am known as sharingarts and sometimes post some pieces for sale there in the Direct from the Artist category. The best way to search for my work on eBay is just do an advanced search for the name Conti.
  • I am most excited now about opening a new etsy store. It is called JVC’s Affordable Fine Art, and my Username there is SharingArt. The link is simply and the easiest way to find an etsy seller is just to search by username. My new shop is up and running and I hope to add a variety of new stuff .
  • I also have a few pieces in the current MAD Art Summer Show.
  • Online, I post a lot of my work on a flickr site, which I think is a great way of getting organized and also of getting worldwide feedback for your work.

Thank you John!

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