painting

In Good Company: Steven Husby

This is the first in an ongoing series of short interviews with artists that we work with or admire called “In Good Company.” Answers are lightly edited for length and clarity.

Name: Steven Husby

Location: Chicago

Education: School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA) and Minnesota State University, Moorhead (BFA)

Hometown: Huron, South Dakota

As a child, did you know you wanted to be an artist? 

Absolutely. I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t want to be one. The closest I think I ever came to any other profession was when I was nine or ten and started telling adults that I wanted to be an interior designer. I’m guessing that can be blamed on the influence of the hit 80s sitcom Designing Women, which I watched with my mom on a pretty regular basis.

What has been a defining moment of your artistic career so far?

There have been two moments that were hugely affirming: getting into the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and being offered an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago a few years later.

Have you had any jobs outside of the art world? If so, how have those jobs informed your work as an artist?

When I was a student I worked in a warehouse loading Coke trucks and in a factory that made product decals and tiny folded paper medical labels. The places proved hugely influential to my own aesthetic decisions in my formative years as a young artist: the mostly warm, industrial aesthetic of the warehouse–rich rust-colored reds and ochres interrupted by cool black and white point of sale stickers, the crisp red and white of the trucks–and the ice cold 21st century look and feel of the windowless fluorescent lighting of the factory, populated by precision-engineered German paper folding machines and beige 80s printing machines.

What is your favorite non-art object in your studio right now? 

A pair of flash cards with geometric shapes that I picked up from a library sale when I was in college. There is no text on either of them, and I don’t have the rest of the set, so their purpose remains unclear.

Do you have any personal collections besides art?

I’m an avid reader, so I have a lot of books–mostly philosophy and nonfiction. The habit began at home when I was a kid. My grandma had a lot of art, objects, and books collected from her travels in retirement. She often brought me knick-knacks like carved wooden animals–which I still have and enjoyed “curating” when I was a kid. The oldest book she had was one on Roman History printed in the 17th Century, which I inherited from her.

If you could partner with any company to show your work, what would it be and why?

Given the importance of reading in my life, I think working with a publishing company or a library would be a natural fit for me. A lot of my work is made for big walls and open spaces, so I think a lot of it would also be perfectly at home in the lobby of a bank–or in any space that functions as an intermission between more private space and concentrated activity. I've often thought that some of my work would work well in a hospital. No one really likes to think about needing care, but I think there’s something uniquely humbling and contemplative about the experience of being in those spaces–waiting or working–that makes a person receptive to the more abstract point of view that I’m often trying to tap into and open up with my work. 

To see more of Steven Husby’s work, check out his website or Instagram.

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Thoughts on Chicago’s 2019 Art Fairs

For one weekend in September, Chicago is inundated with art from galleries across the country and around the world. This year, the city hosted two major art fairs. EXPO Chicago had its eighth edition on Navy Pier and the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) premiered their first-ever Chicago Invitational. This was an exceptional opportunity for our team to view a huge spread of artwork, meet new artists, and make connections with gallerists–both local and global. After viewing hundreds of pieces and shaking nearly as many hands, here are our thoughts on this year’s art fairs:

Trends and Through-lines

One of the joys of attending an art fair is noticing the different mediums, methods, and subjects that reverberate across the art world in a given year. Through-lines connect contemporary artists–and as these through-lines weave together over time, they become the tapestry of art history that we reflect on decades later. This year, we noticed a few trends across both EXPO and NADA’s Chicago Invitational: pattern and abstraction, semi-sculptural pieces, and high-gloss artwork.

It is easy to associate abstract artwork with the loose, random-seeming paint splatters of Action painters like Jackson Pollock, but abstraction can also be tightly controlled. One theme our team noticed is the prevalence of patterns in contemporary art. Artists like Matthew Craven create intricate, multi-color patterns that are stimulating and eye-catching. Even art that depicts real life, like this still life of a table with a watermelon by Holly Coulis, borders on abstraction.

Matthew Craven

Matthew Craven

Holly Coulis

Holly Coulis

We noticed some pieces throughout the shows that are “2.5 D” or somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional. These works are often wall-mounted like a painting, but have sculptural elements that make them pop out from the wall. In general, textile artwork is having a renaissance. We saw great examples of tapestries and large-scale fabric pieces, like Jessica Campbell at Sapar Contemporary and Joël Andrianomearisoa from Galerie RX in Paris.

The paintings that caught our eyes were often packed with shiny pigments. Glossy artwork is having a moment right now. Some artists are turning away from matte finishes towards lustrous polish, giving many works the look of enamel. Los Angeles-based gallery Luis De Jesus had a piece by June Edmonds at EXPO with a gleaming finish.

Team member Julia at viewing a 2.5 D piece

Team member Julia at viewing a 2.5 D piece

Face to Face

It’s a uniquely 21st century problem: increasingly, we all know people from email or social media and haven’t met them in person. At the fairs this year, we finally got to meet a few gallerists that we have only known digitally. Meeting people in person makes it so much easier to build our community and forge strong connections in the art world. Additionally, art fairs make it easy to keep in touch with old friends from throughout our careers. Because our team members worked across the art world before joining DeGroot Fine Art, the art fairs are a great excuse to get a coffee with a curator or catch up with someone from grad school who is just passing through town.

Location, Location, Location

Seeing lots of people from outside of Chicago reminded us of the importance of traveling when sourcing artwork. Each booth was only a small selection of a gallery’s deep well of talent. Traveling to different parts of the country–or even world–opens up more possibilities for our corporate clients to learn about new work they might not otherwise have the chance to see. We look forward to booking our trips for the coming year to visit those we met on their turf for visits to their galleries and regional fairs.

Whether it was trend-spotting, meeting famous dogs, or toasting to the opening of the art season at Vernissage surrounded by artists and gallerists, we had a successful weekend at the fairs!

Julia and Jaime at Vernissage

Julia and Jaime at Vernissage

Jaime with a painting by Anna Kunz

Jaime with a painting by Anna Kunz

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Richard Hull: One Artist, Three Client Projects

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This week, Chicago Gallery News featured Richard Hull on the cover of their Fall 2019 magazine. Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in 1979, Hull has maintained close connections with the Chicago art community. Inspired by the Chicago Imagists and the Hairy Who, Hull has spent 40 years living and working in the city, producing artwork that is now in prominent national collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. For the last 15 years, Hull has been a professor of painting at SAIC, mentoring a new generation of artists. 

Richard Hull is known for his expressive, color-soaked, and almost-abstract figural paintings that he calls “stolen portraits.” He first started creating these pieces after playing a game of exquisite corpse with a famed composer and an illustrator.

Richard Hull is often a client favorite because of his dense and varied use of color. Speaking to Chicago Gallery News, Hull explained the logic of his colorful paintings: “My only color theory is you decide on a color to start with, and you find a color that makes that better. It’s about the relationship to the color within the piece. If I add violet next to a red, does that make the red better or does it distract from or make the red look bad? It’s color, next color. Color, next color. And I’m always kind of surprised by how colorful my things are.” 

In many ways, Hull’s color theory is like our work as art consultants. We often have a starting place–the furniture, the finishes, the wall colors, the existing art collection of a client–and we seek out artwork that makes it even better. Over time, this is how great individual pieces come together into a stunning collection, each piece amplifying the others. 

We recently completed three projects involving Richard Hull’s artwork:

Rotating Exhibition

Over the last year, we have featured several pieces by Hull in a rotating exhibition that we curate in a corporate lobby. Temporary exhibitions allow us to showcase work that we think is exciting and special. Working with artists to collaborate on exhibitions allows us to develop a deep understanding of an artist’s work and ultimately helping us find the best piece for our clients. 

Private Client

One of our private clients recently added a piece by Hull to their collection. We assisted the clients in finding the perfect artwork for their home, framed the piece, and installed it in their living space. The clients chose a Richard Hull crayon and ink drawing. Works of art on paper are often more affordable alternatives to large paintings and can be customized with a bespoke frame to match home furnishings and personal taste. For this piece, we worked with the client to choose a fused-metal corner frame. The bronze-colored burnished aluminum frame subtly complements the rust tones in the drawing.

Corporate Acquisition

We also recently assisted a law firm in acquiring a large Richard Hull painting on canvas. The scale and color of the painting are perfect for the office lobby, welcoming visitors and employees alike into the space. By supporting a contemporary local artist, the law firm cultivates a connection with Chicago’s cultural community and supports art of the present moment.

We love seeing one of our favorite artists getting well-deserved recognition for their contributions to Chicago’s art history. You can see more of Richard Hull’s work in a solo booth at EXPO Chicago this September presented by Hull’s gallery, Western Exhibitions.

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An Intern's Perspective on Art Consulting

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

This spring, DeGroot Fine Art had the opportunity to hire an intern through a program with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We really enjoy getting to know young, emerging arts professionals. Not only do we get to share our knowledge of the field, but often our interns contribute meaningful work to our business. On the last day of her internship, Bynn Shen reflects on her experiences this semester.

Written by Bynn Shen, Spring 2019 Intern


Lessons from My Internship

I’m a mostly self-taught artist with an extensive background in painting and drawing. My current approach to art-making is much more traditional than some of my peers, as I create realistic renderings of the world. Coming from a traditional Chinese family, over the years I have developed a technical skill set and emphasized it throughout my artwork. I’ve always been drawn to color and the way certain colors interact with others­–so in everything I do, I’m always working with a lot of saturated and pastel colors and straying away from dark colors like black. While a student at SAIC, I’ve been focusing on Visual Communication Design while taking some painting and drawing classes here and there. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my time at DeGroot Fine Art:

Connect with the Art Community

A big part of being an art consultant in Chicago is being aware of what is happening in the community by going to artists’ studios and visiting galleries to see work in person as well as looking online to see new artists and work. The studio visits were important to establish connections with the artists to become more aware of possible options for clients.

Prioritize the Safety of Artwork

I was able to learn about caring and packaging artwork, making sure the artwork was as safe as possible and ready to hand over to the client. There were different care options for different surfaces such as not using Windex on plexiglass and only using a microfiber cloth to buff out fingerprints on museum glass.

Bring All of Your Skills to the Job

Because DeGroot Fine Art is a growing company, there is a demand for building its identity by maintaining the website and writing blog posts and contributing to the aesthetics page, but also designing some social media graphics. I’m not as experienced in graphic design as I am in fine art, but from the classes I’ve taken at SAIC and projects I’ve worked on, I was able to use the knowledge for some of the designs I did here. When designing the social media graphics and brand identity for DeGroot Fine Art, I focused on making a cohesive body of work where everything looked unified and clean. In any type of art, it’s important to think thoroughly about every element of the piece and making sure it has a purpose.

Interning here exposed me even more to Chicago’s art community, as well as the corporate world. There were a few times when I heard artists mentioned and was surprised to learn about their connection to my school. From my experience here, I will definitely be able to refer back to some of the Chicago artists I learned and researched about as well as caring for artwork like my own. There are definitely many logistics that come with caring for art and preserving its life, so it was really great to learn from experienced art consultants.

Interning at an art consultancy firm was definitely informative, especially for a working artist. Seeing how art is used within corporate companies and interior spaces was informative. In the future, I could definitely see myself working in the art world, potentially working at an art consultancy firm like DeGroot Fine Art while also continuing my own artistic practice.

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Exploring and Understanding Gouache

Written by Bynn Shen, Spring 2019 Intern

When it comes to paint mediums, many people are aware of watercolor, tempera, acrylic and oil, but one medium that is often overlooked is gouache (pronounced “gwash”). Gouache is seemingly a mix between watercolor and tempera paint. It can be used like watercolors–thinning the pigment down with water and layering the colors–as well as thick and heavy like tempera paint straight from the tube. As an artist myself, I found working in watercolor difficult at first. I was unable to figure out a fitting paint to water ratio without the paint being too thick and too thin. That being said, there are many strong watercolor and gouache pieces which take advantage of the ability to layer colors. Watercolor dries with a satin finish while gouache dries matte, so if that aesthetic is desired, gouache is an excellent option.

Comparing gouache and watercolor through wet on dry and wet on wet techniques, washes, and testing the opacity of the two mediums by layering paint on top of a line of graphite.

Comparing gouache and watercolor through wet on dry and wet on wet techniques, washes, and testing the opacity of the two mediums by layering paint on top of a line of graphite.

History

Gouache has been used in paintings since ancient Egypt. Egyptians used binding agents of honey or tragacanth glue with the pigments. Following that, the medium appeared on illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages. Although gouache was prevalent throughout the history of art, few acknowledged it or recognized its value. In 18th century France, the term gouache was developed and applied to the opaque water-based medium. Gouache was used by artists in combining different mediums to create a more unique surface in pastel paintings, as well as being used as a base layer in oil paintings. By this time, gouache began to include modern-day ingredients of gum arabic as the binding agent with an opaque white pigment, such as chalk. During the 20th century, the medium was manufactured in tubes, allowing artists to easily access it and use it outside of the studio.

How Artists Use Gouache

Landscape and nature painter Albrecht Dürer utilized both watercolor and gouache in his paintings. Because these two mediums are similar, they can work together to improve one another. In Wing of a Blue Roller, c. 1500 or 1512, Durer rendered a hyper-realistic view of a bird’s wing by using the buildable properties of gouache and watercolor. In instances like this, an artist might first put down a watercolor base to draw and plan out the values, then build the composition up with layers of gouache, creating structure, color, and details. Watercolor and gouache work very well together and can be layered to create depth and realistic effects.

Gouache vs Watercolor

Gouache and watercolor share many similarities, but one of the key differences is that gouache is much more opaque and mud-like than watercolor. In fact, the word “gouache” is derived from the Italian term guazzo meaning “mud.” For the most part, watercolor and gouache behave in the same way, but with watercolor, there is no real way to apply thick paint without it still appearing transparent. Because watercolor is watered down pigment, it has a tendency to bleed into other colors blurring the edges whereas gouache allows for clean and crisp edges. Even if the gouache was watered down, the paint would still remain opaque. Watercolor dries relatively matte but if more paint was layered on, it develops a satin sheen, while gouache dries matte no matter what.

Casey Matthews

Casey Matthews

Gouache in Contemporary Art

Today, it is not as common to see paintings only using gouache as most artists use it along with other mediums. Casey Matthews is a Florida-based painter who marries many different types of mediums and household objects to create pieces. His work includes many subtleties in color and line variation.

Spanish painter Annabel Andrews uses acrylic and gouache by laying down thick layers of paint which builds texture. Her work is very geometric with solid filled shapes sometimes accompanied by lines or other elements to help tie the piece together. The shapes are painted in a quick manner, not overly concerned about uneven edges or misalignment with other shapes.

Framing works with gouache

Because gouache is almost always done on paper, it is important to limit the amount of sun exposure to the piece. With too much sun exposure, the colors may start to fade and become less saturated than when initially put down. A good way to ensure your gouache painting is fully protected is to frame with UV filtering plexiglass and avoid direct sunlight. To learn more about plexiglass for archival use, read our blog post here.

Rebecca Shore

Rebecca Shore

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