Thursday, August 24, 2017

Talking Art with Watercolorist John Salminen, Master of the Urban Landscape

John Salminen is one of several world-class artists who bring their work to Jeff Frey and CPL Imaging. This is because when it comes to image reproduction, CPL has the experience, the equipment and the trained critical eyes necessary to produce exceptional results world-class artists require.

I myself have been a client of CPL throughout my advertising career since the 80's and more recently as an artist as well, so I am regularly visiting their studio here in Duluth, where proofs are clipped up on walls or fabulous originals are waiting to be picked up after being scanned. Each time a John Salminen original arrives in the studio it is an event. The Duluth artist's pictures are that inspiring.

Salminen, who has won more than 230 awards for his work, paints all over the world. It's been a privilege to see many of his pictures before anyone else has ever seen them, because of my proximity to the CPL studio.

EN: When did you first take an interest in art as a career? What were the trigger events?

John Salminen: As a kid, I always liked to draw. I remember as a very young child, deciding I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I now realize that what I really meant was that I wanted to be an illustrator because most of the art I was exposed to was in the form of magazine art. In college, I majored in Art Education with many studio courses in addition to the education classes. During this time, I considered myself an abstract expressionist and learned to love paint for the sake of paint. The early lessons I learned in abstraction have continued to lay the foundation for all of my paintings, whether representational or abstract.

After college, I taught art at the high school level - primarily drawing, painting and photography. About ten years before I retired as a public schools teacher, I began laying the ground work for a full time career in art. I planned the format for a 5-day watercolor painting workshop to prepare myself to teach adult classes. I painted in my studio for several hours every day after my teaching day ended, entering national competitive exhibitions and consciously working toward signature memberships in the American and National Watercolor Societies. After I had met my own self-imposed goals, I felt prepared to become a professional full time artist and retired from high school teaching.

EN: When you were growing up in St. Paul, did you have the slightest inkling that your art skills would take you all over the world?

JS: Growing up I made art purely for my own enjoyment with no idea that it would ever lead anywhere, let alone to participation in the international scene.

EN: What prompted you to key in on urban landscapes?

JS: I began watercolor painting in the early 1980’s and my primary subject was the Duluth Harbor with its boats, grain elevators and all of the related details of an international working harbor. I was mesmerized by the wealth of visual information and the challenge of organizing it.

The first time I went to New York City, I was again excited about the density of detail I saw and the unlimited design possibilities it presented. The amazing array of architecture, signage, reflections and human activity was a perfect subject choice for me.


EN: You have seen so many places. Do you have a favorite city and why that one?

JS: My favorite city is New York. It never fails to present new and exciting painting possibilities, with a totally different look and feel from one neighborhood to the next. San Francisco is a close 2nd. The hills present an interesting perspective challenge and I like the stacked-up look of the buildings.

I have also painted many Chinese subjects - all rich in detail. Shanghai and Beijing remain favorite cities but I also enjoy painting in the smaller remote villages.

EN: What is it about watercolors that so appeals to you as a medium?

JS: The watercolor medium is both challenging and rewarding. I paint urban scenes and I try to create mood and atmosphere as well as to replicate specific subjects. The luminosity of transparent pigment on white paper has unlimited potential for capturing the effects of light and shadow which is the stuff of mood and atmosphere. Once you make a mark on the page with watercolor, you are more or less committed and I like that additional challenge. There is no covering up of mistakes.

I always look for ways to challenge myself, whether it is the technical challenge of applying paint or the emotional challenge of capturing a specific time and place. I feel that by continually looking for subjects and effects that are slightly beyond my comfort level, I will never exhaust my love of the medium and the satisfaction I derive from the intellectual and emotional challenges of watercolor painting.


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Visit this site to purchase John's book
See a gallery of John's art and more. 

If you're an artist seeking quality reproductions of your work, whether for archival purposes or for sale, learn more about CPL Imaging here. Special tip of the hat to Kelly McFaul-Solem for her gift of hospitality, attention to detail and for the nudge that helped make this blog post happen.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it. 

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