Reported by Emma Santangelo
I sat down with old friend and painter Bob Sincerbeaux this past week to talk tunes, paint, Spain and more…Check it out. Bob rocks.
When and how did you get into painting? What was your first piece? My memory isn’t too sharp but I guess I’ve been drawing and painting as long as I can remember. My mother put me into art and piano classes when I was very young, and when my piano teacher saw some of my art she said I had better stick to that. Probably because I was terrible at music. High school classes really sparked my interest. I was fortunate to have some great teachers along the way, and the first piece I was really proud of I produced my junior year. It was a charcoal / water based drawing of an old man and something about his wrinkled eyes and weathered look really drew people to the piece. It’s still one of my favorites. Reminds me of the old man from Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea”.
Where do you draw most of your inspiration for the subject matter? Any particular influence(r)s or is it all inside your head?
I draw a lot of my inspiration from Vermont. I grew up there in the summer time, went to school there, and my folks still own a place near Woodstock. I have tried my hand at a couple of cityscapes since I moved to New York, but I can’t really get into them. For me the natural beauty of Vermont is unparalleled subject matter. I am an extremely visual person, so when something catches my eye I try to snap a photo or two. Besides that, I rely heavily on friends and family. People who take a genuine interest in my art will send me photos they want brought to life, or will turn me onto a specific painter or piece that they enjoy.
Do you listen to music when you paint? If so, what are your go-to tunes?
Yeah, I DEFINITELY listen to music when I paint. Really tough to do without it, in fact. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Michael Franti and Spearhead and Pretty Lights but the Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead and Skynyrd are some personal favorites. I have a lot of respect for people with musical talent, it’s something I never possessed.
Any favorite paintings/painters?
This is a tough one. The mid 19th century painters that became known as the Hudson River Valley school of painters really appeal to me. They focus pretty intensely on sweeping landscapes that glorify westward expansion and manifest destiny. These paintings definitely speak to my inner “American” or patriotic side. But I would say that my favorite painter is a guy from Vermont who flies under the radar. His name is Wimby Hoyt and his stuff is RIDICULOUSLY good. My parents have bought up a couple of his pieces, and it’s great to have work to admire on a daily basis when I am home. One thing I really appreciate is the variety of styles I have seen from him. It seems as though he can flip the switch in an instant and go from a detailed portrait or still life to a more impressionistic landscape. My style is very heavy and thick for the most part. Anyone who can paint with the precision of the old masters definitely has my respect.
What prompted you to start selling the paintings? Have you ever thought about putting them into local art shows?
When I first moved down to New York City I brought some of my portfolio with me. A good friend of mine named Jake Lister offered to pay me $150 for a portrait of his mother. He gave me an old photograph of her when she was twenty years younger, and I think both of them were happy with the results. I did not have very steady income at the time and I saw art as maybe an alternate source. I put together a small collection and sold them to people who passed through the apartment and even tried my hand (with limited success) selling items in Madison Square. You need a permit to sell for tax reasons, but there were far fewer cops wandering around Madison Square than there were at Union Square. I think it would be great to put them into a local art show but never knew quite how to get started on that. I guess it’s a good thing I know Emma.
Favorite city in the world?
Madrid. Hands down my favorite city. I studied abroad there for 6 months during my junior year at Middlebury. There was plenty of opportunity for travel, but my friend Phil and I preferred to stay put and explore the city that was our home for some time. I haven’t been back since 2009 but I am itching for a return trip. To be honest I don’t consider myself much of a city guy, but there is endless subject matter and people to collaborate with.
What medium do you prefer, what is the process like?
I essentially started with watercolors as I think most painters should. It is easy to lay down a thin wash of color, and the paint itself is simple enough to manipulate. I started working with oils in high school and those have been my main focus lately. They help to achieve the duller, earthy, tones that you can find in a lot of the paintings that I finish. Oils definitely present new challenges. They are much more difficult to manipulate and to cut defining lines within a piece. But they allow you to create so many different textures within a painting: anything from a smooth blending or transition of colors to the rough, impressionistic styles found in the works of someone like Monet. Depending on my subject matter, I tend to start with a wash of acrylics and a rough charcoal sketch on the canvas before layering on the lightest / most distant colors. From there it becomes a progression forward through the painting, slowly filling and working my way towards the starker contrasts that come to define the piece.