Art School of Columbia County Faculty member H.M. Saffer, II has a diverse background with a common creative thread. He was a successful songwriter and producer, chef, and studied at L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris and studied sumi-e (brush painting) in Japan. He exhibits his work internationally. He will be teaching “Landscape Painting in Oils” starting October 2 at ASCC.
I sat down with HM and asked him a few questions about his upcoming class.
You have a unique style of oil painting—how did you develop it?
HM: About 10 years ago, I saw an exhibit of Gustav Klimt’s landscape paintings at the Clark Institute [Williamstown, Massachusetts] — I knew of his figurative work, but not his landscapes. And I noticed he used a type of pointillism which has different sizes and textures, not the same brushstroke like Seurat. And I said “I want to try that.” So I started copying his motifs, and they turned out great – they sold — so I thought I’d develop this more. I was also a fan of Maxfield Parrish, so I started putting in some Maxfield Parrish skies, and I also added in some Van Gogh and Monet – so my work is a combination of all of my favorite artists. But it all started with an exhibit at the Clark.
Why oil painting?
HM: I use oils because they are more malleable. They link us to the Old Masters – there’s more depth, more luminosity. Also, they dry slower, and so they allow more time to go back, adjust, and fine-tune. Because of this slower drying time, oils are also great for painting en plein air (outdoors).
How do you teach oil painting? Any specific method?
HM: I teach using the same methods as used in the Art Students League of New York, the way my teachers taught me: I have everybody just painting. I tell them to just go ahead and paint, a still life, a landscape, in their own style, and if they want to learn a different style, I will show them how to do this. If they are having trouble with perspective, I will show them how. When the paintings are finished at the end of class, I will have each student witness a constructive critique, so they can learn what to add, subtract, and how they handled composition. A group constructive critique is very important; that’s how you learn. You can teach people how to learn to paint, but no one can teach you how to paint. This is important – it’s a big difference.
What would you say to a student unsure about taking a class in oil painting?
HM: You will walk out my classes so happy with what you’ve turned out, you won’t believe it!
Anything else we should know?
HM: More and more psychologists and psychiatrists are using painting as a form of therapy — I’ve always known this as an artist. When you become immersed in a painting, when you truly enjoy it, you can barely tear yourself away! For relaxation, there’s nothing better.
– ASCC Program Coordinator