Depth, Luminosity, Texture: a conversation with HM Saffer, II

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.

HM Saffer, II "Lake House" oil on canvas, 24x 20" courtesy of the artist. www.hmsaffer.com

HM Saffer, II “Lake House” oil on canvas, 24x 20″ courtesy of the artist. www.hmsaffer.com

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.

HM Saffer, II

HM Saffer, II courtesy of the artist

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

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