Final View: Jill Basham & Kim VanDerHoek

We are in the final week of From Above, Jill Basham & Kim VanDerHoek’s two-person exhibition! To close out this show, we’ve decided to share an interview with the artists. We provided Jill and Kim with a set of nine questions pertaining to their careers and creative processes. Please enjoy each interview below!

Kim VanDerHoek (left) & Jill Basham (right) at the Opening of From Above at Principle Gallery
Interview with Jill Basham

Q. At the beginning of your career, what was the best piece of advice you were given? Who gave it to you?

A. Wow! That is a great question. I hear the voices of those who have given me little tidbits of advice.  All of which come together to help guide me on my path. I am extraordinarily grateful to them all. Those voices still come to me as reminders to stay on course! I have had some fantastic opportunities to learn from artists that inspire and pass on great words of wisdom.  It’s really difficult to think of just ONE bit of advice.

Q. What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career as an artist?

A. Perseverance is a must. Practice as much as possible. Be okay with failure on a regular basis, and be your authentic self, it comes through to those looking at your work. 

Q. To what extent do you use photographs as reference material?

A. I rarely use photo references, and prefer to paint from direct observation or memory/imagination.  When I do, I use it as a jumping off point. I can gather some information from the image, regarding shapes and structures and perhaps a bit of relative values (lights and darks) which can be helpful. But I do think photo’s can distort a scene.  Color, edges and atmosphere can misinform the viewer. In the “From Above” exhibition, only two or three of my works are from photo references. Those are city scenes, where I needed to describe specific structures. Once drawn in, I can build on the painting with a certain degree of freedom. I don’t want to highly render a scene, so my work will never “look like a photo”!  By putting the photo aside after getting the information I need, I find I’m much more able to be expressive with my work, hoping to translate the mood of the scene. 

Q. At what point while you’re creating a piece do you begin to tell yourself, “it’s coming together”?

A. This question makes me laugh! It’s typically a roller coaster ride for me! I will sometimes just begin a painting and think to myself, “Wow, Jill, You are Good, This is going to be fabulous!” Then, fast forward to the mid point, whatever the mid point is, because that can be thirty minutes in or it can be weeks in, I likely get to the stage of “THIS IS CRAP, utterly awful!”, at which point I either continue on and persevere through it, or I stop all together and put the painting in time out. Continuing on without stopping can yield great success OR potentially great failure! It always feels terrific to stick with it and pull a painting together after going through the depths of despair. Putting it in time out gives me the time to reflect on what might be going wrong, and how to fix it.  Sometimes this isn’t immediately apparent.  Typically, when a painting makes its way back on the easel from “time out”, three scenarios can occur: I figure out the solution on how to proceed; I decide to go in a different direction and create something with less constraints because whatever I do with it, it’s gotta be better than the failure underneath; often, these are my best works. OR it’s just a total loss, destined for the stack of “not good enough” or “really, really bad”! 

Q. How do you prepare yourself for a day at the easel? Do you have any pre-painting rituals or routines?

A. Coffee. I am not a morning person. I have rarely, if ever, jumped up out of bed to paint in the studio, but I do push myself to get out to plein air paint quite early. As soon as I arrive at my location, I’m always happy to paint and am inspired. I really do best by doing my household chores, and the business side of being a professional painter in the morning. By late morning or early afternoon I’m ready to paint!  I tend not to be a very structured or ritualistic person, but always feel it’s important to meet deadlines and expectations.

Q. Do you have any superstitions when it comes to your artwork/creative process?

A. No, I don’t think I have any superstitions. I work to challenge myself always. I tend to get bored easily. My studio is a place for constant exploration. I am always asking myself “What if?”  I encourage other artists to do the same. I am not one to patiently repeat the same process. I see superstitions as arising out of ritual, and I am not disciplined enough for that.

Q. Were you met with resistance from your family when you first decided to paint full-time?

A. Initially, I gave Myself resistance.  I had always been interested in art in school; but when I was college age, my thought was art is not a career.  I ended up studying Sociology (big money there!) and Urban Planning. Both were interesting to me, and I thought I would really enjoy a career in Urban Planning, but I got into Transportation Planning, which was NOT enjoyable. After a few years I was married with children, so I decided to stay home and focus on the family.  We now have four fantastic adult kids that I’m extremely proud of.  I was very fortunate to stay home with them. When the youngest was in about 3rd grade, I started taking drawing classes. It made me realize how much I had missed using my creativity, and proceeded down the path of painting with the support of my family!  I knew I had found the occupations I was most passionate about. 

Q. As an artist, do you feel at times that it’s hard to calm your mind? Being a realist-painter, the world is your inspiration; how do you determine when to brainstorm a painting and when to rest your mind?

A. Hahaha. Another great question. There is really no such thing for me. The world is my inspiration, and I am always taking in information.  It is a passion.  Not easy to turn it off at all.  There is no rest, haha!  I am grateful to be able to see what others might miss, and then work to translate that into paint. Hopefully they might gain insight into the absolutely amazing beauty of our world.  

Q. Do you listen to music while painting? If so, what do you typically listen to?

A. If I am listening to music, it is usually alternative or classical.  Lately I have been listening to less music.  I find the conversation between my brain to hands to brush to canvas is noise enough!  Maybe I’m a bit more introspective during the pandemic?  Since you brought this up, I think music is in order today!!!  

Interview with Kim VanDerHoek

Q. At the beginning of your career, what was the best piece of advice you were given? Who gave it to you?

A. Paint what scares you. If you’re not doing that then you’re not pushing yourself. It was in an interview with Martin Campos that I listened to on the Savvy Painter podcast. That interview changed my approach to painting.

Q. What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career as an artist?

A. Use your creativity when it comes to marketing your work. You don’t have to follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. There is no A to Z, one size fits all, career guide. You have to determine what works for you. For women artists – be super tenacious!

Q. To what extent do you use photographs as reference material?

A. When I’m working in the studio I’ll often use photo references. The exceptions to that are when I’m working from a smaller painting study or using a plein air painting as reference.

Q. At what point while you’re creating a piece do you begin to tell yourself, “it’s coming together”?

A. At about the 3/4 mark. Up until then I’ll scrape off the whole thing if I need to. Often when I scrape it off I’ll uncover something very interesting that becomes the foundation for a successful finished painting.

Q. How do you prepare yourself for a day at the easel? Do you have any pre-painting rituals or routines?

A. I like to have an idea of what I’m going to work on each day in the studio, whether that means deciding the day/evening before what the subject/reference will be or whether that means continuing to work on a particular painting. I like to keep a folder of reference photos to choose from which I’ve found saves me a lot of time. I paint mostly in the morning after my kids are in school. Then I’ll work on the computer in the afternoon and take care of family stuff. If I’ve got a painting on my easel that’s close to being finished, I’ll work on it in the evening too.

My pre-painting ritual is as follows – put music on, spray on some mosquito repellent and light citronella candle near my feet – because a mosquito has recently moved into Southern California – it bites mostly on the legs and it bites all day long. One time I forgot to do my ritual and was bitten 72 times on my legs. It looked like I had the chicken pox. Depending on the weather I may turn a fan on, I open the doors for ventilation, put on painting gloves, check palette for paint, check solvent container and start painting.

Q. Do you have any superstitions when it comes to your artwork/creative process?

A.  Not that I can think of.

Q. Were you met with resistance from your family when you first decided to paint full-time?

A. No, but, it was a bit of a hurdle to get them to see it as a job instead of a hobby. One thing that helped was changing how I referred to my work. Instead of saying, “I’m going to go paint” or “to teach,” I switched to, “I’m going to work at my job.” For whatever reason painting or teaching an art class sounds a lot more optional in our culture, but, going to work does not.

Q. As an artist, do you feel at times that it’s hard to calm your mind? Being a realist-painter, the world is your inspiration; how do you determine when to brainstorm a painting and when to rest your mind?

A. Yes, like most small business owners, I work beyond forty hours a week.

Being open to inspiration has never been something I’ve been able to turn off. Many of my best ideas have come out of moments when I’m just living my life. Often, I’ll see something and think, “that might be an idea for a painting,” so I’ll snap a pic to look at later, cropping it, playing with the color, seeing if there’s anything there to explore. 

When I’m at a museum or gallery, I’ll find new ideas or see a method of working that I hadn’t considered. For example, last year in was in NYC at a gallery looking at some abstract work. While that particular body of work didn’t hold my attention, I did find the artists application of paint very interesting and thought I should play around with it in my studio. I think to be truly creative, it’s important to be open to a wide range of artwork even if it’s not work I particularly like. 

Q. Do you listen to music while painting? If so, what do you typically listen to?

A. My studio playlist often includes The Black Keys, ZZ Ward, Hozier, Dorothy, Bishop Briggs, Down Like Silver, Tyler Childers, Scott H. Biram.

My plein air playlist needs to be more upbeat and includes everything from rap to metal to pop – everything except k-pop, opera and reggae. 

Click Here to view From Above Catalogue

From Above: Basham & VanDerHoek will be on display in its entirety until Monday, October 12th! The unsold works will remain in the gallery so you can always contact us if you see a work you’re interested in. High-resolution and framed images can be provided upon request. Please email info@principlegallery.com with any inquiries and visit our website here to view our inventory.

Upcoming Exhibition Schedule
Click here to join our email list and get the latest Principle Gallery news!
Principle Gallery . 208 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 . 703-739-9326 . info@principlegallery.com