OUR STUDIO VISIT WITH ARTIST GREG OSTERHAUS
The Blue Ridge mountains surrounding Greg Osterhaus’s home studio in Roanoke, VA were alive with color on the bright October morning we visited. Greg welcomed us into what he described as his “messy” studio to chat about his art & creative process. We had so many questions, but first we were greeted by his playful beloved dogs, took a quick peek at his stacks of music, and learned a little about his side gig of making pottery that he refers to as his “golf game”. We loved Greg’s casual vibe that fit perfectly with what one might imagine life to be in a small town surrounded by mountains. He was a relaxed conversationalist, insightful, open – his passion for painting, his family and his private space was immediately evident.
Greg started our visit by explaining that he preps his canvases with a wash of color, often with the garage doors open while listening to a variety of great music (we are dubbing him an 80's guy!) he also has a personal collection of artifacts around his kids, friends & pets that make up years of stories. With pups on our heels, Greg led us into his main studio - an intimate space with two primary parts, a single easel & a large well organized work table that holds all of his paints & tools. He described with a chuckle, the early years when his kids were small and he painted in the family's dining room with a doggie gate to keep little hands out of his work. He says of his current studio, "I feel like I’m in heaven now, all I really need is space, it doesn’t need to be attractive space, I just need space.". As a full time painter, Greg says he is "brush in hand" 4-5 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. "There are some days I can’t summon the energy to paint, so I’ll take a few days and do my pottery instead to get outdoors and out of the studio. It can be very isolating to be an artist, I'm mindful of that."
We were immediately drawn to the colorful palette of wet oil paints on Greg's work surface, a work of art in itself that begged all sorts of questions about color, something he is well known for. He said simply, "I love color" and referenced great colorists that he admires like Wolf Kahn, Larry Horowitz, and Mark Rothko. Of his own relationship with color he says, "It’s been one of trial and error. After over 35 years of experimenting with it day after day, one builds up a certain vocabulary of color. I'm not a formula painter, I reinvent the wheel every time – until I arrive at something I'm content with.".
Our conversation about color was lively and led to a fascinating sub topic about "decision-making". Greg recalled a time many years ago watching American Idol and how the judges would critique artists based on decisions they made interpreting a song. That resonated with him. "I realized, I'm making a lot of decisions that have to come together well in my paintings, and that there is a lot of effort in that." Pointing to the painting on the easel, he said, "When you think about how many brush strokes there are in a painting, say 3,000 and the 1,000 different colors that I mixed, how hard I held the brush, how far I dragged it, what motion I used, how much medium to use - thousands of decisions go into each painting.".
As we got our heads around all that and began to wrap up our time with Greg, we had one last question that needed to be asked, "Do you ever get tired of painting cows?" Without hesitation he said, "I don't. It's not about the cow, it's a color study. The easy part is coming up with a likeness to something, such as a cow. What’s hard to do, is to make it interesting in terms of color, the hard and soft edges, the juxtaposition of lights and darks, the framing of it . . . again, it's a myriad of thousands of decisions and variables an artist makes that eventually & naturally take on a life of their own.".
Then he added what may be the most poignant comment of the day: "I love cows, I absolutely love them. I love animals, I always have, they are soft, they are calming. Ultimately though, they are a vehicle that gets me into my studio working with paint, and doing what I like to do, which is to create something out of nothing".
We could have chatted with Greg a lot longer, as we only scratched the surface of his artistic life . . . but are ever grateful to him for opening his studio & sharing his vast experience with us. We look forward to continuing the conversation on Thursday, November 14th 6pm-8pm at PALETTE HOME Join us! Meet Greg and enjoy the new paintings he has created exclusively for his Richmond show.
FOR THE LOVE OF ART