Tell us about your background.
I grew up outside of Baltimore City, mostly in Catonsville. I went to church schools when I was a kid (due to my mom’s former occupation as a nun) and then Catonsville High School. My high school art teacher, Maralyn Feit, was instrumental in my pursuing art in my upper education. She later became a colleague when I taught high school in Baltimore County. I earned my BFA from The Maryland Institute College of Art and Maryland K-12 art teaching certification from Towson University. I taught high school art for five years before making the jump to try to make art my career. Although teaching is a great goal for some, it would have been a cop out for me, as my real goal has always been to be an artist myself.
I paint portraits because I like to meet people. I get to interact with people I may never have a connection with otherwise. My subject matter is endless.
How do you go about choosing your subjects? Do you look for a particular quality or characteristic? Does anyone ever request that you do their portrait?
I seek out interesting looks and people who do things in life that I’m impressed by. Sometimes I choose my subjects in direct correlation to the space where I will be exhibiting. When I was asked to show portraits for a Baltimore City Paper event I drew a dozen CP staffers. I only knew one or two of them previously, and now I have a great connection with our free alternative weekly.
People ask me to paint them all the time. Through the grapevine, I’ve heard of friends being offended that I haven’t included them in my project yet, but as my project has picked up pace I just can’t fit everyone in. I really need to be strategic about who I paint.
Tell us about some of your newest endeavors.
Through the holidays I have a ton of commissions to complete. That aside, I collected new material at my residency at the Vermont Studio Center this fall that I can’t wait to dig in to. I photographed and shot video interviews with over 30 artists in residence and I’ll be turning many of these references into future paintings. The video aspect is new. I’m not sure yet how I will be incorporating this facet into my work, but it’ll probably begin to play a roll on my blog, www.fitzbomb.com. I am really interested in exploring the idea of “fame,” and if my subjects desire some type of fame in their own lives.
Other than that, I’m working on applying to other residency programs and getting ready to take my portrait project to NYC.
Describe your process.
How I begin a portrait depends on if I’m working for a client or if I’m making paintings for myself. If I’m working with a client, we discus painting size and format, and sometimes they want me to tell them about myself and my experiences. I then find a place in the setting with directed natural light and shoot many photographs until we have material that we are both happy with. I explain to them what types of photographs will translate best into a painting.
When I’m shooting a subject for myself, I start with an interview. I write some of the questions ahead of time and then some as we go. I ask questions ranging from “Do you want to be famous?” to “What is your end creative goal?” to “Who is your celebrity crush? or "What are your guilty pleasures?” I shoot video of the interview so that I have a record for future reference. After the interview, I shoot the subject in natural light. We often talk through the photo shoot so I can capture my subject when he or she isn’t trying to pose or posture.
I paint in oil on birch panels that I have gessoed and primed with a shade of red (ranging from a maroon to a hot orange). The primed surface sometimes peeks through and adds to the mood of the painting. I think about making the formal elements of painting as much as creating a likeness to my subject. That is, I make decisions regarding how I use shape, color, line and brushstroke to make my pieces successful as paintings regardless of the subject matter. I think if one is just going to copy a photograph, one might as well just stick with the photograph and move on.
Lastly, I also use my blog as a huge part of my art. Since much of the content is based on my life and those of my subjects out in the world (through interviews, candid, and party photography), viewers are able to see more about my subject than just what I offer through a finished painting.
What motivates you to make art?
I’m motivated to make art because that’s all that I want. I don’t want to settle for being mediocre. I can spend 12 hours working in my studio every day and be happy as hell. I don’t like to sit around or sleep too much. That gives me anxiety. If anything, I prefer to be doing at least two things at once. I’m impressed by ambitious and motivated people. I want to be impressive.
Share with us one little quirky tidbit about you that most people don’t know.
I once had a car break down while on a road trip in the south and ended up living in a motel room in Mississippi for a month.
I recently played a cocktail waitress in a film made by Baltimore Raven, Terrell Suggs.
I’m a huge Elvis fan and have been to Graceland twice.
A few years ago I bought a 30 day Greyhound bus pass and travelled around the country, from Baltimore to New Orleans, across the southern boarder of the US and up the west coast to Portland. I had never even been on a Greyhound before.
Anything else: upcoming shows, publications, online shops that carry your work?
In 2011 I was featured in Baltimore Magazine, UK based 7even Shades of Black, BmoreMedia, The Free Agency, The Arlington Examiner, and Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Exhibit by the Maryland State Arts Council.
As far as exhibits go, I pinky swore with my new mentor that I would never again show in a bar, coffee shop, restaurant, etc, so I’m holding out for professional art spaces from here on out. I’ve been talking with new friends from my residency program about coordinating a Baltimore/San Francisco travelling exhibit, Left Coast Right Coast for late 2012 or early 2013.
I have a limited number of paintings and prints for sale on Saatchi, but I prefer interested parties to contact me directly at email@example.com. I’m currently booked through early spring, but I’m taking deposits now to reserve spots for late spring, early summer, and early fall of 2012. My site, www.fitzbomb.com, is the source for everything I do.
I’m really excited about the new year. I’m applying for many new opportunities from The National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, to New American Paintings, the Skowhegan Residency, and the Baker Artist Awards. I’m looking forward to finding new opportunities and meeting tons of new people.
All images courtesy of Erin Fitzpatrick.