“Why do you create art?” This is a question many artists have been asked more than once. For artist-teacher Linda Prentiss the answer is quite simple:
What medium(s) do you favor?
I mostly use 2-D mediums including drawing, painting in oils, acrylic, and watercolor. I would say I am best at drawing. I use any drawing medium, including pencil (always available) pen and ink, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, and marker. I also take photographs and make collages.
I am an accomplished calligrapher and I make one-of-a-kind artist’s books. Printmaking is a real passion for me, and I work in its many forms: intaglio, monotype, woodcut, linocut, and screenprinting. My favorite printmaking techniques are monotype and intaglio, including traditional etching, solarplate techniques, and drypoint. They are aligned with drawing. I studied intensely during two years of graduate school to perfect these techniques so I could teach them.
From the many mediums you work in, which do you like the best?
It is difficult to say what I like best or what I am best at. I go through phases, where I concentrate on one medium or another. But I always draw, almost every day. For the past 20 years I’ve been a digital artist too. I went back to school to learn to use the computer as a medium to make art. I teach digital art as well as drawing, painting, and printmaking. Often, I combine media.
How did you get interested in art?
I have been interested in art as far back as I can remember. Before I could write I was making things, painting, collaging from the Sears catalog with homemade wheat paste, using my mother’s nursing scissors – which she supervised. She provided me and my sisters and brother with as much art materials as we wanted and let us make a mess! She often worked along with us, making holiday decorations.
All my siblings are artists of some type. I grew up in Westhampton Beach, where we had a wonderful outdoor art show in the 1960s, and a neighborhood that had several artists, two of them well-known. This influenced my choice of career, as I could see you could make a living at it, especially at teaching it.
Do you have a specific technique for creating art?
With so many different media that I use, it depends. It is bound to the medium. In oil painting, it is “a la prima”. Printmaking is very technical, and each process is different. With digital art, I start with drawing and painting, or photographing, then change it using Photoshop or Illustrator.
Any particular set of steps you follow as a rule when you’re creating a piece?
I like to be influenced by my surroundings. I prefer to draw or paint from life, but I also work from sketches, from memory, and from photographs. I prefer spontaneity. I like to go out to sketch without a preconceived idea and let myself be captivated by what is going on around me in the moment. I have favorite objects that I draw repeatedly. Or I could go into my imagination. That’s always a good place to start!
Do you have a favorite subject? Why is it your favorite?
I like trees and landscape. Also, the human figure and face. I can’t say why I like these things. I think it is because making a work of art from things surrounding me is a challenge. I think it is an experiment every time. There are favorite objects that I’ve drawn and painted again and again. A couple of them are pitchers.
Has your art changed over time?
Certainly, it has changed! And I hope it will continue to change. There is growth in change. It gets better as I get older and more experienced. Every work of art is a step toward more accomplished work.
What do you feel is integral to the work of an artist?
Passion for what you do. Integrity is very important. It means being honest with yourself and others so your artwork is genuine.
What is your background? Do you have formal art training or are you self-taught.
I have a lot of formal training, but in the end, I think there must be self-teaching to get really good at anything. I took 4 years of high school art, where I learned drawing techniques and watercolor painting, as well as commercial art and calligraphy. I majored in art and art history as an undergraduate at Stony Brook University. I studied printmaking for my MFA degree. I also took some private lessons along the way. When I think there is a teacher or a technique that I want to work with, I will find an expert to learn from.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about your art?
You learn by doing.
And what advice could you give a beginning artist?
Don’t be discouraged by people who say you can’t make a living at it. You can.
Any final word as an artist?
The illustrator Milton Glaser said, “Art is WORK.” I think most people don’t realize that. Yet, the most important part is making the art and striving for a certain high quality in the finished art.
I’ve always considered myself a serious professional teaching artist. I work every day. I do a lot of “exercises” – drawings, mostly. To me, the ideal day is about an hour of drawing and about 5 or 6 hours of painting or printmaking.
I teach both technical skills and the elements and principles of art. I also teach art history. All of it is one thing, as far as I can understand. It all has an underlying principle that goes way back in art history. So, whether I’m painting plein air oils, or working on a computer, or making original prints on an etching press, it’s all the same dance. It is an interaction that considers my mind and the medium. It is often an unconscious dance.