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Interview with Dennis Young

“It is inherently satisfying to reproduce on paper or canvas a likeness of a human soul that engages the emotion and the concerto of effects and highlights of the human form”

Dennis Young is a self-taught artist located in New Castle, Delaware. He worked in healthcare for many years but now he is a full-time artist. Around twelve years ago, he decided to paint again and remembered how much he enjoyed doing this. Figurative art that captures moments—cityscapes, facial expressions, experiences, landscapes— became his new passion.

Recently, Young opened his own gallery where he exhibits his beautiful oil and pastel paintings. He specializes in plein air art and has earned many awards in this field. During winter, he takes refuge in his studio and works on portraits and human figures.

Dennis Young’s business card featuring painting
 of model Jenni (image shared by artist)

In this Q&A painter Dennis Young shares with PoseSpace how he became a doctor and an artist, his regrets and satisfactions, advice for students or artists interested in plein air painting, and more:

When did you first know you wanted to become an artist?

At the end of my last semester in Pre-Med in college I opted for a studio drawing elective where I drew assignments in charcoal on newsprint. My instructor set me aside from the rest of the class to work independently. I also drew faces from photos and that really pleased me. But I had intended to become a doctor since ninth grade and art did not figure into that. During the first two summers at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, I went out into the countryside in Wilmington and painted landscapes that would take me weeks to complete. I had never heard of “plein air painting” and I had no instruction. I still loved to paint faces and did so back at home. When I started a private practice in psychiatry and started a family with my wife, Teresa, I put away the paints for the next 30 years and didn’t think about them. Now that’s a HUGE regret. I stumbled upon a notice in the local paper for an introductory watercolor class and tried it. Then it all came back to me. For about the last dozen years or so I have been trying to make up for that lost time and think about how much farther along I would be in my artwork if I had just peeked out an hour a week back then to paint and draw.

Why figurative art?

I am drawn to paint the human figure and especially the face and the eyes. It is inherently satisfying to reproduce on paper or canvas a likeness of a human soul that engages the emotion and the concerto of effects and highlights of the human form… the light and shadows, the warmth and coolness, the form and subtleties. Sort of Pygmalion-like, I look forward in the mornings to visiting the easel and gazing (critically) upon the developing form on the easel where only days before there were only a few unintelligible paint marks on the canvas.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work? How do you decide when to work in your studio and when to work outside?

I especially enjoy painting outside and being engaged as part of that subject. I like to paint where people are and to interact with the curious. I have even dressed in pirate costume and painted Delaware’s tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel. The difference between painting inside and outside is analogous to listening to a concert on the stereo and being at a live performance. I do not paint outside in the winter months and my studio is my favored activity where I paint from photos in travel and also my portraits and figures from live models but especially from the PoseSpace site. That is a joy that justifies winters for me.

I begin the painting of the form directly with lightly sketching in thinned oils and then block in colors and focusing on getting my facial proportions right. I establish highlights and put a lot of focus on the eyes. I suppose my 40 years of office consultations where I would listen and look directly into the eyes and facial expressions of people have influenced my gravitation to perceptions of facial nuances.

(images shared by artist)

Do you have a favorite PoseSpace.com model?

I have several PoseSpace models I gravitate to but the one I have painted the most is Jenni. She has brought me awards and she graces my business card. She garners the most comments in my newly opened gallery, Mo’zArt. That’s the gallery I have opened in Old New Castle, DE after having retired from medicine.

Do you have any shows or activities on the horizon that you’d like to tell our readers about?

I have participated in quite a few competitions and shows in the past ten years and I will be in more this year but the highlight of my artistic ambitions has been to open my own gallery a year ago in the center of the charming historic town of New Castle, Delaware. I exclusively hang my own work. Though I am not making a profit from sales I am having a blast. I host Fourth Friday Art Loops there where residents and tourist come and enjoy the art, good conversation, wine and live (in warm months) music. My current show for February and March is exclusively the form and portrait, “Clothing Optional”.

What advice would you give to young artists regarding plein air painting?

I would advise someone new to plein air painting to make every opportunity to go out and paint, even if in solitary circumstances. One reason is to soak up the experience of being out in the aforementioned live “concert”. Another is to attempt to see nature as the instructor who will show color in shadows or who will give a critique about painting what you SEE rather than what you KNOW. This is an opportunity to get your mistakes out of the way and to feel good about some beauty you’ve created been if you hadn’t planned it. You will surprise yourself one day with some real gem you’ve painted and that will come with practice.

What’s been your greatest artistic success?

I am still awaiting my greatest artistic success which may forever elude me. That would be winning a significant award in a major plein air competition. Otherwise my cherished successes has been the satisfaction of seeing the emotional reaction in people to whom I have delivered a commissioned painting. Even when I wasn’t so satisfied with the painting myself!

Dennis Young’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dyoungarts

Website: www.dennisyoungarts.com

Interview by Andrea Miliani

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