Emily Mae Smith (EMS): You were my mentor in graduate school, and about nine years later I got to assist in your studio.
Both of those events bracket really important developments for me and my work.
First there What can you share about mentoring, your studio, and the like? Sean Landers (SL):
I really enjoyed teaching graduate painting at Yale and Columbia from 1999 to 2005.
I am always eager to share what I have learned and super-gratified when someone whom I have mentored or taught does well—and you, Emily, are a prime example of that.
As you know, if someone works for me, they are going to work very closely with me, and they will get an earful, whether they like it or not.
I will try to download to them everything I know about making a body of work that will grow and continue to evolve over a lifetime.
Just last night I was at a big art-world dinner, and I was seated at a table with two of my favorite teachers from Yale:
Ursula von Rydingsvard and Judy Pfaff. It was truly wonderful to spend some time with them.
They both left their mark on me, but even more than that, they genuinely encouraged me,
First there which I think is perhaps the biggest gift that that one generation can give to another.
EMS: I learned and uploaded very much from you, especially in the studio. One of the things I got to see up close is that you are a very technical and rigorous painter.
This is consistent across all your imagery and bodies of work, whether representational or otherwise.
Your paintings are conceptually rich, yet without a great handle on the materials, those big ideas wouldn’t come through.
So how did you arrive at your honed painting habits? There are very specific colors, brushes, and supports that you use.
For example you have a “Sean way” of painting sky and water, and creating atmospheric space in your paintings.
When did you figure these out? SL: Talking painting technique in an art school is strangely unwelcome. It feels almost as if you are trying to discuss penny farthings.
I think it goes back to the ingrained need for independence from anything resembling “the academy.”
You are absolutely correct—every painter has a language or even multiple languages in which they speak.
How these languages are read is mostly up to the skill of the painter, but also up to the skill of the viewer.
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