This is the first in a series of interviews with artists participating in the Outwin Boocheever Portrait Competition. The third OBPC opens on March 23, 2013 and will run through February 23, 2014. It will feature the works of forty-eight artists in many forms of media.
Q: What is your name, where are you from, where do you live now?
A: My name is Bly Pope, and I was born in Ojai, California in 1980. At the time of the submission of my piece, I lived in New Richmond, Wisconsin, but have just recently moved to St. Paul with my twin brother, Rowan.
Q: What medium(s) do you work with?
A: I work primarily in pencil and oil. I enjoy pencil especially because it is a very simple, pure, elemental medium and presents a raw, direct view of the artist’s mind. It is often seen as a medium for process sketches or drafts, but I see it as a medium that can create incomparably beautiful finished pieces.
Q: Tell us about your technique/creative process.
A: I usually work from photographs, taking many photos of models before choosing the right image to draw or paint from. When I find the right photo, I spend up to 800 hours painstakingly recreating it in pencil on paper or oil on canvas. I often use the grid method to translate a photograph.
Q: What is your background (education, career, etc.) and how does it contribute to your art?
A: I graduated from Stanford University with my bachelor of arts degree and received my master of fine arts degree from the University of Minnesota. My work has been shown and awarded in numerous exhibitions, and has been purchased by the Fine Arts Museum of Armenia.
I am an experienced studio artist with a continuing interest in photorealism and traditional fine arts, and I have taught for a number of years at the university and high school levels.
I come from a family of artists—my brother, Rowan, is a studio artist and teacher; my mother, Freya Manfred, is a poet; my father, Thomas Pope, is a screenwriter and teacher; and my grandfather, Frederick Manfred, was an acclaimed novelist—and it is this background that has deeply influenced my life and career choice.
Q: How did you learn about the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition?
A: I learned about the Outwin Boochever Competition by searching online for fellow portrait artists.
Q: Tell us about the piece you submitted to the competition.
A: I submitted my pencil drawing Maryanna, which is a portrait of my grandmother when she was ninety years old, made a year before she passed away. In the piece, I try to reveal beauty in an unconventional way and her grace and defiance in the face of mortality.
Q: Tell us about your larger body of work.
A: My larger body of work involves a series of portraits and natural phenomena—it explores the human condition; the beauty of the ordinary; and human beings’ relationship to the natural world, life, and death.
My work also is linked to the major imperatives and considerations of photorealism: the dialogue between photography and painting; the nature of illusion, perception, and reality; the frailty of the act of expression itself; the reinstatement of “preciousness” to the art object; authorship and appropriation; human will and craft; and the celebration of the mundane and everyday.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m planning a large pencil portrait of my twin brother and also a portrait of my father.
Q: How has your work changed over time?
A: Over time, my work has evolved from an idealistic, supernatural, surreal view of the world and universe, with loose expressionistic strokes and lines, to a more tight, precisionistic, and detailed approach, dealing with more realistic themes and attempting to describe the world as it is.
Q: Tell us about a seminal experience you’ve had as an artist.
A: One of the seminal experiences I’ve had as an artist is the creation of my drawing Patch of Earth (above). I worked for more than ten months straight to create a 1,400-hour pencil drawing of dried leaves on the ground.
Q: Who is your favorite artist?
A: A few of my favorite artists are Rembrandt van Rijn, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Chuck Close, Lucian Freud, and Kathe Kollwitz.
Q: If you could work with any artist (past or present) who would it be?
A: I would love to work with Rembrandt to learn his masterful, expressive techniques with oil paint.
Q: What is your favorite artwork?
A: One of my favorite pieces is Kathe Kollwitz’s Woman with Dead Child, a powerful 1903 etching of a mother holding her dead son.
Q: What inspires you?
Many things inspire me—ideas, dreams, people, nature, music, the world around me, and the small moments of life. Inspiration for my portraits comes from specific people I meet and grow to know and love.
Interview by Elizabeth Stein, Intern for Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.