Reflections and Refractions – Interview with Lucretia Torva
Lucretia Torva has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from the University of Illinois. She currently resides in the Phoenix area. Torva has taught both studio and lecture college classes in her career. As she states on her profile page, “vintage automobiles and motorcycles, as a subject, are a natural outgrowth of [my] desire to depict reflections and refractions of all types of surfaces”. Her career includes many exhibitions and honors. Selected collections include Jay Leno, Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace), University of Illinois, University of Virginia Hospital, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and many more.
We got in touch with Lucretia to find out what she is working on, how she creates those realistic reflections, and her thoughts on preparing for college art classes.
AA. What are you currently working on?
L.T. I am working on several things: 1, I need to keep my income going, which I do with murals and other commissions. The project for this weekend is some lettering on a local business. 2, I continue to explore image-making with my paintings. I have recently done several pieces based on water, the blue/turquoise water in a swimming pool. The reflections/refractions are beautiful and the way water distorts objects can be very compelling….just like on the shiny surface of a car! (See attached). 3. I like to incorporate car subjects into more fanciful situations. This recent mural has a Cord turned into a rocket…combining old with new! I collaborated with another artist, Carlos Rivas.
AA. You really know how to capture shiny surfaces, especially chrome. What is the secret to creating the realistic look?
L.T. The basic principle is that a reflective surface shows the environment it is in. Additionally, that surface distorts that image according to it’s shape. As far as the actual painting, it is important to paint the reflected image with a lot of crispness. The shinier the surface, the more crisp the reflective image is.
AA. In your video, “Oil Colors”, you said you often work on a black background. What are the advantages of using a black background?
L.T. I really like to have strong light/dark contrast…having my darks as dark as possible. The dark base coat seems to help with that. I mostly paint with one coat, not a lot of layers, so, the background can have a strong effect on the end product. Also, with a dark background, if some of the canvas shows, then it is dark instead of white. When I first saw the art of Caravaggio in a college art history class, I was excited by his use of light and dark.
A.A. Would you ever use a white background? If so, on what, and what would be the deciding factors?
L.T. Yes, absolutely, and more recently I have with several paintings. The key deciding factor is color. If the predominant color of the composition is light/bright, then white needs to be a the background. A good example is a painting I did of part of the hood of a 56 Chevy. It was orange. I wanted it to be very bright plus orange is a paint color that is fairly transparent. White needed to be the background!
A.A. Do you have a favorite brush or brush brand?
L.T. I don’t have a favorite brand. I seem to favor angled and filberts…except for fine detail that needs a small round brush. I don’t use typical oil brushes that are bristle, they are too stiff and coarse. I mix my paint to be somewhat liquid, though not runny. I use mostly softer synthetic brushes. They have to have some stiffness. They can’t be as floppy as a watercolor brush.
A.A. Do you prefer a certain paint brand?
L.T. There seems to be a lot of Winsor & Newton Winton on my work table. Probably because it comes in large tubes! I buy more for color than brand, yet I do avoid the cheapest brands. There’s too much filler in them. I always mix some medium with my paint, too.
A.A. You were a vendor at Barrett-Jackson two years ago. What was that like, and what impact did it have on your business?
L.T. I was a vendor and I was surprised that I got no business from the effort. Perhaps because it was my first year and people need to see someone several times…I don’t know! It was a lot of effort for no results!
A.A. You’ve also taught college classes in art history and art appreciation, including studio classes in drawing and painting. What skills do potential art students need to prepare for their college path?
L.T. Oh boy…many people/artists feel that it is possible to not go to school…or not have much/any formal training. The fact that a few artists are able to do this seems to substantiate the idea. I have found that years of practice really helped my use of perspective, space and just handling form. Years of basic study also assist in being able to create complex compositions. Keep in mind that Picasso was an excellent draughtsman at an early age. The artist that is highly skilled and knowledgeable can then pick and chose what they use and how they manipulate the visual elements and principles of design. I am not sure that a college degree is necessary, yet some kind of disciplined and organized study is highly recommended…perhaps courses at a community college or local art center. A broad knowledge of the history of art is very useful, a great way to learn about ideas that an artist can use in their own work. It is also important for an artist to see great works of art IN PERSON, not just online or in books. A Van Gogh in person is amazing, not just good.
A.A. In October, you were at Artlink’s 17th Annual Juried Exhibition. How many exhibitions/shows do you try to attend each year?
L.T. The Artlink is a good show, with respectable and knowledgeable jurors, which is why I like to enter it. Not only did two of my pieces get accepted (one car and one water subject), one of them won 2nd place (the water image). It isn’t a matter of how many. The important issue is how the show fits with what I do. Opportunities come across my path regularly and it takes effort/time/money to enter/apply for shows, residencies, public art and grants. It needs to make sense. One of my car paintings was accepted into this show http://phila-wca.blogspot.com/ …going on right now. This opportunity seemed to make sense.
A.A. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
L.T. I won the Betty Crocker Award my senior year in high school. It was not because I excelled in Home Ec. classes, I didn’t take any. The winner was chosen with a LONG multiple choice test sponsored by Betty Crocker. It not only covered the expected subjects of cooking, sewing and care of clothes, it included measurements of all kinds, some gardening, personal hygiene and grooming, health and some home repairs.
We would like to thank Lucretia for taking the time to do the interview. She told us that she is beginning a new project, teaching Art Appreciation through a local gallery. You can see more of her work at her website. She has also published several articles on creativity.