Artist Interview - Peter Bucks

We sat down with Peter Bucks for our second Artist Interview (well, we wish we sat down with him... we corresponded with him electronically) and we can't wait to share his story and artistic insight with you!

Every artist has their own unique background, style, experiences, techniques and perspective. We can all learn from each other, be inspired by one another, and continue to share the joy of art.

Here's what Peter had to say:

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Peter Bucks, not to be confused with pop culture music's REM Peter Buck, in which I will always be shadowed by when I'm searched in Google. My dad is a German immigrant that was trained by the German Impressionist painter Heinrich Deege, pronounced (Dey-ga) from Germany's middle to west area of Neustadt am weinStrasse. I began to draw as a very young boy and since have always been fascinated with being able to create the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional plane. My dad started teaching me fundamentals of perspective at a young age, however he did not push me or school me constantly in art lessons. Most of what I learned was just by observing life around me and transferring it to a surface without training at all. After High School I attended Art School and was instructed in figure drawing by Atelier master painter Bruno Surdo. I did not know it at the time but I was fortunate to have been trained in the atelier manner of drawing and painting, working with plaster casts and live models in the medium of charcoal and later in oil paint. At the same time I was being trained in the art of illustration, and two instructors that I remember influencing me the most were Kurt Mitchell, and Tom Gianni.  I trained this way for four years, and then ventured out to work as a professional artist. Presently I work on a freelance basis taking commissions or illustrating for various companies.

Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I feel it's like a life long vocation to create. I can't explain the feeling and need I have to create pictures and images of what I see and how I see it. When I'm not literally drawing or painting, I am constantly looking at life as if it were a painting. In other words as I experience life I'm drawing it or painting it in my mind. I see composition and the beauty of light in everything around me.

Watercolor Barn

How has your practice changed over time?
Over the years my practice hasn't changed too much, because I follow simple rules of drawing and painting. By practicing these rules I just become more proficient and better at my craft. The key to the skills is having good models, references, and landscapes to work from. 

What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?
My favorite piece of art that I have created is a watercolor on paper that I painted in 1989. I favor this piece of art because it was something that I painted prior to having any training in art whatsoever. I feel it was truly a raw talent approach to a still life painting. I basically just set up some old transmission gears and tools with a bandana on a back wall where there were some exposed heating or plumbing pipes. I then illuminated it with a light bulb, and just painted my interpretation of what I viewed.

Peter's Favorite Painting

What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of art advice I have been given, --hmmm. Well, I have been given a lot of advice over the years. Sometimes it's hard to differentiate advice from practical draftsmanship rules, but rules in art are definitely made to be broken. I would have to say the advice I was given that I think was the best, is very simple: "Drawing and painting are one in the same, no matter the medium being used. Keep in mind to draw and paint from what you see in nature or your natural environment." So whether it's a live model, a still life, a landscape, or even an abstract, use nature to guide you. The medium doesn't matter, the medium just dictates the way it will be represented.

Model - Watercolor

What’s one art tip/technique you can share with us that you find really helpful?
I think the best tip or technique I might be able to give is this: in the beginning keep composition in mind when drawing or painting.

A strong composition will always anchor a great piece of art. Within the composition of the picture there are other things that strengthen the composition like color, line work, darks, lights, mid tones, and half tones.  Being able to make sure you separate your darks, lights, and mid tones as simply as possible is important, as well as establishing those tones as accurately as possible.

I use a sight size method and I always keep negative space in mind. After all of these elements have been established I then locate the half tones in my model or subject matter. Half tones are where all the nuances of life and realism within the subject are located. Study those areas in the natural light settings of your project the most. The half tones make it come to life.

In oils I work dark to light and in watercolors I work light to dark. I constantly step back from the painting to evaluate it, and I squint my eyes to simplify it. To get a fresh look or evaluate a painting I'm working on, I face the artwork in a mirror to see it backwards or sometimes I photograph it in progress. These methods help me critique the areas I need to work on.

Old Cars in Watercolor

Do you have any secret tips or techniques you use to salvage a piece when you make a mistake?
I get kick out this question,-- Do I have any secret tips or techniques I use to salvage a piece of art when I make a mistake? I really like this question, because I do have a secret tip. Here it is:

As Artists we all make mistakes or have screwed something up. If the mistake is small then usually an easy fix is to rework the area, depending upon the medium of course. In oil anything is fixable, and the same goes for acrylics, and pastels. Erasers were created for graphite, so that's a no brainier. Watercolor and ink mediums however are the two mediums that are certainly unforgiving. If something small is goofed up in that medium then one of two things may happen. Either white it out and re-do it, or the area in mistake will need to now become a shadow if possible. However, most of the time this does not work.

Now for my secret tip. I screwed up a painting two weeks ago, a watercolor. Half way through the painting I was not happy at all, and this is what I do:  I don't recommend this unless you are proficient and confident. I rip it up!! Throw it out, and start all over again. I have been doing this since I was young, and it has definitely made me a much better painter. Why not? Right? Paint it twice. Or three times till you get it right. Albert Einstein did not become a great mathematician without making mistakes. In fact it's the mistakes that you learn from to be a better anything in life. Same goes for artwork. Forgive yourself- like its water under a bridge. Swallow your pride and do it over. Chances are, round two will be a better painting.

Watercolor WIP

What art materials could you not live without?
It's hard to say what materials I could not live without. I would say all of it, but I would miss quality paper the most. I would use mud and blood if nothing else was available, and my fingers as brushes. But what to put it on would be questionable. Stone tablets seem to be long out dated, So yes, paper. There is nothing in the world like a fresh piece of paper for whatever it is I'm doing. I even like the smell of it.

What is your favorite Strathmore Paper?
500 Series Gemini Cold Press, 300lb. (638gsm)

See more of Peter's work on his website:

Peter Bucks Portrait

Peter Bucks Frog

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