Seven artists won scholarships to attend the 2nd Annual Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE) last fall. One of the recipients was Derek Spieker (b. 1994), an artist who is based in San Francisco, California, and is a student and assistant at Sadie Valeri Atelier. Learn more about the artist in this exclusive Q&A.
Cherie Dawn Haas: How and why did you first begin your artistic path?
Derek Spieker: I knew I wanted to do something creative for a career, but I didn’t know what specifically. I’d always enjoyed drawing, but it wasn’t something I pursued very seriously until I was 20 or so. By that point I had made up my mind that if I was going to do something involving visual art, be it animation, illustration, etc. I had to learn to draw properly first, by studying the fundamentals. I found the Classical Program at the Sadie Valeri Atelier, and it was exactly what I was looking for. The more I began to study, the more I became attracted to the idea of figurative art as a pursuit in itself. Since then I’ve set my goal to be a figurative painter.
CDH: Was there a specific medium or subject that drew you in?
DS: What initially attracted me was seeing the instructor and student artwork being produced at the atelier, in particular the cast and figure drawings. I’d never seen drawings made that were so realistic. I knew that I had to study until I could achieve that level of fidelity to nature myself.
CDH: How has your art changed over time?
DS: I’ve learned to draw more from observation with an eye towards accuracy. I’d had difficulty when trying to work from life in the past; it was too intimidating and I had no idea what I was doing wrong or how to fix it. With practice, I’ve become more confident with jumping in and problem solving as I work.
CDH: What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
DS: Like many other artists I’ve struggled with self-doubt. Social media makes it very easy to compare oneself with others. I’ve come to realize that everyone has a different experience and I just have to do the best to be gracious for the opportunities that I’ve been presented with.
CDH: Where do you see yourself a year from now?
DS: In a year’s time I’ll still be studying. By that point I hope to be practicing figure painting. While I don’t expect to be anywhere near finished with my artistic training, at least I’ll be moving closer to my goal of producing more finished work and being a more skilled artist in general.
CDH: What advice do you have for someone younger than you?
DS: My advice to artists who want to learn to draw and paint realistically is to focus on the fundamentals and work from life as much as possible. Also, there are other options to learn artistic techniques than from an expensive university art program or art school. Finally, don’t think that because someone started earlier than you it means that it’s too late for you to start.
CDH: How did you originally hear about FACE?
DS: I originally heard about FACE from my teacher, Sadie Valeri.
CDH: What surprised you at the event? What was different from what you expected?
DS: This being my first time attending an art convention I hadn’t expected such a feeling of camaraderie among the artists and attendees. There was so much positivity everywhere you went. It was refreshing to see so many people devoted to a common goal of celebrating figurative art and striving to improve their own work.
CDH: What’s the most important thing you learned or experienced at FACE?
DS: I’d say that the most important thing was learning about the variety of career paths of all the presenting artists. From studying abroad at ateliers, to apprenticeships with master painters, and attending art schools, there are many ways to the same goal.
CDH: Anything else you’d like to add?
DS: It was such a pleasure to meet so many of the artists I admire in person, as well as being introduced to the work of new artists. Meeting and making new connections with fellow artists was a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing their work in the future.
Stay tuned for future announcements about the 2019 Figurative Art Convention & Expo scholarship, workshops, and faculty. Click here to learn more about FACE, which takes place November 10–13, 2019, in Williamsburg, Virginia!