Luke Tucker is an oil painter based out of the Columbia River Gorge. Through his moody and often muted landscapes, he explores his Pacific Northwest home, using memories and photographs to guide his hand. Luke picked up the brush after years of struggling with addiction, searching for a discipline to anchor him in sobriety. He has established his own style and breed of tonal landscape that is ethereally atmospheric and distinct. Luke currently lives in The Dalles, OR with his wife and son.
In this Q&A Luke talks about Inspiration and what first inspired him to paint, how inspiration informs his work now and offers advice on how artists can make the most of inspiration.
What first inspired you to paint? Is there a particular painting, Artist or movement that inspired you the most?
I discovered painting, sort of by accident, during the early stages of my recovery from alcohol abuse. At the beginning of 2018 I was at a point where I was sober longer than I had been in a very long time. Feeling good and in desperate need of something to do with my new found freedom, I remember asking myself, what would I be doing if there was no one here? How would I spend my time just me and myself in a vacuum of sorts? Maybe the answer to that question, I thought, would send me in the right direction. I came to the conclusion that in my own post apocalyptic world, where I am the only one left, I would most likely be creating weird shit to occupy my time until I croak. Strange sculptures, bizarre bunkers, imagery of the past, the works.
So I ran with it. I happened to have three 5 X 5 canvases tucked away in storage that I pulled out and started painting away. I was immediately pulled into the process and lifes background noise seemed to fade away. I was hooked.
I started out painting pretty aimlessly and painting whatever came to mind, with no real vision. I wasn’t really a student of the craft until I saw the works of British contemporary landscape painter, Kurt Jackson. I was blown away by what a landscape painting could be. Something with depth, movement, color and a uniqueness that I hadn’t seen before. It inspired me to really buckle down and focus on forging my own unique voice through painting.
Insufficient lighting in my makeshift shed/studio inadvertently led me to one of my biggest influences, American Tonalism. I was inspired by how the masters of the movement were able to portray mood through muted colors and atmosphere, something that I now value above anything else while creating my own works. As landscape painters, we are kind of behind the eight ball as far as being able to portray a clear message or meaning in a given piece. It was inspiring to see that ultimately the mood or feeling of a painting can be just as moving as a painting with a concise message.
What are your thoughts on inspiration and how does it influence your work? Is inspiration essential to paint or start a painting?
I am currently in a great place to talk about inspiration because right now I have ZERO of it. I’ll go through phases of being completely lost and questioning everything about my process and subject matter. Pacing back and forth, staring into the stupid blank canvas before me. Suddenly painting seems more like work than play.
But ultimately it is the work that unlocks the elusive door to inspiration. Very rarely does inspiration just appear out of thin air. In my experience, inspiration is something that is sought after and usually comes after a series of failures. The feeling of inspiration after failure is a high I think most painters are chasing. There is nothing like being able to convey your ideas accurately and artistically as in a given painting.
So I definitely do not think inspiration is essential to starting a painting. Most of the time I find myself being inspired halfway through or even towards the end of my process. The important part is to simply paint and put in the work, it’s a proven formula that WILL provide inspiration eventually.
What advice would you give other Artists on finding inspiration?
Keep grinding it out. Paint all the time. Think about your work. Be mindful of your surroundings and opportunities to cultivate inspiration. Whether that be through specific research or getting up early to catch the morning light.
I’ve come to believe that painting is 90% work and 10% inspiration so keep on working and the rest will come.