Aaron Westerberg — The Importance of Authenticity

The BoldBrush Show: Episode #77

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On this episode, we sat down with Aaron Westerberg, an oil painter based in California who became interested in art after discovering traditional drawing classes and wanting to pursue the techniques of masters like John Singer Sargent and Richard Schmid. We discuss his journey of becoming an artist through self-study and teaching, his creative process, and how social media has helped him sell paintings directly to collectors. He emphasizes the importance of painting what you love in order to be authentic, and also the importance of keeping costs low as an artist. Finally, he gives us some excellent tips for anyone looking to become a full time artist and he tells us all about his upcoming solo show in June at Arcadia Gallery.

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Aaron Westerberg: 0:00

Yeah, and that's why anyone can do great work, you know, because if it's, if it's true to them, it's going to be great. You know, we like like beetles and things like that. Simple, you know, because simple and it tells the story. It's not bogged down in technical, you know, prowess is just beautiful and simple and elegant, and it has emotion behind it. It's not just how fast you can play a complex thing, you know, or how many values you can get away with or gradations. And, you know, things like that are just, they're meaningless, you know, technically meaningless unless there's something behind it, you know, something of value behind it, you know, something true. So that's kind of my painting philosophy. That's kind of how I approach paint.

Laura Arango Baier: 0:50

Welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Laura Arango Baier, and I'm your host. But those of you who are new to the podcast, we are a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips. Specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their careers, as well as others who are in careers tied to the art world in order to tailor advice and insights. On this episode, we sat down with Aaron Westerberg, an oil painter based in California, who became interested in art after discovering traditional drawing classes and wanting to pursue the techniques of masters like John Singer Sargent and Richard Schmidt. We discussed his journey of becoming an artist through self study and teaching, his creative process, and how social media has helped them sell paintings directly to collectors. He emphasizes the importance of painting what you love in order to be authentic, and also the importance of keeping costs low as an artist. Finally, he gives us some excellent tips for anyone looking to become a full time artist. And he tells us all about his upcoming solo show in June at Arcadia gallery. Welcome, Aaron to the show. How are you today?

Aaron Westerberg: 2:00

Thank you very much. I'm good. Thank you for having me.

Laura Arango Baier: 2:03

Of course, yeah, I'm excited to have you. You know, your work is I was telling you, before we started recording that your work is very academic meaning and I was so curious to hear about, you know, how you got to that technique, right? Which of course you're going to tell us about. But before we dive into how you got the technique, do you mind telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?

Aaron Westerberg: 2:28

Sure. Thank you very much. Um, so my name is Aaron Westerberg. And I am a oil painter. And I've pretty much done that since. I mean, since my early 20s. I've been plugging away in, in the art world. And yeah, I never really went to an official school, like an art school or anything. I. So what happened was after me, you know, when I was a kid, I would draw comics and things like that, but nothing really serious. You know, I didn't really think that I could make a living being an artist. So after I got out of high school, I went to a junior college, I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I was trying to figure it out. And, you know, I tried a lot of different things. But when I was going to the, to the junior college, I was taking art classes also I was taking life drawing classes and whatever. Just because I could you know, and I'll just take an academic classes on the other side of it, but But then one day, I found a flyer in one of the classes for this guy's name's Jeff Watts, and he was teaching drawing down in downtown San Diego. So and the drawings were really good. And I'm like, Whoa, these drawings are way better than the teachers here, or that I've even seen before. And so I went down there. And it was like, brand new, you know, it was he actually drew in the class, you know, which I've never seen, you know, any of the teachers at the junior college actually draw in front of me. He'd demo he was, you know, he put tracing paper over the students drawings and correct the anatomy and things like that. And I was like, Oh, my God, this is great. So I I studied with him for like a year and a half, almost two years. And, but if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't know who Sargent was. I wouldn't know who anybody was Sergeant's probably the biggest one. But you know, men Chiti Richard Schmid, just anybody. And from there, you know, I had I met a couple of friends and we would go places we would go like to for some reason. In Arizona, there was a lot of good traditional arts, a lot of good galleries in Arizona. So we would make road trips and go back to Tucson or Scottsdale and actually see real paintings. And, and it was great. And so I was like, I want to do this for a living. So he, you know, Jeff has a pretty elaborate school now, but at the time, he wouldn't even teach, like, We begged him to teach a squash painting class, but, and you had to be approved even to be in that class, you had to be good enough at drawing to, you know, paint, because, which I don't totally agree with. But I'll explain why in a minute. But because it's, it's true, but but we begged him to teach to wash class and he taught us squash. And, and that was great, because it's a squash is a really good precursor to learning oil to direct any oil. And, and that's what we wanted to do you want to we want to be sergeant and you know, do all these kinds of things. So, but here's the thing with, with, well, so anyway, so he didn't teach painting. So I wanted to take classes from his teacher. And because this school was really small, I think he only taught on the weekends. It was like Thursday, and two classes on Saturday, and then one class on Sunday. And so his teacher was Glenn orpik and his where he went to school was called the California Institute. And they taught people to paint and draw for the movie industry, doing movie posters and storyboarding, things like that. So. So I moved up there. And the semester that I moved, Glen stopped teaching. And so yeah, it's a real bummer. So, you know, like, I met people, I went to the school anyway, you know, I took, it's just, it's not accredited school. It's just, you know, a school that had really good teachers at one time, and had a good lineage. Actually, the guy that started his name is Fred Pixlr. And he studied at the Art Students League, and learn from Frank Reilly. So that's kind of the lineage and it goes back you know, Frank Reilly learned from Bridgman. Bridgman learned from forgot the French guy's name, but, but it goes back far. So. So anyway, I got there. And he didn't, it wasn't teaching anymore. I took like, the open workshops and things like that. But basically, I learn that the same time, like almost like a year or two, after the Richard Schmidt book came out, the other premier came out. And that book is how I learned how to paint, you know, no one else that good has ever written down exactly how to paint and all that, just the fundamental things. So. So that was great. That was exactly what I needed. I think that was like 1998, something like that. But that was exactly what I needed. And because there's like a Solomon J. Solomon book that's archaic, you know, and there's a couple others, but it's, you know, there's no pictures really, and it's hard to figure out what they're talking about. A lot of times, they use bread, you know, in their paintings, and it's just like, I don't know what you're talking about. But, but, you know, like, I wanted to be started, you know, I wanted to paint like Sargent or Schmid, you know, and we could see real Schmid paintings, you know, in Scottsdale, and Tucson. A couple of times, we saw, like, we went to Scottsdale and they had like, I didn't like eight or nine really large made paintings. And so I was like, that's, that's the shit right there. I want to do that for a living. And so So yeah, so I worked at, at the time, I worked at borders, you know, the bookstore that no longer exists, which is a great job, because you can order any books you wanted, at any time. And then at Christmas time, they gave you 50% off, so we would just stockpile books and then buy him at Christmas. And yeah, it's great job, a great job to have. Yeah. And I was like, you know, a good worker, boy. And so I would do double shifts. So I could have a full day or days to paint without having to split up and a half days, you know, go into work, but so I would do double shifts. And, and then, you know, then I started to teach, you know, they allowed me to teach at the school at the California Institute. So I started teaching and getting students and doing that thing, that kind of thing. And that was great, because that's another income source. Right. So, um, so I taught and then I moved to Santa Monica. And which was great because there was a borders in Santa Monica. So I, I, I worked at the border store and taught and slowly started getting into showing it to galleries. Okay, so here's the thing. Okay, so this is this goes into like why you don't have have to learn how to draw perfectly before you can get into painting. Because you can do painting with one color, you know, one color, you know, burnt timber, right, you can do fantastic paintings and burnt timber, or I would do Mike Schmid in venetian red and Terra Rosa. So you'd have like a warm and a cool red, and get terrific paintings. And the other thing was, it was great, because, you know, I could, I could draw really well, right. But it would take me almost longer to do a drawing than a painting. And it's limited, you know, you can't do as many cool brushstroke things. And so the other thing is, if you're going to sell the drawing, you got to put a mat on it, you got to have glass and a frame. If it's a painting, you just need a frame, you don't need a class or a mat, it's way cheaper. And so that's how I got into galleries doing these red drawings, basically, you know, an oil paint. And so yeah, I did tons of those and slowly progressed and learned color along the way. And so, so that's why you don't need you can learn how to draw that way, you know, you can learn how to draw with one color. And, you know, there's so many different kinds of, you don't have to use a solvent now, you know, you can use water, there are several oil based paints. Cobra is one it's sponsored by them as fast balls by Rembrandt teens, but but Cobra, they have, like, I just did a meeting, they have like, more than 100 colors now in the water. And you can use them back and forth. You can use them with oil paints to their I don't know what that's called. But yeah, you can use them back and forth. Yeah, so, um, so that's good. And, and then slowly, you can, you know, graduate into using white with the one color, you know, and so instead of wiping away for your lights, like you would do with charcoal drawing, you're actually adding y opacity and, but slowly, kind of adding more tools to your, you know, your, your base of knowledge. And so, that was, you know, that was one good thing about not going to a school, like I don't really have any rules that I can't break or anything like that. It's just kind of like, I want to be archival, right, I want my paintings to fall off the canvases. But at the same time, there's no rules, you know, like, no one taught me site size. I mean, I got the Charles Bard book and everything. But yeah, I would never draw that way. It's so it's, it's limiting. It's great to be anal, and, you know, figure out how to draw really correctly and everything but, you know, comparative drawing is right on, you know, and just learning the tools, you know, plumb lines and things like that. That's important. But But yeah, that's, that's pretty much how I, my beginning journey i. And then eventually, I was teaching enough. At the time in Santa Monica, there was probably five different art stores really close together, maybe like within five miles of each other. So I'll put flyers in all those art stores. And that's how I got my students. And yeah, and so then I quit my job at borders, which was great, because the one in Santa Monica is growth is huge, but it's gross. Yeah, is gross. But sorry, borders doesn't exist anymore. But you know, but, but yeah, so I quit. I quit borders, and then taught and teaching supplemented my income while I slowly started, you know, working my way into galleries, you know, getting more more complex paintings, and, you know, all that kind of stuff, with galleries and just slowly moved into into that, and that was, I don't know, what year was, but a long time ago. And, and then, the other big change was social media. So that was huge. That was huge for me, because I didn't have to get into a gallery to sell my paintings, you know, which is great. You know, I saw, you know, to see my students and things like that, but being able to just sell directly to the collector was great. And it just, it just happened by accident. I didn't even It wasn't intentional, really, I was going to have a studio so and this is a long time where everyone has studio sales now. But um, you know, where you sell paintings that aren't finished all the way or not framed or anything like that, but I was going to have like a physical studio sale at my place. And, you know, if I did all my students and everything like that, you know, two weeks, and I sold 90% of the work before the actual like physical studio sale, and I still Everybody like family members, collectors, galleries, new collectors, just everybody it all because of Instagram, it was all in Facebook to a little bit, but it was Instagram. So that was huge for me that was that was eye opening. And, and great. So but that's that's kind of a big 101 of, of how I started. Oh,

Laura Arango Baier: 15:30

that's great. That's like, you know, it's very interesting that that you were forced to just draw I guess I, I can kind of understand I can kind of understand. Because you know, 90% of a great painting is great drawing, right? It's like the basis. But But yeah, drawing is an entirely different beast, and trying to manage oil paint, you will listen, at the beginning, we all fight with the oil paint, we all fight it. It's not doing what we want it to do. And the only way to figure it out is by doing it. So I agree with you on that sense. Yeah, yeah, because it does feel it feels like a battle sometimes, you know, especially at the very, very beginning, when you first time just using oil paint, it is a battle. And then you get used to it. But yeah, that is so fascinating. And I love how you were very open about you know, your whole experience. Because it sometimes feels like such a mystery, you know, you just like, you see someone on Instagram, right? Like, I've seen your work on Instagram, of course. And it's like, how did they get to this point? Right. So wow, that's, it's great to hear the whole thing. And then also, I wanted to know, you know, was there. Obviously, you wanted to be an artist, like ever since, you know, forever. But was there like a moment, when you were maybe like a kid or something where you were like, This is what I want to do? Or did it just happen on its own?

Aaron Westerberg: 16:59

Now, it was more when I saw Jeff and his studio. And you know, he had a bunch of paintings around and, and he was like, painting and making a living as an artist. And I was like, great. You know, this is this is what I want to do. I didn't know it was even possible. You know, it was just like, not even in my Spectrum. Nobody in my family is an artist, you know, nobody. My dad's a painter. He paints walls, you know, paints houses. So yeah, he's, you know, my mom's a nurse. You know, I have no, there was no example of that at all. I thought, you know, when I was a kid, maybe I could, you know, be an editorial cartoonist or something, you know, like that. That's how you make money. But no, I had no concept until I think I was like, 22, or something like that, you know, after high school a bit. So it was it was him. You know, I blame him. For most of that.

Laura Arango Baier: 17:55

It's out there.

Aaron Westerberg: 17:56

He is his fault. Yeah. For sure. But, I mean, like, I would have never known, you know, I would have never known that you could do that. You know, his dad was an illustrator, you know, really good illustrator and everything. And so, you know, he had like, a little bit of a lineage. But yeah, I had no idea. And so, you know, when I saw that, too, like, just the lineage and tradition, I'm like, Oh, that's so cool. So, so yeah, I just really wanted to do that once I actually saw it, and that it was actually possible. So, so yeah, just sacrificed everything for that, you know, just what do I got to do to do this? You know, and he was, he's very much, you know, discipline guy, you know, so that was good. He kind of taught, you know, you like, I have books full of drawings, I'll take pictures of all the drawings. Look, you know, research, you know, then be like, Okay, this is quick sketch drawing. These are long figurative, these are male portraits, female portraits, but, you know, examples before, you know this before the internet, basically, but, but yeah, big three ring binders full of examples. And, I mean, I would bring them to class and I would even, you know, like, the little Bridgman books. I to this day, I still, if I go to a live drawing class, I still have that book. And I just warm up with it. I just draw from those pages. I've drawn like 1000 times, but I still draw them, you know, because I just love them. You know, there's so much charm in those line works. But But yeah, so so it was it was him and it was in the fact that he also was he didn't just teach you know, how to draw well, he taught like how to get good at drawing. And that was that was important, you know, or yeah, good good at drawing or painting or anything, basically, but he was also an athlete he did like cycling and a few other things like that. So So yeah, discipline.

Laura Arango Baier: 19:57

I mean, you have to be important you want to Yeah, Wow, that's amazing.

Aaron Westerberg: 20:02

Yeah, thanks. Um,

Laura Arango Baier: 20:06

so that's Wow, I'm absolutely digesting that. Because it's yeah, you know, it's discipline is such an important thing. And of course, you definitely showed discipline and like being like, you know what, I'm gonna do double shifts, just so I can, you know, have the rest of my time to be able to do this. And I think you know, that that's also a testament to that motivation. And that drive of I want to make this happen, I see that it's a possibility. And this is also for the listeners, you know, who maybe are doubting it's a possibility, you know, it's even more of a possibility now, especially because of the internet. For sure. Yeah. So I wanted to ask you also, what is your creative process? Like, um, like, you know, when you have an idea, like, how does that then become a painting?

Aaron Westerberg: 20:52

Well, there's a few ways that it happens. You know, a lot of times, it's yeah, it starts with an idea, you know, or it's almost like an emotional reaction to something, you know, that happens a lot. And, and sometimes, I don't even know what the emotion is, sometimes I look back at the painting, like years later, and, you know, realize what that painting was about, you know, sometimes I just think it'd be a cool image, like, Oh, that'd be really cool image. And then I realized, like, oh, that painting was actually about like, harboring, you know, malicious intent, or something like that, you know, like, I did this painting of this girl holding an axe, you know, and it's, I did a few of them, actually. But yeah, I didn't know what that was about until years later. And I'm like, oh, geez, yeah, that's what that's about. It's like therapy or something. But, but generally, I get an idea. And I'll do like a bunch of little thumbnails kind of based around that idea, just different, different compositional ideas, where I play around with, you know, colors, values, and edges and everything and figure it out on that scale first. And I have little laws that I use when I'm doing those thumbnails, because it's easy to get into details. You know, everyone wants to do details. So, with those little studies I made, like, I'm not allowed to draw any fingers, any toes, no faces, you know, just big shapes. And I tried to do it pretty quick, you know, like, an hour or so is Max. But only, you know, big shapes. So yeah, no real. And I'm not, I'm not really too worried about edges either. You know, I'm just a little bit, but it's mostly just how the big shapes look together. You know, like how you would see a painting from 50 feet away? That's what I'm trying to do. And then does that say what I wanted to say? And all that stuff? And if yes, then I make it bigger, and make it a real painting. But that's, that's pretty much my big one on one. How I do a painting.

Laura Arango Baier: 23:02

Yeah, at BoldBrush. We inspire artists to inspire the world, because creating art creates magic. And the world is currently in desperate need of magic. BoldBrush provides artists with free art, marketing, creativity, and business ideas and information. This show is an example. We also offer written resources, articles, and a free monthly art contest open to all visual artists. We believe that fortune favors the bold brush. And if you believe that to sign up completely free at BoldBrush show.com. That's BOLDBRUSH show.com. The BoldBrush Show is sponsored by FASO. Now, more than ever, it's crucial to have a website when you're an artist, especially if you want to be a professional in your career. Thankfully, with our special link faso.com forward slash podcast, you can make that come true. And also get over 50% off your first year on your artists website. Yes, that's basically the price of 12 lattes in one year, which I think is a really great deal considering that you get sleek and beautiful website templates that are also mobile friendly e commerce print on demand in certain countries, as well as access to our marketing center that has our brand new art marketing calendar. And the art marketing calendar is something that you won't get with our competitor. The art marketing calendar gives you day by day, step by step guides on what you should be doing today, right now in order to get your artwork out there and seen by the right eyes so that you can make more sales this year. So if you want to change your life and actually meet your sales goal this year, then start now by going to our special link faso.com forward slash podcast. That's FASO.com/podcast. Yeah, I'm curious. Because obviously, you know, every painter has their own way of doing things. I mean, some painters, they might hate doing thumbnail sketches, or you know, and they indeed do fine, right? I mean, everyone has their own process. So I always get curious like Hmm, I wonder how they started. And I can definitely, I can definitely see why you would do that too, because your work has so much flavor of light and shadow and dark and light. Like, I like how a lot of your paintings, you know, they're like these beautiful portraits, and they're buttress by this really nice dark shape, right of maybe their clothing, or you know, where they're surrounded by something that really highlights that contrast in their face, which is really beautiful, definitely draws the eye. So I can go, so I can see how you would use that, you know, especially with the thumbnail sketches to really see the impact of that painting, I think that's such a great thing. And how you said, you know, imagining it from 50 feet away, if it impacts you from 50 feet away, then that's like, that's a big deal. That's a really important thing. But you know, right now, for example, you are working on some paintings for yourself solo show that's happening in June, right. And I would count that as a challenging time. Because, you know, you have to paint a lot of things, how do you stay motivated during a challenging time? Such as?

Aaron Westerberg: 26:10

Well, yeah, that's it. Tar. It's, it's very difficult. And it's, it's difficult not to repeat yourself, you know, if you get one or two paintings that are working, you're like, ah, do 10 Like that, you know, you don't want to do that. But, so it's, it's probably one of the more difficult things to do, you know, stay motivated. So, a few of the things that I do are I exercise, you know, I run and lift weights and do things like that, that, that helps, you know, especially running, you know, it just kind of clears your mind. That's really important. But, I mean, there's all kinds of things like, you know, even honestly, one of the things that's really good, also, which is, I think, really important is to have, like, gonna sound like therapy, but like a support group, like people that you talk to, you know, friends that you can call and, you know, talk to, and just kind of, sort out what you're thinking and going through, and just talking, I think, is great, because it can get really isolating, being an artist, you know, you know, especially if you have a nice cave to play, and, you know, it can be Yeah, it can be isolating, and it's, it's good, and it's bad, you know, because, you know, like you said, I have a show coming up in June at Arcadia. And it's actually a very short amount of time to have a solo show, you know, it's, like seven months, I think I had to do to prepare for this. So, um, you know, it's great to have a nice quiet space and everything like that, but also, yeah, you really need to talk to people and have a little bit of a social life. You know, like, I have a friend that I go on walks with, and and, yeah, so all of that is, it's critical, you know, you can exercise yourself to death, and it's okay, but But yeah, having some people to talk to is important. And yeah, I don't know, just being healthy is important, too. You know, eating the right things and stuff. Like that is good. But yeah, that's it, but yeah. Yeah, so much. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Sleep is super important.

Laura Arango Baier: 28:41

Yeah, yeah. Cuz I can imagine, like, you know, especially when you're like, you know, really on the on the really short on time, something or like you're really pressured. It can, it can oftentimes happen that you just like, stay up all night painting. And then, you know, the birds are singing, oh, you know, and then, and then he pulled an all nighter without realizing and then you're, you know, it kind of throws you off. So, yeah, definitely, you know, nourishing the other sides of, you know, your mind and your body. I agree. That's very understated. And also, since like you said, we're so isolated in our inner caves. It's very easy to completely just, like disappear from the world and say, Oh, I haven't heard from from Aaron and I don't know, a month, you know? Yeah,

Aaron Westerberg: 29:28

yeah, it happens. You know, in Athens, it's easy thing to do. You know, because you think that that's like the goal. It's like, oh, man, if I just had this much time alone, I could do so much work and everything. But it's a myth. It's a myth. You know, you need you need

Laura Arango Baier: 29:47

a lot of like, you know, compartmentalizing to, you know, like, This is that time for work and then when you're not in the studio, just like putting it out of your mind because we're all so you're just going to drive yourself crazy. Yeah, I could I could totally under Sanna I found Yeah, go for it, go for it.

Aaron Westerberg: 30:06

No, I've found that your body kind of likes pattern, you know, it likes to like work at this time and leave it really works the best when you have a, you know, 101 kind of pattern that by doing the same thing over and over, it works pretty well, you know, just like with sleep to same thing. But it's with work to definitely,

Laura Arango Baier: 30:31

yeah, it's important to go to sleep and wake up, you know, at the same times as much as possible because that really balances out the rest of your, your circadian rhythm basically, which is like, it's so funny, because you know, the most fundamental thing, right, which is health is like the number one thing to focus on because it is so it truly is, you know, with health, you have nothing like you really can't function at 100%. And then maybe you end up burning out, you know, so it's Yeah, excellent point. Yeah.

Aaron Westerberg: 31:04

Yeah, it's Yeah. I mean, when you sleep in, you know, depending on there's all different stages of sleep, and each stage release is different hormones. So if you don't get those on releases, you know, you're not going to function well, when you're awake. So help them one on one.

Laura Arango Baier: 31:20

Yeah, you know, I noticed that actually, a lot of painters, a lot of artists, we tend to, you know, lean towards the side of like health. I guess also because it's such a sedentary career. Um, you know, a lot of us end up doing like other things. I mean, I interviewed someone he does like dancing. It's like a streetstyle sort of dancing is pretty cool. I've met someone else who does hockey. You just mentioned you do weightlifting, I do weightlifting, actually. So it's like, so the only thing that keeps me sane, aside from fainting and sleeping, so yeah, it's so funny that, you know, it's, it's, it's so it's kind of obvious to when you think about it, that if your mind, you need your mind, right, if your bodies are not your mind, if your body is out of whack. It really doesn't. It doesn't help you in any way, especially for painting because it takes so much mental work to paint, especially with oils, because you have to plan ahead, and you have to make sure that you know, oh, I'm working on this painting, and I have to leave it to dry. And so I'm going to work on this section, so then I can work on that section. So then I can do this finishing piece over here. Like it's like, it's a lot of mental gymnastics, and you can't do mental gymnastics without doing actual gymnastics.

Aaron Westerberg: 32:34

Yeah, it is. And the best paintings are the ones that are the more personal, you know, the more real paintings, those are always the best ones. And so, you know, when you lie, everyone knows, you know, they can tell, you know, so like, I think, yeah, and I have most of my self portraits still, but I think my supporters are some of my best paintings because I'm just doing for me, you know, so it's kinda like, there's no BS in there, I'm not trying to sell a painting or, you know, conform to somebody else's idea of what they want to see. It's just me and so they're very direct. And, and so I think they're good. But, but yeah, and they're different, too. You know. So, that's another thing that I think is important, just, which goes into not having a, like, a school that I belong to, or anything is, you know, like, everything is, is open, you know, I'm open to, you know, any kind of style or whatever gets the point across, you know, I'm not gonna be like, Oh, I don't like that. I mean, I like Mark Rothko. I like, you know, whoever, you know, it's like, okay, he's not a bigger painter. Okay. But what he does looks cool. You know, and like, you were talking about, like, a lot of times, there's like, big silhouettes in my paintings and things like that. It's, you know, I like like Black Sabbath, you know, I like like heavy guitar riffs. I like, you know, simple but powerful, you know, and that's kind of what I'm going for, in almost all my paintings, you know, different ways of framing, you know, even cinematic kind of things, you know, good good filmmakers, things like that. I've been getting into that more lately. That's, that's what I've been kind of diving into lately, more relationship kind of based. Narrative painting. Before, I mean, I painted a lot of just solo people, and now I'm doing a little bit more of couples and interactions between them. So that's been different for me. So but yeah, got off topic a little bit there. But, but that's um That's what I think makes that and that's why anyone can do great work. You know, because if it's if it's true to them, it's going to be great. You know, and, and that's another thing too. You don't have to, like, maybe you know this guy, but no one's gonna know who he is. But there's a guitarist called eBay mountain Steen. But he could play like every single classical music piece on his guitar super fast. And none of his songs are good. They're just horrible. But as a technician, he's the best, you know, he's like, the best guitars ever. Right? But you don't know who he is, right? You know, we like like, The Beatles, and things like that. Simple, you know, because simple, and it tells the story. It's not bogged down in technical, you know, prowess. It's just beautiful and simple and elegant, and it has emotion behind it. It's not just how fast you can play a complex thing, you know, or how many values you can get away with or gradations. And, you know, things like that are just, they're meaningless. You know, they're technically meaningless. Unless there's something behind it, you know, something of value behind it, you know, something true. So that's kind of my painting philosophy. That's kind of how I approach painting. I try to,

Laura Arango Baier: 36:20

yeah, yeah. No, that, you know, that that's a really good point, especially, you know, for, for people out there who are listening, or maybe, you know, still trying to figure out their voice and trying to figure out what to even paint. It's like, it's, that's like the number one question, you know, like, what, what, what do I paint with paint, you know, paint what draws you in, right? Paint the thing that, you know, makes you be honest, and authentic. Because, like you said, people can feel it. People can feel when you're not being authentic, and they can see it in the work and it won't pull them in. Because it's so weird. It's almost like this ethereal quality, you know, or like the work that just comes from the soul, and you feel it. And then the word that doesn't just you just feel that. It's weird. Yeah,

Aaron Westerberg: 37:06

yeah. Pay. Well, you love paying what you love. You know, I painted it, but I used to have two Boston terriers, and I painted them and save

Laura Arango Baier: 37:15

a portrait with one. It's so cute. Oh, yeah.

Aaron Westerberg: 37:19

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I love those dogs. So, yeah, it can be anything though. It can be anything. You know, it can be your shoes. You know? Anything, you know, Van Gogh did a pretty cool painting of his boots. Before he painted with all the color. He did, like, it's like, it's very limited that maybe, maybe it's two colors. I don't know, it might just be one. Black. But I remember now, but But it's, you know, it's a great painting, you know, and it doesn't need to, you know, be technically whatever, it's, it tells the whole story.

Laura Arango Baier: 38:02

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's very true. Um, but now jumping into, I guess, like the, the marketing a little bit of the logistics, right, of being an artist, which can be a challenge. When you were, you know, like, my question now is more so towards, like, when you were teaching? And then, you know, maybe you became a full time artists right now that that transition? Right? What was that like for you? Was it like, slowly? It, you know, kind of worked out that way? Or were you able to just like, cut? And just go?

Aaron Westerberg: 38:39

Yeah, no, it was slow. It was over a few years, for sure. Because I didn't know what I was doing. You know, I didn't know what I was doing. I was just, I just wanted to be a fine artist. I wanted to be a gallery artist, you know. And so I was like, What do I have to do to you know, to do this, and I just wanted everything to culminate to where it would help facilitate that, you know, so, working at borders didn't really facilitate that, you know, too much. You know, so as soon as I cut that out, I did. But, but yeah, you know, um, you know, I think some of when you teach, like, you know, a lot of times I would get, you know, because my drawings were they were, they're pretty decent drawings, when I was teaching is I would teach live drawing, and a lot of times I would get people to take my class and they would see me, and, you know, I was like, you know, 20 something years old, and like, Oh, you're just a kid, you know, like, I thought I'd be like, Oh man, or something. And, and I'm like, I think, but some of the best teachers are the ones that are, you know, just kind of learning and you know, can do the things but everything is kind of new and fresh to them. They're not like crusted over and, you know, they can actually express the ideas that maybe someone will just be like, you just got to go through a million drawings to figure it out. So You know, draw teaching, I think almost anyone can do that, you know, early on, you know, I think that's a really good way to start and you know it, it doubles down on what you know, you're teaching somebody, you know what you know, and so you have to vocalize it and basically explain it to somebody who has no clue. And it's also good, I have some good teaching stories. Because I've taught for a long time, and I've taught some, I mean, I taught a guy, I'm positive, he was in the witness relocation program. I mean, I'm positive, you know, this guy was like, total sopranos guy, and he had a pinky ring that was like, as big as my thumb on his pinky, and you could just smash me in anytime if you want to, he was humongous. But, yeah, it just so teaching is interesting, it's fun, but you learn more, you get better at your craft by teaching. So I think that is, is a great way to supplement your income. And then, like, the thing I want to say, with social media is, you know, it's, it's easy to get bogged down in it, and just kind of be negative towards it. But it's, like, a great opportunity for artists right now, I know, tons of artists, and I'm sure most of the viewers do also, that just so you know, directly or through their Instagram or whatever, they don't have a gallery, you know, and, and it's, it's also, you know, I think we all have a degree of creativity, and you just have to kind of put it into the, into your posts, you know, you, you know, like, a lot of people will do the same things over and over, like varnishing the paintings or whatever. I mean, I do that. But, you know, but you just be creative with it, you know, when I, when I first got that, like, Aha moment when I, I didn't get it the aha moment until after it happened. But what I did is for that studio, so I laid out a whole bunch of paintings on my studio floor, and I took a picture of it. And I'm like, I'm gonna have a studio sale, and this all these are going to be here and frames and all kinds of stuff. And then people started emailing me that picture back and circling the paintings, right? How much is this one, how much like a lot of people and I'm like, Oh, wow, this is really, it's really works, you know, just this kind of organic, I'm not trying to sell individual painting, I'm just kind of showing them what I'm doing. And it worked great. Like I said, I sold almost everything before the actual opening of the studio. So the physical opening. So I think it's just a matter of putting your creativity into the marketing side of your paintings. And it can be anything, you know, it can be anything, there's tons of ways to do it, you know, stuff that's not been done yet stuff that's been done with your own little twist on it. It can be anything, but it's, you know, when you sell your stuff yourself, you don't have to give a percentage to the gallery. You know, it's, it's very nice. It's very nice. And you know, that, like a lot of galleries don't share information, like who bought your painting. So, so, you know, you get you develop a relationship with that person. And a lot of times those relationships last years, right, they continue to purchase from you. So, you know, it's it's good, any, I mean, I like no one who has my paintings, you know, I enjoy that a lot. And they send you a picture of it on their wall or whatever. It's so gratifying, you know, so. So yeah, that is that's a really good side of kind of social media and being able to market yourself and be, you know, be a living artist. Today. Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 43:58

absolutely. Yeah, there's no more, I guess. Gatekeeping from galleries. And, yeah, I totally agree. You know, it's there. There are so many ways of and, you know, I mean, I use the word branding, even though I find it to be kind of a dirty word when you're an artist, because I, I still like to think that we're people and not you know, a brand alone, and we can we also change over time. But it is a little bit of branding, to, you know, do things in a way that draws you especially with social media to see become like recognizable to people. And I feel like that happens naturally to you know, you just naturally instead of, you know, looking at what other people are doing, right, yeah, you can look at that, but also have the inclination of like, how would I do it? You know, how would I work to approach this to be more true to myself and more true to my work and to make it stand out, as you know, in its own way, without you know, being gimmicky because I feel like there are a lot of gimmicky ways of a post Seeing paintings on social media that, you know, just seem a little bit disingenuous and a little bit contrived. And it's like a dime a dozen there. There are tons of those. I'm not gonna give any examples, though, because I feel like we, you know, we know what they are. Okay, that's totally fine. Yeah, it's sort of fine. But I feel like, you know, you can level yourself up, you can, you can do something, right. Which I think you pull off really well on your pages. And actually, I did want to ask you, how do you personally, you know, since now we're on the topic of social media, how do you personally manage, you know, to, to, you know, work on your creative side, which is, of course, painting and the production of paintings, and, you know, manage your time and your energy? Also, with the marketing and your finances, for example?

Aaron Westerberg: 45:52

Well, I mean, I probably do that the worst? No, I don't really. Yeah, there's no real. I don't have any rule guidelines there at all. You know, I literally, if I think a painting is looking cool, I'll take a picture of it, and post it. You know, and I'll tell you one funny thing is sometimes, you know, I'll take pictures of my paintings in progress. And sometimes I will redo a painting, because it looked better. Before I did that next stage, you know, I'm like, Okay, I kill it after this stage. And so I'm just gonna redo it, and stop at that stage. So that happens, you know, I've done that several times. But, you know, just kind of kill the spontaneity and the energy of a painting by overworking it. And, but, yeah, like, you know, one of the things I guess, which is another good aspect of social media is you can, you know, speaking on finances is, there's lots of ways to make money, you know, being an artist, you know, you can teach, you can do zoom classes, you know, I did zoom class started that during the pandemic, you know, which is, it's all right, you know, it's kind of weird. You sit in a room by yourself, you know, talk, it's, it's not as good as teaching in person for sure. You know, you can just, like, go like that and correct someone's painting, you know, telling him to do that on Zoom. It's like, okay, no, yes. No, it's, it's much more difficult. But, but yeah, you can teach, you know, and like, when I started doing that, I mean, I'm teaching people in Dubai, Australia, all over the world. So, you know, the reach is, is broad. So that's good. And then, you know, I think we're talking about earlier too, you can sell prints of your work, you know, you can make, you know, lower cost reproductions of your work, so you can have a broader audience there and make money doing that. So, that's, that's really good. But, you know, the main thing that I do, I guess, is I just keep all my costs low, you know, I don't have a huge overhead at all, you know, my, right now, My apartment is my studio, you know, I have the, you know, I don't have a room table, you know, I have a big flat file in the middle of a living room. Which is great. Yeah, keeps all the paintings dust free. And, you know, it's great. But yeah, it's basically two rooms, one has all my art stuff in it, and tons of books. And the other side is my bedroom, which is full of boxes with paintings in it. But yeah, so, you know, so, right now, that's how things are, you know, I'm, you know, just working really hard to, you know, kind of progress in my, even though I've been doing it for a long time. I still, you know, I I don't feel like I've kind of got to a spot where I'm, like, successful, like, really successful, or even just, I mean, I'm, I'm a living artists, so I'm making money off of my work and everything, but at the same time, I think that I could do better and more. And, and that's what I'm working on. And that's what I have been working on, and especially right now, and that's why I'm doing that. This solo show with Arcadia. You know, it's great gallery, it's great opportunity. So, and it's, you know, it's a lot of pressure. And so, pressure is good, you know, it forces you to work. And so, that's why I'm doing it, you know, that's why I'm doing it. I want to um, you know, I don't want to be famous. I just I want to be successful. You know, I want to be able to have a house you know Things like that, you know? So. So that's kind of my goal right now. So, yeah, so the overhead is low. I think that's an important thing. You know, I'm not buying fancy, plein air painting kids or, you know, expensive paint, you know, nothing like that, you know, I used to make those pushrod boxes at you. They're basically portable pallet, you know. But, yeah, you can do a lot of stuff on your own. You don't need to fancy magnetic panels that stick to the back of the thing. I mean, they're nice, but no. Yeah, yeah. So you know, so, um, so yeah, I just keep my cost low. That's probably the main main thing that I tried to do. So, like, goof off too long on Instagram or whatever.

Laura Arango Baier: 50:53

Okay, awesome. Yeah, no, but that that's a great, great point, you know, if, if you're going to do it, right, and try your best to make things happen. It's really, really important to keep, you know, keep living below your means, as long as you can, you know, of course, with the goal of eventually, you know, finally leveling up. But, yeah, if you can, you know, live below your means, and you're comfortable, and you know, you're not lacking anything, then that's, that's a huge win. In my opinion, that's actually one of the sides of being successful as, oh, I'm not worried about you know, starving, which is really important, especially as a as a full time artist, right. So, yeah, that's a great point, you know, for our listeners, yeah. live below your means as much as you can. Because then, you know, if, if not, you might have to get a day job, and that might suck. But, but there's, you know, there's also nothing wrong with getting a day job. Yeah. Do you have any final advice for anyone who wants to become, you know, a full time artist?

Aaron Westerberg: 52:05

Um, well, I guess just kind of reiterate, you know, paint what you love, you know, and, you know, kind of, yeah, just, I think that's, that's the key to it, you know, I think if you go in with like a marketing strategy and things like that, it's going to be harder, you know, is going to be harder. And if you just start small, and, and build from that, it becomes easier, because a lot of times you get into a trap, where you may have some studio overhead cost or whatever, and you feel like, well, if I paint this, then I can, you know, afford that. And then you just get way out on an island that you don't want to be on the painting stuff, you don't want to paint. And it's difficult to enjoy painting. That's, that's, that's probably the most important thing, you know, like to be successful and enjoy what you're doing. You know, because, yes, when asked me, I think my dad was like, Are you still enjoying it? I'm like, hell yeah. You know, like, yeah, for sure. You know, this is what I've been doing the whole time. And, you know, I don't know if I want to say this part. But, you know, like, I've done it my parents, no help, you know, like, no money. So, it's been, it's been tough. You know, because I didn't go to college. I went to junior college, but, but no, like, you know, official diploma or anything like that, you know, degree, that's another thing. That's good. You don't need a degree or anything to teach. Generally, unless you're doing credit to university, and even then you don't need it really. But you know, I've taught it I taught at fashion schools taught all over the place. And yeah, they just care if you're good. And you can convey, you know, the message in a pleasant way, I guess. But, but yeah, yeah, for sure. You know, paint what you love, and you will figure out how to make a living from that, you know, if you start small, I think, I think that's a good, good final thought.

Laura Arango Baier: 54:24

Yeah. That's a great one. Um, and, and, again, yeah, you know, teaching, teaching can be a very good gateway to, you know, to getting into the real the realm of like, being able to, you know, do it full time and then also even some, a lot of artists keep teaching anyway. I mean, you have a lot of really awesome online courses, and like you said, you do the zoom lens, and you still do workshops. And those are also you know, great ways to supplement income income, like you said, um, yeah, that's excellent advice. Yes. Yeah, teaching I think Teach thing is, is, it's the best, it's the best. Because it forces you also to learn the craft better, because the only way for you to teach the craft, you have to know it twice as good. Because how else? Are you going to explain it to someone who knows? Absolutely nothing. Right? So it really forces you to be more introspective. About, okay, why? Why does this work? How can I explain to this person, how this works and why this works, and also how to get them to believe me that it works, because oftentimes, students will be like, but why? And it's like it, you just kind of have to be like it, trust me it works. But you know, maybe it's better to actually be able to explain why it works. So yeah, it's really, it's really cool. And then also, of course, you come across other people who inspire you. And then I feel like that's the other really powerful thing is, you know, word of mouth. Which, you know, if someone here to hold Yeah, you know, this guy, he paints really amazing things. And then you have someone else hears about it, and then they're buying your painting, right? It's like, it becomes this network, as well of people and students who also appreciate your work and buy your work. So yeah, yeah,

Aaron Westerberg: 56:10

yeah. The other thing I'll just say real quick, on top of that, is, you know, well, a couple of things. But I love seeing, like the light go on in someone's head when they, you know, figure something out? Yes, you know. But the other thing that I do with teaching that I like a lot is I introduce people to other artists that they've never heard of before. You know, like, this is auditor Trump, you know, this is whoever, and they're like, Oh, my God, this is brilliant. And they didn't know and then you show them and they're, like, inspired, you know, and that is so enjoyable. That is, and I think people need to see a diverse range of art, they can't just see like Sargent, you know, it's like, okay, that's one dude. You know, he did a lot of good stuff. But that's one guy, you know, look at all these other guys, who were able to convey the same kind of stuff, but in their own unique way, you know, and so that's important, because that's the thing, people get bogged down in, like, there's only one way to get to this goal. And there's a lot of ways, you know, there's a lot of ways there's not just one. So showing a diverse range of artists to students is great, it's, you know, it's unparalleled way of kind of opening up the door to the possibilities of, you know, making marks on Canvas. So, I think it's really important, for sure. Oh, I

Laura Arango Baier: 57:32

completely agree. Personally, as a, you know, I, when I was a student, one of the things I struggled with was, we did kind of, at least in one of the places we did kind of have like this environment where you really had to fit into a specific mold. And I just No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't quite fit that mold quite the way that my instructors wanted me to. And it was always such a downer for me, because I just felt like a huge disappointment. when really it, it shouldn't be that way. Right? It shouldn't be trying to fit some mold to please, you know, some instructor who, honestly, I probably won't even think about again for the rest of my life. Right. So. So yeah, it's very important to even after, you know, after you're done, learning, right, assuming that maybe some of our listeners do go to a workshop, or they go to one of these schools to really take time to, like you said, expose yourself to other artists see other artists how they did it, because oftentimes, you know, maybe you don't fit one mold, but you might fit in better with a different sort of painter, which is, you know, something that I went through, so, yeah, totally.

Aaron Westerberg: 58:42

Yeah, exactly. Because that's the thing, I'll see someone kind of leaning towards this this direction. And I'm like, Okay, you would really like this person. And then they're like, Oh, my God, you know, and it just, it's like, it's possible. You know, it's possible. You can do it. They did it, you can do it, you know, so, yeah, yeah. That's conformity is not an artistic thing. I don't think at all.

Laura Arango Baier: 59:06

You know, the whole reason we became artists in the first place for Nonconformist, right,

Aaron Westerberg: 59:10

we want to make our own shit.

Laura Arango Baier: 59:13

Oh, man, speaking of making your own stuff. Can you tell us about your upcoming solo show? You know, what's, what's the theme?

Aaron Westerberg: 59:24

Well, I don't quite have all that worked out yet. But it's for what it was. I don't have like a title or anything yet. I got some abilities. But you know, like, I literally want to see what it all looks like together to kind of put a name on it, but But it's more couple based interactions and more of a narrative, you know, that I think is a little bit new for me, you know, a little bit more Yeah, a little bit more narrative quality to these to these paintings. And yeah, you know, like, it's in June so, but I still have like 10 ish paintings to do, you know, I gotta have 20. So, but, but the the main kind of underlying rhythm behind them is they're, they're more narrative based and more. I don't know, it's not so hard to figure out what's going on. And there's lots of different interpretations, there's, you know, ones that, you know, the reason why I did the painting, and then there's everyone else's interpretation. And, you know, I just, I showed some of them at the LA art show. And so it's, it's more of that kind of a thing. And in what I've been posting lately, you know, and it's all leading up to that I'm not, you know, that's another thing too, I'm not posting any finished paintings before the show, you know, because, you know, the gallery wants them to be new and fresh, for the show, which is good. But it's also hard to not show all these paintings, you know, that I'm sitting on. So, you know, I like the reactions that I get from social media, you know, it kind of helps me. So I'm not even understand what I'm doing. But, but, you know, it helps. It's not. It's not a bad thing. But But yeah, so that's the solo show is June 13. at Arcadia Gallery in New York. And, and, yeah, and I mostly post on Instagram. I don't think I posted on X for for months, you know, I think they need to make a new name. X. Too many X things Ilan. But yeah, you know, it's like Instagram, and then it's just attached to Facebook. And then I have a website and my websites just my name, Aaron Westberg, at Yahoo, or Aaron westenberg.com. My email address is that but in my Instagram is just my last name. It's just Westerberg. So but that's where to kind of see the most updated information about what's going on with me and and then I have, you know, like, I have some courses, like I did a super elaborate course with with poco. Poco is the online kind of our entity who also you know, Stan is his name. He studied with Jeff, he studied with definitely 12 years, maybe longer. So it's everything, they do everything, their animation, everything, but I did a course where I think it's like nine hours, you can get a condensed version, where they summarize more of it, but it's literally me shooting the model, doing a little study, priming the panel, like everything is included in that one. And that's you can it's everything's on my website, you can just link from there to the actual download. But But yeah, I think that's it.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:03:23

Yeah, and we're gonna have all your links in the show notes as well. Yeah. So awesome. Well, thank you so much, Aaron, for being a guest on the show and giving us all of this inspiring and awesome advice.

Aaron Westerberg: 1:03:37

Of course, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:03:40

Course. Yeah.

The BoldBrush Show. Interviews with today's finest artists and creatives. Watch here or listen on all major podcast services.