John Dalton ‘s Interview
My work arises at the intersection of consciousness and love. With influences as diverse as Anish Kapoor, Charles Bukowski and Krishnamurti, new insights are distilled from both internal and external dialogue. Art, for me, is a crucial means for expressing felt knowledge. My diverse work in Further Emergence, podcasting, painting, and writing, gently probe the curtain of existence, pulling it aside in places allowing glimpses into the mystery beyond. Like most people my age I’ve had many lives within the one. I’ve loved deeply, cried hard, lost what was most precious to me and been given the greatest of gifts. I got the cosmic joke from an early age but for most of my life, I’ve been saddened by how few people are laughing.
JOHN DALTON (Interview Lara Restelli)
I found the world of “Living Masters” more than a year ago when I came across a list of the top realist painters working today, compiled by John Dalton. That is when my life and art practice changed forever. “I didn’t know people still painted like that,” said John, and neither did I. A world of wonders opened up in front of my eyes! Almost 200 interviews of very talented yet diverse realist painters, hours of shared technical knowledge, personal experiences within the art business, and even intimate conversations about life and politics filled my studio every day. Suddenly, my lonely days of studio practice were exciting and joyful.
John’s candid interviews taught me and encouraged me during one very challenging year. I often found myself answering the questions that John was asking the interviewer, and let me tell you, that I learned a lot about myself this way. Later, I began thinking about things that I would like to know about John. Why isn’t anybody asking him questions too?? I wondered. So I started writing everything I would like to know about him…
Hi John, it is my pleasure to be talking to you and getting to know you better. You are an avid writer, so I am very eager to read what you have to say to us today.
We know you mostly from your art podcast, but you express yourself as an artist in many different ways. You have a broad spectrum of experiences such as animation, painting, photography, sculpture, writing, interviewing, healing, meditation, and even craneopsicotherapy craniosacral therapy.
What of all these diverse interests defines you better?
Thank you Lara, I think your rock paintings are brilliant.
The defining focus of my life is my passion for consciousness, spirituality, and love.
All my creative activities flow from the interchange of these three principles.
It is what my work as a craniosacral therapist has been about.
It is what my continuing work in Further Emergence is about – helping people through inner growth spurts.
It is what my writing and painting are about. And it also underpins the gently does it… podcast.
(I also host the Further Emergence podcast.)
You started your podcast in 2013 with a very different thematic approach. How did you turn to art as your central podcast topic?
The gently does it… podcast was not my first. My first podcast was called The Wellness Detective Agency Podcast and it launched in 2006 right when podcasting was getting going. The podcast was an adjunct to my book Why Do We Get Sick Why Do We Get Better – A Wellness Detective Manual.
That podcast came to its natural conclusion after about 18 months and I didn’t think any more about podcasting until I finished my book Maya Noise in 2013.
It seemed like a good idea to start a podcast to expand on some of the topics I covered in Maya Noise. The name of my website was John Dalton, with the subtitle – gently does it… so the podcast took that name and the John Dalton – gently does it… podcast was born.
The first twelve episodes of the podcast are me talking about the different areas relating to Maya Noise. They are on my youtube channel too.
When I finished the twelfth episode I didn’t have any more to say about Maya Noise so there was a six-month gap where there were no new episodes.
During that time I was in the studio painting and listening to podcasts myself. The podcasts I was enjoying the most were all interviews.
It occurred to me that it would be nice to interview people in the fields of spirituality, health, and art as these were the fields I was interested in myself.
Right from the beginning, the podcast began to demonstrate that, when it came to interviewing people, it had a life of its own. There always seemed to be a logistical, scheduling, or technical problem with the guests I lined up for spirituality or health but not art. So through a very natural process, the podcast gravitated towards artists.
If you look back at the very early interview episodes you will see that the guests I had on were very diverse. Then slowly it began to bend more and more towards art and in particular figurative art.
How do you choose the artists you would like to interview?
The main criteria for how I choose the artist is passion. My passion for their work. I have to really like their work.
At the end of each episode, when we have gone through all the listener questions, I will finish up by gushing about what it is I like so much about the artist’s work. This part is always heartfelt and true.
I wouldn’t be able to do that about paintings that didn’t resonate with me.
I couldn’t fake it.
People suggest artists to me all the time. Artists who are very good technically and who have big followings, but if their work doesn’t resonate with me I can’t have them on the podcast. I wouldn’t be able to enthuse about their work. So the main criteria for me is that I think the artist’s work is brilliant.
Initially, I had a long list, a wish list really, of artists I wanted to talk with. My intention was to systematically work my way down the list but, as I mentioned, the podcast has a mind of its own. It never worked out as planned.
Over time I realized that planning that far ahead didn’t work. Scheduling an interview with an artist six months ahead of time made the whole process stale.
I found that the podcast demanded a more immediate type of schedule.
This accelerated during the pandemic.
Now I only plan a week or two in advance and it is very spontaneous who I will get in touch with. No more lists.
I contact the artist on Thursday. We record the following Wednesday. The episode is out by Friday or Saturday.
You have developed a set of questions that you ask all your interviewers. How did you come up with that specific set of questions? they are fantastic, by the way
Thank you. The questions have developed over the years and are a combination of questions I am interested in and also questions I know my listeners, all of whom are artists, will be interested in too. They form the spine of the interview.
I also invite questions from listeners on Patreon and Instagram. These listener questions fill out the interview and vary depending on the artist. Usually, there are around 70 listener questions but for Colleen Barry, for example, there were 300+ listener questions. If someone goes to the trouble of asking a question I will make sure and ask it. For the larger number of questions, I will group them together around a specific topic.
I organise the questions to follow a natural logic of inquiry. They start off with what other artists have influenced the artist I am talking to. Then we transition into what the artist’s inspiration process is. How they capture their ideas? Then there are a series of very granular questions about technical issues like paintbrushes, substrates, mediums, and everything else.
Then the questions naturally flow into more philosophical questions about what the artist is trying to convey and where they are psychologically in their approach in their art.
And then we finish up on the business side of being an artist and what their particular experience of the art business has been like.
It shows in your interviews that you are a very sensitive person and an excellent listener; why do you think that is?
From the start, I was very clear that people weren’t listening to the interviews to hear me talking. They wanted to hear the person I was interviewing and what they had to say. Knowing that helped me keep quiet.
Also, I have many years of working as a craniosacral therapist which involves intense listening and receptivity. I had decades of experience of really listening to what a person has to say and that comes through in the interviews.
Did you learn something from these interviews that changed you personally or influenced your work?
These long conversations with artists who have given their lives to painting have significantly changed and influenced the way I work.
I’ve gone from very painstaking and tight work, work that was a process of getting my inner vision onto canvas in the most realistic way I could, to the way I paint now which is a process of exploration, where I’m not certain of where the painting will go when I start it.
I am so grateful to all the artists I have interviewed. They have saved me so much time through the sharing of their experience.
Your conversations provide invaluable information for artists and art lovers. Considering them in a time context will be priceless for future generations. What do you think you have achieved so far, and what else would you like to achieve with them?
I regularly get messages from artists who tell me that, through listening to the podcast, they feel like they are part of a community. They realize that there are so many other artists who are interested in the same type of art and are dealing with the same kinds of issues that they are.
I think this is one of the things the podcast has achieved. Another thing the podcast has achieved is taking the power out of imposter syndrome.
The number of listeners who have got in touch and said how helpful they found it was to hear that successful artists they had put on a pedestal had just the same kinds of insecurities and technical difficulties as they did really encouraged them to keep at it.
I consider these great achievements and they make me very happy.
As for the future, I would like to help figurative artists get paid better for their work. Even a 30% increase in price would make a huge difference to the artists, yet figurative art would still be a bargain compared to abstract art for example.
I would like to help artists transition into a fairer economic model with galleries. Taking 50% of the sale price of a piece of art is extortionate and archaic. Many of the artists I talk to are far more adept at social media than the galleries that represent them. The old model of how galleries operate is collapsing rapidly. I would like to be able to help with that.
I have long had the idea of having a yearly show with work from artists who have been on the podcast.
At some point I would like to produce a series of big art books with transcripts of all the interviews and examples of the artist’s work. I think that would be a great resource for future generations.
Why do you think art exists?
I go back to what I imagine was the beginning of art. I am in a cave with my fellow cave dwellers trying to explain the hunt I have been on that day. They are not really getting it so I start making marks in the dirt. “This is me,” I say, “This is the bison. That’s my spear. This is me chasing the bison…” and so on.
The journey from the dirt to the cave wall to the fresco to the canvas to installation to performance piece to digital work are all expressions of the same thing – communication. At its core art is about communication.
The artist is trying to convey their interior space externally. And the viewer is hoping the external artwork will resonate with their interior space.
What do you think is the future of realism in the art world?
I think the future is bright. I have a great appreciation for craftsmanship, skill, and mastery. I think that will never go out of fashion.
I also have a great appreciation for the conceptual skills taught in contemporary art colleges.
What is most exciting about the future of realism in the art world is the combination of these two approaches.
Where the message and concept of the painting will be as strong as the technical skill that the painting has been executed with. That is a powerful combination.
What makes an art piece outstanding for you?
Technical mastery combined with innovative concept imbued with profound humanity and heart.
How would you define a successful art career?
A successful art career is specific to and defined by, the artist.
For some artists, a successful art career is a sustainable art career. Earning enough money through the sale of their art to enable them to pay the bills and keep painting. That is the case for many of the artists I interview.
Other artists define their success by the place they will have in art history, how many museum shows they have, how famous they become and how much their paintings sell for.
The art world is a big tent with enough room for all.
For myself, it seems the happiest art career is the one that doesn’t rely on external factors for its validation. If I manage to pull off the miracle of creating a painting that in some way communicates my interior space then I am happy. Anything after that is a bonus.
What is a talented artist for you?
I think talent will only get you so far. Passion, on the other hand, is what differentiates one artist from another.
I have talked to artists who didn’t start off with a lot of natural drawing or painting talent but were passionate about becoming artists. That passion drove them to stay with it until they developed the skills they needed to express their passion.
And it shows through in their work. Their white hot passion to paint. It’s almost as if they can’t do anything else with their lives but paint. They imbue their paintings with this passion and their work throbs with vitality.
Tell us a little about your own art practice. How would you describe your work?
My work is an attempt to express the mystery behind existence. My work nearly always includes figures because there is in people the capacity to be conscious of the mystery of existence. There is a certain amount of abstraction in the backgrounds of my paintings or in the figures themselves as an endeavor to express this mystery.
I work in a meditative silence, gently riveted to my inner state. I carefully listen to the painting as it resonates with the silence in me.
I work on the painting until there is nothing more to do with it. There is an internal click letting me know it is finished. Once a painting is finished, within a matter of days, I stop being the painter who painted it. This not a mind trick on my part, it happens of its own accord. From then on I see the painting like every other viewer.
What message do you want to convey through your work?
I don’t set out to convey any particular message. I trust that if the painting makes sense to me, is complete to me, and an entity onto itself, then others will see it in that way too and a communication will occur.
Do you have any dreams you would like to achieve before you die?
My dreams have a fractal quality to them and are simultaneously personal and global. The issues of world peace, racial and sexual equality, world hunger, and the climate crisis are all in the forefront of my awareness.
At the same time, each day, each hour, each moment I aim to live my best life. Not in an Instagram sort of way but in the quality of my life, the ease of my life, of movement, of happiness, of authenticity, of kindness, of truth, and open-heartedness.
I am in a continual process of refining, curating, and fine-tuning the global and personal aspects of my life. The overriding dream for my life is that at the end of it my external world will reflect my inner world more than it did at the beginning.
You are very good at describing the feeling of an art piece, and you have a keen eye to detect talent. Have you ever thought about becoming an art critic or an art writer?
I have done quite a bit of art writing over the years. I’m not sure if I would be a very good art critic though. Mainly because I empathize so strongly with artists regardless of whether I resonate with their work, or agree with them about their level of skill.
I always resonate with the effort that is required to make art. I champion a person’s movement to express themself, to make something, and put it out into the world, to make themself vulnerable.
I have great empathy for that and always applaud it. I would find it very hard to criticize it.
All I can ever say is your art doesn’t resonate with me, or you think you are way more competent at drawing or painting than you actually are.
Lastly, if there is one thing that you can pass on to future generations, what would that be?
The world is an illusion – see through it.
Love and communication are real – make them your focus. Be okay with mystery – it has a lot to teach.
Paradox is inherent to everything – embrace it.
Kindness is powerful – cultivate and cherish it.
OFFICIAL SITE | www.johndalton.me
INSTAGRAM | instagram.com/johndaltonart
FACEBOOK | facebook.com/dalton.john
Lara Restelli is a Miami-based artist who has successfully exhibited in many well-established art shows, including Red Dot Miami (during Art Basel Week), Art Palm Beach, ArtsParks Miami, and Loyola School of the Arts Miami. Restelli’s artwork has also found its way into the homes of private collectors, as well as many prestigious condominiums in Miami, FL, like Aria on the Bay, Melody, Square Station, Flagler on the River and Skyview.
Lara Restelli’s education within the classical European school of realism allows her to create extremely realistic artwork with a blissfully contemporary perspective. Her dedication to accurately depicting the natural world makes her paintings fascinating to analyze and deconstruct. Viewers often find themselves increasingly drawn into the paintings as they sink further and further into the multiple levels of detail. This spellbinding effect stems from Lara’s clear evolution in each of her paintings from simple lines and blocks of colors to very complex and colorfully detailed scenarios drenched in high contrasts that are still artfully balanced.
Lara Restelli’s journey to the art world did not grow in a straight line. Lara was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1971. Her upbringing was filled with opportunities to be joyful, imaginative and creative. Spending long summers building fantasies, painting anything she would find, like wood scraps, old tiles, and cardboard, kindled an initial flame that later grew into a roaring passion for the arts. However, her university studies shifted her focus to International Business, for which she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Buenos Aires. From these early professional years, she developed a successful career that finally brought her to the United States. Moving to the US in 2001 and creating a family of her own, far from everything she knew and loved, created a big void in her life. The remedy to fulfill that void took the form of weekly art classes, which took her back to those inspiring summer days. Unknowingly, art would be her catalyst to a new life. As weekly art classes turned into years of experimentation, the restrained elegance of classical realism ultimately caught her eye and became her language of choice.
Armed with innate talent and sheer passion, Lara had the honor of attending Alberto Pancorbo’s European School of Art, a well renowned Spanish painter who teaches a very classical European approach to art education. “At the Atelier, the old masters from bygone eras became the real teachers, whispering their secrets to students in between the brushstrokes of their most referential masterpieces.” Alberto Pancorbo, in turn, became the mentor, while the students became the apprentices, much like in Renaissance times. In due time, Lara would come to master their technique, which she now applies in her own unique way.
The juxtaposition of finessed technique and graceful elegance with Lara’s impactful family life has led to her ability to showcase the beauty in everyday moments. Now, she whispers her own secrets of serenity, stability, and spirituality through her art that hangs in private residences and graces the halls of well-known condominiums and exhibitions.
OFFICIAL SITE | www.lararestelli.com
INSTAGRAM | instagram.com/lararestelliart