Interview with Allen Heydman

Allen Heydman Interview with and Artist #arton12gallery

How long have you been an artist? Tell us about your art career.

I was raised a carpenter. I guess you could say I’ve been a carpenter my whole life. I’ve always worked with wood. Actually, I go back a long way with various types of craft. I would define most of my craft work as functional works. I’ve made wooden boxes, hair combs, hair sticks and mirrors since the mid-eighties, so I guess I’ve been working with wood about 35 years.

I enjoy choosing various types of wood to work with. The first batch of wood I ever bought was from a friend in Arkansas who had a wood shop. I bought walnut, cherry, and ash from him. Those are the woods I first chose to work with. Later I began to work with mesquite. I had a friend in Arizona who got mesquite in Mexico and I was fortunate to get mesquite left over from his art projects. I made a lot of boxes and other things from that mesquite, which was really a beautiful wood.

Then, about 10 or 12 years ago I decided I needed to learn to do something besides woodcraft, so I started painting. My wife is a painter and my mentor. She’s taught me a lot. Over time, I’ve become more familiar with various types of paints and brushes. I prefer acrylic paint. I like that acrylic paint dries quickly and it’s easy to cover errors and start over. I love bright colors, and I have a lot of colors to choose from. At one time,while working as an athletic coach, I would notice the way kids stood, their posture and stances. Their various poses were the basis of some of my first paintings, whether it’s a ballerina pose or a gymnastic pose or whatever I observed. I would use those poses as a start and then abstract them. I still use poses and forms to start some of my paintings.

I also really enjoy welding. Some of my favorite pieces of art are my metal sculptures. Personally, I believe they’re my most creative work. I’ve always had an interest in the solar system, which inspired me to produce several sculptures that have an earth and solar system theme. I’ve also produced several sculptures of ballerina poses and various yoga poses. Those poses have always been an inspiration and sparks my creativity. I’m also inspired by nature. I’m surrounded by nature, animals, and plants. The flowers that come from my wife’s garden inspire some of my work.

So, working with wood, painting, and producing metal sculpture is what I enjoy. And that pretty much summarizes my long career in art.

With your long career in art, what three artists, living or dead, would you pick to have at a dinner party?

It’s pretty easy for me to decide which artists I would choose to invite to dinner. They’re all local artists. One of the first artists I ever met in Wimberley was Ronnie Weeks. We had a lot in common. He was an all-star athlete, so we became friends and have always had a lot to talk about. I’ve watched him and admired his assemblage work over the years and I’ve been fascinated by his talent and his creativity. I love the variety in his work. Another artist I would pick is Roger McBee. He’s a photographer and digital artist. I’ve always been interested in his technique. I don’t really understand what he does or how he does it, but I like how clear and interesting his art is. And the third artist I would have to dinner would, of course, be my wife. I’ve always appreciated her work. I’ve always been interested in her abstract work and just how she comes up with all those ideas.  

Michael Penn Smith - Artist at Arton12

Michael Penn Smith

Michael Penn Smith 

When did you first think of yourself as an artist? 

When I got out of college I’d been interested in photography, but I hadn’t actually done it. In the last semester of college I took a very interesting course called ‘Media Culture.’ It was in the Marshall McLuhan era (1960’s, 70’s). When I got out of college I wanted to get into film-making and I bought a Canon 8mm camera and started to do a little work with that. But then I realized that it was going to be very expensive, so I transitioned to still photography. I got an Olympus camera and started shooting a lot. I’ve been into photography ever since. 

That said, I have worked most of my life as a cameraman, mostly in video. I’m a cameraman, not a director or producer. So, I’m working for filmmakers. What I’ve done more than anything in the last few years is operate a ‘jib arm’: a piece of equipment with a camera on one end of a long arm, and a weight on the other end. So, you can ‘fly” the camera around. It’s used a lot for concerts and music videos. 

I’ve also been transitioning back into still photography over the last 10 years. I guess the moment I thought of it being something I could make money at was just a few years later. I was in my 20’s, living in Austin, doing all kinds of odd jobs to make a living. I was barely making a living, but it was not very expensive to live there then, so that was alright. On ‘The Drag’ right across from the University of Texas (UT) there was a little cordoned-off space they called a market. You could get a license from the city, set up a place, and sell there. I did that off and on for a couple of years. I had to print work, frame it, and try to sell it. That’s probably when I first started thinking about making art out of photography. 

Michael Penn Smith - Artist at Arton12
Michael Penn Smith – Artist at Arton12

Who have been your mentors or people that inspired you? 

There were lots and lots of photographers, but Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson are a couple that really impressed me. I got a chance to do an Ansel Adams workshop during that time – in the late 60’s early 70’s. Ansel Adams was leading the workshop. What was amazing was that most all the west coast photography establishment came annually to his workshops just to hang out. So, there were all these world-renowned photographers who were just hanging out there. There were maybe seven or eight who were instructors in the workshop, but all the others were just hanging out together. We went to Brett Weston’s studio and visited him. He was selling his prints for $75. I wish that I had bought a bunch! Cartier-Bresson’s influence on my work was about the spontaneity of capturing the ‘decisive moment’. Some of my work is that: capturing the decisive moment. Cartier-Bresson was ‘the’ original street photographer, in my estimation. 

With those diverse influences, how do you pick subject matter? What do you think about when you go out to photograph? Are you looking for any particular thing? 

My philosophy of photography is that you should be able to get a good, interesting photograph anywhere, anytime. The richer the environment for photography, of course, the better. But I feel that you can get a good photograph anywhere, and that’s a very, very useful skill. In order to get a good photograph, you have to be very open to seeing everything in front of you. Many people don’t really see what’s right in front of them. They look and think, “Well, this is a table and that’s a chair over there”, and they decide they don’t need to look at it anymore because they have already identified it. Getting past that routine way of seeing things is an important skill, I think. One way to cultivate that skill is, regardless of the situation you’re in, practice finding something interesting about a particular thing that you can then photograph. 

What three artists, living or dead would you like to have at a dinner party? 

Well, Leonardo da Vinci because he wasn’t just an artist, he was also ‘the’ original Renaissance man. I would include Ansel Adams and Edward Weston (Brett Weston’s father). 

What’s the weirdest or funniest thing anybody ever said to you about your work? 

When you set up a booth or tent and sell to the public, people approach, and I get this an awful lot, “Are these paintings?” They ask that because the photographs are printed on canvas. The question that really used to get me was: ‘“Did you copy these from National Geographic?” It’s funny because it’s both an insult and kind of a compliment. 

Cheryl Pritts - artist at Gallery

Cheryl Pritts

Cheryl Pritts Interview

 Cheryl Pritts - artist at Gallery
Cheryl Pritts – artist at Gallery


When did you first begin to think of yourself as an artist? 

I began like many people, as sort of a hobby. I painted on wood because my husband did a lot of woodworking. We lived in Pennsylvania at that time, and I did a lot of folk art. It was then that I thought, ‘Oh, I really love color!’ 

After moving to Texas, I started art school with a local artist in San Marcos (Betty Ritchie). She paints in a very classic style, and I really didn’t fit in with the other students because I loved using a palette knife and pure color, unlike most classic-style painters. I don’t like to blend a lot. 

I fell in love with this wonderful teacher and stayed under her tutelage. I learned about light, where the light goes in my paintings. I learned more about mixing colors. Through her eyes, I learned to appreciate different genres. She’s definitely a classically western painter. I’m definitely not. But, I do love the western palette and what I learned from her: the use of rust color and the different browns with a little of the blues and greens. And of course, my shadows have to be purple. 

I became so different from everybody in my class, including the teacher, that I finally learned my own techniques. I would call myself more of a ‘colorist’, because that’s what I love. I still meet with Betty once a week and paint with her in her studio because we just have so much fun. 

Who have been the people that you draw inspiration from? 

One lady that really set me on my journey was Lois Griffel. I bought every one of her books and every one of her videos. I couldn’t afford to go to her workshops. But this summer, for the first time, I’m going to her workshop in Wisconsin. She is the leading lady, the Director of the New England School of Art, which is more of a school for impressionist painters. From her books and videos I learned a lot about technique with the palette knife. So, she was really the one that helped launch me into my own style.

You have really diverse subject matter. How do you decide what you want to paint at any given time? 

Well, I belong to several art leagues and they have people who come to present different techniques. So, of course I think, ‘Let’s try it!’ And when I try the different techniques, it results in my putting a mix of art styles in the gallery. I’m still true to myself because I still use the palette knife most of the time. I do love different designs and different media. 

My favorite subject matter, by far, are landscapes. The large paintings I do are all landscapes. I think, ‘OK let’s have fun with this painting!’ So, I guess in a way, I paint for my audience. I think about that. I go to events like pop-up art experiences, and I start ‘reading’ my audience. They’ll say, “I wish I had something for my little boy’s room or my den”. I don’t take commissions, but I listen to what they want and keep those ideas in mind. I’m a retired teacher so I try to figure out how people think and what they may want.

What did you think was important to have around you to help spark your creativity when you created your studio space? 

My studio space is huge. It’s an air-conditioned barn, thanks to my son, who installed the air conditioning unit. So, I can do very large pieces in there. I can do cement in there if I want to. I can do mosaics. I can do cold wax, oil, or whatever. What makes it fun is I have different stations, tables all over the place, for different things I want to try. So, if I get tired doing one thing, I just go to a different area and do something else. 

What three artists, living or dead would you like to have at a dinner party? 

Van Gogh, Monet, and Alfred Sisley 

What’s the weirdest or funniest thing anybody ever said to you about your work? 

One time I had a painting at a show, and it was more minimalistic and the person said, “You know what, I saw that in a paint-by-number”. 

Rowdy Winters

Rowdy Winters

When did you first begin to think of yourself as an artist?

I always grew up around art. My father was a full-time painter ever since he was in college. So, by the age of five I was going to art shows and traveling with him, helping him set up his booths and watching him paint. But, it wasn’t until I was 20, in my sophomore year at Texas State, before I started considering art as something I should do. I was starting to get into traveling and wanting to find a job outdoors. Around that time, my Dad was really pushing me toward photography. He had an inkling it would be something I would be interested in. It was the week before Christmas …we went out to Big Bend. He gave me his camera and we just hiked and took photos. After that I was starting to look back at my images and edit, and he actually let me make a big canvas print and put it in his gallery. It was around that time that I thought. ‘Oh this would be awesome! What a dream to travel and just take photographs and share that with other people’.

Rowdy Winters
Rowdy Winters

How do you decide on your subject matter ?

I do a lot of art shows in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and here in Texas. Even showing my work in Art on 12, here in Wimberley. I think, as far as photography, people really like to see the beauty of their own back yard: local subject matter: Big Bend or even the bluebonnets here in the hill country. Or thinking about Colorado: the mountains, the aspens; or the deserts in Arizona. I’d love to go to Europe or California or Wyoming. But the places I tend to go to the most are the places where I think I can eventually sell that work.

What artists were inspirations or mentors for you? 

First and foremost, my Dad, without a doubt. He taught me about composition and lighting as well as framing and presenting your work. A picture is just a picture on a phone or camera screen. But once it’s on the wall, that’s when it becomes a work of art. Other photographers that have inspired me?  In high school I went to the Peter Lik gallery and seeing that work was just mind blowing. Even though I didn’t think about being a photographer at the time, I remember now looking back how impressive that was. I’ve read multiple books by him. Also, Paul Zizka, a Canadian photographer in Banff. I did a workshop with Dustin Lefevre in Salt Lake City that was my first hands-on workshop.. so important…far more valuable than reading or a YouTubevideo.


Have you created a special studio space for yourself?  

Well as a photographer, doing digital makes things simpler. As far as doing the landscapes, the outdoors is kind of my office. My studio – the post processing – is real easy. So, I just can work on the computer in my room. I try and keep the post-processing minimal. The majority of the work is beforehand… planning the shot, making sure I’m getting the lighting right, and then executing. The post studio work like framing comes pretty easily.

What three artists, living or dead would you like to have at a dinner party?

Ansel Adams and Georgia OKeefe – those two paired together for sure, because they’ve traveled together throughout New Mexico, where I’m from originally. Seeing their work and what they’ve done, especially in the southwest where I typically go the most. Definitely, there would be a lot of subject matter to talk about there. Probably Paul Ziska. He does phenomenal digital photography, especially the Northern Lights. He’s one of the top mountaineers as well. He’s probably one of my biggest inspirations… the amount of work he has to go through to take those photographs is amazing.

What’s the weirdest or funniest thing anybody ever said to you about your work?

I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations. When I’m at an art show, crowded with people, you kind of want people to engage with you and your work, but not waste too much of your time. Because there are other people you want to engage with. I mean, you’re a salesman at that point. So, I’ve had times … there’s always a person that will bring up …’Oh, beautiful photo’… and then they ramble on for 30 minutes about tangential stuff. But, then again, whenever people come in and enjoy your work and strike up a conversation, it’s still very flattering.

robert anschutz

Robert Anschutz

When did you first begin to think of yourself as an artist? 

Well, my Dad got me a little box camera when I was in high school. I was going to the drag races and I’d take my camera because I liked the way the old cars looked. That was the impetus, early on. But I didn’t really explore photography any more than that until I got out of college. I was studying marketing in college and that kept me busy. Later, I met a fellow who became a mentor and he had this complete darkroom setup in his house. He decided to sell it and he made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. He offered it all to me at a discount price and co-signed a note at the bank for me, so I was off and running. I photographed Aqua Fest in Austin and other kinds of events like jazz and music festivals. That was kind of the beginning.

Later, I had a little darkroom where I could process black and white film. It was in what had been a dentist’s office and it had a reception area with a receptionist. It was about 6-8 blocks from the University of Texas (UT) campus on 19th street, now MLK. I was in that office, when, on August 1, 1966, the receptionist came and got me out of the darkroom and said “we’re gonna go down the street.” Somebody on the UT tower was shooting at people. I had a large 500mm lens on loan that attached directly to a tripod, and the camera would attach directly to the lens. So, it turned out that I could really ‘hone in’ on the tower as the police fired bullets up there. I never saw Whitman. But, I did have a press pass and got in the next day and photographed where all the bullets hit the walls as he would fire down into the stairwells to keep people from coming up. I saw the bullet holes where they had finally shot him. 

After college, I began working with ad agencies and home builders. The home builders needed what they called a ‘PR story’ on their new additions. Of course, they’d say, “Get out there, we need to make the paper in two hours.” That’s life when you are working with ad agencies. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.

I later met a fellow who became a friend and he played in a band. He also booked bands. At that time, I had a small studio and business on Barton Springs Rd. in Austin, and while there, I photographed a lot of different music groups. I was at that studio for eight years and then I moved to South Congress Avenue, and after that move, photography was no longer my primary focus. For several years I was doing graphic artwork for ad agencies. I sold my small business in 1993. I didn’t really have much choice. When people started using computers to design ads they didn’t need someone to enlarge or set type, so typesetters and graphic arts businesses were pretty much out. 

Back into photography, I shot one event every year for 52 years. In 1967, while doing a photo shoot in the Capitol of Texas building, I was approached by the Director of Bluebonnet Girl’s State. It’s part of the America Legion Auxiliary. They focus on civics classes for young women who were at top levels in their school. The Director asked if I’d be interested in photographing an event. I said yes. I mostly photographed young ladies in various group settings. I’ve done it every summer since 1967, until 2018. It was a long ride: 52 years. They honored me for my photography of the event. I was thinking. ‘“Well, this might be a good time to wrap”. 

robert anschutz

How do you decide on your subject matter…what you want to photograph at any given time?

Photography was my primary interest when I moved to Wimberley in 2014. I got the first digital Nikon in 2015. I started going to the butte called ‘Old Baldy’, would hike up 218 steps, then watch the sun go down and watch the sun come up. Then I discovered River Road in Wimberley, and I’d go on there on early Sunday mornings just to get that first light. That’s what drives me: coming up with that ‘magic-hour’ shot when the light is just right. 

Then, I starting photographing longhorns. Usually, I would photograph them through a barbed wire fence, and these photographs are some of my best sellers. I met many of the owners later, and we became friends. Some would allow me on their property to shoot.

I continue to do a lot of shooting at Zilker Gardens in Austin, especially in the fall when the butterflies are there. It’s about getting that perfect shot of the butterfly on a flower. I’d get there around 11 a.m. during the day in spring or late fall. The light filters through the trees, so I get this nice pattern of light. 

What’s the weirdest or funniest thing anybody ever said to you about your work?

I use Photoshop and print the images on canvas. People often ask if I painted them, or if I painted them and then photographed them. 

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