Award winning artist, David Hettinger, began his career when he hopped a plan from the railroad town of Aurora, IL and landed in New York City. He moved to New York on the advice of Joseph Welna, owner of Welna Gallery in Chicago, having virtually no worldly wisdom, only a fierce desire to “learn what it was to be a real artist”. Welna began showing Hettinger’s work while the young artist was still attending the American Academy of Art, in Chicago. He directed Hettinger to study with David Leffel and Richard Schmid in New York and on how to earn his living as an artist from day one. With steadfast focus and determination, Hettinger made a name for himself as a fine artist and never looked back.
Today Hettinger’s paintings are in private collections around the globe. He focuses on figurative work drawn from life in his Aurora studio. These works represent a lifetime of observing everyday relationships between people. Relationships and the sweet subtleties shared between human beings is at the core of the man and the artist that Hettinger has become. The fleeting human treasure of those subtle moments between people is apparent in Hettinger’s work in a true way, because it is Hettinger’s truth.
Formally, training began at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Hettinger learned classical realism and the techniques of the Flemish, Dutch and Spanish Masters. After four years at the academy, Hettinger moved to New York City where he studied with David Leffel and Richard Schmid. During his two years in Leffel’s studio he painted still-lifes and figures, always working from live models. He learned the importance of working from life from Schmid and Leffel, and to this day attends life drawing sketch groups twice a week to keep his drawing skills fine-tuned. Since beginning his career as a professional artist he has had 21 one-man shows in galleries across the country. He is a master signature member of Oil Painters of America. He has won awards for his landscapes, still-lifes, and figurative paintings. His work has been reviewd in American Artist Magazine 1993, The Artist Magazine 2003 and International Artist 2004, and won the OPA Gold Medal Award in 2010.
Forty years of drawing and painting from life have enabled Hettinger to work up concepts for paintings based on past experiences and life’s observations. He often begins a painting without models or references, pulling a scene from a past memory. Models are hired for figurative paintings only after a concept is drawn out on canvas. Hettinger doesn’t think of his figurative pieces as portraits or paintings of people but rather of relationships and moments in time. A child asking a question of an adult can inspire a painting; the idea of a peaceful summer afternoon being interrupted by a child wanting to do something or wanting to go somewhere brings a smile to Hettinger. That smile inspires a painting that will bring Hettinger into a world of possibilities. He ponders the relationship between the child and the adult, and the questions the adult seems to have trouble answering. Bringing these concepts to life on a canvas are Hettinger’s enjoyable challenges. Working up a design for the painting, and dreaming up colors for clothing and background are little puzzles to work out. Textures of subject matter and the painting surface are more challenges he accepts. Every painting for Hettinger is a present experience in which he is reliving a past experience. Even his still-life’s hold personal memories for him. His mother was a gardener who loved to save plants from the summer by bringing them into the house over the winter. Windowsills were filled with potted plants. Now his paintings are of those potted plants sitting on the windowsill with a landscape outside.
My thing is painting and drawing, it’s all I do. Drawing the human figure is my passion. Not sure how old I was when I first began to draw; I give different ages when asked the question. I know I was quite young and I know my interest in drawing people was also something that I possessed at an early age. Drawing cowboys from the TV was a start, and then people in the neighborhood became an interest for me. These days I hire models so that I can draw and paint from life in my studio. The human figure is still my main interest and getting to know the people I paint has become part of the process. In order for me to truly capture a figure I need to know the person I am painting. Over the years I have met some fascinating models at sketch groups and have been lucky enough to collaborate with them over periods spanning years. It is my preference to work with a particular individual for as long as possible, so personality becomes just as important as the physical figure. Everyone has seen that painting that expresses more feeling than just a pretty face – that comes when you really get to know the person behind the canvas. My models are all living, breathing women with interesting life stories, struggles and passions. I am inspired by their lives, childhood memories and current endeavors as much as I am their look. My paintings are memories of my childhood and family and of scenes I’ve seen that inspire me. I spend a lot of time observing people in parks, gardening, fishing, caring for kids, all the things people do in their daily lives. Sketching these scenes is how I record them and hiring models is how I create the art I love doing – which is painting the daily life that I see around me. My painting “In the Corner of the Garden”, was a scene from a family get together. I recreated that scene from two of my cousin’s daughters, off by themselves talking and resting after an afternoon of badminton and hiking. I hired two of my favorite models and set them up in a park and sketched them in charcoal and in oils.
Once I have my concept down on canvas I concentrate on getting the figures to interact in some way. Then I introduce the idea of paint surface to my painting process. Brush work and how the surface of the finished work of art looks is very important to me. A multi-figure painting, on average, takes about ten days. That is from the seed of the concept to completion. The actual painting time can be a week to three weeks, but the entire process from the first idea of the concept to signing the finished painting is typically a month long.