Eo Omwake

October 6, 2015

Eo1What made you interested in becoming a painter?
I’m not sure what got me started but I remember when I was in second grade the teacher hung a drawing I did on the cork board and it really made me feel good; I felt like I was special somehow. A year later we moved to Chadds Ford next door to the Wyeths. I became best friends with Jamie Wyeth and spent a lot of time in their house. I loved seeing that Andy was a grown-up and still making art.

What is your favorite subject matter to paint?
I don’t think I have a favorite. I’m inspired when I see something symbolic or metaphoric, when there is something meaningful from a real object or just a color, shape, texture, or color combination. I like painting non-representationally—from my inside imagination—because there are no restrictions. I can do whatever I want, just make up stuff, change anything any way I want. Painting realistically is something I have done and did it pretty well, but when I stepped back and looked at a whole body of my work, it just didn’t seem to express who I was or how I wanted to be known. I tried some primitive realistic approaches, which is what I tend to do when I paint representationally. To me, painting representationally (real stuff from outside our skin) is like music that has vocals; painting non-representationally (from the imagination) is like music that is simply instrumental.

What has been the most rewarding experience in your career?
Ha! Well the real answer is always the last painting! But externally speaking, my first show at Marion Locks Gallery in Philadelphia stands out to me. Also, getting in the Whitney Annual in New York twice stands out and my retrospective at the Chris White Gallery in Wilmington in 2012.

Why do you like teaching at the Delaware Art Museum?
I started teaching at the Museum around 1973 or so. It has been a long, rewarding experience—a lot of students and a lot of paintings over the years. I enjoy it immensely and look forward to each class. I think it is the adventure of each person taking on the art experience that I like. Each person learning something new, each person trying to become a good artist, each person trying to make progress from where they were the previous week, getting to know each person and helping them learn to express themselves.

 What is your teaching philosophy?
I would have to say that my teaching philosophy is just to help each person according to his or her own personal interests. Still, with that being said, to me this means being open to all kinds of art approaches—realism, expressionism, abstraction, and non-representational. I think it is important for a real teacher to NOT teach ‘dogma’ but to teach ‘aliveness.’ I think a real teacher doesn’t teach what he or she personally does as an artist, but should guide aspiring students to find their own personal voice in painting. Yes, there are important, universal skills and bodies of knowledge about what makes a painting good. If you just teach what you do, I think you are just creating a clone of you… and that’s not a good thing. Each student must find himself or herself.

How would you describe your own art?
Sensuous, thought-provoking, intelligent, natural, true to who I am, haunting, smoldering, pretty, beautiful, ugly, inspiring, happy, sad, surprising, something you’ve never seen before, an event outside the ‘box,’ about life, new, old, classic…

For more information about the Delaware Art Museum’s Drawing and Painting classes and to see what Eo is offering this semester, click here.

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