My name is John DuVal and I’m from Jersey City, New Jersey. I started drawing at a young age, eventually studying Figure Drawing at Rutgers University. However, my painting career started with a trip to Florence, Italy where I studied oil painting with a local artist. This was the first time I picked up a brush, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
As much as possible, I try to paint with the philosophy that a painting is an illusion, meant to evoke feeling. I’m not crazy about focusing on unnecessary details. For me, painting is about conveying energy and spontaneity. I try to keep my work fresh by painting outside as much as possible, direct from the subject. To maintain simplicity and economic brushstrokes, I always try to complete a painting in no more than 2 washes.
My inspirations come from my daily walks around New York City and New Jersey. I take a lot of pictures with my phone of street scenes and landscapes that I think would work well in a painting. If I can’t paint on the spot, then I’ll save the pictures for my studio time. I try to paint every day, even if that means just sketching something quick from imagination. The worst feeling is not painting for a week – and I try to never let that happen!
Earlier on, my paintings would take a couple weeks to complete. But as my style changed and I focused less and less on detail, I usually complete a painting in about an hour. This keeps my work fresh and allows me to have more fun. I went from painting entirely in my studio to painting outdoors much more often. My plein air work is what’s helped me improve my technique and has had a strong effect on my style.
My usual prep consists of finding a subject to paint – this is usually based on my mood and what I think would make a cool painting in that moment. If I’m outside for the day, I’ll try to paint wherever I am, making the best of the situation. In the studio, I’ll flip through the pictures on my phone and find something that’d be interesting. Ultimately, it’s all about the light. Usually, I’ll draw a quick sketch – but sometimes I sketch the painting right on the watercolor paper and start painting immediately. Having music playing in the studio or headphones out on location always helps too.
I use Arches 140lb rough watercolor paper, ½ sheets, usually on blocks. For larger paintings, I used to soak and stretch the paper, but now I just tape it to a board and start painting. My paints are a mix of colors from Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton. I have about 12 colors – but I really only use about 6, all warm/cool versions of the primaries.
I have 6 brushes that I use – mostly squirrel mops, with one rigger and one synthetic for smaller work. I have a metal Holbein palette that has a few different mixing wells. The only other things I use are a spray bottle to wet the paper, and a sponge to pick up added moisture from my brush.
I update my website pretty regularly, and I send out bits about my process and inspiration to my email list. I also love to use Instagram to post about my daily work and connect with people.