Couple-Creators: Brad and Debra Teare

5.18.09 | | 3 comments

Q: Let’s start by letting you each describe your work. Mr Teare — include your paintings and woodcuts and comics and The Friend and whatever else you do; Mrs Teare, please be sure to define trompe l’eoil — just because I love it doesn’t mean all my readers have even heard of it.

Brad: I enjoy different art forms, right now I’m mostly painting oil landscapes. I also work as a designer and illustrator for the friend Magazine. In the past I have been a comics creator, illustrator, and a woodcut artist. Those professions are mostly a thing of the past but I may revive them in the future. For the Friend I am currently enjoying working in Painter as well as doing a variety of digital illustration work (scratchboard, for example). I have made tremendous breakthroughs with my paintings so I am naturally very enthused about that facet of my work. In the past it has been very difficult for me to settle on one art form. It is possible in the future I may return to writing as well as woodcut. I am definitely not selling my printing press anytime soon.
Debra: Trompe l’oeil is the art of illusion. So the depth of field is kept very shallow to heighten that effect. It is also a way to tell a story, record history, and ultimately to awe the viewer. My particular version usually incorporates a lot of color and organic objects such as leaves, flowers, and other found objects such as shells, insects and rocks. I often use boxes to give my work a sense of containment and visual boundary. A box is a metaphor to suggest a complete world.
Q: Were you both creators before meeting each other? Did creation play a role in bringing you together? Do you ever work on projects together?
We were both illustration majors at Utah State University before we met. We were always interested in art and had an understanding of the creative  process which allowed us to get along well together. More than anything I think it made us similar to each other and therefore more compatible. We have a tolerance for each other’s passions that might be difficult for a non-artist.
We talk together about our projects a lot.  In Debra’s case, I build all her boxes (to her specifications). We also work on arranging the objects for her compositions together. I do the photography and  Debra is the art director. In the case of my landscape paintings, we talk about color schemes and compositions, and we go out on landscape hunting expeditions together. When we work on woodcuts Debra helps me print. We print each addition working together and collaborate on color mixing. Debra has a great color sense and her assistence is invaluable.
Additionally we are always bouncing ideas off of each other, what projects you want to pursue, what shows want to enter, and what vacations would be the most advantageous for our careers.
Q: It seems to me that the act of creation is particularly Mormon in the sense that Creators is what we intend to be someday. In that sense, how does your faith reflect your work?
I think a person’s philosophies and values are reflected in their work no matter what their faith might be. We’re always striving to better ourselves and we hope that optimism reflects in our work.  We both have a love of God’s creation that we hope reflects in our work.
In my case I was inspired by President Kimball’s address concerning the arts that he gave around 1973 or so. It eventually was written as an essay in the Ensign magazine. I haven’t ultimately figured out what a Latter-day Saint’s role is specifically in the art world but it was a very inspiring vision that gave a lot to think about.
Q: How do you understand the relationship between faith, art and spouse?
Faith is what supports and sustains you throughout your life. Just as your spouse does. Art can have a similar role although it’s not as necessary for most people. The concept of eternal progression certainly embodies the idea that we should always be learning and growing. Our favorite topics of conversation tend to be our faith and our art. In our case, when we discuss our family, it usually touches on art as well.
Q: The artist’s path is rumored to be a solitary one. How do you engage in such personal, individual work yet still find an identity as a couple?
We are both very independent people. But for most of our lives we’ve been together all day seven days a week. Our high level of compatibility allowed that to work extremely well. But lately I’ve been working in Salt Lake City during the week and come home on the weekends. So I maintain a studio in Salt Lake City and Debra has taken over our studio in Providence. Needless to say we really enjoy our weekends together which we often spend doing a variety of art projects. Sometimes, though not as often as we’d like, we go on trips to paint the landscape and buy antiques for Deb’s  trompe l’oeil paintings.
It’s easy for us not to compete with one another and to be completely satisfied with the other’s success. Maybe it is because our styles are so different. But mostly it is simply because my success is Debra’s success and vice versa.
Q: At the beginning of your careers, how did you balance art with more mundane needs like rent? How has success changed your approaches to art?
Success in the art world is often hard to define. I currently defined it as the ability to paint well the imagery I love (the landscape).  The definition of success has to exist outside financial success because to do otherwise would be too frustrating. I think success is defined as whether you’re achieving the things you want in your work. I also define success if you were able to achieve a modicum of financial success while achieving the necessary success you need in your family life and personal relationships. This may be one way of LDS person defines artistic success differently. Part of success is deciding what’s most important at different phases of life and getting that part of the formula right.
When we got married Debra supported the family. When I finally got my portfolio together we left Utah for New York. I started my illustration career and Debra started her full-time career as a mother. When our daughter was 16 or 17 Debra started painting again.
Q: How do you balance family and art? Do you think it is easier or harder to be parents, with you both being professional creatives? How have your careers affect your children?
As I mentioned Debra didn’t start her career until our daughter was nearly finished with high school. Our first priority has always been the Gospel and our family. In some ways it was easier to be parents and artists because for most of our daughter’s life we worked at home so we were both stay-at-home parents. I think that made for a wonderful environment. Otherwise I think most of the struggles of parenting would be about the same.
Q: How have successes changed your relationship with each other?
Some people ask us if we are jealous of the other person’s success. Such a question is always very foreign to us as we don’t feel any competition at all. For one thing our work is so different. And  we think of the other person’s success as our own because we think of ourselves as a team. Debra’s success is my success and vice versa.
Q: Any advice for Mormon artist couples like yourselves?

Be persistent. Make the gospel the most important thing in your life. Faithful Mormon’s don’t have the option of ditching the family and painting in Tahiti like Gauguin so it is going to take more time and more planning to be successful. But, like Lehi might assure you, you will be a lot happier doing what’s right. Focus on the simple things. And remember that art makes a great vocation but a very poor religion. We always try to remember that any success we enjoy is a blessing from God. It generally has little to do with our individual efforts. We always pray for inspiration and help when we work on a project. Trying to have an art career is like trying to manage the weather, there are just too many variables, so having the faith to see the big picture is critically important. Some professions are sprints but art is a marathon. Something has

to allow you to see the big picture and in our case that

is definitely the Gospel.

.

I first became aware of Brad Teare when researching my Mormon Comix post, and while nosing around trying to learn more about him, I learned about his wife Debra Teare as well. Both are painters. Debra is one of the current American masters of trompe l’eoil. Brad on the other hand is better known for his woodcuts. In Mormon circles, his work is most seen in The Friend where he is senior designer and his illustrations are ubiqutious, including this month’s cover. To me of course, he is the author and artist of Cypher, a book I’ve been aware of since its release in the 90s but which I only finally read this year. (It’s great, by the way.)

The Teares were on my original short list and I thank them for being part of the Mormon Couple-Creators project. For my first question they answered separately, but after that Brad wrote the answers in consulation with Debra.

Q: Let’s start by letting you each describe your work. Mr Teare — include your paintings and woodcuts and comics and The Friend and whatever else you do; Mrs Teare, please be sure to define trompe l’eoil — just because I love it doesn’t mean all my readers have even heard of it.

Brad: I enjoy different art forms, right now I’m mostly painting oil landscapes. I also work as a designer and illustrator for The Friend Magazine. In the past I have been a comics creator, illustrator, and a woodcut artist. Those professions are mostly a thing of the past but I may revive them in the future. For The Friend I am currently enjoying working in Painter as well as doing a variety of digital illustration work (scratchboard, for example). I have made tremendous breakthroughs with my paintings so I am naturally very enthused about that facet of my work. In the past it has been very difficult for me to settle on one art form. It is possible in the future I may return to writing as well as woodcut. I am definitely not selling my printing press anytime soon.

Debra: Trompe l’oeil is the art of illusion. So the depth of field is kept very shallow to heighten that effect. It is also a way to tell a story, record history, and ultimately to awe the viewer. My particular version usually incorporates a lot of color and organic objects such as leaves, flowers, and other found objects such as shells, insects and rocks. I often use boxes to give my work a sense of containment and visual boundary. A box is a metaphor to suggest a complete world.

Q: Were you both creators before meeting each other? Did creation play a role in bringing you together? Do you ever work on projects together?

We were both illustration majors at Utah State University before we met. We were always interested in art and had an understanding of the creative  process which allowed us to get along well together. More than anything I think it made us similar to each other and therefore more compatible. We have a tolerance for each other’s passions that might be difficult for a non-artist.

We talk together about our projects a lot.  In Debra’s case, I build all her boxes (to her specifications). We also work on arranging the objects for her compositions together. I do the photography and  Debra is the art director. In the case of my landscape paintings, we talk about color schemes and compositions, and we go out on landscape hunting expeditions together. When we work on woodcuts Debra helps me print. We print each addition working together and collaborate on color mixing. Debra has a great color sense and her assistence is invaluable.

Additionally we are always bouncing ideas off of each other, what projects you want to pursue, what shows want to enter, and what vacations would be the most advantageous for our careers.

Q: It seems to me that the act of creation is particularly Mormon in the sense that Creators is what we intend to be someday. In that sense, how does your faith reflect your work?

I think a person’s philosophies and values are reflected in their work no matter what their faith might be. We’re always striving to better ourselves and we hope that optimism reflects in our work.  We both have a love of God’s creation that we hope reflects in our work.

In my case I was inspired by President Kimball’s address concerning the arts that he gave around 1973 or so. It eventually was written as an essay in the Ensign magazine. I haven’t ultimately figured out what a Latter-day Saint’s role is specifically in the art world but it was a very inspiring vision that gave a lot to think about.

Q: How do you understand the relationship between faith, art and spouse?

Faith is what supports and sustains you throughout your life. Just as your spouse does. Art can have a similar role although it’s not as necessary for most people. The concept of eternal progression certainly embodies the idea that we should always be learning and growing. Our favorite topics of conversation tend to be our faith and our art. In our case, when we discuss our family, it usually touches on art as well.

Q: The artist’s path is rumored to be a solitary one. How do you engage in such personal, individual work yet still find an identity as a couple?

We are both very independent people. But for most of our lives we’ve been together all day seven days a week. Our high level of compatibility allowed that to work extremely well. But lately I’ve been working in Salt Lake City during the week and come home on the weekends. So I maintain a studio in Salt Lake City and Debra has taken over our studio in Providence. Needless to say we really enjoy our weekends together which we often spend doing a variety of art projects. Sometimes, though not as often as we’d like, we go on trips to paint the landscape and buy antiques for Deb’s  trompe l’oeil paintings.

It’s easy for us not to compete with one another and to be completely satisfied with the other’s success. Maybe it is because our styles are so different. But mostly it is simply because my success is Debra’s success and vice versa.

Q: At the beginning of your careers, how did you balance art with more mundane needs like rent? How has success changed your approaches to art?

Success in the art world is often hard to define. I currently defined it as the ability to paint well the imagery I love (the landscape).  The definition of success has to exist outside financial success because to do otherwise would be too frustrating. I think success is defined as whether you’re achieving the things you want in your work. I also define success if you were able to achieve a modicum of financial success while achieving the necessary success you need in your family life and personal relationships. This may be one way [an] LDS person defines artistic success differently. Part of success is deciding what’s most important at different phases of life and getting that part of the formula right.

When we got married Debra supported the family. When I finally got my portfolio together we left Utah for New York. I started my illustration career and Debra started her full-time career as a mother. When our daughter was 16 or 17 Debra started painting again.

Q: How do you balance family and art? Do you think it is easier or harder to be parents, with you both being professional creatives? How have your careers affect your children?

As I mentioned Debra didn’t start her career until our daughter was nearly finished with high school. Our first priority has always been the Gospel and our family. In some ways it was easier to be parents and artists because for most of our daughter’s life we worked at home so we were both stay-at-home parents. I think that made for a wonderful environment. Otherwise I think most of the struggles of parenting would be about the same.

Q: How have successes changed your relationship with each other?

Some people ask us if we are jealous of the other person’s success. Such a question is always very foreign to us as we don’t feel any competition at all. For one thing our work is so different. And  we think of the other person’s success as our own because we think of ourselves as a team. Debra’s success is my success and vice versa.

Q: Any advice for Mormon artist couples like yourselves?

Be persistent. Make the gospel the most important thing in your life. Faithful Mormon’s don’t have the option of ditching the family and painting in Tahiti like Gauguin so it is going to take more time and more planning to be successful. But, like Lehi might assure you, you will be a lot happier doing what’s right. Focus on the simple things. And remember that art makes a great vocation but a very poor religion. We always try to remember that any success we enjoy is a blessing from God. It generally has little to do with our individual efforts. We always pray for inspiration and help when we work on a project. Trying to have an art career is like trying to manage the weather, there are just too many variables, so having the faith to see the big picture is critically important. Some professions are sprints but art is a marathon. Something has to allow you to see the big picture and in our case that is definitely the Gospel.

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To see samples of the Teares’ work may I recommend the following:

Brad Teare:

Debra Teare:

3 comments: “Couple-Creators: Brad and Debra Teare

  1. Wm Morris

    Thanks Brad and Debra. I especially appreciate this:

    “Part of success is deciding what’s most important at different phases of life and getting that part of the formula right.”

  2. Adam K. K. Figueira

    Thank you very much for this interview.

    I find this part very helpful right now:

    “And remember that art makes a great vocation but a very poor religion. We always try to remember that any success we enjoy is a blessing from God. It generally has little to do with our individual efforts. We always pray for inspiration and help when we work on a project.”

    I wonder, how do you measure your receptiveness to the answers to such prayers?

  3. Brad Teare

    Adam,

    Thanks for the kind words. As far as how we measure our receptiveness that is a difficult thing. I am very pragmatic and defer to the larger, overarching faith that is developed in the day-to-day struggle (and the reassurances I have felt doing such things as attending meetings and reading the Book of Mormon). So I might think I am inspired to enter a particular show, ultimately not get in that show, but still retain a notion of being inspired to have followed that path. Again this is an aspect of keeping focused on the larger panorama of life of which art is only a very small part.

    It is a very nuanced process and difficult to articulate, but I hope this answers your question somewhat.

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