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May 22, 2020

When was the last time you saw a painting that really challenged you? How do you typically react to paintings that portray suffering or difficult political topic? I am grateful for the opportunity I had for a long-ranging conversation with the artist, Max Ginsburg. 

Max is a native New Yorker, many of his paintings center on people and places around New York City. Max also draws on themes of peace and justice; deep outrage to war, injustice, and torture as they are conveyed in some of his paintings. 

I can’t wait for you to learn some of the fascinating insights and lessons that Max has developed of the years - you also don’t want to miss images of Max’s paintings located at the end of this post. 

Political and painful paintings 

When I spoke with Max, I really wanted to get to the root of what energizes this passion for depicting pain, suffering, and torture in his artwork. Why paint such painful and evocative images - who wants to see these types of paintings? 

It has always been Max’s desire to bring truth and reality into his paintings - sometimes that means a peace image of a couple on a walk and sometimes that means a painting of a man being tortured in a prison in Iraq. When you are so focused on painting reality and what you experience - you are going to get a mixture of the peaceful and the painful - such is life.

Are you drawn to Max’s style and approach? What do you think of his commitment to painting reality in all its glory - good and bad? When you look at Max’s artwork, you really get the sense that his compassion and heart shine through - what can you learn from Max’s story? 

Time to teach 

Never one to shy away from a challenge - Max has not only flexed his muscles as an artist, but he also has spent time as an art instructor. Much of Max’s passion for teaching stems from the way he views the art world from a macro perspective - he feels like there isn’t enough focus on realism. It was refreshing to hear that Max wasn’t willing to see realism take a hit - he got in the trenches and decided to teach! 

Let me tell you - teaching isn’t for the faint of heart. You really have to have a passion and a well of patience to gently guide students toward the objective. I would have loved to learn from Max as a student and I hope you catch a bit of the valuable insights that he has to share! 

Paint what you see, not what you know 

Time and again through our conversation, Max kept coming back to this phrase, “Paint what you see, not what you know.” It seems like this phrase isn’t just an empty platitude that Max picked up over the years - it is more of a theme that runs through all of his work as an artist and an instructor. You can almost hear Max chanting this phrase with each stroke of the brush on canvas. Do you have any phrases you live by? What have you picked up over the years that have become part of your approach as an artist? 

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:15] I introduce my guest, Max Ginsburg. 
  • [2:45] Max talks about how he got started as an artist. 
  • [7:00] Why museums aren’t really interested in Max’s political artwork. 
  • [14:30] Painting tragedies - is it difficult? 
  • [24:45] Max describes his work as an art instructor. 
  • [31:00] What is Max’s creative process like? 
  • [37:00] Why the value system in the art world is messed up. 
  • [41:00] Strong reactions to Max’s artwork. 
  • [43:00] The impact that Max wants to have on his students. 
  • [46:15] How “Crutches” can sometimes help you grow as an artist. 
  • [51:45] Paint what you see, not what you know. 
  • [55:30] Max talks about how he approaches the canvas. 
  • [58:00] Closing thoughts. 

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