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  • Writer's pictureJenny Lu

Exclusive Interview with Adam Caldwell: Internationally Exhibiting Fine Artist

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

By Jenny Lu | 5 May 2021

Adam Caldwell, a distinguished Fine Art instructor at the San Francisco Academy of Art University, didn’t start his Fine Art career until ten years after graduating from art school. He received his BFA degree with honors, straight A’s, from California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) and has worked as a fine art instructor at the Academy of Art University since 2001.

Adam has shown his work in galleries throughout the world. He’s not only an acclaimed artist but also an influential teacher. His generosity in answering questions expands and ignites students’ curious nature, impacting and developing the passion for lifelong learning within his students. Adam knows how to make the learning environment enjoyable and memorable. He anticipates his students to be unique individuals with exceptional talents and aspirations.

It’s our pleasure to talk to Adam to get a scoop on his artistic journey. We hope you find this exclusive interview with Adam Caldwell interesting and insightful.

Adam’s artistic journey was ignited the moment he encountered a magical babysitter whose name was Chris. Chris wasn’t an ordinary caregiver but one who brought in heavenly sweet treats and allowed kids to stay up watching adult TV until late at night. Adam carried the magic he got from Chris, and his artistic journey sailed on.

It took Adam 10 years to get up the courage to be an artist after graduating from CCAC. Adam had three jobs when he graduated. He taught martial arts, worked as a waiter, and did storyboards. Adam didn’t start trying to be an artist until ten years after art school. Making money was the second priority for him in his youth until he saw age thirty was coming. About a year after his father died, Adam had completely melted down, and soon he finally realized art was the only thing that mattered and what he was going to do for the rest of his life.

“I was too afraid. That was the reason why I didn’t do it. I didn’t have enough courage. I was too afraid I’d be rejected, or they wouldn’t work. It took a long time to get the courage up.”

He also spent about five years teaching four to five years after graduating. Teaching was enough like being an artist, but it took up a lot of time and energy, and it was tough to do both for Adam. It was hard to be a full-time teacher and also a full-time artist.

“It was partially because I was doing storyboards. I sort of liked it, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.”

Adam imagined that it could be a real trap if art students went to an art school and thought they would do something. After graduating and allowing some job that they didn’t love doing to be the rest of their life could be a trap. This trap could make them lose their momentum and everything.

It happened to Adam, but he ultimately managed to become a fine art oil painter. In 2007, Adam started renting a studio space with David Choong Lee. That was the time when he started to do oil paintings. Before that, he was making multimedia paintings, collages, and drawings. Two times in Adam’s life made Adam feel he was indeed a professional artist. One was when Adam was still in school, and one of his teachers, Halsted Craig Hannah, gave him a storyboard job. Halsted was an outstanding professional storyboard artist. He couldn’t finish his assignment and asked Adam if he wanted it. Adam couldn’t believe it because it was his first time doing professional work.

“There was nothing better than walking into your art class and telling everybody that you couldn’t do the homework because you were too busy finishing up your professional storyboards.”

Barron Storey was another person that has made Adam fully believe he was a professional artist. Barron was a legendary artist and a teacher who has influenced Adam the most. His distinct teaching method was known for unlocking students’ creativity, and it was designed to discover real geniuses.

In 2012, Barron showed up in Adam’s very first solo show at Shooting gallery, which was the coolest gallery in San Francisco.

“It almost makes me cry every time I think about this because it was the most important moment in my life almost.”

“I was having a solo show there. I walked up outside, and I looked in, and Barron Storey was in there. I stood out there, and I couldn’t believe it. Everything made sense for a minute. It was like going to school, trying everything, and then seeing my teacher talking about my artwork. Then everything was sort of understood that it was Okay. Whatever else happened that moment was enough.”

Here are some of the advice that Adam wants to give to recent

graduating students.

“One thing is to try. You got to hit the ground running. Don’t separate your last year and a half or two years of art school with what happens afterward. You should already start doing what you’re doing after graduation. Before you graduate, start trying to get in galleries, start submitting work, start working on your website, get your portfolio together, and get everything in place. So that when you graduate, it’s not like you take a deep breath and go like, “Okay, now I got to start being an artist.” It’s already happening at some level. It doesn’t have to be super big because the hardest part is getting started. Once you’re in the process, you have to stay on it. Of course, you have to have a kick-ass portfolio.”

The best piece of advice Adam has been given.

“The only way you can make a masterpiece is if you’re willing to destroy the painting.”

When Adam was in college, he had spent a month working on a face and couldn’t let go of it. He knew something was wrong with that painting but couldn’t fix it. This painting teacher asked if Adam wanted him to fix the picture. Adam said yeah and thought his teacher was going to put a highlight on it or something. Instead, this painting teacher mixed up a whole bunch of paint and completely covered the head up. And then this teacher walked away without saying a word. He just walked off.

“The only way you can make a masterpiece is if you’re willing to destroy the painting” was a piece of advice that Adam got from one of his painting teachers. His teacher told him that he should be willing to take out the part of the painting that was his favorite part because it usually kept the whole picture from becoming a masterpiece.

“If you love something that shouldn’t be there in your painting, you should destroy it. It’s what keeps the painting from getting better because you can’t let go of that part. You’re not destroying it but actually creating something better. Every stroke you put down covers something up, even if it’s just the canvas. So in a sense, you’re always destroying something every time you put a mark down and changing it, but it’s just that willingness to let any moment be like that.”

Adam’s dream project is to have at least a year to create a body of work for a significant gallery such as New York, London, Paris, Berlin, and some big city where he could go. He doesn’t know what the project itself would be, but it would involve having a major gallery show and having a lot of time to get ready.

In the hope of getting money for doing a body of work over a longer period, Adam is currently writing proposals for artists’ grants. If you are interested in supporting Adam, please check out his Patreon, Instagram, website, or contact him directly through emails. It’s truly our pleasure to talk to Adam Caldwell to get an insight into his artistic journey of becoming an acclaimed artist. We hope you find this exclusive interview with Adam Caldwell insightful.

What are some of the most compelling ideas you found in this interview with Adam Caldwell? Please let us know in a comment. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to our blog and don’t forget to subscribe to Adam’s Instagram and Patreon account.

1 Comment

Tay Fish Ball
Tay Fish Ball
Jun 28, 2021

I love this interview, jenny! <3

“The only way you can make a masterpiece is if you’re willing to destroy the painting.”

This quote is so inspiring for me T.T ---Yen

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