John Ebersberger Interview Part 1

Annapolis, Maryland
I first met John Ebersberger at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.  I taught my first gesture drawing class in Maryland and John was one of the first to register.   John had been painting professionaly for over 20 years, yet he still has an insatiable thirst to learn new things about art.

John has been featured in American Artist Magazine, The Artist’s Magazine, Chesapeake Life, and in a TV documentary for Maryland Public Television.  His paintings have been featured in the book ‘Capturing Radiant Colors in Oils’, by Susan Sarback. He is a member of the American Impressionist Society, the Maryland Society of Portrait Painters, and a founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association.  John also teaches workshops through Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and Echo Hill Outdoor School (See his website for details).

TS: John, how did you get started in art?

JE: I loved cartoons as a kid. The first cartoon book I ever had was Walter Fosters “How to Draw Animated Cartoons” It’s an incredible book! I drew a little cartoon sketch of a baseball player from the book. I amazed my fellow students that I had drawn it. They said, ‘You traced that…let’s see you draw it.’ So I drew it again. Cartoons sparked my interest in art.I went to the Maryland Institute of Art in the mid 70’s. I worked my way through the Institute by drawing caricatures on the Ocean City boardwalk. My love of cartoons persisted throughout my schooling. There were not that many good representational painters at the Maryland Institute.

TS: And they’re still aren’t.

JE: And they’re still aren’t! They were very conceptually oriented. They were concerned about absurdist conceptual ideas about art itself, rather than relating to nature. Instead of looking at the human form and studying anatomy it was more about studying art itself, such as the picture plane, and the relationship of splattered paint and found objects. It had absolutely no interest for me. It made it easy for very untalented people to proclaim themselves as artists.

When I graduated I went to a sketch group here in Annapolis. That’s when I met Cedric Egeli. I looked at the drawing he had done in the sketch group and I was amazed. I had never seen a head drawn so realistically, in 3 dimensions and modeled in full light and shade. That was a totally new concept to me. My approach was very linear coming from cartoons. I immediately came up to him, now as an art school graduate, and said to him, ‘Will you teach me how to draw?’ He cryptically muttered under his breath, ‘Draw longer lines.’ What he meant was to draw longer relationships of line, sort of like a line of action in a cartoon.

So thus began my real art education at the hands of Cedric Egeli. He was the first art instructor at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, where he taught with his wife Joanette Egeli. It was those two who introduced me to Henry Hensche, the impressionist painter on Cape Cod. I went with Cedric and three of his students to Cape Cod and spent 2 weeks studying with Henry. I was totally intimidated. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t grasp the importance of this guy. So I went back the next year and I realized then I was in the presence of someone who had the utmost integrity about his art. He didn’t talk about sales-everything he said was related to the purity of fine art painting.It was a stunning thing to hear him speak. I realized I was in the presence of greatness. I watched him do a demonstration painting and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. It took my breath away and I was totally hooked from that point on.

At that time he was in his mid 80’s and I knew I had to spend as much time studying with him. I was also fighting my impulse to be a rock-n-roll star, as well. But Henry’s paintings were so dynamic that they rivaled the intensity of the rock-n-roll experience.Henry’s art philosophy presented an opportunity in art for me, that is, the beauty and study of nature first hand in all its glory. It seemed something worth devoting my life to. That’s where I dramatically turned the corner from rock-n-roll and cartoons to painting.

TS: How does John Ebersberger fit into the broad scheme of impressionism?

JE: I’m not old enough to be able to talk about myself. I’m still relatively young man. Great painters who made significant contributions to art such as Monet and Henry, they did so later in life, in their 70’s or so, so I have a few years to go.I had a wonderful opportunity to study with a great figure painter named Cedric Egeli, and also his wife Joanette, and his father Bjorn Egeli. What I would like to do is bring together the classical understanding of the figure that I learned from Cedric with the exploration of color that I learned from Henry.There is one genre that Henry did not do much of, and that is the outdoor figure.The artist Freiseke did some beautiful outdoor nudes. One’s in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They recently had a retrospective of his work and I flew down to Savannah Georgia to see it. I have done several life-size outdoor figure paintings, and that is what I’d like to focus on. I don’t see myself as striving to create any new innovations in art, maybe merely carry on the torch of the artists that proceeded me.  

TS: Like Henry, you have students as well.

JE: I’ve been teaching at Maryland Hall for the last 20 years. There are now students that I taught now teaching, like Abigal McBride and Sharon Littig, and others. There are many other artists at Maryland Hall who came through the Hensche teaching. When I first started showing in downtown (Annapolis) I was the first oil painter in McBride Gallery. At that time the galleries were filled with duck art. Now, you can definitely see an improvement in the quality of art over the years.

Interview continued in Part 2

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