Questions and Answers with Doug Witz
The Miniature World of Doug Witz March 22 – June 4, 2017
What was your first art experience?
I’ve been practicing my craft since I was young. My first medium was Play-Doh. I loved to play with it as a child. Back then I was just playing and there was no pressure or expectations. It wasn’t till high school that I realized I had a talent. With my teachers’ encouragement, I started believing I could be successful at it. When I’m working on a piece I still try to go back to the days of Play-Doh.
Tell us about where you grew up and if that had any influence on your viewpoint for your creations.
I grew up in Hartford, Wisconsin. I have always found inspiration from my surroundings. I never have to search for inspiration. Instead I observe what’s around my immediate area. I enjoy traveling around Wisconsin and learning about the local history. I find that every town has a story with interesting events and people.
Did you have any formative art teachers, schooling, or coursework that helped to chart your path toward creating art? My high school art teachers were extremely helpful with giving me advice and encouragement. I was introduced to polymer clay there. I knew right away it was my medium of choice. After leaving school, I volunteered at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. I always entered a sculpture in the annual members show. This gave me exposure that helped me gain confidence in starting my own business and working with commissions.
In his West Bend studio space, Doug Witz displays his wry humor as he paints on his self-portrait in polymer clay that is also working on a sculpture of himself.
How does your current medium best fit the expression of your ideas?
Since I am self-taught, my style has evolved through years of practice and experimenting. I never felt restricted to one medium. I use clay, paint, and photography to bring my ideas to life. Because of the small size, the viewer needs to look closely to really see what’s going on in the scene. Some of the characters in the sculptures look right at the viewer. My goal is to immerse them in the story.
Milwaukee expressionist sculptor Adolph Rosenblatt (1933-2017) was a mentor for Doug Witz. This photo shows a detail of Rosenblatt’s 1987 life-size sculpture of the regulars at Milwaukee’s Oriental Pharmacy lunch counter. Photo by Mary Louise Schumacher / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Tell us the different stages of development that are necessary to create your finished work.
Once I decide an idea, I usually start with a sketch. I then sculpt the piece. When I’m satisfied with the detail, it’s baked and painted with acrylic paint. I then create the background and add all the features.
Are there any other artists, historic or contemporary, that have been influential for your work?
[The late Milwaukee sculptor] Adolph Rosenblatt, Red Grooms, and Norman Rockwell were influential artists. I like authors like Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck and Garrison Keillor. Wisconsin authors like Robert E. Gard, Michael Perry, Norbert Blei and Dennis Boyer have also been influential for me.
Do you still have plenty of ideas to pursue in your current vein of work, or are you interested in taking a different offshoot direction in the future?
I still have ideas in my head. I always let my work evolve naturally. I go off how I’m feeling in the moment of creating and follow my instincts. I know that I am on the right track when I am able to stop thinking and time disappears. When I get the feeling of “Wow, did just I do that?” I know I’m on the right track. In the future, I would like to continue to immortalize the loved ones of friends and acquaintances by depicting them participating in their favorite activities.
What are your favorite subjects, and where do you find your inspiration? I enjoy sculpting people in everyday life. Scenes you see all the time but never pay attention to. I like incorporating animals in my work using my pets as models. It’s a nice way to commemorate them. I find local folklore and myths fascinating. Many ideas have come from reading about the subject.
In Pattijo and Molly Taking a Walk, Doug Witz has made a portrait of an acquaintance in an everyday scene while depicting a specific landmark in Cedarburg in his miniature sculptural environment.