On the Artists that Influence Me

On the Artists that Influence Me

It has been said that all of art is “undetected plagiarism.”

If one thinks back to the influence of African Art on Picasso and Braque and the entire Cubist Movement, I think most people can see the relation. Again, the fine china of Asia and the newspaper wrappings they came packaged in opened the eyes of the European artists of the late 19th and early 20th century to the aesthetics of the East and certainly had an impact on their art. Frank Lloyd Wright spoke openly and clearly of the influence of the architecture of Japan in his designs.

The examples are countless.

Many artists strive to create an art which is completely original and their own. I do not believe it is possible to be completely uninfluenced by the art and culture of our world if one is in any way involved in it.

It has been said that some of my work is similar in style to Georgia O’Keefe. Yes, I am an admirer of her work. I do not mind the comparison at all. Yet there are several artists that have influenced me. O’Keefe and others favored smooth brush strokes and blending. I do too. It is the reason why I love to work in oils. The sensuous feel of the paint as I mix it, apply it and blend it, is one of the many reasons I prefer to paint in the medium.

Graphic Design studies and the advertising industry have also influenced my work. Years in any industry will do so. The balance of the graphic with realism, the imaginary with the real, the play of negative and positive space are all a part of my work.

Nature, like many artists, was O’Keefe’s inspiration. Her love and passion was of the Southwest. Mine is of the Coastal South. Canada’s beloved Emily Carr painted the Pacific Northwest. Her imagination and thus highly stylized depiction of the trees has certainly influenced my work. Realism was secondary to the feeling she tried to portray. It is the same for me.

Rockwell Kent, the early 20th century American artist made famous for his wood block illustrations for the novel “Moby Dick”, spent much of his time in Newfoundland and Maine painting the stark, isolated beauty of their winters. His brush strokes are smooth, his passion the wilderness. His white, stark landscapes I have referred to many times as I strive to capture the white, stark landscapes  of the beaches in the Gulf South.

Jamie Wyeth, son of the noted watercolorist Andrew Wyeth and grandson of the famous American illustrator, N.C. Wyeth is also an artist whose work I refer to again and again. His “hyper-realism” of small areas of space, his love of his natural environment, his unique way of viewing his surroundings, all have an effect on my work.

Norwegian artist Harald Sohlberg’s work of the early 20th century as well as Ferdinand Hodler of Switzerland, both have influenced me with their strong graphic compositions and the balance of realism with their imagination.

The highly styled compositions and smooth brushwork of the famous American muralist Thomas Hart Benton, are other examples of the techniques of another artist influencing my work.

I have been drawn to the work of Edward Hopper for the longest. His work though of the Northeast, speaks to me of feelings I choose not to discuss. The attraction I have to Hopper’s work and the relation it had to my personal life, were recognized by a UIC art professor of mine some 20 years ago. Years later I could see what was so clear to Kerry James Marshall so long ago.

The most difficult it may be for many to understand is the influence of the work of Kerry James Marshall on my own. African American, born in Alabama not far from where I am from, in a world that was as different from mine than if he had been from the other side of the world. Kerry’s paintings of the period were of the housing projects that were a blight to the cities of New York, LA, and Chicago at the time. The faces of the handsome people are as black as coal. The technical skill is very impressive, the subject is painted and composed beautifully. Pictured with this post is one of his many housing project paintings. 

This piece along with many of his others, drew me in and left me thinking about it's meaning for days, months, at times years to come. Each day I drove through the notoriously dangerous housing projects of Cabrini Green in Chicago and gazed up at the tall structures with their metal grates along the exterior walkways, boarded up doors and trash on the grounds. Kerry’s images left me thinking of the people there in another way.

I still remember his one-liners from the several classes I took from him. His words still inspire me.

No matter who inspires me, and as you can see many do, I will continue to paint what find interesting in a landscape or a shell. I will continue to strive to paint the spirit of a place. The magic and feeling I have when I am there or when I am lost in the incredible beauty I see around me.

I want to create analogies in much of my work. Our culture’s obsession with youth, materialism and physical beauty is something I address.

I will strive to raise awareness of the beauty of this fragile coastal environment.

I speak of loneliness and pain, passion, healing, God, light and love.

And through these efforts, I have found a voice.

I am saying what I have to sayand I hope it speaks to you.

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