soul and purpose

"Through my paintings I hope to communicate a personal enthusiasm and respect for the natural world, thus encourage in others an active stewardship of same." -- JEANNE ILLENYE

August is Artist Appreciation Month - 16 Contemporary Realist Artists Who Inspired Me Most

In Celebration of Artist Appreciation Month by JEANNE ILLENYE Copyright © 2015

Recently, I was asked to write an article in celebration of Artist Appreciation Month, acknowledging some of the countless contemporary artists whose work has been personally inspirational.  As a preface, you may of course read about my initial inspiration in my Biography on my website which enumerates several 17th and 18th century Dutch masters as well as 19th century American masters whose work provided me with not only foundational resources but also a deeply connective comprehension of the natural world as interpreted and honored through fine art.  With intimate study and practiced experimentation I have learned to adopt these foundational elements in every painting I create -- firstly, by admiration, then assimilation and ultimately freedom to express my own vision on a two dimensional plane through the medium of oil paint.  

With the onset of the internet, my lifelong pursuit of creating elaborate still lifes that pay homage to these masters whose works have left a permanent imprint on the human population, I began to explore the realist paintings of contemporary artists and became equally enthralled.  Although quite contrasting to the paintings I admired from prior generations, I found myself wishing I could instill some of those crystal clear qualities of realism as well as a lighter palette into my work.  It began quite timidly with lightening my dark backgrounds to gradations of taupe which ultimately resulted in several daring, stark white backgrounds, thus finally drawing me full circle on the color wheel and out of the dark ages!  Further, I began cropping my subjects to accentuate tension in my compositions and followed with a more persistent technical effort toward realism.  It brings to mind the quotation by Michelangelo, "Trifles make perfection, but perfection itself is no trifle."

To highlight some of the countless contemporary artists whose clarity of subject, powerful compositions, and delicacy of detail have been most influential these past few years while transitioning from classical to contemporary still lifes, I'll share a brief overview of their impact on me per the following.  Kindly note that I'm restraining my list quite intensely but may periodically highlight a favorite artist in the future as their effects on me are profound and therefore deserving of acknowledgement.  Although this list pertains to still life artists, my admiration far exceeds this genre as my heart soars with the subjects of our pets, wildlife and select landscapes. 

FRANK ARCURI - A classical master, Frank Arcuri is one of my all time favorite contemporary artists.  His intense color is clear, strong and refreshing, particularly the blue/purple hues such as a beribboned floral swag or plums.  A single stem of an Amaryllis standing erect in a contoured glass jar is provoking as it borders on contemporary still life.  

KEN MARLOW - An earlier influece, Ken Marlow's succinct fruit compositions introduced me to lighter backgrounds and subjects propped up on a box or other similar antique silhouetted for a more dimensional quality.  His florals are equally exquisite, although we seldom see his older work which is based on the Dutch masters.

JOHN STUART INGLE - When I first encountered John Stuart Ingle's large watercolors, I was enamored with the fact that he showed the entire piece of furniture that his still life arrangement was sitting upon, thus including the furniture as part of the subject which was a rather new concept.  These still lifes then became more like interior paintings.  His woodgraining is phenomenal as I recall images of unwrapped chocolate candies sitting upon an oak desk.  In reflection, I also recall his amazingly realistic painting of peach hollyhocks on an oak table which graced the cover of a well known art magazine many years ago. 

RAYMOND BOOTH -  His captivating paintings of flora and fauna that reside on the forest floor are utterly delightful.  His entire concept of viewing woodlands from the perspective of a rabbit or squirrel is simply divine and encourages one to tread softly and respect nature.

SOON WARREN - Soon Warren's watercolors are beguiling, both her paintings of swirling waters in dazzling shades of turquoise to purple as well as her nearly liquid glassware and cut crystal bowls containing irises and peonies.  The clarity of her work and sheer beauty of her subjects is delightful.

ALEXEI ANTONOV - His paintings would be considered classical in style although often will contain a single rose on a ledge or floating.   His unique use of blue-green foliage and backgrounds makes his work quite identifiable.  I love the classical influence in his work and clarity of detail in his roses.
NANCY DEPEW - Initially her exquisite floral still lifes captured my attention, particularly the irises on frayed satin cloth.  However, I later discovered her talent was broader.  It isn't often that landscapes capture my attention, but Nancy Depew's heavenly glints of light filtered through lush, mossy woodlands beckon one to visualize stepping over logs along the brook to peer upward at the towering trees above.  So often still life artists aren't the best landscape artists, but Nancy proves to the contrary.

JOSE ESCOFET - Jose Escofet's older compositions of fruit and flowers are reminiscent of the Dutch masters, which of course are my initial inspiration as a whole.

TATYANA KLEVENSKIY - After I'd painted my "Shades of White" I discovered Tatyana Klevenskiy's paintings which feature predominantly white blossoms in simple compositions of the utmost clarity and detail beyond anything I've seen thus far.  I felt an immediate connection to her intrigue of white and was in awe of her peonies in particular.  Painted larger than life with a shimmering beauty, one can almost see the moisture within the petals.  She has also featured yellow pears, one of my favorite fruits to paint, with the same dedication to detail.  Her work is impressed upon my mind as I recall that single white peony! 
VADIM KLEVENSKIY - Vadim Klevenskiy, Tatyana's husband, has also created equally exquisite paintings of white blossoms.  Yet I'm almost more enamored with his seascapes which are actually close up views of water that remarkably feel liquid with constant motion although merely paint on a stagnant canvas, which one easily forgets while getting lost in the depths and rhythms of the water.

JEFFREY LARSON - Jeffrey Larson's subjects of fruit, dandelions, and occasionally a vintage tricycle or croquet set are typically propped up on a painted table ledge with light creamy backgrounds which I utterly adore as they often create a more monochromatic painting overall.  There's just something about that mood I love.

AARON BRENT HARKER - Aaron Brent Harker's surprising and whimsical mix of wildlife stands poised in a disheveled arrangement of objects in his studio.  This unlikely combination of subjects always brings a smile to my face as I paint both still lifes and pet portraits, so his work satisfies both of my favorite interests.

SYDNEY BELLA SMITH - His solid black backgrounds and low tablelines provide a clean, contemporary foil for single, isolated subjects such a small glass jar containing a single iris or magnolia bloom.  The simplicity of composition and severity of the background with low center of gravity is what attracts me.  Further, his series featuring spools of thread are like rainbows of pure, intense color which are so extremely appealing to an artist's eye, like raw spots of color on a palette -- in fact, he must have thought that too, as one painting shows spools of thread actually laying on a palette.

OLEG TURCHIN - Oleg Turchin's close up views of flowers in their garden habitat are intensely detailed and profoundly beautiful, featuring one blossom per composition, painted to supreme perfection.

LARRY PRESTON - Pardoning the pun, I think Larry Preston tips his hat to classical still lifes with his fruit and florals yet also portrays more contemporary subjects such as stacked or oozing jelly doughnuts in the same classical manner which I find so enticing.  Some of my favorites of his are marigolds in a jar and broken fragments of blue and white porcelain.

YINGZHAO LIU - If I were to select a favorite contemporary artist, it might be Yingzhao Liu for his beautifully balanced compositions often featuring lace which intrigues me as much as his glistening fruit and velvety petals of billowy blossoms.  His use of lace and various tablecloths gives me confidence that objects typically associated with more feminine wares is still welcome in contemporary fine art.  His subjects are nearly luminous with a flooding of overhead light creating truly sensational still lifes on every level.

JEANNE ILLENYE Copyright © 2015

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