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.
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.
JEANNE ILLENYE Copyright © 2015