These are some of the artists whose work I look to again and again.
Though being an artist is a solitary pursuit (Picasso: Without great solitude no serious work is possible.) we never walk the journey alone.
I like the concept of legacy, that we take in inspiration, ideas or techniques from other artists, and we in turn pass on our inspiration, ideas or techniques - for the benefit of everyone.
Here is a list of some artists whose work I love. Some work I have encountered over several years through art magazines, some are recent finds. I’m sure to have forgotten some favourites, and my list is continually growing. The art itself is an eclectic mix.
Don't be misled by a lot of the art being portraits or figure paintings, which may not be of interest. You can apply what you see to any painting, for example the feel of the painting, the composition, the pattern of lights and darks, the colour scheme. Portraits in particular give useful information for any minimalist paintings - you can look at options for backgrounds, use of negative and positive shapes, edge control, and the use of focal areas and paths for the eye when using only a few shapes.
I hope you find something in my list that is helpful for wherever you are on your art journey.
A word of caution. Annie Dillard wrote in The Writing Life that a writer ‘is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, for that is what he will know.’ The same issue was raised in the book Algorithms to live by: the computer science of human decisions. The book talks about ‘priors’, things you have already encountered, and how they can limit your vision. It recommends ‘protecting your priors’. We need to be mindful of the art we view, recognising that ultimately it ends up influencing what we produce.
For a start, all of the artists I have studied with, listed in my About section.
Then, in no particular order…
Nicholas Simmons, US - google 'artist' and 'images'
- stunning, edgy, ground-breaking, huge watercolours; Simmons hit the US watercolour scene several years ago and sadly died in his forties a few years ago
Donna Zagotta, US
- bright, contemporary, partly-abstracted figure paintings; a real colourist; her blog has good motivational articles too
Anne McCormack, UK
- wonderful strong, simple compositions in great colour; still life paintings with only a few objects (how refreshing); lots of texture
Claire Harkness, UK and Heidi Wickham, Ireland
- striking contemporary animal paintings in loose style and minimalist compositions
Skip Lawrence, US
- sophisticated, abstracted paintings, often with only a few objects; his writing challenges you to grow as an artist too, have a rummage around his website
Alex Powers, US
- raw, powerful portraits in watercolour and charcoal; his book Painting people in watercolor is very strong on design and features some unique ways of planning or analysing your paintings
Susan Webb Tregay, US
- award-winning bold figure paintings in dramatic compositions (‘American Watercolor Society series’) as well as fun, complex, multi-coloured figure paintings (‘Contemporary art for adult children’); her writing focuses on artistic growth, see her workshop outlines; I like how she paints both commercial and serious paintings
George James, Carla O’Connor, both US
- complex, abstracted, colourful figure paintings
Ted Nuttall, US
- portraits and figure paintings that are loose yet accurate, with his distinctive blobs and very clean colour
Fi Douglas, UK textile designer - google 'bluebellgray taransay' as an example of her watercolour technique
- stunning mastery of loose watercolour technique in a single flower, with full tonal value range and sophisticated colour too; also puddle-like abstracts
Shirley Trevena, UK
- bold, beautifully designed, loose flower paintings in wonderful colour combinations
Richard Pikesley, UK - google for the watercolour paintings only
- a unique looseness with watercolour and his own low intensity colour palette
Myrna Wacknov, US
- a series of visually strong, authentic self portraits
Dean Mitchell, US
- a multi-award winning tonal painter (his work features tonal value more than colour) of everyday people and places
Andrew Wyeth, US
- exquisite, poignant paintings; Wyeth has perfect control over tonal value; he also uses texture a lot
Edward Hopper, US
- awkward figures in simple sincere paintings that everyone loves
David Hockney, UK
- masterly figure compositions; brightly coloured Yorkshire landscapes; and his recent series of portraits all using the same size canvas and same setting; I like how he continues to explore new directions even though he is already hugely successful and now aged 80
Elizabeth Blackadder, UK
- a renowned Scottish artist who has followed her own path; she paints taboo subjects for serious artists (flowers, cats) beautifully
- the ultimate sophistication in colour; a positive counterexample to the bohemian artist stereotype - a gentleman who valued family & friends (he was a good and frequent host), good food, and creating beauty in his garden; he opened his home to his patron’s family when they fell on hard times
- he endearingly wears his heart on his sleeve; I love the vibrant colours, emotional paint swirls and his accomplished drawing style
- drawings in simple, elegant lines; paintings in strong colours
- September 2017, updated 1 October 2017
Text copyright Jenelle Latcham, not to be reproduced without permission.