This Saturday, for one night only, the photorealistic paintings of local artist Jonathan Hicks will be featured at Junctionview Studios. After displaying similar shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Jonathan has turned his focus to Columbus for an exhibition that includes a variety of familiar cultural institutions as subjects.
We recently caught up with Jonathan to discuss his new show.
Q) Tell us a little about your background as an artist. It sounds like you’ve traveled quite a bit. How did you end up in Columbus?
A) I was always the kid that was drawing things, mostly comic book characters and rock band logos on desks in study hall, but never had plans to do it professionally. I’m a graphic designer and art director by trade, but I like to step outside the structure of commercial design between jobs, and painting allows me to do that.
I grew up in Northeast Ohio and graduated from OSU, but headed west afterward: Colorado, Hawaii, and eventually California where I lived in LA and most recently San Francisco. I love the Bay area and plan to be there for a long time.
I was originally commissioned to do a Columbus series, but the commissioners backed out at the last second. I was so happy with the material I shot though that I decided to go through with it on my own a couple years later.
Q) Your art seems to be primarily focused on individual business signage from a street level perspective. What draws you to feature this subject?
A) While living in Los Angeles about 10 years ago I decided to do a little watercolor of Pink’s hot dog stand around the corner from my apartment to fill space on my empty walls. Everyone that saw it loved it, not so much for the rendering, but because everyone loved Pink’s! I loved that emotional connectivity, and as a professional designer I’m visually drawn to typography, logos, signage etc., so all in all it’s a pretty natural fit. I’ve gotten a lot bigger and bolder with my work since then, but it all started with Pink’s.
Q) Can you tell us a bit about the process that goes into creating this type of photorealistic work? Do you scout locations and take photographs? Are there any particular criteria for what makes a good subject?
A) I’m a painfully methodical painter… definitely not the free spirit on the street corner with a beret and outstretched thumb. I take anywhere from 30-100 photos of my subjects at different times of day, then usually do a lot of digital enhancement to try to get the most interesting single image I can. A lot of artists paint from life because they complain that the camera lens sees things differently. I happen to like that, so I try to exploit those distorted or exaggerated qualities in my work.
The actual sketching and painting process is pretty intense and not necessarily what I’d call enjoyable, but the results make it worthwhile. What’s interesting is that critics and ‘art types’ usually praise the photography, sometimes never even mentioning the painting. They know it’s a painting, they just don’t care about that part of it, which I find hugely satisfying. With the public, of course, it’s usually the other way around and that’s fine too.
In choosing subjects, I usually start with a list of the landmarks and go from there. In the end it’s all about the image so I often end up skipping over the big names and painting great-looking spots that I stumble upon accidentally. In fact it’s so predictable that I count on it happening, so I guess it’s not really accidental at this point.
Q) Do you have any stories to share where you’ve interacted with the business owners who’s venues you feature? Are they excited to see your work? Have you had business owners purchase your work?
A) The very first piece of art I sold was to Richard Pink. His family’s hot dog stand was my first subject and he was my first buyer. What’s interesting is that the piece he bought was not the original watercolor, which he’s never seen, but rather an acrylic that I did much later. Funny how that worked out.
I’m under no illusions, there are more than a few artists out there doing what I do. As a result, some of the owners are pretty apathetic upon hearing that their places have been painted… again. But that usually changes if and when they see them. I work really hard to impart my own style to each piece and the scale has a pretty big impact, so fortunately if I can manage to get an owner in front of their piece they usually buy it.
Q) The work on your website showcases Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Columbus. What other places are next?
A) Well I may be publicly flogged by the art community if I do Los Angeles and San Francisco and not New York, so that’s on tap. I’ve also done some shooting in Las Vegas and have completed a few pieces, but for whatever reason haven’t flushed out a whole series yet. I’m licking my chops to do places like Miami and New Orleans as well, cities that have a really distinct aesthetic and sense of time.
Q) Tell us a bit about your upcoming show at Junctionview. I imagine there will be quite a few recognizable landmarks for anyone familiar with the city?
A) Having spent my college years in Columbus, I had a basic appreciation for its rich tradition and cultural diversity, but the quality of the material I shot really surprised me… mostly that only one piece involved the Buckeyes! Sometimes capturing a wide variety of images within any given city can be a challenge, but things came together pretty quickly and I was thrilled with the shots from which I had to choose. As for the assortment, I’d like to maintain some element of surprise but I’ll say that The Rossi, which I drove past 20 or 30 times before considering taking any pictures, is probably my favorite piece to date. The series also includes Columbus institutions like The Clarmont and Johnnie’s Glen Ave. Grill, so hopefully there’s something for everyone.
Jonathan’s “New Paintings: Columbus” show takes place at Junctionview Studios on March 6th, 2010 from 7 – 11 PM. More information can be found online at www.Jonathanhicks-Studio.com.