My work focuses on technique in application and dynamic color stories, usually with a focus on organic subjects such as animals or body parts. My paintings are layers of independent shapes, stacked with precision to imply light, texture, and form. With a balance of careful color shifts and loud punches of contrasting hues, the end result is harmonious and vibrates with life. Acrylic paint is my preferred medium, and I choose to create work on wooden surfaces, as the smoothness best lends itself to the clean and precise marks that evolve into my visual geometry. My paintings are designed to exist carefully between mechanical and fluid, representational and abstracted, and ultimately tell an old story in a new voice.
The subjects I choose to paint provide me with an opportunity to find unique ways to present things that are more or less familiar. I like exploring visual concepts of wetness, softness, and hardness without being too caught up in realism-- using somewhat relatable subject matter, such as rare birds or animal eyes, gives me more freedom to play with technique.
Though I'm originally from Ohio, I currently live and create in Highland Park, CA. I've got a rescue rabbit that lives in my studio and watches me paint, and my time outside of work is spent cooking, making cocktails, and exploring the city.
Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what compelled you to begin painting?
I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember, but it took me a while to land on painting specifically. When I was a kid, I was into sculpting. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a graphic designer— after that, an animator. In my early 20s, I started splitting my time between digital illustration and painting until I decided that acrylic painting was the thing I loved the most. Ever since, I’ve spend most of my time developing it. I’ve always been a creative type and have been fortunate in my life to explore a lot of things.
What brought you to California? Did this move impact your art making at all?
I actually moved to California to go to art school, so the change was pivotal for me in my development as an artist in a lot of ways. I’m from a small town in the midwest, so suddenly being surrounded by creatives and motivated artists was really eye-opening. I didn’t realize how narrow my exposure was before then. Leaving my comfort zone and paving my own way, both in my life and in my artistic development, absolutely impacted where I ended up. The importance of learning from people with different perspectives and being forever focused on your own growth are lessons that I live by now.
What parts of your daily life inspire you?
I’m forever inspired by animals, colors, and shapes— a sentence that I realize makes me sound like a five year old. I follow a lot of nature photographers on social media, and am always saving photos to use as inspiration for pieces. It’s a well that never runs dry. When I decide to sit down and paint something, I find myself down a rabbit hole— did you know there are dozens of varieties of clownfish, over a thousand kinds of sheep, over a quarter-million beetles? The common artist-block issue of “I don’t know what to make” is always resolved for me by spending a little time researching what’s out there.
Your style tends to be on the side of the bold and graphic—are you influenced by comics or graphic novels?
Good question! Comics weren’t really part of my life, to be honest. My style came about the opposite way, actually— I used to try to paint more in realism, and then sort of let it collapse and simplify into shapes as I got more confident with it. I switched from oil to acrylic to teach myself how to be more decisive with colors, and my style grew as a result of focusing on shape, composition, and economy with my mark-making. Acrylics forced me to stop blending, and with that evolved hard edged marks and clashing colors, even though I started out with softer, realistic pieces when I began painting.
I love that, along with paintings and drawings, you also create large-scale murals! Where can we see some of this work?
Murals are a fun challenge since so much of my work is very small and hyper-controlled. You have to learn to let go a little when you work huge— I can’t worry about every millimeter of the surface the way I do with my regular work, which is probably a good exercise for me. You can find some of my bigger pieces around the Los Angeles area— hopefully more in the future, too!
Do you have anything in the works that you’d like to share?
Oh man, I always have too many projects going— but right now, I’m trying to put together some YouTube content. My goal is to share artist-centric information you may not get other places, like developing good studio habits, nuances of technique, and particulars of different pigments and products. While there is a ton of very fun and digestible craft content there, I want to produce material that benefits artists on the next level, and to provide some answers to questions that people maybe wouldn’t think to ask. If you want to subscribe and watch it unfold, you can find me there with the same username I have on all platforms, @theobanoth.