James Neil Hollingsworth's debut exhibition at Anne Irwin Fine Art in Atlanta is a great opportunity to see the range of paintings that James is fast becoming known for. A latecomer to art, James has successfully made the transition from an artist who started out selling small paintings on his blog to being picked up by major galleries, such as London's Plus One Gallery.
Blocks - 18 x 18 - oil on panel
In The Real Art World interviews James Neil Hollingsworth about his recent exhibition at Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta
In The real Art World: What is the James Neil Hollingsworth story, how have you and your art arrived at this point?
James Neil Hollingsworth: I was fifty years old before I actually began to paint full-time, but drawing was part of my life since childhood. I spent much more time in school sketching in the margins of my papers than taking notes. My grades prove that. The Vietnam war was still going on when I graduated from high-school, as was the draft. My lottery number that year was nine, so I was definitely headed to the military if I didn't enroll in college. I had no interest in higher education at the time, but I loved aircraft, so I enlisted in the Air Force. Things were winding down overseas, and I remained stateside, at a base near San Francisco. While I was there I took a couple of life drawing classes at a local community college. Early stages of taking a past time to the next level. I also discovered the work of Andrew Wyeth on a visit to the De Young museum during that time, which spawned a continuing love for his paintings.
The following years were spent working odd jobs, and attending night school. At the time I assumed my major would be art, but that was never realized. I started flying sailplanes one summer, and my love of aviation took over. Two years of vocational school later I was working as an aircraft mechanic. The next few years revolved around aviation. Soaring, eventually powered flight, and skydiving. In my free time I would still draw. In time I added watercolor to my repertoire. Strictly for enjoyment, giving completed work to friends and family as gifts. These small paintings happened to be noticed by the father of a friend who ran a graphic design studio, and he offered me a job based on what he had seen. It was a tough decision, because I loved aviation, but I made the switch. It wasn't actually art, but it was close.
A couple of years later I bumped into a friend from high school who owned a type shop, and was looking for a paste up artist. His offer came at a good time, because I had just been laid off by my current employer due to a slump in business. My friend and I worked together for eight years. We didn't make any money, but we had a great time. Desktop publishing eventually killed our little enterprise. After we closed the shop I did the freelance thing.
Working freelance got old pretty quick, and I wound up following my wife into the field of nursing. It took about three years to get my license. I began my new career in the ER of a childrens hospital, but eventually moved to the Operating Room at another hospital. Every couple of years the urge to paint would rise up. I'd work feverishly for a few weeks. create a handful of watercolors, and then I'd return to artistic hibernation.
At about the eight year mark in my nursing career, some close friends who were artists showed me how they had begun to sell their paintings over the internet on ebay. They were very excited, and insisted that I give it a try. When I found they were right, I realized this was the time to start taking the art part of my life more seriously. After a year of consistent ebay sales I felt confident enough to end my nursing career, and attempt the job of full-time artist. I just reached my five year anniversary as an artist.
My Right Foot - 12 x 24 - oil on canvas
In The real Art World: Your highly successful blog "Paintings in Oil" which started as a painting a day blog which has evolved into a chronicle of your art and career as an artist. What attracted you to blogging and creating art of a modest scale that can be sold online?
James Neil Hollingsworth: Two years ago when I began my blog, I didn't even know what a blog was. I had heard the term more than once, and was curious. Two other artists really helped me get it going. Belinda Del Pesco and Jeff Hayes showed me the ropes. They were very enthusiastic about their own blogs, and that energy was infectious. I put up mine, and it's been a wonderful plus to my art career. It's a great way to find, and interact with other artists, collectors and patrons of art in general.
The small paintings for ebay were a result of my experiment with the "Painting A Day" movement. For one month I did a painting a day. I chose a 6 x 6 format for continuity. Exhausted after thirty days, and not particularly pleased with the "finish" of the completed paintings I ended the exercise. I did find though, that I liked the six inch square. From that point on I limited my ebay work to that size exclusively.
Red Shoes - 12 x 12 - oil on panel
In The real Art World: Your detailed paintings are of everyday objects such as a shoe, a sandwich, pool balls, light-globes, a mixer etc. How do you go about finding the subjects for your paintings and what do you really look for when assessing it’s potential to make it as a painting?
James Neil Hollingsworth: It's an intuitive thing. My wife Karen (who is also an artist), and I have this habit of seeing something, pointing to it and stating to the other, "that could be a painting". Many times one subject will lead to another. I did a painting a while back of the kitchen at the Waffle House. I loved the stainless steel, stacked plates and utensils. This eventually led to the percolators, which led to coffee cups and mugs, which led to other kitchen items like the mixers. I just like the look of "stuff", especially mechanical stuff. Just about anything can be the subject of a painting if you see it's own beauty. Duane Keiser showed that to me when I first saw one of his dead bees, or stack of life savers.
Pool Bowl No.10 - 12 x 12 - oil on panel
In The real Art World: Tell me about your working process, how does an idea becomes a finished painting?
James Neil Hollingsworth: It all begins with photography. I've spent the last week doing nothing but photography. I'll take over a thousand shots before I settle down to cull out potential images. When I have a rough collection of compositions, I'll refine the search again to those shots I like the best. Then I begin the process of cropping those images into final compositions. Once I pick a specific shot to paint, I'll color correct, and adjust the exposure to my liking, work up the drawing, transfer it to canvas/panel, and begin. I tend to start at the top left of the canvas, and work my way down to the lower right. The first pass is somewhat refined. I hope to get an accurate sense of the color, tonal value and structure of the composition. Then subsequent passes refine the painting until it reaches a point where I'm pleased. I don't use any mediums or glazes. The total number of passes on a painting averages three. More if the subject matter is complicated.
Half Perc - 12 x 12 - oil on panel
In The real Art World: Who are the artists that at the moment you are looking at, or find their work resonates for you?
James Neil Hollingsworth: I'm finding new artists all the time thanks to the internet. It's a well that never runs dry. It's very hard to create a short list. Some names off the top of my head: James McLaughlin Way, a local artist that Karen and I both admire, David Malan is an illustrator and blogger who works with pencil, oil and digital tools, he is someone whom I use the phrase, "I wish I could draw like him" a lot, Alexander Kanevsky, nuff said, I love the figurative paintings of Alyssa Monks, to name just a few. This list doesn't include those who I consider friends and fellow bloggers like: Karin Jurick, Carol Marine, Nigel Cox, Pierre Raby, Paul Brown, and about a hundred more. A complete list including links is presented on my blog (neilhollingsworth.blogspot.com) CLICK HERE
Espresso Cup - 12 x 12 - oil on panel
In The real Art World: Finally, what's next?
James Neil Hollingsworth: My wish is that I can continue to do what I'm doing. Paint. I've got a few landscape ideas I'd like to attempt one day. Do them big, then see what they may lead to.
To visit James Neil Hollingsworth's blog "Paintings in Oil" CLICK HERE
To visit James Neil Hollingsworth's website CLICK HERE
To visit Karen Hollingsworth's website CLICK HERE