A Visit with Master Artist John Grimball

I recently attended the Gallery event of Master Painter, John Grimball at the Art Affair Gallery Lakeway. The gallery is so tres chic and beautiful as to merit a separate discussion, but for the moment I can’t get John’s canvases out of the eye of my mind.

As a writer, I need to step away from my little writing world and experience new art, new perspectives and inspiring events. The whole “all work and no play makes Steve a dull boy” preventative sanity check; which is cured by the muse of other artists. The mastery of other inspired hearts expands my mind and clears my soul. This is good for my writing. This is good for me.

So, I like to attend gallery opening events because the artist is most often present – and John did not disappoint. Amidst the fine wine, cheese and live music, I was able to spend some time with John exploring his works and getting a glimpse into his muse – again I was not disappointed.

Right away, I was stunned by the expansive canvas size and bold use of color in John’s paintings. His canvas real-estate, deliciously large, allows for an attention to detail that invites the eye to explore. Forgive the small size of the thumb-nails in my article as they fail to capture the power of Grimball’s often surrealistic work – much in the same way that a photograph fails to capture the solemn tranquility of a rich, deep forest.

John wandered over to visit with me as I studied a large canvas called “Paddock House”. John had an easy Southern charm about him, and a quick smile to compliment his nature. I immediately thought to myself that he was no tortured artist, but somebody with a deep eye for the world. Later I learned that my initial impression was both right and wrong. John was a true Southern gentleman, but he faced a dark and painful period in his life. This period explained why some of his canvases have a hint of “Freda” about them – a ghostly reminder that injuries leave a mark deep in the psyche of humanity.

However, even the canvases that explorer pain, have a surprising power of hope and rebirth about them in their bold bright colors. In fact, John’s work has a character that demands a bit of study. The sharp contrast of color and edgework is powerful – a chiaroscuro type of edging that make central images pop, but also pulls the entire art out of the canvas.

So accurate is John’s mastery of painting that a few works demanded I study them from side to side to see if the canvas was altered to be 3D. For example, the fan in his “Geisha” is so accurate that I foolishly spent time going from side to side to see if my eyes were playing tricks; and perhaps the canvas was raised. Even after my mind accepted the fact of Grimball’s mastery of light and shadow, I sheepishly looked one last time at the “Geisha” fan before I left the gallery that night!

A subtle and consistent theme in John’s work is the use of sky. Even his architectural work “Paddock House”, which at first glance has only a sliver of sky peeking out from the left corner, has more sky than I initial noticed at a casual glance. After a few minutes of study I realized that rolling clouds were reflected in the great windows of that work. Clouds were found even in the architecture of the buildings!

Sky and light are definitely John’s purview. “Patio Picker & Blues Cat” is one of the few works that seeming has no sky at all; however, after a careful survey I realized the subjects are awash in sunlight, and the chiaroscuro certainly paints a bright, clear sky. I felt the Texas roots of this artist shined through in this work. Texas is further evident in his series of bright cow-girls (all featuring bright bold reds and complementary blues in the smiling energy of his lively cowgirls. Ah, Texas! You’ve got to love this State.)

As we chatted about John’s international travels – his sales in Europe of so many canvases – to his subject matter of fine Italian history, I was enlighten and lifted by his gentle and intelligent nature.

The conversation circled back around to a series of paintings that I felt had a shade of “Freda” about them. John explained that he painted that series during a period when he faced life changing surgeries and doubts about his health –– even his survival. I was stunned because I found the works full of promise and hope.

Perhaps that is what John Grimball delivers best in his mastery of oil paint, light and color –– the power of hope.

Much success in life.

Stephen Paul West