J Louis (American, b. 1992, Karlsruhe, Germany, based in Chicago, IL, USA)
“At only 26 years of age, Chicago-based J. Louis is a promising, young talent who depicts elegant, female figures, set against energetic, abstracted fields of color. His bravura paintings are studies in contrasts; soft and sensual faces seem to slowly emerge from tempests of forcefully applied swaths of pigment. In J. Louis' works, intimacy and frenzy co-exist to create imagery unlike any the gallery has ever seen before.” - Arcadia Contemporary
Savannah College of Art & Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design, 2015
2018 Art Palm Springs Fair, Arcadia Contemporary, CA, USA
2018 LA Art Fair, Arcadia Contemporary, CA, USA
2017 Solo Exhibition, Shain Gallery, NC, USA
2017 Artist Focus, “J Louis”, American Art Collector Magazine, November 2017
2017 Alumni Mentor and guest lecturer, Savannah College of Art & Design, GA, USA
You`re only 26 years, and you have already experienced some kind of glory and achieved success. Do you remember those moment when you understood that you are realized?
The most memorable moment I have had took place earlier in the year. After a nearly sold out show in November with a gallery in North Carolina, I was invited to exhibit with Arcadia Contemporary in the LA Art show. I’ve followed the gallery for many years and love the artists that have been represented there. It was a dream come true to exhibit in such a high profile event with my favorite gallery. I would say this was my global debut.
When you understood that you want to be a painter and to develop in field of art (culture)?
Deciding to create art professionally wasn’t straightforward for me. Before pursuing a career as a fine artist, I was in the pool for the US National Soccer team using my creativity more as an athlete. Then, athletics opened the door for me to study Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design where I ended up designing a variety of products from medical instruments to driver bit cases for Snap-On Tools and later footwear for Frye Boots in NYC. I loved flexing my creativity in design and on the athletic field, but I always found myself in the studio painting whenever I had a free moment. I would gladly give up sleep for a few hours at the easel. While at SCAD I painted for friends and family, and before I knew it, I had a constant stream of people commissioning various works. Many of the works people requested were animal paintings, so that is what I did. I painted all through college and upon graduating decided to create art full time, creating animal paintings for clients and practicing figure drawing for myself.
We noticed the similarity between your art style and style of jugendstil (modern) art, in particular, viennise jugendstil. Have viennise artists influenced you? And which artists are stylistically close to you?
I appreciate the work of many Jugendstil artist, most notably Gustav Klimt. His sense of design, and many artists of the period strike me. I was fortunate to see the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer at the Neue Galerie in New York. It was a spectacular experience to see the work in person. I’ve been influenced by their exploration of design and desire to push boundaries.
Do you remember your feelings when you opened your first exhibition?
I trained myself for many years before revealing any of my figure paintings. When I did have my first solo show over 25 of my 30 works sold by the end of the opening night. I was ecstatic to see my work so well received!
You conduct workshops and lectures. What are the main principles of painting you say? What should real artist to be able to do first at all?
In my workshops I teach my process for artmaking from conception to completion of a day study. We cover live model photography, computer aided design and a day long painting sketch. I show artists how to explore their creativity. It is difficult to say what a “real” artist should learn to do first. Art is about expression and communication, so perhaps an artist should learn to express themself without thinking too much about what others would say. Technically, I feel that drawing is supremely important. If you want to create representational work, an understanding of drawing is absolutely essential. However, if one has the skills to draw exceptionally, but has nothing to say is the work they’ve produced art? A “real” artist is a master of communication. This is why my workshops are about teaching students to say something through their work.
How going on a preparation for writing a painting? Do you need special atmosphere?
First off, the most important element in any work of art is its story, what does this work of art communicate, so I try my best to focus on what I am actually saying in my work. I can’t put the story for each work of art into words, which is exactly why I paint instead of write, but I have a strong feeling about the moment I try to convey. In order to create my story, I design a mood board of images, icons, color schemes, etc. that convey the story. I then photograph models to create images I use for my work. I design my set for the photo shoot so that I may best communicate the story I am after.
By working with live models I am able to create something unique and validate whether my story feels right. I really love this part of the process because the energy and mood of my work start to come to life at this point. As an artist, most of my time is spent working alone, so I enjoy opportunities to collaborate with another professional in creating my art.
Although I enjoy working with live models, I can explore different options through manipulation of the reference photos. It allows for more spontaneous and exciting imagery to work from than a sitting model. I teach this process in workshops held all over the States and hope to teach internationally in the future. Here’s a link to my current schedule.
What would you not write for? (about theme of paintings)
I’m not sure what you’re asking with this question.
In Russia, young artists can not immediately get a job or build a career. Sometimes they spend many years to get to a decent level to earn their paintings. Now the situation is improving - influential institutions and foundations establish contests, grants, and financing. And what about America: there young artists are easier to build a career?
In my experience in America, making a living as an artist is more about creating work that connects well with collectors, than establishing technical achievements. Whether one has years of training at a prestigious fine art academy, or is self taught the collectors want work they can connect with. Great art has a soul to it that can’t be taught, and I think that great art collectors can see that. In that way it is easier to succeed as an artist in America, but it is incredibly competitive with so many artists trying to get there work seen.
What is more important for your creativity: technology or conception?
To me conception is more important. Technology is an excellent tool for supporting ones work, but it isn’t the work. The final conception of one's work has the artists soul in it.
Which your plans for the future? Do you plan to come to Russia with the exhibition?
I am working diligently in the studio for a few exhibitions in America throughout the year. I would love to exhibit in Russia given the appropriate opportunity.
What advice would you give to beginning artists? what is the art of the future?
To be an artist is not easy, but if you have exceptional drive, work ethic and plan your career intelligently it is possible. I think that young artists need to understand that, yes art making is a ton of fun, but you have to willing to make incredible sacrifices in order to succeed. This is why having something to say is so important. Why work so hard for something when you don't have anything to say? I’m not trying to scare young artists away from making art, as it's the most rewarding endeavor I’ve ever experienced. I absolutely love what I do every day!
The art of the future is variety. For thousands of years there has been a standard in most cultures for what makes “real” art and that idea collapsing. Now we have major collectors that support artist from all walks of life working in a variety of media. One artist may create work that competes with the finest oil painters of the past while another may create highly conceptual work where they hardly manipulate material. Both artists are taken as credible as long as there is purpose behind the work. I love that we are working in an environment with such exceptional freedom of expression.
On another note, digital media (most notably Instagram) has become a profound vehicle for the way we view art. Artists from all over the world are gaining exposure and sharing their work with other artists and collectors. This has two huge effects, the first is that artists are able to discover and share new ideas with one another rapidly and the second is that people are able to view and discover work they would have never seen before. The major drawback is that the work will always be displayed on a digital screen. One may only experience so much on their phone, so I feel that tactility will remain a major element of future art. As a species we crave tactility.