Merrill Whitehead

I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a kid. I didn’t seek it; it was part of me, like the color of my eyes or the shape of my nose. The smell of India ink and the sound of a pen or brush on a stiff sheet of Strathmore paper intoxicated me. I drew constantly and everywhere:  in class, in church, or sitting under a tree. Even so, I did not consider myself an artist. I loved playing baseball and later, boxing. In fact, I could pitch a curve ball or throw a left hook better than I could draw an old truck. But I stuck at it like an addiction, eventually being appointed the cartoonist for my high school paper and winning two national awards in editorial art. My bedroom wall was plastered with works of illustrators Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Brodie, Gordon Grant, and Henry Major; along with editorial artists D. R. Fitzpatrick and David Low, rock stars of my youth and a great puzzlement to my friends and family. In short, art took a back seat to making a living. After studying business in college, serving in the U.S. Army, getting married and having a job and family, I came across John Rewald’s Impressionism and Post Impressionism., two thick books I read as intently as a pastor reads the Bible. Thus, I discovered easel painting and became a Sunday painter. This evolved into painting after dinner in a corner of the garage; night courses at The Museum of Fine Arts and The Alfred Glassell School of Art. Fast forward from oils to pastels. The first mark---deep red on a warm gray surface---launched 37 years of joy and success using this wondrous medium.

Personally, I do not have nor do I seek a “purpose” to paint. Whatever I see that triggers a certain inner reaction becomes a painting. The best thing that affected my art was to visit a farm and take in the rolling countryside handsomely embroidered by spreading live oaks; sprinkled with old barns, and sunsets not blocked by a neighbor’s roof. I liked what I saw, so I painted it and that, in essence, is my painting philosophy. I paint what I like to see. When my wife, Gloria, admired an array of azaleas, I painted my first floral for her. I did not see flowers, I saw shapes, so florals became another outlet. I’m very appreciative I can express myself in such a manner that others find my work interesting enough to purchase and find a place for it in their homes.

www.merrillwhitehead.com

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