Creative Spotlight: Jim Simpson
Artist Jim Simpson’s expansive new exhibition Fresh Scrape opens tonight (July 26th) at CityArts, on display in the Main Gallery through August 30th. Featuring dozens of paintings and drawings in a wide range of styles, Simpson’s phenomenal artwork evokes the natural world with fearless curiosity and wonder – a disciplined exploration of color, texture, & rhythm. Humbly, joyfully, impeccably crafted, Fresh Scape is a must-see body of work from a singular Wichita talent.
I’m a native Kansan who has always enjoyed the outdoors. As a child I’d spend many summer hours exploring creek beds, catching bugs for fish bait, and looking for bull frogs. A love for vintage items was instilled in me by my mother, and collecting vintage ceramic pitchers is something I share with my wife. All my life I’ve filed away memories that emerge later in my artwork. These images, colors, and patterns undergo a transformation as they emerge organically in unexpected ways.
My biggest influence was Patric Rowley. I used to work as a designer for Pat. He was a well-known Kansas painter/writer. Pat would often ask me to come look at a painting he was working on. It was a treat to have my opinion valued. Watching him work taught me the importance of not becoming too attached to a composition…if it’s not working take it out. He taught me by example to be more fearless when I painted.
Favorite Artists, Past or Present
I’m addicted to art museums, art websites and documentaries. They can be so inspiring. I actually sat down a year ago and decided to make a list of my favorite (historical) artists. I sorted through a lot of images of their work as I did this, and it was a great process of discovery. The artists who I might have previously listed as my favorites drifted down the list…replaced by others that I knew I liked, but in reviewing their work realized they resonated stronger with me.
I’ve never let another artist’s style directly influence me. Having ‘favorite artists’ has always been about finding an artist who I recognized a connection with my own art. It gave me a sense of joy (and confidence) to see them use similar devices or arrangements. Charles Burchfield was probably the first artist that I singled out as a favorite, and he still is. For their expressive line work, I love Ben Shahn and Graham Sutherland. For the texture and color of their paintings, I love Richard Diebenkorn, Fritz Scholder, and Robert Gwathmey. Braque and Matisse and Picasso are amazing legends. And, as I start to do more sculptural work. I’m really inspired by the inventive works of Picasso, Calder and Marisol Escobar.
I actively try to avoid having a process. For me, it kills the spontaneity that I love to instill into a work. I do very little pre-planning and let the image evolve on the canvas. Sometimes I start with a large gestural sketch. Often, I start by applying large patterns of colors as a base to build off. My original concept might change if I see a more compelling vision for it. That’s the reason you’ll see a large variety of images in the City Arts show.
What Do You Hope to Communicate?
My first reaction to this question is…I’m not communicating a message. These paintings are not constructed with that type of mindset. The best way I can answer is… I am drawn to images of wear, decay, brokenness and imperfection. But, there’s always hope. There’s always a path for life. In my paintings, that might be the flicker of a bird’s wing, the flip of a fish tail, or cedar branches swaying in the breeze.
What Can People Expect to See at Fresh Scrape?
A lot of variety. I did a show last year that was tightly wrapped around a central theme. After that, I was ready to loosen back up and just paint without a theme. That’s where the show title came from. Fresh Scrape works on two levels. In a literal way, it is descriptive of my painting style…scrubbing and scratching into the painted surface. It’s also a term associated with deer. A buck creates ‘scrapes’ by pawing and digging the ground as part of marking their territory. They mark their scrapes in other ways, but I assure you no hygiene codes have been broken in the City Arts gallery space. Since this show is such a wide-ranging collection of images and styles, the title resonated with me. It’s me saying “This is what I’m about…and it probably won’t stop here.”
Advice for Aspiring Artists
Don’t let your art be too precious. Be willing to paint over it, or cut it up and turn it into a collage.
See Jim Simpson’s Fresh Scrape at CityArts July 26th – August 30th in the Main Gallery and more of his work online at jimsimpsonartwork.com and Instagram at @jimsimpsonartwork