Poetry on canvas
This story was featured in the April 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
For Minnesota artist Matt Linz, 2015 was a busy year filled with shows, awards, and other accolades. Three different portraits by Linz won top honors in various venues, including the Oil Painters of America Online Showcase, the American Impressionist Society National Juried Exhibition, and the online BoldBrush Painting Contest. And 2016 ushered in more good news. In early January, Linz learned that the Oil Painters of America had awarded him signature membership status.
Linz began taking art lessons at age 4 when his parents, noticing his talents, enrolled him in children’s art classes at the University of Minnesota. His first live model was a cat. Linz eventually went on to earn a fine-arts degree from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul in 1997. Although he began his career with an interest in wildlife, these days he focuses on portraits and figurative work. “People are each so individual, with such a range of human emotions. I like trying to capture those emotions,” Linz says. “Human beings are the ultimate subject and the most difficult to paint, but I like the challenge.”
A self-described contemporary impressionist, Linz cites Nicolai Fechin and Joaquín Sorolla as major influences. In 2008, when he wanted to achieve a similarly “loose, poetic” style, he turned to a workshop with noted figurative painter Carolyn Anderson. “Carolyn’s workshop was crucial, a major turning point,” Linz says. “She helped me see art in a different way and not be a slave to details and photographs. And she got me fired up to paint from life.”
Like many figurative artists, his subjects today are a combination of family, friends, and paid models. In his evocative painting BOY READING, which won an OPA award last year, Linz portrays a friend’s son, Liam, whose pay scale was ideal, Linz says—all he demanded was Pokémon cards. “If all models got paid with Pokémon cards, that would be great,” Linz says.
While awards are wonderful, the artist says, what’s important to him is that viewers connect with his portraits. “I hope my work strikes an emotional chord,” he says. “And I hope I can paint in a poetic way while being honest and faithful to what I see.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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