Focus on the figure
This story was featured in the September 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2013 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
In 2011, when Jeff Merrill received his master’s degree in fine arts from the Academy of Art University, he was offered a position as an assistant professor at Brigham Young University in Laie, HI. At first he thought that leaving the thriving San Francisco art scene and moving to the “middle of the ocean” was a bad idea for his career. But ultimately he decided to take a leap of faith and leave the City by the Bay behind. Today, Merrill says, quite to the contrary of his initial reaction, he has found that the pace of island life as well as the natural beauty suits him more than he could have envisioned. Even though he is teaching painting and drawing classes, he has plenty of time to concentrate on his own work.
This year mark’s Merrill’s fifth to be juried into the prestigious Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibition, with his figurative painting LA PELIRROJA (THE REDHEAD) included in the presentation. Meredith Plesko, co-owner of InSight Gallery in Fredericksburg, TX, which hosted the OPA event this past spring, saw Merrill’s expressive work for the first time in the show and was impressed with his “unique and fresh approach” to figurative paintings. “Jeff’s flawless composition and brushwork are a nod toward his firm grounding in the fundamentals, while his sensitivity and ability to capture light make him an exciting young artist to watch and a wonderful addition to the InSight Gallery family,” Plesko says.
Although he paints in a variety of genres, Merrill favors the challenges of depicting the human form, trying to create a painting that may be abstract up close but reveals a beautiful figure when viewers step back. His goal is to reconcile these two elements in a way that is visually exciting. “I have always been interested in painting people as subject matter,” Merrill says. “For me, it is a greater personal achievement, more of a challenge than other genres and one that comes with greater rewards. When you paint people, there has to be a certain correctness about it. When I achieve that correctness, it gives me a rush and a satisfaction that I got what I was after.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the September 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art September 2013 print issue or digital download
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