Ahead of our two-person show (opening November 11) featuring paintings by Jimmy Craig Womble and David Shingler, we sat down with each artist to find out what makes them tick. In this interview with Jimmy Craig Womble there are a few places referenced that are near Jimmy’s home in Morehead City, North Carolina. Since both artists are painters, you will find their work on our sister website, www.adamcavefineart.com.
Adam Cave (AC) - Let’s start with the beard. Sometimes you visit the gallery all neat and clean-shaven. Other times I think you are auditioning for movie role as a Western mountain man. Explain.
Jimmy Craig Womble (JCW) - I am glad that is still provides some shock value. The beard is mostly a full-time thing now. It started out as a seasonal fashion but I rarely shave it completely anymore. The volume does still fluctuate and I will probably shape it up some for the upcoming public appearance.
AC - Do you think you experience “seasonal” changes as an artist too? As a landscape painter one might misconstrue this question to mean you paint different subjects at different times of year but I really wonder about more substantive changes that occur across the span of a career.
JCW - When you pursue one thing for a long time, as much as you love it, there can be a sense of repetitiveness and you need some shift in thinking to re-energize your painting. I am going through some of that now although it might not always be self-evident to viewers. For years I have been primarily painting subjects here at the coast that, in many cases, are disappearing; old boat yards, dilapidated houses and barns, the rutty stuff that people don’t see. This kind of local scenery has always attracted me. But now going out and painting these scenes plein-air is just the start. I bring them back to the studio and work on them a lot trying to focus on using light as a way of telling a story, moving the eye around the canvas. Light has become a sort of character for me and it is obsessing me as much as the subject matter itself.
AC - This reminds me of what Ansel Adams did with his photographs in the darkroom.
JCW - For me, it is painters like Rembrandt and Caravaggio that top my list of what to aspire to. They were able to use light to create an incredible amount of contrast and drama, even in fairly simple compositions.
AC - In that case, why leave the studio at all? Why not make up scenes where you can really control all the elements in your painting?
JCW - That might work for some people but not for me. Ever since I began studying art at the School of Design at NC State, I was drawn towards realism. I tried my hand at abstraction but kept coming back to real places and real things. I don’t want to make up scenes now. I want to use light the way these Renaissance painters used light, to accentuate the elements that are there and allow people to see them the way I see them. I don’t want to make it up - I want to improve it.
Painting on location is still an incredibly important part of the equation for me. I get to experience the original light first-hand, which sets the tone for the whole painting. I also like the quiet solitude that I find when I am out at radio Island, or Ted and Todds at the base of the bridge. I didn’t grow up on the coast so there is no nostalgia for me with these subjects. They have a story to tell and I can paint them without interruptions.
AC - You and your wife Gwendy have two young children. I imagine they might be source of some of those interruptions.
JCW - Maybe a little but I am really thinking of the tourists in our area who are often curious when they see an artist set up an easel somewhere public. The kids are a handful, of course, but they have also been really inspiring lately. We are regularly drawing together now and, in helping them, I am sort of relearning lots of ideas about objects in space and seeing it all from their point of view.
AC - You are clearly going through some interesting changes as a landscape painter, moving from a complete focus on the subjects to a real interest in using light as a creative tool. But, we are talking about a career that spans over twenty years now. Is this the first time you have explored alternative ways of painting.
JCW - Not at all. I am probably always exploring some idea or other. A few years back I really felt like I needed a more abstract style, with looser brushstrokes and a brighter palette. I was trying to speak in a different voice you might say. The failure rate was high and I probably painted 1000 paintings that had to be scrapped. It just wasn’t working. Now I feel like I am painting in my own authentic voice again using light as a character. The paintings are tighter than they were and I really like where they are headed.
AC - We do too. I can’t wait to see the show on the walls of the gallery. Thank you so much for your time today jimmy. It has been great to talk to you and dig a little deeper into your thinking.
JCW - This has been fun. See you at the show.
The new show for Jimmy Craig Womble and David Shingler opens on Saturday, November 11 with a public artist reception from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. Click HERE for an artist vitae and list of collections. Adam Cave Fine Art is located at 2009 Progress Court, Raleigh, NC 27608. Regular hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 10:00 – 4:00 pm.