Take a journey with Fine Art Today into the oil paintings of “secret places” painted by artist Chris Strunk.
Like many artists, whether historical or contemporary, painter Chris Strunk is often struck by particular locations and scenes he happens upon during his day-to-day experiences. Strunk is constantly snapping photos, using the technology as a way to sketch and quickly capture a variety of views that speak to him. However, rather than copying the photos, Strunk uses his mechanical images to create something organic, arranging sets of photos as a reference before considering his composition of his oil paintings.
Once he begins, he will work, then step away, never resuming work without clarity and intention. “I have learned to feel my way through paintings in this way,” the artist states. “Waiting for clarity is not necessarily thinking — clarity happens for everyone if they can train themselves to wait. Eventually the subject and the work on the canvas become so compelling that I couldn’t stop even if I tried.”
Strunk also draws visual inspiration from his robust book collection. The artist states, “I keep my art library handy and am routinely looking at the work of artists that inspire me. There are always books on the studio floor to be perused during painting sessions. Some of the books are a constant source. For example, at the moment there are monographs on Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and Ivan Shishkin. There is also a history of Italian 19th-century painting and a history of American tonalism, one of my favorites.”
The artist writes, “Everyone has secret places where they can go and be whole. My paintings are often of these locations.” For several years, Strunk has been exploring — both physically and artistically — the dunes on Lake Michigan, near his home in Holland, Michigan. His secret places involve wandering off the beaten trail, exploring locations on his own. “On the easel right now is a view through the trees on top of one of the biggest dunes,” says Strunk. “The woods up there have a different magic. At one of the higher points is a secret place where one can see Lake Michigan in the distance; it’s an epic view. For me, the walks have become part of the process and I take my time in reverence.”
Stylistically, Strunk’s work is a melding of representation and abstraction. Within the artist’s oeuvre one will find works in both categories, but his landscapes have a special, almost impressionistic allure. “The Approaching Storm” from 2014 is especially beautiful. Standing along the shores of Lake Michigan, the viewer gazes across rumbling surf as dramatic, imposing clouds appear to be closing in from the horizon. Strunk’s application of oil lends itself to the scene, which we can imagine is in constant flux and movement. Further, the palette displays a rich arrangement of blues, yellows, whites, greens, and, perhaps, hints of orange.
The viewer is left longing to find Strunk’s secret place in “Saugatuck Evening.” From an elevated vantage point, the viewer looks out over the fading sunset across Lake Michigan. A beautiful array of patterned dabbles of pink, purple, and orange fragment a blue sky. In the foreground, a few trees and grasses balance the palette and contrast against the sky.
To view more oil paintings by the artist, visit Chris Strunk online.
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