Albert John Belmont is a fantastic painter with a very particular style that he helps to explain. “I am a minimalist in many aspects of my life, and attempting to cut through the unnecessary elements in a painting or drawing allows me to relay the scene or feeling in a more precise way—curating the subject matter and guiding the viewer to see what I want them to see.” He received a BFA from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and an MA from the University of Florida. He grew up in New England and currently lives with his family in Jacksonville, Florida.
Tell us about your evolution as an artist. Finding clear, simple ways of communicating a subject has been my main objective for many years. My undergrad illustration work in Boston gave me the means to really explore different approaches and what resonated most with me in that exploration was minimalism. I read a lot about Picasso’s approach to deconstructing a subject and I had to try it out, taking my detailed drawings and reducing them to what I deemed to be critical lines and colors. While I’ve tried different things—varying line quality, organic versus geometric organization and more recently using digital media—my main goal remains to show a subject in the simplest way without sacrificing critical information. That said, I need to feel invested in a piece for this to really work, so even if I’m doing a portrait of someone I don’t know, I need to find a way to assign some level of personal connection. That can be a challenge.
Many Mormon artists either grew up or went to school in Utah. How has being an East Coast Mormon shaped your experience? I’ve never been to Utah. Minus two flights to California I haven’t been west of Oklahoma. I grew up in New England and have spent most of my adult life in Florida, so I’m an Atlantic Ocean guy. I really knew nothing about the church until I was in my 20s, so my artistic journey has largely been shaped by a variety of things including family, nature and religion — all three with a certain level of spirituality and sentimentality. When it comes to art, I don’t think I could ever be an artist who paints only religious themes any more than I could be one dedicated only to landscapes or portraits. Everything I create is entrenched in personal experience — sometimes related to faith and other times a memory/moment. In a sense it is all spiritual to me. I find those connections by free-sketching and deciding what to take further based on what feels right. My sketchbooks are like visual journals.
What are you working on next? I just finished a sketchbook exploration of how we use, develop and abandon land. Living in Florida I’m always noticing how much development is going on as well as how many places are vacated and overgrown. I also have a painting in the works based on a recent drawing 30 Years of Fallen Leaves (above) that is a similar subject—a picture of a place where I grew up that has largely been untouched for years.