John Berry is an artist and naturalist. Berry grew up in the desert areas around Sparks, Nevada and the influence of the outdoors and the Western landscape are apparent in his work. As he explains, “I used to list my accomplishments, or I should say, accomplishments of my work…I’ve come to realize that that matters little. What awards, collections or museums hold my work matters not at all. What matters is the work. What matters is how the work connects or speaks to each individual. So with that said, I’ll let you, dear art lover decide for yourself, what you think/feel about my work. Enjoy.”
Tell us about your evolution as an artist. That’s a hard question to answer. It has run the gamut and continues to change. I studied Illustration at BYU, then proceeded to work as a freelance conceptual illustrator for over a decade. This was a fun and challenging career, but over time it began to wear me down. Always having to meet deadlines, having to satisfy the vision of someone else. I realized that I could not continue to do this. I quit advertising; quit actively seeking illustration jobs, I just began to paint for myself. That in and of itself was hard. Paint what? Paint how? It took a lot of introspection to figure that out. Initially I painted wildlife, then on to pure landscapes, all this in an academic approach. What I began to see was that the land, especially the desert was a constant source of inspiration. As I delved into that more fully, I realized it wasn’t the land itself (the locations or scenes) that pulled on me, it was the emotions, moods I felt while on location, while hiking or backpacking in this landscape. That really changed the direction of my work. it became more abstract, relying more on shapes, patterns and color to express those emotions. Quite the evolution from conceptual illustration to where my work is now. Though it seems once I’ve said what I want to say with one voice or style, it all begins to evolve again.
You list Maynard Dixon, The Group of Seven and Victor Higgins as your influences. Whose work today gives inspiration? Yes, those artists were a great springboard for my work. Mainly based upon their subject matter being the Southwest. The Group of Seven for their abstraction and paint quality they used on the land. Today? I find myself drawn to the work of the Post Impressionists, the Abstract Expressionists and several of the Fauves. The actual “who” fluctuates based upon my mood or my actual work in progress.
Your colors are wonderful. How do you approach colors in new paintings? Thank you. Color is what usually draws people to my work. I have never considered myself a “colorist” or even someone that knows much about color. I think it’s more instinctual for me. I rarely set out to create a work based upon a certain color palette. Obviously color has a lot of power. It can dictate mood and emotions; it’s a very important tool for me. When I begin to paint or have an idea for a painting I start laying in color fields, usually quite randomly. This type of approach is very experimental and dangerous, but I feel it feeds my next move. Then I see what certain colors will do next to others, what mood it evokes and so forth. If it doesn’t create the effect I desire, I’ll start over. Piece of cake, right?