It is important for artists to be influenced and affected by the work of other artists. Join rek Gallery‘s resident artist and curator, Rick Baldwin, as he discusses five contemporary artists he is currently receiving inspiration from.

Carola Kastman

For several years I have been unashamedly proclaiming Carola Kastman as my favorite artist working today. I find both her art and her artistic process deeply inspiring. The contrast of those gritty earth tone colors in the majority of her paintings and the random scratchy charcoal lines on a background of structured and carefully laid-out newsprint is unmistakably exquisite. But those are only the jumping-off points to the rest of the paintings. Each piece seems to contain it’s own record of the violence of being born. Rips, shreds, gouges, tears and blade marks remind you that beauty doesn’t come without struggle and it leaves permanent battle scars.

Maybe that’s an over-analysis but I’m going to hang onto it. I’ve always seen such vivid stories in Carola’s paintings and not all of them have happy endings. Some are frightening. Scary tales wrapped in a beautiful coating. But just as often, they can be the opposite. Whichever story they are telling it is always delivered with an unapologetic boldness. Each painting is willing to parade its sins and flaws in front of the entire world, proud that it is the imperfections that make them what they are.

Carola Kastman creates from her studio in Stockholm, Sweden and credits the nostalgia for her Scandinavian childhood for adding a certain melancholia to her works. Even though her studio is by the sea, she draws more inspiration from literature and words than from nature. It isn’t unusual to find those words, sentences or even paragraphs within the fifty-plus layers of her pieces. In YouTube videos, it’s commonplace to see Carola or her dog walking across paintings, or Carola spilling coffee on a piece in progress (So far, the dog hasn’t spilled coffee…), or simply doing the harsh activities required to welcome a painting into existence on this imperfect planet Earth.

Personally, I haven’t reached the stage in my own journey as an artist to make an attempt to paint like Carola Kastman. Honestly, I’m afraid to. I imagine I might be the one coming out with the rips and tears. That’s okay, though. Carola Kastman does it all much better without me.

Carola Kastman’s Website
Carola Kastman on Instagram

Martin Campos

I’ve watched enough of Martin Campos’s live Instagram videos to know that I simply can’t stand the guy. I mean, how many hours can I spend watching someone take a piece of soft pastel as big as my femur and, with a few light rubs and wipes, magically bring into existence a beautiful, well-lit, nude model?

Kidding, of course. I would give my left ear to be able to paint like Martin Campos (if I could just find a teacher who charges left ears). Martin is one of those artists whom I rarely see waste a line or a stroke. Even when I briefly think he may have wasted one, it almost always proves to be a well-thought out move that reveals its purpose several minutes later. I tell you, the man can paint in the future! He is literally a magician with pastels even though he would probably tell you it has more to do with years of study and work than it has to do with magic. I tend to think it’s a little of both.

As an instructor at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Martin Campos’s mastery of the human figure is a foundation of all his instruction and work. Many of his oil paintings include the nude human figure and he frequently can be found Life Painting Live on Instagram. A warning though: after watching him create the most amazing and beautiful piece of art, unbelievably, he’ll take a rag and wipe it all clean. Seriously. I mean, can you believe there are artists who don’t want to sell everything they make??

After discovering Martin Campos’s work on Instagram a few years ago, I saw one of his amazing pastel pieces that I knew I had to own. I decided to give myself a birthday present of original art that year and today I am the proud owner of a little bit of Martin Campos magic. Bonus: I get to keep both of my ears.

Martin Campos’s Website
Martin Campos on Instagram

Lewis Noble

Lewis Noble was born in London and currently works from his studio in Derbyshire, UK. His multi-layered abstract works are drawn and painted while directly experiencing the diverse landscape surrounding him. The rocky hills, colorful heaths and moving seas all find a place in his creations. He often spends hours outside making sketches with charcoal, ink, crayon and paint which eventually become fully realized paintings. Stacks of sketchbooks provide the inspiration for larger studio works, often resulting from four or five different sketch ideas. When painting, Lewis works fast and uses an array of tools, rarely working on one piece at a time. He says moving from one piece to another keeps him from allowing any one painting to become “precious.” Like a sculptor, he builds upon each layer of paint until it starts becoming apparent what the painting wants to be. In the end, every stroke, scratch, scrape, spray, and scrub joins together to present a landscape with every bit of the energy, peacefulness and unpredictability of the real thing.

In one of his Artist Statements, Lewis says, “In these works, the paintings stand in for the landscape itself. The process of building many layers of paint over time, eroding and repainting, has echoes in the way the landscape is made. Many of the works are painted outside or begun in situ then completed in the studio. This helps me to maintain a spontaneous feel to the work and in the studio I constantly refer to the many small paintings, sketches and collages I make while outside.”

“Although they are very much images of the real, earthy landscape, I don’t usually try to picture any specific place and often avoid the overtly pictorial. Instead I attempt to walk the tightrope between representational and expressive painting to convey a landscape that is still happening. If you were able to look to the left, right, above or below the canvas, you could see another entirely different yet interconnected image. These are not photographic frozen moments but paintings which contain all the time it took to make them.”

Lewis’ work has taught me to not be afraid of the process. There are no real mistakes. There is no perfect destination. Like the landscapes he paints, Lewis Noble has helped teach me that art is a moving and changing process and it is that artistic process that gives each artist the joy and inspiration we seek.

Lewis Noble’s Website
Lewis Noble on Instagram

Casey Baugh

  I became aware of the works of Casey Baugh several years before I discovered he was born in Lookout Mountain/Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga has given birth to and/or inspired many outstanding artists from Wayne White to John Henry and even the rek Gallery’s own Brent Hooper. I lived and created art in my Chattanooga studio for 11 years and it’s impossible to not be influenced by the constant presence of art in the city. It’s easy to see, though, that much of Casey Baugh’s influences draw from other urban locations as well. His paintings of New York night scenes show a personal intimacy with the city that are hauntingly realistic. In fact, most of Casey’s artwork seems so realistic, they could be mistaken for photographs at first glance. On further inspection though, you become aware that the realism is actually made up of perfectly placed abstract elements: charcoal dust, splatters of oil paint and solvent, and a brilliant mastery of color value that makes his paintings look like they actually contain their own light source.

In addition to being one of the most significant painters of our time, Casey Baugh also spends a very generous amount of his time and career as an instructor. His classes, seminars and in-person workshops sell out quickly. He has authored many instructional videos on creating with charcoal, large-scale portrait painting and capturing night scenes. I had never had much of an interest in working with charcoal until I encountered Casey’s work and his online charcoal workshop added a new dimension to my own work. His recent involvement into filmmaking and directing have lead to Baugh Studio TV and brought new video projects, including his regular Artist Diary Series, guaranteeing we’ll be seeing much more of Casey Baugh’s creative works for a long time.

Casey Baugh Website
Casey Baugh on Instagram

Ishii Nobuo

I admit, I don’t know a whole lot about Ishii Nobuo, the artist. I know he lives and works in Japan but I’m not sure exactly where. If I discover more information about his history, I’ll update this section but as of now, his background is a bit of a mystery to me.

I am, however, somewhat familiar with Ishii Nobuo’s artwork. I became exposed to his work on Instagram many years ago and have enjoyed watching it develop over the years. To categorize the art of Ishii Nobuo, one might use the labels “outsider,” “self-taught” or “folk” artist. His subject matter can be cubist-like human figures, misshapen animals and even rather abstract and warped monsters. He refers to his art as “entertainment works” and believes that each piece should provide enjoyment to the viewers. Often, this is accomplished through the use of humor.

An extremely prolific artist, Ishii Nobuo works in painting, drawing, sculpture, mixed media and ceramics. His work can be seen in several galleries throughout Japan and in online galleries accessible globally.

There is a familiarity in Ishii Nobuo’s work that transcends culture. At times one can see the influence of traditional Japanese art in his work but the majority of his art involves symbols and icons we have all encountered since our youth. Because of this, we understand Ishii Nobuo intentions clearly. His gift of joy and humor is well received by art lovers in all countries.

Ishii Nobuo’s Website
Ishii Nobuo on Instagram