Jackson Pollock claimed, “Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.” If this is true, painter Jonathan Pitts is brilliantly-composed, intelligent, and truthful. Based in the United Kingdom, this landscape painter’s work won 2nd prize in the Sunday Times Watercolor Competition, a 30-year-old art contest regarded as “the largest and most prestigious prize for contemporary watercolour painting in the UK.” Jonathan is becoming increasingly sought-after as an artist, and for good reason: His plein air technique and natural talent combine to produce art that appeals to audiences mentally, emotionally, and, for some, spiritually.
Some of the most revered artists in history were plein air landscape painters. A few examples include Mary Cassat, Vincent van Gogh, Joaquin Sorolla, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet. Jonathan Pitts is counted among the great, living plein air landscape artists. In an exclusive interview, Jonathan gave us a glimpse into his world. Read on to discover it.
A Glimpse Inside Plein Air Landscape Artist Jonathan Pitts’ World
1. Have you always primarily focused on landscapes? If not, when and why did you decide to make landscapes your specialty?
Painting landscapes has always felt instinctive. I grew up in a small rural town (if I hopped the fence at the end of my garden, I could walk down a lane covered in brambles that took me to the river). I was always amazed by the beauty of light on water. It still fascinates me. Plein air painting is very important to me, and being immersed in the landscape develops a strong memory of the place. I can revisit these experiences later on for any studio-based work .
2. What types of art do you have displayed in your home?
I have a lot of Indian art displayed around the house. Some brought back by my grandfather in the 1920s and a lot from my wife’s family who are from Rajasthan and Gujarat. I also display my own work. It helps me to to see my work in a domestic setting as a way of selecting the best pieces for exhibition.
3. Do you have a personal favorite piece of art that you have created?
The next one! I’m always looking forward, planning the next piece. I have a continual desire to make the next piece better than the last, and it’s an on-going story. I’m proud of the watercolours I’ve uploaded to my website recently. Dark Clouds Over This Pool of Light is my current favourite. I like stormy days, and this piece was painted through the rain.
4. What would you consider to have been your big break in your career?
Winning 2nd prize at the Sunday Times Watercolour competition was a big break as it greatly raised my profile. It was very exciting to have a group of nine paintings on display in one of the most important exhibition spaces in London. My painting and working processes were critiqued in the Sunday Times by the art critic Frank Whitford. He noted about my style that “such ambiguity stimulates our imagination, so we fill the gaps left by the artist, thus strengthening the power of the image.” This article led to further profiles and interviews in the national art press. Also, I had a large profile piece in the Artist magazine shortly after. This success meant that new galleries have continued to contact me to exhibit with them.
5. What was the first gallery to host your art? Did the gallery reach out to you or did you have to make first contact?
The first gallery that I showed with contacted me after I won the prize at the Sunday Times competition. I have had several successful solo shows with them.
6. What are your three favorite colors to work with?
I regularly use the three-colour primary palette (crimson, yellow, and blue). Sometimes I will swap out one colour for an earth. My three favourite pigments to work with would be…
1) Ultramarine (because it shifts to violet easily and can be bright in white mixes. It also makes useful dull greens).
2) Burnt umber (because it makes nice grays and blacks).
3) Quinacridone red or magenta (because these pigments are very good for tinting and washes).
7. What would you love to see happen with your art in the next 3 years?
I always focus on developing my painting language with the consistent aim of recreating the excitement I feel in the landscape. I would like to develop my ideas in other mediums, particularly in oils. I would like to introduce new subject matter whilst continuing the central theme of water. It is an ambition of mine to exhibit further afield, if possible in the U.S., because it has a great respect for plein air painting.
Jonathan received a B.A. degree in Fine Arts from Falmouth College, as well as a diploma in Art and Design from Worcester College of Technology. Learn more about his education, awards, press coverage, and past work here. Be sure to follow Jonathan Pitts on Twitter and to check out his personal website.
Which of Jonathan paintings featured above is your personal favorite?
Note: The images contained in this article are the sole possession of Jonathan Pitts. Segmation was given his express permission to display them. They are not licensed for re-use.
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