JJ Cromer (1967 -) is a self-taught artist originally from West Virginia. JJ and his family currently live on a farm in Pound, Virginia with a flock of geese, chickens, and other animal friends.
Although not formally trained in art, JJ obtained a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in writing and library science. He went on to work as a librarian for several years until he discovered his passion for art.
In 1998, shortly after he was married, JJ decided to make art to cover the blank walls of his new home. At the same time, he had reached a point of frustration with his librarian job and was eager to try something new. Devoting as much time as possible to art and through trial and error, he developed his unique and obsessively detailed artistic style. He has been making art ever since and is now represented by galleries, including two of our favorites: Henry Boxer and Grey Carter.
JJ’s work is also featured in private and public collections, including the High Museum of Art, The American Visionary Art Museum, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, and The Taubman Museum of Art.
We recently tried out an art project inspired by the work of artists Tony Fitzpatrick and Robert Rauschenberg. We explored the multimedia collage works of Fitzpatrick and Rauschenberg with children ages 7 to 9. The children were encouraged to create collages based on their interpretation of the artwork and add their artistic flair.
About the Artists
Robert Rauschenberg was born in Texas in 1925 and died in Florida in 2008. He worked with several mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and performance. Rauschenberg is well-known for his “Combines,” which is a term he created to describe his art combining painting and sculpture, made during the 1950s. Rauschenberg incorporated non-traditional materials into his work, such as photographs, newspaper cuttings, and found items that he collected on the streets of New York City.
Tony Fitzpatrick is an artist from Chicago who is well-known for his mixed media drawings, collages, and prints. He uses discarded items and various ephemera in some of his artwork, usually telling a story about Chicago. Fitzpatrick is also a writer (who has created nine books, four plays, and hundreds of essays). He gathers inspiration for his artwork from religious icons of his childhood, comics, poetry, and the city streets. He is also a former tattoo artist, which shows up in the beautiful details of his compositions.
Greg Corman is a landscape designer and artist living in Tuscon, Arizona. He creates his work from recycled or salvaged wood, found objects, and steel. The above images are examples of his bee habitat sculptures, which are functional forms of art. The sculptures have holes and tunnels drilled into them to provide bees with brood chambers for their babies. He states on his website that these functional artworks are nesting spaces for native pollinator bees and do not attract honey or killer bees.
For the past several years, I have been a fan and advocate of studio programs for artists with disabilities. I have had the honor of visiting and volunteering with several studio programs in the U.S. The work being done by many of these organizations helps de-stigmatize developmental disabilities and mental illness. The participants are given the encouragement and resources they need to develop their own artistic visions and build confidence while gaining a supportive community.
I recently came across the work of Jonathan Campos. I love the repetition and color in his work. Campos is a participant at Pure Vision Arts (PVA) in New York City. Pure Vision Arts was started in 2002 by a non-profit called The Shield Institute and is dedicated to helping individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities find opportunities for artistic expression. Their website includes a gallery of other talented artists worth checking out.
The Uncommon Canvas is an arts blog that focuses on increasing visibility for artists. We also hope to bring awareness to mental health in the arts. This blog includes interviews, artist spotlights, and art history beyond mainstream narrative.