Tag Archives: self-taught artists

The Evocative Art of Harry Underwood

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Harry Underwood, Flame Vine of Florida. Pencil, latex paint, wood. 36″x 42″.

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Harry Underwood, The Pepsi Principle of Refreshment. Pencil, latex paint, wood. 3’x 4′.

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Harry Underwood, Sit. Pencil, latex paint, wood. 26″ x 26″.

Harry Underwood is one of my favorite painters. I first saw his work at the Outsider Art Fair in Chicago about ten years ago and immediately purchased a piece (which was a rare occurrence back then). It’s hanging above me as I write this.

Harry was born in Florida in 1969 and currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a self-taught artist who began painting in 2001 while working as a flooring installer. Harry dedicated his spare time to working on his art, and his persistence eventually paid off. His work is represented by several notable galleries and has been in shows in the United States, France, and England.

Harry’s paintings evoke a sense of nostalgia and are slightly surrealistic. They conjure up feelings of simplicity, summertime vacations, childhood memories, and a longing for another time or an imagined place. The nostalgia is enhanced by his use of beautifully subdued and expressive colors.

His process involves outlining his painting on plywood using a mechanical pencil and then filling it in with latex house paint. The pencil marks become part of the picture, adding an extra element to them. He also layers poems and words onto his paintings, and has referred to his work as “illustrated poetry.”

“And there’s no truer sound than a sound never found from the shy, the innocent, and the unknown.”

-Harry Underwood

Still Lifes of Holly Farrell

9-pumps-2014-holly-farrell2009-couch2013-bowl-lrHolly Farrell was born in 1961 in North Bay, Ontario. Farrell is self-taught and has been a full-time painter since 1995. She turned to art making as a hobby to de-stress from her work at a group home for teenagers experiencing developmental and psychological obstacles.

Farrell mainly works with oils and acrylics. Her use of color creates a calming effect. Her subjects, which are familiar everyday objects (including many vintage items), seem to be elevated to a higher level, conjuring up a peaceful feeling amongst the chaos of daily living. They are almost portrait-like, asking you to see their personalities.

Personally, I was drawn in by her work due to my photography interests. I often photograph objects that have been discarded or lost in hopes that their former beauty or meaningfulness in someone’s home can reveal itself again. I see some of that in Farrell’s work, too.

“When the objects started to take on a character of their own, I realized I was really painting portraits without any people in them.”

-Holly Farell
(From Garde Rail Gallery)


Image Credits (top to bottom): ©Holly Farell
Bowl, acrylic & oil on masonite, 12 x 16 inches.
Couch, 2009, acrylic & oil on masonite, 18 x 28.
Phone, 2016, acrylic & oil on masonite, 18 x 14 inches.

The Healing Art of Emma Kunz

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Emma Kunz (1892-1963) was a Swiss artist, healer, and researcher. Kunz’s intricate large-scale drawings were made with colored pencils on graph paper. She created each drawing using a pendulum and a form of divination, called radiesthesia. Her artwork was part of her research on vibrational energy, and it also served as a healing tool for her patients. Kunz would often have her patients sit or lie near the drawings in order to help them with the healing process.

Kunz was also interested in finding alternative remedies to help her patients. In 1941, after working with a seriously ill patient, Kunz discovered the healing properties of a rock found in the Roman Quarry of Würenlos, Switzerland. She named the rock AION A. The powder form of the rock was used to treat her patients with inflammatory issues and other illnesses. AION A is still sold as an alternative medicine in Switzerland.

Kunz’s first exhibition, The Case of Emma Kunz, was held after her death. Today, there is a museum dedicated to her work and life in Würenlos, Switzerland.


Image Credit: Emma Kunz
Sources: Emma Kunz Museum

Gayleen Aiken

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ourmusicroomGayleen Aiken (1934-2005) was a self-taught artist from Barre, Vermont. Many of her artworks feature a family of 24 imaginary cousins called the Raimbilli Cousins. She invented them when she was a child.

A review in the New York Times from 2013 aptly describes her work:

“Carefully detailed and quirkily annotated pencil and crayon drawings of musical instruments, rural homes in zooming perspective and the inner workings of a granite gravestone company, whose raw material comes from nearby quarries, exude infectious curiosity about the world around her. There is much commotion in her works.”

Aiken passed away in 2005, leaving behind a large body of artwork, including handmade books, paintings, and cardboard figures. To view more of her work, visit the Gayleen Aiken Collection page at GRACE (Grass Roots Art and Community Effort).


Image Credits:
1) Grace ©Gayleen Aiken, From the book Entertaining
2) Grace ©Gayleen Aiken, Ye Old Back Yard
3) Grace ©Gayleen Aiken, Our Music Room