The painter finds his “little corner” in Grantville


When asked why he became a painter, John Shelton had a simple answer.

“This is who I am – this is what I do,” he said.

Shelton started painting in eighth grade, and when he grew up he said he always kept his career in a corner of the art world.

He studied art in college and Shelton worked as a graphic designer, illustrator for a publishing house, repaired frames for collectors, and helped acquire and sell works of art for dealers in addition to his own. paint.

“When you do that, you gradually change and you gradually learn to live with it,” he said. “So many things that I have done have always been linked to art.”

Originally from Columbus, Georgia, Shelton is based in Grantville. His studio – filled with art and painting supplies – is tucked away inside the town’s old bank, the site of an infamous theft in 1932. The thieves tied up a cashier and put him in. the safe, Shelton said, then escaped to Model -T Ford, with stolen parts flying in a trail behind them. Their flight was short and ended with their disappearance in a police shootout.

Shelton arrived in Grantville in 1995. He lived and worked near Atlanta while his wife lived and worked in Columbus. The two needed a place equidistant from the two towns and found Grantville right in the middle.

His early work focused on nature, Shelton said, and was influenced by his childhood in Columbus.

“I was a kid on the outside – I had a kind of Tom Sawyer’s childhood, so I loved nature,” he said. “I developed this fundamental love for the land. So when I started to experiment (with) the profession of painter, I wanted to put that in it.”

Nature is more than just a subject for Shelton. Some of his paintings are done with colors he collected during excursions to areas of the state.

“I once went over there and harvested about 20 colors and did a few paints using the paint. I mean using the dirt itself, crushed it. I kind of played around. with the making of paintings, “he said, pointing to a vast landscape. of Providence Canyon in his studio.

For a while, Shelton’s work shifted away from landscapes and turned to abstract art.

His abstract work presents forms without clear forms. He said his goal was for the shapes to be whatever a viewer of the work wants them to be, regardless of their intentions.

“It can be either people, or trees, or anything in nature. It explores geometric expression,” he said. “It was done so that other people could bring their own thoughts to what it could be. It could be anything. I do them and people say, ‘I see this and I see that. “It gives them something to interpret. It’s not just me who always tells people what something is.”

The idea of ​​the viewer’s interpretation continued in another work by Shelton, titled “Christ’s Entry into New York in 1984”.

The play shows Jesus riding a donkey on a Manhattan street flanked by crowds of people from different cultures and backgrounds from all over the world.

Shelton said the idea was to show how different groups and beliefs would respond to Jesus’ return.

The crowd spans a Z axis towards the viewer, with small wooden cutouts protruding from the room to make it even larger.

Presidents, members of The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and others can be seen in the crowd.

Today, much of Shelton’s work focuses on the human figure. His work includes paintings of nude models, but his interest in abstract art still appears in some of his paintings.

The models of these paintings are rendered in different overlapping angles. Although the lines intersect and meander, the figure and form at each angle are still identifiable, complete, and separate from the others.

“I didn’t want to do it like everyone else. I kind of wanted to find my own path,” he said.

Some of his paintings of human figures feature a model from three or four angles, but his piece “Seven Sisters, Seven Dimensions” features a model painted from seven angles with different expressions on his face.

Art critics have taken note of Shelton’s unusual approach to painting the human body.

“You could say that Shelton invented a new way of capturing the essence of the human figure which, in hindsight, seems to share ideology with certain elements of Cubism and Surrealism, but to be more precise, British Surrealism… The result is a strangely delicate yet inherently powerful line of work that forces the viewer to reflect in an attempt to understand the relationship between shapes and contours that come together in perfect harmony on the canvas, ”wrote Timothy Warrington, art critic , at an exhibition of Shelton’s work in London.

Shelton said many of the techniques he uses are not trendy in the art world, which currently favors installations and concept art.

But when he travels, whether in the United States or overseas, Shelton said he would see young artists studying classical art.

“It’s kind of like a blues musician. Because I’m telling you one thing, a real blues musician, you can’t take his guitar out of his fingers. They’ll die with it in their hands,” he said. declared. “It doesn’t matter if they’re the only person out there, all alone, in a little shack in Mississippi, and no one is there 50 miles away. But if you just walk by and hear them playing, they will play what they like. ”

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