Artist Spotlight: Beau Redmond August 15 2020
Beau Redmond in his studio, 2020
What inspired you to become an artist?
I grew up in New Orleans and one morning when I was about fourteen, I passed by Bayou Saint John next to City Park and was fascinated by the combination of the light on the water, the different greens and yellows of the vegetation and the single boat near the bank. I liked to draw, and my grandmother had recently given me a paint set, so I came back early the next morning and painted the scene. That was my first painting, and it gave me so much pleasure that I resolved to study art. In high school, I took studio art classes and in college I pursued a dual major in economics and fine art. (The economics major was at the insistence of my father, who was sure I couldn’t make a decent living as an artist). At Washington and Lee University I had a wonderful art teacher, Marion Junkin, who took a special interest in me and encouraged me to pursue art as a vocation.
What other artists have influenced your style or art practice and why?
Bayou Saint John (Beau Redmond's first painting)
In the early days, when abstract art was in ascendancy, I gravitated toward the work of representational painters – Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Fairfield Porter. Later I came to appreciate the incredible versatility of Gerhard Richter.
When did you start painting and how has your work changed over time?
I started painting around age fourteen, so naturally my work has evolved in the more than seventy years I’ve been painting. After college I got a job at a bank but continued to paint. My first show was in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1968. The French Quarter provided great subject matter for my canvasses. I was also drawn to the New Orleans landscapes. One of the views was across the river and from there I could sketch vistas of the Port of New Orleans and show the city from a different perspective. At the bank, I tried to get fired but I kept getting promoted. Finally, in 1980 I gave up banking and became a full-time painter. Moving to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I was intrigued by the campus of the University of Alabama and the surrounding landscape, and also the city streets of Montgomery and Birmingham.
Later I moved to North Carolina and was commissioned by a law firm in Greensboro to paint courthouses throughout the state. I traveled the state for about nine months, photographing and sketching, and much of my work from that period reflects subject matter I encountered during those travels.
My early works were all in oil, but once I discovered acrylic, I realized that you could do everything in acrylic that you could do in oil-based paint, but there was a certain freedom to acrylics that I liked. It dried more quickly and, because it’s water-based, the cleanup required no strong chemicals. I also painted watercolors for many years. I now work exclusively in acrylics because I think it’s a magnificent medium.
Can you discuss your New York Series in greater detail? What led to your process of painting on and collaging pages from the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, etc.
It all started with not having drawing paper. In 1980 I was staying with a friend in New York and, through a window in my room, I caught a glimpse of light cascading between tall buildings. I didn’t have drawing paper with me, so I grabbed the stock section of the New York Times, taped it to the wall, and did a charcoal sketch. Back in Tuscaloosa, when I unrolled the newsprint, intending to transfer the sketch to drawing paper, I was struck by the way the composition worked with the stock quotes and decided just to paint over the newsprint. Later, I incorporated The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal into my New York paintings as well. The Wall Street Journal became a perfect canvas for my scenes of the Financial District, an area I was quite familiar with from my banking days.
Beau Redmond, Wall Street Cafe #2, mixed media, 36 x 24 inches (detail on right)
Where do you look for inspiration when you are beginning a new body of work?
I usually don’t have to look. Something just captures my interest. For example, I’m now working on a series of portraits of nineteenth-century courtesans, based on a group of photographs my wife discovered at the Columbia University Library while researching her biography of Cora Crane, the writer Stephen Crane’s common-law wife. The photographs are all black-and-white, and the women are posing in a photographer’s studio with exotic props such as taxidermied alligators and ostriches. I’m enjoying choosing the colors for each painting.
Beau Redmond, Corner of Riberia and Lovett Streets, Lincolnville, St. Augustine, oil and Dorlands wax, 24 x 36 inches
How has living in Florida influenced your work?
In many ways. North Florida reminds me of Louisiana – the vegetation is similar, especially the live oaks dripping Spanish moss. I’ve always enjoyed painting interesting buildings and the Spanish influence on the architecture of St. Augustine is similar to the French influence on the architecture of New Orleans – shuttered windows, enclosed courtyards, balconies and verandas. I’ve lived in St. Augustine longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, except for New Orleans and have become interested in Florida’s rich history. My last series of paintings was a show at Arts on Douglas entitled “Florida Before Disney.” I painted tourist attractions that were popular before the mid-twentieth-century over collaged newspaper and magazine articles from the period. It was a fun show!
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Paint what you love to paint, and your work will find its audience.