September 25, 2018 Artist to Watch: Alexander Atkinson
New painter in town, Alexander Atkinson
Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Atkinson earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Winthrop University, SC, studied at the Washington Studio School, Grand Central Atelier, New York Academy of Art, Art Students League of New York, and Russian Academy of Arts. Atkinson's exhibition history includes the United States, France, Russia, and Australia.
What brought you to Baton Rouge and when did you arrive?
The MFA program at Louisiana State University brought me to Baton Rouge. Specifically, the range of approaches and focus on painting among the faculty made it the ideal place to continue my work. As I develop my practice, I want teachers like Frederick Ortner, Ed Smith, and Kelli Scott Kelly to be there as guideposts of a sort.
I arrived on August 5th — it sticks out because the paper had a write-up on a Battle of Baton Rouge reenactment that day.
What are your thoughts on the arts community of Baton Rouge in the short time you have been here?
Baton Rouge has a lot of potential. I have a lot to learn about the arts community in Baton Rouge, but I am working to get connected and understand what’s going on. My impression is that the city has grown enormously in recent years and the interest in and desire for the arts has grown along with it. It’s encouraging to see people take initiative — DIY spaces are popping up all over the city. People aren’t waiting for someone to give them the go ahead and that’s where everything starts. That’s the seed. There’s a lot of work to be done to nurture and develop this. If these talented and motivated people can make it here, it’s to the benefit of the larger community. We all want Baton Rouge to thrive.
Also want to note that there is some world-class public art here in Baton Rouge — Ivan Meštrović, Angela Gregory (student of Rodin’s protege Antoine Bourdelle), and Frank Hayden
What made you want to fulfill an artistic career and how did you get your start?
I have spent a large amount of time working more sensible jobs and exploring more practical careers. Throughout that time, I've discovered that I either have no capacity for the jobs or that, when I'm not developing my creative work, I'm thinking about doing so. To be engaged and fulfilled, I need to pursue my creative work. In a way, it's not really a choice – it's more a facing of reality and going from there.
When I was little, I drew until there was no more blank paper in the house. Eventually, my parents brought home boxes of perforated computer paper for me to draw on. When I think back, that's the start – it's the first encouragement and "investment" in my creative abilities. I haven't stopped drawing since then and have been blessed to cross paths with many wonderful people who helped and supported me along the way.
Are there any specific themes you enjoy tying into your work?
I work to approach every piece with as few preconceptions as possible. I can say that I work to face reality with fresh, unbiased eyes. I hesitate to carry along a formula, method, or pattern to filter reality through. It's the idea that, if I am awake to reality and put whatever talent I have to use, then the work will be successful. Another theme is an interest in people – I am fascinated by Montaigne's idea that every person contains a kingdom, world, or universe within themselves. This is why I am always interested in painting people.
Are there any artists in particular in general that inspire you?
There are so many. Here are a few: I used to share a studio with the illustrator Elizabeth Graeber. She has the most amazing, dedicated work ethic, but still manages to produce these beautiful, light drawings and paintings. Zoe Dufour is a sculptor and one of the most curious, talented, driven, and helpful people I know. I had the opportunity to study with the painter Vincent Desiderio. Besides being a great painter, he is a painterly drill sergeant in my mind. Working with him was an inspirational, motivating kick in the pants. Here are three more on my mind: Euan Uglow for perspicacity; Marcel Duchamp for humor and intellect; and Yasujirō Ozu for poise.