When walking around during the recent Wayne Plein Air Festival here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, looking for painters working in the streets of the town (and feeling a bit like a birder searching for rare species, as many of the participants had found off the beaten path locations to paint), I came across Vermont artist Charlie Hunter working on the small painting of a railroad underpass shown in my photo above, top, and was immediately impressed.
Unfortunately, neither my hasty location photo, nor the relatively small reproductions of work on Hunter’s website or the sites of the galleries in which he is represented, adequately convey the wonderful textural and painterly quality of his work.
Hunter works in a subdued, often almost monochrome palette — shifting attention to his command of values, variation in edges and the surface qualities of his paintings. They sometimes have a feeling similar to Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush watercolors, though Hunter works in oil, most often of the water-miscible variety.
Hunter was last year invited to join the Putney Painters, a painting group in Vermont guided by painter Richard Schmid, without question a contemporary master of edges and value in particular, and Schmid’s wife, artist Nancy Guzick, notable for her command of those same qualities.
Hunter indicates that his style developed almost accidentally, evolving out of his career as an illustrator and designer, and his ability to see and work with major shapes and compositional geometry.
He works with a limited palette of burnt sienna, viridian and French ultramarine, occasionally supplemented with yellow ochre or Naples yellow. He begins by toning the canvas with a diluted mix of his three basic colors, out of which he pulls large and then smaller shapes with paper towels, Q-tips and other implements before going back in with brushes.
Like those great old black and white film noir movies, Hunter’s paintings have a quality of atmosphere and mood that would be difficult to maintain in a higher chroma palette.
When I encountered him working on the painting above, top, he was just reaching the stage at which he was ready to make the call of “complete”. He commented that Mother Nature had made his job of finding a suitable subject more difficult by dealing him a brightly lit sunny day.
When I later saw the painting in the Plein Air exhibition, I saw little change, and was just as struck with the visual quality of his other paintings, one of which was awarded First Place by juror Jim Wodark.
The links to work on his website under “Images” are a little awkward, in that only “Current“, “Other Available Paintings” and “Painting Archives” are within his site, the other links take you out to other sites or even a Flickr page for galleries (linked below). In the Painting Archives section you will find some of his commercial work and gallery work in other media.
There is a profile of Hunter on OutdoorPainter.com