Meet the Artist: Jonathan Palter

Meet the Artist

In this series, we get to know the Artists behind the work with ten questions about their practice, their space, and their ideas. These are their Stories.

Jonathan Palter’s Shop

Born in Toronto, Jonathan Milne Palter began his art career as a sculptor. In the 1980s, along with sculpture, Palter started to explore hard edge acrylic painting. His paintings were inspired by how shape, color and mathematics could precipitate different moods such as calmness, excitement and curiosity. In the 2000s, Palter began painting with oils. Utilizing his sculpting skills and working exclusively with palette knives, he creates abstract art which elicits a range of emotions that invite the imagination to explore. Not confined by the norms of traditional training, his art is marked by innovation, experimentation and is driven by the power of personal creativity. Palter believes that creative art moves us past the obvious and awakens emotions that combine memories, present impressions, and the promise of future events.

What is the story of how you became an artist?  
I have always been creative and was fortunate to have been introduced to great art masters and many different art mediums at a young age. I can not imagine a life without art. I started my art journey as a stone sculptor.  I needed more stone and I called Curry’s art supply. They directed me to a prominent Canadian sculptor, John Lim.  I called John in the hope of purchasing some stone. To make a long story short, we became friends and he mentored me in technique. Lim introduced me to galleries and my career as an artist started. John was moving from stone work to painting and along with his partner, artist Allan Moak, they introduced me to acrylic brush painting. I started doing hard edge acrylic paintings and enjoyed the change from sculpting.

Over time I graduated to palette knife oil on canvas painting.  I find this medium highly creative as I can develop  my own techniques and ideas without being confined by the limitations and expectations of a brush.  Also, the palette knives give a sculptural flavour to the paintings which I enjoy.  Having not have had any formal art training, I am free to pursue my imagination without preconceived limitations.

How do your mediums of choice lend themselves to the subject matter of your work?
I work with oil paint, and for me it is the perfect medium. I am an abstract artist and oil paint allows for a vast scope in creating my art. I liken my work to a symphony in progress and because oils take so long to dry, I can move from the opening “sonata” to the final “allegro” at my own pace.

Tell us about your process when creating an artwork. 
The process can take days, weeks or even months. Using palette knives only, I carve out thick layers of multi-coloured oil paint, creating abstract pieces  that are a textured blend of colours, that are dramatically expressive and sculptural. There are many layers of colour that start to show themselves as the painting drys and evolves.  It actually becomes a living, breathing, changing, composition over time. Continuing with the symphony analogy, sometimes the   strings” need adjustment and sometimes the “percussion” needs to be toned  up or down and oil paint allows for this.

Where do you find inspiration? 
Inspiration is everywhere, from nature, cityscapes, music and travel. Even conversations can evoke a mind visual experience and produce a framework for a painting. I have had the privilege to experience the natural and manmade wonders of many countries, which are  a constant inspiration for my art.

Have you ever experienced a time when it was hard to create? 
Even when I am not physically painting, I am always thinking about ideas for my next work.  I believe a “dry spell” is self imposed.  As the great Canadian painter,  Jean-Paul Riopelle said, “When I hesitate, I do not paint.  When I paint, I do not hesitate.”

How has your work evolved throughout the years? 
My work has evolved from  sculpture in soapstone to alabaster and harder stones like marble.

The physical act of tearing down a rough “rock” to create a beautiful sculpture that tells a story is an exhilarating experience. My paintings have evolved from brushed on acrylic to palette knife oil on canvas. The more I explored abstract painting, the more doors opened to my imagination.

Empty canvases metamorphosis spontaneously into emotional and passionate paintings. My work has become much more sophisticated and mature with greater emphasis on the creative aspects. 

If given the opportunity, what is your dream project?
My dream project would be to create a room installation of paintings and sculpture that would take the viewer on an artistic journey.  It would move the viewer past the obvious and open the doors to the enjoyment, connections, questions and emotions that art can bring to those experiencing it.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I think people would be surprised to learn that I always wanted to create cartoons for the New Yorker magazine.

Taking a break from art, how do you spend your free time?
I am never bored.  My wife and I share a love for music, art, film, food and travel. Whether in our home city of Toronto or in the many places we have been fortunate enough to visit, we seek out new experiences and enjoy meeting artists from all genres. Of course, spending time with friends and family is always first on the list.

What’s one piece of advice you wish you were given earlier in your career?
Never listen to unsolicited advice because there is usually an ulterior motive. Always create art that inspires yourself. 

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