Inspiration – Perspective

The artwork of James Michalapolous

Keeping a sketchbook is representational art that comes in many forms. It can be journalistic or realistic in style, or fanciful and abstract. It is all a matter of perspective. Perspective is also an intriguing aspect of art making.

Oftentimes, when I draw or paint, I find myself trying to recreate the scene in almost photo-realistic quality. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I would sometimes sketch only the outlines of the images, and fill with color; or draw on top of colorful backgrounds. But I still want something in-between.

James Michalapolous

Inspiration came in the form of the artwork of James Michalapolous. His style pushes my boundaries by pushing me out of photo realistic rendering and into pushing the perspective into whatever I want it to be. Instead of reaching for a ruler (yep, I do that), I can just let the lines flow. Instead of rendering a scene, I can focus more on the color, quality of line and how it makes me feel.

“My style is an abstraction of the figurative. I like color, volumetric shape, and graphic lines. While one knows my subject one knows more fully the spirit of the subject. I take my liberties and express my emotions in a poetic interpretation.”
— James Michalopolous

I first encountered James Michalopolous’ work during a visit to New Orleans, six months ago. I had dinner at Café Gallery by the Loews Hotel. His artwork adorned the walls on all sides of the rooms we were dining in. And in that way, one felt like a part of their colorfully chaotic, vibrant and surreal landscape. While representational in subject matter, Michalapolous puts it best by describing his work, in part, as ‘an abstraction of the figurative’. 

He takes one building…

1 – Minerva (24 x 36) – ©James Michalopoulos

Connects it with another…

2 Help Me Down (48 x 36) – ©James Michalopoulos

Wraps them around a corner…

3 Hue to Blue – ©James Michalopoulos

Captures light and shadows…

4 Casting Aspersions (60 x 36) – ©James Michalopoulos

And zooms in to the detailed front of a car…

5 Mo’ Ramblin’ (18 x 36) – ©James Michalopoulos

…or a motorcycle.

6 Hardly There (28 x 22) – ©James Michalopoulos

And you get to go along for the ride.

For any artist it is a world you can draw inspiration from. Needless to say, I was very inspired by how this artist had captured the spirit of his subjects.

Wanting to support the artist, I purchased a large coffee table book, The Art of James Michalopoulos, from the Gallery near my hotel. It is a constant source of inspiration that has pride of place on the top shelf center of my studio space. My step ladder is always there, to pull it down and flip through the wonderful inspiration within.

If you haven’t been to Louisiana, you can take a tour through New Orleans via the internet.

Louisiana’s Van Gogh

Capturing everyday life and making it transformative is a full-time job. I reached out to Tatiana at the Michalapolous Gallery, which is situated in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans. She assured me that although New Orleans was under Emergency Orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, James was ‘painting every day’. 

And he is doing far more than that! His company, Celebrations Distillation, makers of the Old New Orleans Rum, is selling hand sanitizer throughout the state. And they are filling BYOB containers with 6 ounces of hand sanitizer for FREE. The tasting room may be closed for now, but the business of cleaning up is going strong.

I can only imagine the body of work that is being created in his studio.

Visit to see more of James Michalopoulos’ work.

Inspired by Michalopoulos

I visited Charleston for the first time with a dear friend and we spent time sketching in the historic downtown and botanical gardens off Pawley’s Island. I peeked through the gates of many lovely homes along our walk. This house, with its meandering ivy-covered stairs, was just begging to be sketched.

7 Ivy Meandering by Sally Lynn MacDonald, ©Palettini LLC

I used Marabu Art Crayons, black pens and a white Posca paint pen for this sketch in my Moleskine Watercolor Album (5 inches x 8.25 inches).

Marabu Art Crayons are buttery-smooth, wax-based soft pastels in a plastic dispenser with a clear cap. You can dial them up and down, to expose as much or as little of the surface as you want to work with.

I love to scumble them across the surface of a cold-press watercolor sketchbook to apply a layer of broken, speckled, or scratchy color. They make it easy to create rich, textural solids at full strength. 

You can blend them with your fingers or a blending stump to get softer colored backgrounds. 

The wax formula allows you to scratch into it, to add detailed marks. 

And best of all, you can sketch with them lightly and then use a waterbrush or paintbrush with water to make the lines as transparent and watercolored as you wish. I sketched with the 278 Light Grey to capture the outlines and perspective.

They also have a great ‘erasability’ by either scratching back or pushing off with a slightly damp paintbrush.

There are 25 colors plus a blender. They are highly-pigmented and water-soluble, although they appear to become less removable / rewettable after 24 hours.

Give it a try. Change your perspective. Add some colors that are outside of your normal palette and take inspiration from James Michalopoulos.

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