That's how I felt when I saw Jeff Honea's latest work on his website. If you're looking for an up and coming California talent, Jeff has plenty of it. Committed to painting since 1988, he paints primarily with oils on canvas.
Below is some of Jeff's work along with an interview he gave via email to Riviera View.
Riviera View: I'm seeing some Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keefe, and George Seurat influence in your paintings. Would you say you've been influenced by them?
Jeff Honea: Whether it comes out in my work or not, my inspiration comes from art that turns me on and helps me realize the freedom (responsibility?) we have to go where we dare. The late '80s O'Keefe retrospective at LACMA was a turning point. Being within touching distance of paintings I'd seen and admired only in books and prints made me realize it's ok to love paint, and that paintings have a pulse. I think you're right about Hopper - use of shadows and solitude, even if I choose desert while he chose urban.
RV: Are there other painters whose work you admire?
Jeff Honea: About the time I started to really find my style, I discovered the works of Maynard Dixon - bold, masculine paintings of the American southwest - and I knew I was home. The landscape as the hero. Not really 'pretty pictures' but not afraid to be beautiful either. I think a lot of the things I've found in Baja landscapes are echoes of what he found in his explorations. Recognizing this and studying his approach to expressing the power of 'place' has helped me to speak more clearly. Another influence is Erick Ochoa, one of the main artists at the Galeria de Todos Santos where my art is also shown. He's remarkably talented and is by far the nicest person you'll ever know. He makes challenging paintings look easy, and through his work I learn a lot about finding interesting ways to tell Baja stories on canvas.
RV: I sense an essence of solitude, and in some cases but not all, a little eeriness in your work. Are you trying to express a personal view with your paintings?
Jeff Honea: Ha! I do like being out in quiet places. Maybe it's my reaction to a lifetime of living within five feet of neighbors whose names I barely know! Anyhow, the inclination is not to over-embellish, and I can see how that can come off as stark and minimalist. Another characteristic that's drawn me to Dixon's legacy.
RV: What design element do you start with when you're plotting a painting out in your head?
Jeff Honea: I'd have to say composition is where it all starts - the balance and lines, some of which are due to the light. I tend to feel my way through the colors.
RV: Do you paint on location or do you use photos or sketches first, then take them back and paint?
Jeff Honea: All the finished, showable stuff is from the studio. I've sold a few wet paintings right off my field easel, but I really prefer to give the paintings more time, adding layers upon layers. Photos help a bit, and I do a lot of on-site studies - in oils and pen or charcoal on paper. I used to spend more time doing smaller prep drawings on paper or on the canvas itself. Now I go right at the canvas using the original sketch as reference, which gets a more spontaneous yet stronger result.
RV: Are you self trained? If not, where have you studied?
Jeff Honea: Surprisingly, my scant formal study has been through life-drawing and painting sessions. The required focus and technical skill has strengthened my landscapes tremendously. In the future I hope to work more in portraits and figuratives.
Jeff Honea lives in Redondo Beach, California with his wife of 15 years, Lisa and their two daughters, Hayes and Hali. For availability and to see new pieces you can visit Jeff's website. He is respresented by Galeria de Todos Santos, in Baja California Sur.