Art is a family tradition for one local artist

By Page H. Gifford

Art came naturally to Paul Charlton and his sister Page, who grew up with Peg Redd, a co-founder of the Fluvanna Art Association and taught art in the Fluvanna and Albemarle schools. Redd believed the arts were just as important as the academics and headed up a crusade to add art education to the Fluvanna public schools’ curriculum.

Redd who was influenced by Matisse and other post-impressionist masters, featured a bright, bold impressionistic style in her work. Growing up, surrounded by art, Paul Charlton took a different route than his mother and studied photography and computer graphics in college.

“I pursued my interest in the visual arts. Afterward, I continued to explore these areas.  l like photographing outdoor scenes and things I find unusual in landscapes. For computer graphics, I made several short, animated videos.”

Growing up in Fluvanna, he graduated from Fluvanna County High School then studied English at the University of Virginia and computer science at George Washington University. He lived in the Washington D.C. area for years before moving back to live in Fluvanna. He and his wife built a house next door to his mother’s house in Fork Union and live there today.

He is largely self-taught when it comes to drawing and painting, he started teaching himself with a book on drawing.

“I found it very interesting. I continued to draw and learn about drawing and this exploration led to painting. For me, the personal style and voice of the artist is more strongly expressed in drawing and painting and that’s something I’m very attracted to,” he said. “I haven’t attended a formal program of art study, but I’ve taken many workshops at the Art League of Alexandria. I’m always on the lookout to learn from other artists, art technique books or online videos.”

For many years, he attended art sessions at Tom Tartaglino’s studio. For three hours, they would draw or paint from a live model.

“I’m always amazed how, painting from the same model, each artist creates a painting that is so different from the others.”

Along with his mother and sister, they have participated in six joint exhibitions of their paintings at the Richmond Public Library, Bocce Restaurant, Sevenoaks Retreat Center, Fluvanna Community Center, St. Mary’s Hospital and the Lynchburg Academy Center of the Arts.

His wife Wendy, a tapestry weaver, and their two children, Charlie and Anna, participated in the Charlottesville 2D exhibition at the McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville for 10 years.

“Every year, we would bring in our paintings and weaving and register together. The organizers came to expect us and got a kick out of seeing Charlie and Anna grow up. Charlie and Anna won several awards for their paintings.”  During that time, Charlton won best in show for his painting, “Eager Learners,” adding that painters were challenged to paint on the theme of “Charlottesville, A Multicultural Community. 50 Years Since School Desegregation.”

Charlton is flexible when it comes to his favorite mediums and paints in oils for representational paintings and acrylics for graphic paintings. He agrees with most artists that

acrylics are very versatile, and brushes can be easily cleaned with water but prefers oils for blending and the ability to create softer edges.

As an artist, he doesn’t speak with one voice but said he divides his work between two areas: representational and graphic..

“My representational paintings are painted from life or photographs. I’ve painted a wide variety of outdoor scenes, mostly landscapes. Recently, I’ve focused on painting clouds and sky scenes and expect to stick with this for a while,” he said. “I’m awed by the beauty and great variety of the sky and clouds and hope to convey that in my paintings.  Even though I strive for closer realism in my depictions, I tend to paint with loose brushwork and choice of color.”

When it comes to his graphic paintings, his work is influenced by past modernist masters.

“My graphic paintings have subjects that occur to me more as ideas as opposed to painting a view from life. My favorite graphic subjects are geometric designs, multimedia collages or loose, cartoon-like images. I enjoy seeing these often offbeat ideas come to life.”

Inspiration comes in many forms for artists while shaping their ideas.

“I’m inspired by the opportunity to create something I find beautiful or stimulating and have the viewer share that experience. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish a painting which leads me on to the next painting,” he said.  “During the process of improving my craft I have lots of ideas for paintings, and I paint quite a few of them. I’m confident in my ideas and it comes down to the actual painting on whether the paintings work or not. If the quality of how a painting is done is not as good as it could be, then the original idea isn’t conveyed. Improving this quality can be challenging, but hopefully, I’m getting a little better as time goes on.”

Charlton isn’t any different from other artists who strive to make their voice heard through the vision of their work.

“I want onlookers to look at a painting and find it beautiful or thought provoking. When they experience this, we share a common experience and are maybe transformed a little for the better.”

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