Josh George’s works grow organically, built layer by layer from found material, paint and inspiration. You can read about him in a variety of publications, as I did, but we’re not going to make you work that hard.
In a nod to his work, we’ve constructed his biography from a bunch of different “About Josh George” articles.
“His working-artist career began back in Kansas City, Mo., when he first started selling his paintings in a coffee shop, almost, as he tells it, by accident: ‘I was working on a series of paintings, mostly to get better at it, and I put them in this coffee shop, and people started buying them.’ Not long thereafter, he started dealing exclusively through galleries. Today he’s represented across the country and in Milan, Italy.
“Part of George’s painting-on-collage technique calls to mind a series of boarded-up Shockoe storefronts from the mid-1990s whereon many layers of show posters and flyers were attached. The older strata went back years. This is the kind of look George gravitates toward in his pieces, using everything from wine labels to obsolete Italian maps, from cut-up pictures to wallpaper books.
“’I’m always interested in the combination of materials that weren’t supposed to go together,’ he says. ‘It’s a found-object collage. The question is: How do I combine that to drawing?’ Since graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1997, George has been working ‘to make it look seamless, like collage comes out of a tube.’”
“George’s meticulously rendered surfaces evolve from rough sketches and reference shots of buildings, or warehouses, to painted outlines on wood panels of images he plans to use.
“Whether architectural or figurative, George always has some sort of narrative in mind, but it’s rarely apparent to the viewer.
“Through the tedious process of attaching tiny pieces of paper to the painted outline as a way of building up the images, back to front, George tells his secret stories. He uses old maps, wine labels, notes and wallpaper books; once he even used his own hair for clouds. Acrylic paint is next, allowing hints of the collaged patterns to peek through.
“George applies oil paint over the entire surface as the final layer, careful not to overwork the paint, but to add even more depth. After a glaze of varnish, the painting is finished – except for the title, which is almost guaranteed to be strange.“
’I have what might be called a dark sense of humor,’ George says. ‘I want to create a sense of mystery.’
“George has acknowledged the clear influence of the Ashcan School of painters – notably Robert Henri, George Bellows and John Sloan. That early 20th-century movement was ground in realism, often a quite gritty one.
“The Ashcan artists were not ones to sugarcoat, and they unabashedly depicted the harshness of urban life (particularly the poorer areas of New York), which also offered a perfect mix of extreme vitality and reality. George has taken this approach to heart but has developed his own assiduously imaginative approach, composing his cityscapes from memory, culled from his 10 years of living in New York. He describes this improv technique as a ‘tedious meditation on where I have been,’ though his seem much more limber than his own description would suggest.
“George is the rarest of creatures; a man who makes his living as a fine-arts painter while pursuing a variety of interests that define him in other ways.”
He’s a wine and beer geek. He’s into metal music. He’s also a foodie and recovering vegetarian. But he’s no art snob.
“George loves comic books. He’s a big fan of comic writer Alan Moore and favors simple drawings that move the storytelling forward. Having done some freelance illustration work early in his career, he hopes to come back to it. ‘I still want to do comic books someday.’
“Like any number of artists, he’s also musically inclined. He calls himself a progressive death metal fan. ‘I used to play in bands,’ he says, ‘but it was too much trouble for everyone finding the time.’ (Biography collaged via articles by Martha Mabey, Harry Kollatz Jr., Dave Delcambre and Karen Newton)