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ARTIST IN ASHLAND

Anthony Lewis

Like many artists, Anthony Lewis spent many years studying art and admiring the work of the masters: from Van Gough to da Vinci and Raphael. He also spent a lot time emulating their styles, painting still life and landscapes in learned techniques. Ironically, it was going to Europe and seeing the originals paintings by those masters that resulted in Lewis finding his own style.

“The art I saw really moved me and made me realize I just needed to paint,” said Lewis. “When I see art in books I seem to glorify it; I thought it was beyond reach. The real art made me want to rush home and paint.”

After his travels, Lewis returned to his home country of Grenada for eight months, where he started to put his built-up creative energy on canvas.

“While I was painting there I started to break away from my traditional work,” he said. “When I came back [to Oregon] that just continued.”

From this, his current series of paintings were born. Out of his lifetime of experience of creating art, it is this series, a series of oil paintings depicting music, that Lewis feels is his best work. And, for the first time, Lewis feels that it is a true representation of his own painting style.

“With this series, I’m not trying to copy anyone,” he said. “I’ve not been trained to do it. This is the first time I’m painting my way, it feels natural to me. It is so much easier to not try to be like anything else. It’s totally liberating.”

His current series, which has been on display at Mojo Rising since First Friday of July, is more abstract than Lewis’ earlier work. A swirl or musical imagery, human figures, colors and shapes, his work attempts to convey the feeling of music through a 2-dimensional image.

“How do you paint music?” asked Lewis, who listens to a lot of music while creating art, saying it helps him emotionally bridge the gap between his imagination and the canvas. “I’m not trying to depict an image so much as express a feeling. In each painting I strive to capture the essence of music.”

Because the emotions people can feel from music change throughout a piece, visually depicting shifting emotions has been Lewis’ goal.

“The feelings music evoke within me are continually shifting,” said Lewis. “Imagine a vast desert of shifting sand dunes or the shifting waves on the beaches of our planet. Capturing the emotional shifts are my challenge and joy.”

Another aspect that has been pushing this series is the connection Lewis feels with Ashland.

“This is a town that’s all about music,” said Lewis. “I love the town and I love the music that comes out of it. I would like it if the people who lived here really felt my paintings belong in the community and valued them.”

Having his work on display for First Friday allowed Lewis to hear a lot of feedback from the community. In fact, Lewis spent much of his evening at his own show sitting in corners, listening to what people had to say about his work. Overall, Lewis feels good about the response.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from other artist and people who came to the show. It builds up my confidence and my belief in what I’m doing.”

That ratification from art viewers is much appreciated by Lewis, who has recently decided to dedicate himself to painting. With university degrees in painting/drawing and visual design and business administration, a gaming company recruited Lewis to design computer games. Though he always loved painting, he took the job, as he was worried about being ale to support himself with art alone.

“I wanted to paint but I also wanted to make money,” he smiled. “Sometimes those things are not compatible.”

After working on computer games for a better part of a decade, Lewis realized that he wasn’t painting as much as he wanted.

“It’s my calling,” he said. “I decided I had to do it.”

As far as finances go, Lewis has accepted what goes along with his chosen profession.

“Hopefully I sell enough stuff to feed myself and my family,” said Lewis. “I just want to paint.”

As for now, Lewis is going to continue to work on his music series. He also looks forward to future series with his newfound technique, including one on the current world situation.

“I would like to capture my take on what has been going on in the last few years on canvas in my own style,” said Lewis, who wishes to put his own abstract edge on those pieces, so that levels of political nature may shine through to those who look for it. “Maybe I will think that it’s political but when someone looks at it they will not see it.”

Overall, it is that ability for different people to see different things in his work that Lewis is so proud of.

“My paintings are pretty open to interpretation,” he said. “Every single one means something to me, but I don’t want to tell people what to think. I want people to look at them and have something happen on their own. I just put a little part of me on the canvas for other humans to interpret as they like. And if it speaks to them, I’m happy. And if it doesn’t that’s OK, too.”