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Animator gets back to the easel

Artist with a portfolio full of television and film work gets back to the easel.

February 03, 2012|By L. Thompson
  • "View to the Garden," a painting by Michael Humphries, and part of an exhibition opening this weekend (Feb. 4) at the Michael Humphries Gallery in La Canada. The exhibition of original paintings by Michael Humphries and Trish Kertes is called "Heart and Soul," and runs through March 24. (Courtesy of Michael Humphries)
"View to the Garden," a painting by Michael…

Anyone who has been a child at any point in the past four decades has, knowingly or not, appreciated the work of Michael Humphries. From small-screen stalwarts like “The Jetsons,” “SuperFriends,” “Scooby-Doo” and “Smurfs” to big-screen beauties like “The Lion King” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” the handiwork of Humphries has always been in the background — literally.

“I'm basically a landscape painter,” he says. “That's what I’ve done since I was a kid of probably 11 years old.” This weekend, he'll be showing off his skills in a more traditional fashion in “Heart and Soul,” an exhibition of paintings at his La Cañada gallery — where his work hangs alongside those of local artist Trish Kertes. (“She's more of an impressionist,” he says.)

It doesn't come as a surprise that many of his originals look like backdrops just waiting for characters to walk through, be they trees in winter or wooden houses bathed in early sunshine. Though they're considerably more realistic than, say, the Smurf village, the artist likes to use his imagination to enhance the imagery: “[Joseph Mallord William] Turner, the great landscape painter in the 19th century, somebody said to him, 'I've never seen a sky like that,' and his response was, 'But don't you wish you could?' So a lot of it is what you can make up, and people can imagine themselves in.”

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He believes it's different “in most respects” to paint for fun rather than film, but “there are some things that you bring with you. I mean, the fact that I've been painting for film for so long means that I have a tendency to create a lot of my own lighting situations and things. If I'm working with oils, I might light it the way I would a film, or I might use a color scheme that I'm familiar with, unless I'm doing plein air on location, in which case I'll paint pretty much what's in front of me.”

As to whether he sees the film training as a blessing or hindrance to more personal things, he says, “Most of the time I think it's an asset, although sometimes I wish I could just put away some of it, because it does influence the way you look at things and the way you paint them; you just can't get away from it. It's bringing commercial art into fine art.”

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