Gerald Lovell is Taking Art into His Own Hands
Originally from Chicago, Gerald Lovell had no choice but to move to Lithonia, Georgia with his family at the age of 16. When he arrived at Lithonia High School, he spent several lunch hours alone doodling in notebooks often gaining attention from other students for his skills. During his junior year, he met a group of seniors who were interested in the arts as well. They would draw comic book figures and compete to see who drew them the best. At the time, he was enrolled in an art class with a teacher who would become his mentor. By the end of the semester, his teacher had invited him to enroll in AP Art. His participation in the AP art class earned him a scholarship to college.
At 25, Lovell dropped out of college where he was studying graphic design. Because he always possessed talent for drawing, his mother and aunt encouraged him by gifting him art supplies when he was young. But they also steered him in a direction where he would be able to make an honest living as an artist. Lovell was underwhelmed by graphic design. He found it was more about learning the software as opposed to using his hands. After leaving college, he experienced a dark period that would eventually lead him to his passion. He told himself that if he was going to work 40 hours for someone else, then he would need to do something that he would be fulfilling to him. He started painting. Four years later, his art is featured in a film, he’s had several group exhibitions, and he finally feels like an artist.
Lovell is the ultimate Millennial. Without receiving instruction in painting from an established program, he decided to turn to YouTube and internet forums to learn how to paint. His DIY attitude is responsible for his success as an artist. If he learned anything while in art school, it was to go to the internet to answer any questions he had. Lovell is primarily self-taught, and at this time doesn’t plan on going back to school. Although young, Lovell is serious about his passion for painting. He loves working with his hands. The act of stretching canvas or painting backgrounds is satisfying to him. He loves the whole process. He’s been painting for four years, but it wasn’t until he completed a large painting, “The Woman with the Eyes,” earlier this year that he started to feel like a painter. Besides the size of the artwork, it was the fact that he completed something that he said he would do. It was at the completion of this larger artwork that he felt like a painter. But that’s Lovell being his humble self.
This year he was invited to spend five weeks in Baltimore, Maryland to create artwork for a film. In true Millennial fashion, he gained this opportunity through Instagram. Having mutual acquaintances in common, the production team was able to contact him about the amazing opportunity. His artwork will be featured as the artwork the main character of the film creates. It was his first time spending so much dedicated time to working on his art. In addition to paintings he’d already created, he created 10 additional paintings to be featured in the film.
Lovell paints portraits, and portraiture is extremely popular at this moment in art history. Artists are working to insert the black body into traditionally white spaces, and as a result portraiture is the go-to subject matter. Along with artists like Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, Amy Sherald and Jordan Casteel, who paint portraits, Lovell manages to define his desire to paint portraits in his own way. “It’s a rendition of someone through someone else’s perspective. I just find it interesting just being able to see people on such like a big scale. I paint a lot of people from Lithonia. We grew up together.” Lovell paints portraits because he wants to insert the everyday scenes he captures into the art world.
In addition to artists like Kerry James Marshall, Hebru Brantley, and Toyin Odutola, Lovell is inspired by Jordan Casteel whose artwork Lovell’s is most like. And interestingly enough, their journeys as Millennial artists are a bit similar, as they served as their own teachers. Although Casteel has an MFA in Painting from Yale University, she had to teach herself how to paint with oils while attending Agnes Scott College. After she visited Italy and took her first oil painting class, she knew she wanted to paint, but her school didn’t teach oil painting, so she taught herself. And she graduated with a Bachelor of Art in Studio Art. Her subjects are also family, friends, and acquaintances. Like Casteel, he captures their likenesses with photography and then paints using the pictures. Unlike some other portraitists he doesn’t pose his subject. He captures them as they are while maybe asking them to look atthe camera.
Lovell uses the impasto painting technique to paint his portraits. It’s a technique where the oil paint is applied very thickly on the canvas and the brushstrokes are visible. In recent works, Lovell has graduated to creating full-length portraits, but he reserves the impasto technique for the skin of the subject. The technique offers dimension to his otherwise simple compositions. While the clothes and background of his portraits are painted with smoothed paint, the facial features aren’t lost with the layering of paint for the skin. The eyes pop and give the subjects their humanity. He makes the ordinary extraordinary by layering the paint onto canvas to paint flesh that pops. It’s remarkable.
“Geralds works resonated with me immediately from the first time I saw them on Instagram. We quickly acquired two works for our collection and started cultivating the relationship for representation. The early demand for Geralds work has clients waiting on new work, I couldn’t be happier for his success.” – Najee Dorsey
While having started painting only four years ago, Lovell’s star is rising fast. His diligence and talent earned him representation by Black Art in America. Gerald Lovell’s work will be featured at Black Art in America’s Fine Art Show in Philadelphia on September 14- 16 at the Belmont Mansion. 2000 Belmont Mansion Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131
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Shantay Robinson, BAIA resident scholar has participated in Burnaway’s Art Writers Mentorship Program, Duke University’s The New New South Editorial Fellowship, and CUE Art Foundation’s Art Critic Mentoring Program. She has written for Burnaway, ArtsATL, ARTS.BLACK, AFROPUNK, Number, Inc. and Washington City Paper. While receiving an MFA in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design, she served as a docent at the High Museum of Art. She is currently working on a PhD in Writing and Rhetoric at George Mason University.
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