Late April on the Trimbelle River, WI

Late April on the Trimbelle River, WI

Artist Statement & Bio

Photo by Andy Evansen

Oil Painting is the way I seek to understand what interests me, stirs my faith, and awakens old memories. Whether painting in the studio or out in the field, I do my best to convey what caught my eye. I paint what I see, because I feel representational painting offers a human expression of the world around us in a language we all hold in common. This vision led me out of academia and onto a more personal path leading me to the figure, portraiture, still-life, and finally into working outside, painting the landscape, where I now continue to spend the bulk of my painting time. My understanding and empathy for what can constitute a ‘subject’ continues to grow with each painting. In my life as an artist, my primary goal, is to continue getting better, that I might do better by my subjects. If I have done right by them, the paintings have a chance to stir you as the scene has stirred me. 

We are here, just for a time. Barns are here, just for a time. Cities are here, just for a time. The practice of painting on location deepens this awareness of fleeting time. The light and air conspire to reveal the land, inspiring my choices. Often it isn’t long before I find myself defending my work against mercurial skies and the constant march of the sun. The shadows move and the colors change, leaving one to paint from memory.

The field studies are finished work, in their own right. And they hold in them, the intense experience of their creation.  In the studio, these paintings return me to the scene, bringing back not only what I saw, but what I heard, what I smelled, what I felt in the air. It is all in the paint along with dust from the fields and grit from the road. The work reflects the visual and visceral experiences of a deep and spontaneous exploration of our connection to the natural world.

I am grateful for and inspired by both the patience and work of my mentors, Mark Balma, Jeff Hurinenko, and Joe Paquet and the countless painters of the past, spanning from Velasquez to Metcalf. I see their lives, lived out in their works with all their struggle and success. Moving forward in my own work I find encouragement and caution in the words of my boyhood idol, Andrew Wyeth, “I think one's art goes as deep as one's love goes.”

Joshua Cunningham lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife Shannon and their children Greta and William. He grew up the third of five boys, in rural Isanti, Minnesota.  Joshua’s journey to art and oil painting started as a youngster, and continued in college at Saint Cloud State.  Art slowly took a back seat to other college pursuits at the time, but a year and half later, that inclination to make art was reborn in the wake of tragedy. The loss of his youngest brother, Ryan to a car accident shook the whole family. Seeing his brother’s life and dreams cut short, Joshua pursued his own with renewed vigor, shaping both his talent and motivation. 

Joshua decided to start fresh at St. John’s University; there he found some solace from his grief in the surrounding woods, figure drawing, sculpture, but mostly in painting. As the school year wound down, he was offered an extraordinary opportunity to apprentice for Minnesota fresco and portrait painter Mark Balma. As the summer rolled into the fall, Joshua’s time with Balma transitioned from materials preparation to a formal drawing program. To focus on this new direction, Joshua decided against returning to university. This wonderful period of study with Balma was to last about 13 months. A door had opened to a challenging world of form and light and would set Joshua firmly on a lifetime pursuit of representational art.  

After this, he studied figure drawing for 2 and half years with Dale Redpath at The Atelier (formerly Atelier Lack) in North East Minneapolis, Minnesota. During those drawing sessions a fellow student mentioned a school in St. Paul, Hurinenko and Paquet Studio. This conversation was followed up by a visit during an open studio event. Impressed by the work and the potential for a new direction Joshua enrolled. With a great deal of joy and humor Jeff Hurinenko taught Joshua to trust his drawing and build upon it with the beauty and value of indirect painting oil painting of still life’s and portraits.  Jeff, an apprentice of another Minnesota fresco and portrait painter, Charles (Chuck) Kapsner, taught what he has come to understand to be the methods and techniques of the Flemish and Dutch masters. Jeff’s studio partner, Joe Paquet taught an ala prima method of oil painting through the landscape. Joe, a student of John Phillip Osborne, brought a passion for and understanding of the prismatic palette. He offered Joshua a principled approach to pursue the infinite beauty in the world of outdoor painting by capturing the light affect of a given moment with speed, accuracy, respect and humility. Through Joe’s teaching, painting outside would become the foundation for Joshua’s artistic pursuits and understanding of solace found woods of St. John’s would be revisited in nearly every location Joshua set up his easel.

Joshua shares his work and life with his wife Shannon, without whom, none of this would be worthwhile or possible. The joy and depth they have in their life together with Greta and William, has become the counter point to the loss of his brother. This is the emotional landscape from which Joshua paints.