Re-printed with permission from The Daily SunMerritt's award-winning work reaches Zionsville
FAYETTE - Local watercolor artist, Wesley Dallas Merritt has recently added three more awards to his list of accomplishments. Currently on display at – A King’s Art Studio and Gallery on Cedar Street off of Main Street in Zionsville is “One Little…Two Little…” which took Best of Show in the Watercolor Society of Indiana membership non-juried show with awards. This show will be on display through July 28 at the gallery.
Also on display is “HowardSchool | Window the Past” which also took Best of Show and “When September Ends” placing second at the recent Clinton County Art League Mid-Summer Art Show. These two pieces are on display at the Frankfort Community Library through August 11.
Watercolor piece “HowardSchool | Window to the Past” is of the historic HowardSchool in southeastern Boone county. The school has begun undergoing a restoration project to restore the one-room school house.. Wesley has started a second piece to the series of pieces to reflect the school prior to restoration and plans a period piece, once restoration has been completed. Wesley’s great grandfather was a student at the one-room many years ago and Wesley’s daughter Rebecca Fern is featured in the watercolor series as the great ancestor of the one-room school house.
Wesley’s originals, prints and note cards are available for purchase at the gift shop at the SugarCreekArtCenter in Thorntown , online at www.wesleymerritt.com, as well as in his studio in downtown Indianapolis at the StutzArtCenter (corner of 10th & Senate) in Suite E-340. He can be found in his studio most days during normal business hours – as well as many artist open their studios for visitors to share in the creation of art on each First Friday of the month from 10 AM – 5:30 PM. Next First Friday event is August 4.
Re-printed here with permission from The Daily Sun
Boone County’s Wesley Merritt, a Stutz mainstay, expounds in Q&A on a watercolorist’s craft
by Josh Green
BOONE COUNTY — Back in the early 80s at Granville Wells Elementary School, young Wesley Merritt was more like the imaginative kid at play with watercolor paints than the rascal eating crayons in the corner. Or maybe he was a little of both.
Nonetheless, Merritt took hold of his urge to create art, and has since built a successful career of his talent for capturing still-life realism with simple, watercolor paints. Merritt, now 35, will feature over 40 of his original watercolor pieces at the 13th Annual Stutz Artists Studio Tour in downtown Indianapolis, billed as the largest tour of its kind in Indiana.
The tour, priced at $10 for patrons, begins tonight and will feature a more family-friendly format Saturday. Over 7,000 art enthusiasts are expected to mosey through the labyrinthian Stutz this weekend.
“If anyone ever wanted to go see art and artists’ galleries in one place, this is the place to go,” said Merritt, who encouraged all of Boone County to attend. “Photographers, sculptors, metal sculptors, architects — quite a different variety of artists in the building.”
Merritt has occupied a Stutz studio since July — where he reports to work each day for, on average, 12 hours — and comes home each evening to Fayette, the southwestern Boone County community where he feels most at ease.
“The (Stutz) atmosphere alone is just great for creativity,” he said. “It’s a great place to create artwork and be inspired by others.”
A 1989 Western Boone High School graduate, Merritt lives in Fayette (a couple houses down from the under-restoration Howard School) with his wife, Robin, and three daughters, Becca, Lydia and Ada, all under 4 years old. The artist veins his inspiration primarily from his familial, and largely rural, surroundings.
“I kind of paint what’s around me, as far as people and places,” said Merritt. “I’m mostly focused on figures, but most of my work or future work will have a rural, country setting. Some country acreage is always my choice, rather than the city.”
Even while living the city life on the East Coast through most of his college days, Merritt adhered to rural landscapes — or the human products thereof — in his work. After graduating the Joe Kubert School of Art in Dover, New Jersey, he worked for an Indianapolis-based computer graphics company for three years before landing a job with Vicarious Vision, where he designed video games for the likes of Sony’s Playstation and Nintendo’s Gamecube (including all the thugs and villains for Spider-Man 2 and, later, Crash Bandicoot: Bakuso! Nitro Racing). After seven years, he left Vicarious Vision to take up shop at the Stutz.
Talking over his cell phone on the eve of the Stutz Tour, Merritt reflected on his roots as an artist, and his ultimate goals as a watercolorist with a talent for realism. Here, Merritt sheds light on his background and gives insight into why, for him, water works.
The Daily Sun: Have you always felt the drive to be artistic?
Wesley Merritt: Ever since I can remember. Earliest, I would say, was being 4 years old, drawing a lot. I actually won an award pre-kindergarten, when I was like four. My mom tells a story about the detail I put down, even at that age. It’s always been there and grown since I’ve gotten older.
TDS: Were watercolors always your forte? Or was there a crayon stage?
WM: Even as kid, I kind of shied away from crayons, because you can’t get really good detail. Kind of larger and no fine-point. I moved on to pencil and started painting watercolor when I was about 12.
TDS: Can you recall the first time someone was noticeably impressed with your work?
WM: (pauses) My second year in 4-H, I remember I got my first “champion.” That was the first moment I was like, “Wow — I won something, at 11 years old.” I could kind of grow from there. I thought maybe next year I can win the grand champion, and so on.
TDS: Your paintings appear to be pretty accurate depictions of still-life. Do you photograph all your subjects before you paint?
WM: When I do portraits of people, I prefer to do my own (photography) work; I can use my own lighting and props to make a unique scene. Then I take a photo, and always have that to look at.
TDS: Is there a warm-up process you go through before you approach the canvas?
WM: Depends on the piece. If it’s mosaics or one with different things happening in the painting — like water or transparency or flesh and cloth — I might do a small layout of that and know exactly how to come at it. With watercolor, you’re working from light to dark; has to be a certain order because you can’t go back. Watercolor is definitely patience and planning.
TDS: Is it trickier to convey human emotion with water colors than, say, oils?
WM: It is, for some people. There aren’t too many people who paint with watercolors in total realism. You’ll find a lot of watercolor work that’s maybe really abstract or loose. Painting in total realism in watercolor is difficult at best. I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s gotten to where I have a pretty good control of the medium and stages of working up color.
TDS: You seem interested in warm — even alluring — bedroom scenes and women acting mysteriously. Why?
WM: The focus of women ... when I do more with that subject, it’s definitely keyed in on emotions that a woman can convey so much more easily than a man. It’s nothing explicit. If a girlfriend or a wife might walk one way, or you see her doing something simple — just brushing her hair — it’s like, “Wow, she doesn’t know exactly how beautiful she is in that moment.” I’m trying to capture that moment. It’s more like a fleeting moment than a posed situation.
TDS: Prices for your original work are listed online from anywhere between $250 and $2,600. What determines the price of a piece?
WM: A lot of it’s the size of the work, detail of the work and subject matter. Some of it’s actually the framing. Some frames are $100; some are $500 ... But, in shows, I’ll have originals framed — smaller ones — from $80 on up.
TDS: Is it difficult for people to pay thousands for art, even if it really strikes them?
WM: Well, that’s funny, because I was talking to (an artist) today, who’s just starting out, about prices. There are people who are buyers and collectors who don’t really scoff at (paying) two grand. There are people who buy art, and people who don’t. In the art world there are collectors, buyers and people who will maybe buy a print. People who collect artwork know prices and what’s a good deal. When I first started out, these prices seemed like a lot money. Yeah, $300 is a lot of money for the regular person, but I had to price things how I saw fit and for the time — you know, I have 80 hours in this frame. You don’t work two weeks for a $100 paycheck.
TDS: Is 80 hours an average for you?
WM: Depending on the size, I’d say between 30 and 80 hours for a medium to large painting.
TDS: Your work was selected as the “Best of Show” at Lebanon’s Back to the Fifties Festival last year. What would be your dream accolade?
WM: Well, I’d say on a local level, to win “Best of Show” at the Hoosier Salon. There’s a contest called Art for the Parks, which artists across the nation enter; to be selected in the top 100 who show there would be huge.
TDS: Say I’m a seventh-grade kid with big dreams who’s reading this in art class right now. What’s your advice to me?
WM: I would say: study, get good grades, have something besides art to fall back on. (laughs) But make art your passion. If you really want to do it, it can happen for you. But you can’t just talk about it or wish about it — you have to do it. It’s that drive, putting the time into it. I work an average 12 hours a day.