It was while he was a student at the California Art Institute that Jeremy Lipking learned how to see. In his younger days, he’d size up the figure as the sum of its parts, picking out the eyes, the nose, the mouth and the hands. But his teachers at the institute taught him to detect the shapes created by light and darks and the subtleties of color. Although he’d always drawn and painted, Lipking says, at the end of his year in art school it was obvious that he’d made a tremendous artistic leap.
Since then, the California artist has confidently and tenaciously chased the dreams he set out for himself while he was a student. He strives to master the fundamentals of painting and recreate the inspiration that generated each piece in the first place. From the looks of his career trajectory—he is only 27 years old—it is fair to say he’s well on the way to achieving his goal.
Lipking was born in Santa Monica and has lived in Southern California most of his life
His father is an advertising designer, children’s book illustrator and landscape painter, so Lipking’s childhood was immersed in art. Under his father’s tutelage, he learned some of the basics of design, drawing and color. He might rather have been home watching cartoons, he says ruefully, but his father insisted they spend time at local museums and galleries.
Despite the fact that he demonstrated early talent in art, it was music that drew him strongly. Throughout his teens, Lipking played guitar and performed in a punk and reggae band. He appreciated and played all types of music and considered the possibility that music might be his calling.
For a semester after high school, he took art classes at a local community college. Then, at his father’s suggestions, he looked into the California Art Institute, an intimate academy in Westlake Village, California. Once his classes started, he became impassioned by the traditional approach that school fostered. “When I started studying, I painted still lifes, the figure and landscapes,” Lipking says. “Painting the landscape was a little easier than hiring a model or finding a place to paint the model or the still life. You could just go out and set up your easel.”
Lipking was attracted to a traditional style of painting because “it has so much to do with what’s happening right here and right now—you’re capturing the moment,” he says. “For example, if you’re out painting at the end of the day and the light’s coming down and hitting the side of a hill or a mountain, that’s it. That’s what you need to paint. That’s the here and now. Of course, that’s not the whole statement. It has more to do with capturing things the way you see them.”
After a year of study and armed with the basics, Lipking set off determined to grow the way he likes best—on his own. Indeed, he acknowledges in retrospect, the most important thing he learned in art school was how to teach himself. “I was never taught one particular style of painting. It changed each time depending on the subject or how much time I had. I’ve learned many different ways of starting a painting from Richard Schmid’s book, “Alla Prima.”
The result of his self-improvement efforts is an artist who is rigorously disciplined, rarely leaves his studio, and remains focused on improving with each succeeding painting. He studies the works of John Singer Sargent, Nicolai Fechin and Spanish plein-air master Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. He is especially inspired by artists such as Swedish painter Anders Zorn who is known for his depiction of nudes in landscape settings. “I can’t really paint the figure and ignore what’s behind it,” Lipking says of his recent images that combine the human figure and the landscape. “The figure looks the way it does because of the landscape behind it, and the landscape looks the way it does because of the figure.”
In a place close to home, such as the Pacific Coast, Malibu Canyon, and the Santa Monica Mountains, Lipking will paint with a live model or, if conditions are prohibitive, take photographs as reference. He prefers to work outdoors and tries to lay out as many pieces as possible in one sitting. The ideal method, he says, is to make a quick painting from life, photograph his model, and then take the material back to his studio for completion. But he follows no set rules, opting instead for whatever process seems to best suit the painting.
Lipking’s style is classic and romantic, akin to 19th century portrait and naturalistic landscape paintings. Dressed in long skirts, short jackets, shawls, and closely fitted hats; his female subjects seem to be of another era. In a single canvas, he will realistically render some sections—for example, a lone figure and nearby trees—while leaving the rest a soft field of color. “I paint that way because that’s how I see,” he explains. “You can’t see everything in focus at once.”
Though his paintings of figures—some nude, some clothed, some in nature, some shown full-body and others cropped at the neck—are perhaps his most intriguing, Lipking’s still lifes and landscapes are equally as ethereal. The light in his paintings is enigmatic, cast with drama and subtlety.
“I am attracted to the figure and the landscape because of how challenging they are. There’s something I need to learn about those,” he says. “And painting outdoors—there are so many different ways you can approach that.”
There is no doubt that Lipking’s work is steeped in art history, confident draftsmanship, a love of the human figure, and a penchant for romantic poses and locations. But that is not to say that the whole world of art doesn’t hold appeal. “I know some people who are militant traditionalists or extreme modern artists,” he says. “But I have an appreciation for all types of expression. Part of it comes from music. I don’t want to limit myself to one type of music or one type of art. I know the way I want my paintings to look. But appreciating art is another thing.”