Born in 1975, the only option I have to remember the 1930’s through ‘50’s, is through my imagination. I let my mind visit the people, their era, stories and photographs, then I translate my own narrative through painting. Headlights on a two-lane highway, sun rays through trees, trains on a rainy night. They come from small towns and large towns. I see paintings in folk songs from the ‘30’s, passersby on the streets, and in the gospel the preacher talked about on Sunday morning. Ideas for my paintings come from the past and present, from all things nostalgic.
My strategically cropped paintings in oil and acrylic are sometimes confrontational and often feature the female figure as protagonist, giving you a subtle glimpse into the characters’ lives. Usually leaving you wondering what or who is beyond the edges, you might find yourself squinting to see what’s being reflected in the gleaming chrome in some of my pieces. More hints about the setting might be found by studying a car in the painting, or a woman’s dress, shoes, or jewelry; the color of her lipstick. My compositions can range from graphic-oriented realism with images rich in unmixed color and bound by hard edges, to true photorealism using original, staged photographs as source material. Staging the photograph for the painting reference is essential, as I rarely change anything throughout the painting process. Everything must be period correct.
I’m pulled to photorealism because it allows the viewer to notice things they wouldn’t notice in real time, especially with my detailed, large-scale works. A painting freezes movement, reflections. Photorealism is a well-suited vehicle for capturing moments that occur with little notice, but are nonetheless revealing in their narrative. My painting process forces me as the artist to look beyond the subject matter; to just let a face be a series of objects, or an object simply a block of color. In the end, the story will be seen and told.
My paintings are about making the acrylic, oil and brushes work. They’re about me constantly improving technique with an interest in composition, narrative, and technicalities. For you, realize the people and objects in my paintings are real; the stories they tell are up to you. Inspired by life, completed by faith.
Brian Tull received an Individual Artist Fellowship in Visual Arts 2D in FY18 from the Tennessee Arts Commission.