A Pahrump man has traded in the tools of a public employee for a paintbrush and has begun to enjoy his retirement.
Though he had enjoyed oil painting as an occasional pastime while working as a Nye County employee, Jim Foster now devotes his days to the craft.
Foster is a self-taught artist who began his studies by sketching. Encouragement from friends and family led him to explore oil painting, which he characterized as an initial disaster.
Though tempted to throw those beginner oil paintings out, he stuck with it and is now the Pahrump Art Gallery’s featured artist.
Not bad for this retired carpenter who had an early brush with a professional music career. As a 16-year old, Foster landed a record deal as a member of the musical group “Human Expression.” If the band hadn’t broken up, he said, he may not have become a painter.
Certain artists are typically sensitive to their environments and opinions of others, and Foster is no different. Childhood criticism of his attempts at art convinced him early on that he had no talent. He recalls with a mature and reflective sadness the moment a teacher scolded him for his style of drawing cartoon figures. “I wasn’t following the ‘rules’,” he said. After a long hiatus, Foster began to explore art on his own, as an adult.
He still doesn’t like to draw, but will sketch or trace an image, using a photograph as a reference for his paintings. He describes himself as a realistic painter with a penchant for perfectionism. He’s had to put a finished painting away for days or weeks, before he could look at it with appreciation.
He refers to a John Wayne painting in which he obsessed over face color. “The features were not working out,” he added in self-criticism. “It was a struggle getting the correct values.” After not looking at it for a period of time, he said, he is now pleased with it.
While painting, he encounters a familiar battle, that of “dark vs. light” or “good vs. evil.” With each painting he endures a fight over values and color pairing, he said. He also finds himself often working on a number of different projects. While waiting for a portion of one painting to dry, he will move onto another.
His favorite piece in the current show is titled “Insane Clown.” The clown’s mischievous expression lets the viewer know that he is up to no good, Foster said.
Though he enjoys all types of subjects, from portraits to landscapes and still life paintings, he is currently creating a large canvas depicting St. Anthony’s Festival of Fire. He does not pigeon-hole his subject matter and takes his inspiration from almost anything. He also enjoys a challenge. He recently successfully completed a painting of orange slices being dropped into sparkling water. “It was a picture in motion,” he said. “It came out really good.”
Foster encourages anyone with a desire to paint to be patient with themselves, and, above all, he said, “Don’t give up.”
Foster’s work is on exhibit at the Pahrump Art Gallery, located at 601 East St. until June. For more information about the Pahrump Art Gallery visit www.pahrumpartgallery.com.