By Dusty Ray
The life of an artist is a series of ups and downs, fluctuating between success and failure and the struggle to gain footing in an ever-changing industry. Local artist Jeff Herndon is no stranger to this bumpy road, and his paintings reflect a strong work ethic and an uncanny compositional ability. His work ranges from oil paintings to charcoal, watercolor to digital paint, with some sculpture thrown in for good measure. Painting, however, is his true passion.
“I learned to paint in college, and I’ve been seriously painting for the last eight years. I originally went to school to study computer animation – I wanted to work at Pixar, and I was really into all the special effects in movies that were coming out at the time – but I realized that I hated computers. I felt like they were designed by engineers to make me feel stupid. [Laughs]. So I took a figure drawing class and I was like, ‘That’s it,’ – I realized that I wanted to make a living with it.”
Herndon’s influences come directly from the golden age of illustration and the terse compositions that graced the covers of the Saturday Evening Post.
“I’m really into J. C. Leyendecker; he was the Saturday Evening Post guy before Norman Rockwell. I just love his painting style; his brush strokes are pretty intense. He’s my favorite artist, he and Drew Struzan, who did all the Back to the Future and Indiana Jones posters.”
The subject matter of Herndon’s paintings is impressively diverse, from pin-up girls to hulking behemoths; from western-styled portraits to old-timey beer adverts. There is a certain hint of Americana inherent in his work, and his characters echo his personality – he weaves worlds around them through their creation and development on the canvas. The color schemes are dark and muddy, a compositional choice that comes from an appreciation of contrast, and a self-described “dark imagination.”
Herndon has seen a significant amount of success lately, and has been commissioned to do several book covers. Comic conventions have become a mainstay for his promotional aspirations, and have gained him connections to help further his exposure.
“I’m heading to the Albuquerque comic convention, and Stan Lee is going to be there,” says Herndon with a twinkle in his eye.
“The last one I did was the Denver comic convention, and that one was great; I got to share a table with a famous comic book writer, and that was a big step for me because about a year before I was just a guy walking around with my portfolio. It was the first time ever that anybody outside of my family or my close friends had seen my work, and the response to it was just overwhelming.”
There is a network of support surrounding Herndon. His parents have always been there for him, and he stresses that they are a huge influence on him. Herndon’s girlfriend, Jamie King, has also become a promoter of his work (as well as the subject of several paintings), and has helped him in managing his publicity. The people in Herndon’s life have helped him get through the struggles and lulls in his career:
“I wasn’t making a living as an artist, so I came back home, and my parents were a huge influence. But parental support only goes so far, because you spend half of your life thinking that your parents don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. But then I met a girl (King), and she totally turned things around for me. She kicked my butt and helped me get into the Gallery Underground.”
Recently, Herndon feels that he has hit his groove; that he doesn’t need to work for a video game or film company to be happy. He’s doing what he loves, and having fun in the process.
“I love scary, dark, morbid things, but I also have a moronic sense of humor. I get a feeling of rebellion through some of my paintings. I never really expected my artwork to say anything, and people will try to rationalize what I put down, but I’m just having fun.”
To view more of Jeff Herndon’s work and find out how to purchase your favorite pieces, visit jeffherndon.com. Also find Herndon on Facebook or check out his merchandise (t-shirts, iPhone cases and more) for sale at zazzle.com/jeffherndon.