Breaking the Rules

Denver, Colorado, artist Jim Hutton has never taken an art lesson in his life. And he?s not about to start now. After a 25-year hiatus from painting, the former business owner has a passion for creating that can?t be constrained. “I?m driven by pure passion,” Hutton says. “And I think there?s room in art to go against the rules.”

When he returned to painting six years ago, Hutton noticed that a lot of artists were concerned with some of the rules regarding traditional watercolor, his chosen medium. After joining a few watercolor societies and running with the pack for a while, Hutton branched out into gouache and hasn?t looked back. “A lot of artists have inhibitions when they work. They?re worried about breaking the rules,” Hutton says. “Instructors have told them over and over, ?Don?t use black from a tube. You can?t have a painting with all hard lines.? But if you look at Romulo (gouache, 18×22), it?s all hard lines. All of those don?ts stifle creativity.”

Romulo (gouache, 18×22) is a 2000 Art Competition Finalist.

For this portrait, one in a series of paintings of men dressed in pioneer garb, Hutton wanted to push the limits of color. “The hair is an intense salmon color and there?s also some robin?s egg blue in there,” he says. “A lot of it goes against color theory, but it?s gotten a lot of attention. It really showed me that there are other ways of doing things.”

As for his subject matter, Hutton sees no need to conform there either. Painting everything from cactus florals to drag queens, the artist is never at a loss for creative inspiration. “I come across artists who have creative blocks and I think ?You ought to paint portraits. You?ve got a painting on every face that walks by.”

But when he talks of portraits, Hutton isn?t concerned with painting businessmen behind leather chairs. “What really drives me is trying to capture the essence of a person.” To do so, he likes to spend at least an hour with whomever he?s going to paint, just talking and observing their characteristics. Then he?ll shoot some photographs for reference. He never works from life because he says, “No one could sit still for that long.” Although his style may appear loose at first glance, Hutton says he?s a meticulous and slow painter. For example, Romulo, took from 30 to 40 hours to complete. As such, his camera is a crucial painting tool. For his drag queen series, he took more than 750 shots for 13 portraits. “The camera is as important to me as the brushes,” he says.

Retired from his business career, Hutton ideally spends six hours a day painting and four hours working on promotion. Although he?s happy to be free of the long hours and stress that come with owning his own business, Hutton?s thankful for the business experience he?s carried over to his art. His advice to other artists: “Shake off the parameters, Don?t worry about what other people think. Create what?s driven by heart and passion; that should be enough to satisfy you.”

To see more of Hutton?s work, check out his Web site at

Loraine Crouch is associate editor for The Artist?s Magazine.

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