Because the style of his paintings dovetails with diverse art movements of the past, Jean Claude Roy describes himself as an “expressionist-colorist,” but in fact he is unique.
There’s a bit of Expressionism, a bit of the Abstract, bit of Realism, but, as Roy says, “I don’t follow rules.” He uses color to convey mood and doesn’t adhere to what his eyes tell him.
“You know, a tree; people would say when I was young the bark on the trunk is brown,” he said. “No! It could be red! You can see it as red. You can do what you want.”
He said he wants his work to generate emotion and finds it rewarding when viewers feel the same thing about a painting as he does when painting it.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of his landscapes is the ubiquitous sun. It is never round — Roy says he “broke” it — and rarely yellow. With its unique appearance, this staple of Roy’s work acts almost like a signature; art afficionados immediately recognize the artist when they see it.
This often shapeless sun has been a part of Roy’s paintings since 1988.
“I was painting in France on a small canvas in a field,” he said. “It was hot. I was sitting down. And I looked at the sun too long; it blacked out. So I said, ‘I’m going to put a black sun in my painting.’”
And for three years, he did, later switching to other colors.
Roy laughs now when he remembers thinking he was the first artist to depict a black sun. He eventually discovered that artist and writer Jean Cocteau had done it before him, and Gerard de Nerval wrote about a black sun in his 19th century poem “El Desdichado.”
Roy produces a painting every day. Last year, he actually did 385. He said he was not always so prolific. It is the result of much practice.
“In the beginning, a small painting used to take me a week,” he said, “but 40 years after, it takes me three hours.”
Each day, he goes out looking for the right thing to paint. Sometimes this search can last four hours, but he said, he must find the perfect spot.
“My eye will say what to paint,” he said.
He spends six months per year each in France and Newfoundland, though the latter poses special challenges, such as painting in the snow or seeing his box easel blow over.
“They’ve never made an easel strong enough to withstand the Newfoundland weather,” he said.
It was in Newfoundland that Richard Kessler discovered Roy and offered to display his art at his galleries, which include the Grand Bohemian at 49 King St., St. Augustine. This marks the 20th year that Roy’s work has been exhibited there. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Learn more at kesslercollection.com/casa-monica/experiences.
Learn more about Roy at jcroy.com.
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