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Q&A with Award Winner Dennis Crayon

"R is for Rose" by Dennis Crayon was awarded second prize in the "Flora & Fauna" exhibit.
“R is for Rose” by Dennis Crayon was awarded second prize in the “Flora & Fauna” exhibit.

Oil painter Dennis Crayon was first drawn to oil, he said, because of the long time it takes to dry and the appeal of learning the old-school Dutch Master techniques. But in his still lifes and trompe l’oeil works such as R is for Rose (above) — second prize in The Art League’s “Flora & Fauna” exhibit — he uses processes and techniques that his classical influences never had access to.

Dennis said his main goal is to create “contemporary imagery in the style of the old masters,” with a little whimsy thrown in. In his still lifes, the subjects are things like Tootsie Pops and marbles.

Painting as a contemporary realist means his work is more accessible to viewers and himself, Dennis said. “More people can connect with it.” In both subject matter and style, the paintings update the trompe l’oeil and still life genres, drawing on photographic processes and a “beat-up” look and feel. “I’m really enjoying this ripped paper effect,” Dennis said, something he’s been working on since Ripped Grapes:

"Ripped Grapes" by Dennis Crayon.
“Ripped Grapes” by Dennis Crayon.

Dennis also pointed to the early work of twin brothers Mike and Doug Starn as inspiration. The Starns pieced together multiple photographs with tape, a look recreated with paint in works like Ripped Grapes. Dennis says he keeps a Starn book on his easel, and also sparks ideas by looking at different artists’ work online, while trying to find his own vision.

“Rose with Christ” by Mike and Doug Starn, 1982-1986. Toned silver print with tape, 66″ x 104″. Image via the Rubell Family Collection.

His rough sketches can start in Photoshop, where he pulls in digital photographs and manipulates them to compose a still life or trompe l’oeil piece. From there, he builds a 3-D reference with the torn edges and bent corners.

Currently on Dennis Crayon’s easel: another small trompe l’oeil, A is for Apple, which will be the second in a series spelling C-R-A-Y-O-N (along with R is for Rose), and this larger 18″ x 30″ painting incorporating the siennas and blues of early photographs:

"Cowboys" by Dennis Crayon, in progress.
“Cowboys” by Dennis Crayon, in progress.

“Flora & Fauna” at The Art League Gallery is open daily through May 6. For more of Dennis’s work, visit his website here.

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