“I believe in the power of art to provoke and expand society’s re-imagination”
Joseph Pearson is an American artist based in Asheville. He paints people and figures using pastel pencil, charcoal and oil. His art embraces the social realism concept: he enjoys drawing scenes from the street and mirroring a reality. In this artist’s paintings, you can find a woman in a coffee shop scrolling through her smartphone or a young boy getting a haircut in the barbershop.
Pearson recently held an exhibition in a private high-school called “Thoughts on the Times: Reflections on Today’s Current of Racial Injustice and Violence in America” and he was pleased when he realized that the young students understood his work. He believes that art can heal and open minds.
In this Q&A artist Joseph Pearson shares with PoseSpace how art helped him to express himself, what artists influenced his work, details about the art-making process and his greatest achievements:
Can you tell us about your background and how you got into art?
My background in art started when I was about 4-5 years old. I copied the illustrations in an old Sears and Roebuck catalog. I loved the idea of being able to make a figure from lines and shade. As a child and into adulthood I was an extremely shy person. Drawing allowed me to express myself in ways I couldn’t say in words and still does. The nude human figure has been a staple of artist training for hundreds of years. It is the most challenging and to me the most interesting subject. I especially love the female form for its grace, curves and sensuality and natural beauty. In addition, the figure allows me to connect with other humans in the expressing of my ideas because of our common humanity.
What are your goals or aspirations and which artists have influenced your work?
I believe in the power of art to provoke and expand society’s re-imagination. Throughout history, the arts have played a pivotal role in the expression of viewpoints and in influencing a change of perceptions and ideas about a given subject. That’s my goal as an artist. My major influences are the social realist artists, especially those of the old WPA (Works Project Administration) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I had the honor of training with and being the friend of the late Hughie Lee-Smith, one of those artists. I love the works of the Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence.
I love Thomas Hart Benton, Raphael Soyer and many others of this school. Edward Hopper is one of my all time favorites!
How did you discover PoseSpace?
I discovered www.posespace.com searching for figure drawing resources.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
My art making process starts with an idea I want to express, this may be something I read, hear in the news or just an idea that comes to mind. Then I gather source material to develop the idea. If the final product is to be a drawing I may keep it gestural or I may develop it further depending on the idea I want to convey. It all starts with gesture, gesture is everything! That’s what I practice most from posespace.com.
I paint people as portraits and figures. I work in oil, charcoal and pastel pencil. I am a muralist and printmaker.
What has been your greatest artistic success?
My greatest artistic success(s)… there have been many. Most recent is having had an exhibition at a private high school where I addressed social injustice and the kids got it! That’s the power of art! Prior to that I had the honor of painting a mural and doing four charcoal portrait drawings for a very popular downtown restaurant here in the city. 1971 as an art student at the Art Students of New York I was awarded a full scholarship to attend this venerable institution! In 1998 I was awarded the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation of NY grant. In 1999 I Commissioned by the White House Historical Association to represent the state of MS in celebrating the 300th anniversary of the White House (2001 calendar). There are many other activities I count as major success that can be found on my website.
Joseph Pearson’s website: josephart.net
Interview by Andrea Miliani