Joseph C. Henderson, 63, loved art while he was growing up but didn’t get into serious painting until he moved to Galveston five years ago. For 30 years before that, he was a registered architect, an occupation that explains his affinity for depicting the city’s famously eye-catching architecture in his artwork, along with beach and harbor scenes.
Henderson is a member of the 105-year-old Galveston Art League, a nonprofit organization that promotes visual arts and arts education in Galveston County and beyond (details at www.GalvestonArtLeague.com or call 409 938 1671). The Art League operates a gallery at 2117A Postoffice St. in downtown Galveston, and Henderson sells his paintings in that gallery and in Third Coast Gallery, 2413 Mechanic St. in Galveston.
Below, the artist opens up about factors that influence his paintings and his appreciation for art past and present.
Q: What medium/media do you work in?
A: I started out in watercolor but have now switched to acrylic on panel or canvas.
Q: At what age did you discover your passion for art? How?
A: As a student in middle school and high school, I was often painting in our suburban, split-level basement in Indianapolis. In the late 1960s, my parents purchased a large oil on canvas by the East Coast American impressionist A.C. Goodwin (1864-1929). I was fascinated with the colors and loose, thick brush strokes. It was a Boston harbor scene with the skyline in fading sunlight, and the wharf and harbor looking very dark and cold.
Q: How have you improved your skills over the years?
A: Early retirement and a move to art-friendly Galveston gave me the time and encouragement to once again start painting and explore different media and styles.
Q: How has the Galveston Art League benefited you?
A: The GAL is a wonderful organization that encourages, educates, and supports all types of artists in the area. Their recent gallery expansion will offer a new variety of exhibition spaces. The Art League has requested I show as a featured member in August 2019. [Any visual-arts fan can be a member, not just artists; visit www.GalvestonArtLeague.com and click on “Join” to learn more.]
Q: What is your educational background as related to art?
A: Some high school classes and a couple of college courses.
Q: Could you describe your start-to-finish process?
A: I follow a fairly typical painting process. I start with an underpainting layer of burnt sienna, then sketch the subject working from photographs. Next I start to develop the scene with additional darker tones, and then eventually add color. I often adjust or fine-tune the colors as the painting develops.
Q: Do you work outdoors or indoors?
A: I have always painted indoors from photographs, although I greatly admire plein air work such as the pieces by our local artist Randall Cogburn.
Q: Do you favor certain subjects for your paintings?
A: Galveston buildings, beaches, and boats.
Q: Do you use photos as part of your artistic process?
A: The photos I use are from my phone. It’s always in my pocket to capture unexpected scenes or lighting effects.
Q: What is your biggest challenge artistically?
A: I was a registered architect for 30 years so my natural inclination is toward more hard-edged, precise renderings. I am always trying to loosen up my style.
Q: Do you often enter competitions?
A: I always try and enter work in the three annual juried Galveston Art League shows each year [visit www.GalvestonArtLeague.com to see competition details]. My first entry was a watercolor in 2016 that won a first-place award. Since then I have received additional ribbons and recognition including a Best of Show award in the fall of 2017. I also have received the annual McGivney Purchase Award in 2017 and 2018, and those two pieces are now part of the Rosenberg Library’s permanent art collection.
Q: Did family/friends encourage you?
A: Family, friends, and a very strong art faculty in high school were most supportive when I was younger. Third Coast Gallery curators Jack Morris and Betsy Campbell have been big supporters more recently.
Q: What’s your favorite artwork by a famous artist?
A: I can’t pick a single favorite work of art or artist. While working in downtown Chicago across the street from the Art Institute I would attend their free lunch-time lectures several times a week. The lecture might focus on an art movement, a single artist, or a specific painting or sculpture. Their collection is overwhelming, and I found many favorites.
Q: Do you have any rules that you follow in creating your artwork?
A: Keep an open mind. Explore new styles, subject matter, and media. Embrace the unexpected when you work. An unintended effect might completely alter the piece you are working on, often with great results.
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of creating art?
A: I’ve always enjoyed giving pieces to friends and family. Also, watching people’s reactions to my work and talking with them during gallery shows is entertaining.
Interview by: Mary Vinnedge