I started working with Henry Stinson when I first moved to Seattle. I was introduced to him by another fantastic artist, Joe Kresoja. He had a studio up on 10th and Pike where he ran the Northwest Artist School in this old second floor automotive shop. The studio was inspiring as hell with decades of paint on every timber and floorboard just worn away and cracking with time.
What set my eyes alight was Henry’s sense of color. It just blew my retinas out the back of my head. The harmonies were like powerchords and the style in which it was painted like punk rock. Through Henry, I’d quickly learn about the Russian Impressionists, like Fechin, Bongart, Levitan and the Tkachev Brothers. Even Dean Cornwell was introduced to me which made my mind push Leyendecker and Rockwell off the table so I could get a good look at the power of negative space and vignettes. There was an immediacy to this school of painting and I wanted in.
I quickly signed up to study. This was right off the bat humbling and nourishing at the same time. I knew I’d better step up my game or I’d never fully develop as an artist. Making this step was easily the best move for my career as an artist. But it didn’t last, he decided along with his equally talented wife to move to Arizona. Boy…did that hurt. I’d gotten a taste of the real deal, the stuff you don’t get in most schools and now the cup was disintegrating. Why, you may ask? Give Henry ten minutes of your time and you’ll see why.
Outside of Henry’s ability to paint, is rarer still, his gift to teach. And I mean, he can teach anyone with even the slightest inclination to learn. His methods are direct, simple and well-grounded. As if he’d had every experience the student was having at that moment. But he was there to show you the light. To help you quick-step over pitfalls and to get you to a place of confident painting…if only to throw another curve ball for you to keep you thinking.
A few years back I’d lost my job and was at a sort of crossroads in my life. I’d just purchased a house with my then girlfriend (who would end up marrying me). I called Henry and probably lamented about not having anything to show for a decades worth of work in videogames. I felt like I needed a soul injection, something to light my fire and kick my ass at the same time. That’s when Henry offered to have me study with him for a solid month in March of 2004. I spent the next month stretching canvasses and stocking up on supplies. I hit the ground running and painted 12 hours a day, for the next four weeks, using his studio a good bit of the time. I’d paint in the morning, he’d start work at 1pm and I’d come back to study with him in the late afternoon into evening. It’s just what I needed and it righted my sense of color, values, harmony, brushwork and just plain seeing.
I took another class years later Outdoor Figure Painting in Mt. Vernon. Very tough…very elusive but again an excellent experience. He had a new disciple with him this time, who was just as rabid as I was at his age. All three of us would go out after the workshop and paint until the sun set. It was like Big Wednesday only with palettes instead of surfboards.
And just recently, like clockwork, my hunger began to rumble. I took a workshop from him up on Whidbey Island about an hour and half outside of Seattle. Luckily I was able to film this demo he gave on the last day I was there. The weather was a mix of lightning, rain and sunshine…definitely northwest. But he persevered to do his best barring the last 20 minutes of the 2 hours when it started to downpour. Oil and water may not mix but a drowned model does not make for a good painting.
Anyway, enjoy…and if you can, spread the word. He’s been flying under the radar for far too long.
You can also follow him on FACEBOOK!