Studying Other Works Unlocks Hopkins Artist’s Creativity

C.J. Renner’s work, ‘With Apologies to Beside the Sea,’ was selected for the State Fair Fine Arts show.

Hopkins artist C.J. Renner isn’t oblivious to what many people might think about the process he used to create “With Apologies to Beside the Sea”—a charcoal and pastel work he showed this year at the State Fair.

Renner’s work is inspired by a piece from Robert Motherwell’s “Beside the Sea” series—a group of paintings the artist made by splashing oil paint against rag paper. While Motherwell crafted those works in a moment, Renner painstakingly duplicated each of those paint splashes.

“In a way, it’s an absurdity,” Renner said.

Renner, , has always had a fondness for Motherwell because of the way he chronicled the same Expressionism movement in which he participated. But while Motherwell and his colleagues used doodling to unleash their creativity, Renner is using detailed, deliberate study of other works to tap into his own creativity.

Making art can be intimidating when the artist is focused on producing grand works about love and longing, Renner said. , much of the proces centers on simply sitting down and putting in the effort to produce art.

“For me, I’m trying to get over the hump of only working when I feel inspired to work,” he said. “It has changed my relationship with art.”

Of course, the idea of studiously copying spontaneous paint splatters may still seem absurd to some. But the way Renner sees it, it’s no more absurd than other ways he’s tried to create art.

“I guess my way and other people’s way (in the past) is finding out the fastest way to make a masterpiece—which is a little bit ridiculous,” he said.


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