Born in 1959 in Little Rock, Arkansas, contemporary American realist painter James Michael Bonner received his formal training in art at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock primarily under the late Al Allen.
Citing the painters Andrew and Jamie Wyeth as major influences of his art, James taught himself how to paint with egg tempera and dry-brush watercolor eventually developing his own identifiable style. In addition, Jamie Wyeth’s proclivity for mixing different mediums has influenced him with incorporating oils, acrylics, casein, and gouache into his work.
Having a desire to experience what other artists, including the Wyeth’s, have when in Maine, James began visiting there in the 1990’s and always enjoys painting and drawing the often-overlooked scenes that fade into the background of everyday life. Maine is beautiful and gritty all at the same time. It’s these opposing forces that oftentimes are explored through the hidden ambiguities of his work.
In 2003, while rock climbing, James suffered a traumatic injury that would change the direction of his life away from art for almost a decade. The aftermath of the accident left him without the ability to paint because of limited dexterity in his hand. Unhappy without the ability to express emotion through his art, he was determined to comeback. In 2012 he began the arduous therapy of re-training his motor skills to facilitate the delicate details of his art. Although it takes longer to draw and paint now, some of his recent pieces have proven to be some of his “strongest” pieces to date.
James currently resides in Arkansas with his wife Hope and their two dogs Mocha and Maggie. He has artwork in corporate collections in the south and east coast, along with many private collections in Arkansas, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Florida, Delaware and Maine.
“My intent as a painter is to create a narrative that pervades the painting. By starting out with the literal truth and then relying mostly on memory, I begin to think or dream away the extraneous detail of a particular scene or object until I’m down to the “bare bones” of what I’m emotionally connected to. Simplicity, to me, is always better.
Being an artist, to me, is not just about possessing the ability to copy something exactly as it is in nature, although admirable, but using your creativity to impart your own vision. What comes naturally for me is a bit convoluted, in that my paintings are based in reality, but with a heavy dose of my own creativity and imagination added. Perfection bores me, at least technical perfection, and thinking everything you do might be a masterpiece is dangerous. I like seeing the hand of the artist in art, even areas that have been worked and reworked. Setting out to create a masterpiece can be stifling, I mean just do something you feel strongly about and amazing things are possible and just might happen. Inspiration for me comes from a passion within to record the scenes that often times are bypassed by a hectic society. These scenes fade into the background of everyday life, but many have a story to tell – be it good or bad. Inspiration triggered by knowing the “back story” of a scene or by someone’s spirit. My art, like these scenes, would not stand out in a big show. It’s not flashy or ephemeral. It’s enduring.”