Roger Hutchison is encircled by a rainbow of his candy colored canvases inside Mr. Friendly’s, where his paintings have been selling like crab cakes. It is hard to believe that only a year ago, this burgeoning 35-year-old painter had never even revealed a single piece of art to the public and now stands with over 40 of his whimsical (but highly contemporary) painted canvases, boldly exhibited for Columbia to see. It is remarkable how drastically a person’s artistic journey can transform in twelve short months.
Roger works as the Director of Children’s Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (running youth programming at the Trinity Center) by day and passionate acrylic “finger painter” by night. Since discovering his love for “moving his fingers through puddles of paint across a blank canvas,” he has been creating his energetic, intensely colorful artworks every night into the wee hours of the morning while his wife and six-year-old daughter are asleep (and returns to work at Trinity by 7am.) As a result, he has managed to feverously compile an unbelievable catalogue of work in a very short period of time. His extraordinary volume of paintings could easily pass for artistic output that spanned a person’s entire lifetime. Fortunately for Roger, his fast paced work ethic has not hindered the quality of his artwork. The striking, contemplative and reflective works of art feature ethereal bands of intense, atmospheric color; geometric and abstract shapes and thick strokes of textured paint. They evoke unbridled, boundless landscapes of the conceptual worlds he imagines. Roger prefers using square-shaped canvases that are painted like snapshots of dreamlike stories and act as windows to a peaceful invented world brimming with light. The beauty and purity of the pieces and the luminous colors he uses, which remind him of the stained glass windows at his church, have brought attention to his paintings.
Roger always enjoyed dabbling with art despite being completely self-taught as a painter. He says he developed his techniques through “trial and error,” but everything changed one night when he arbitrarily tossed aside his paintbrushes on a whim when he sat down to paint. Instantly, he started using his fingertips to spread thick acrylic paint squeezed straight from the tube onto a blank canvas, with no idea what he may be creating or how the piece may turn out. For texture, he grabs anything he can find, such as bits of wood, paper towels and tree seeds and scrapes them into thickly layered, wet paint. Or, he uses blue painter’s tape to break up the surfaces of the canvases. After his first encounter with a canvas minus a brush, he was hooked. Roger decided to never return to the confines of brushes and more traditional methods and now exclusively employs textual paint handling and application methods that are most unconventional among “grown up” painters. Unashamedly, he demonstrates his ten paint-stained fingers and extends both arms, spreading his hands to reveal the rings of paint around his finger nails. “I am messy when I work,” he says, chuckling and reinforcing that he could not be persuaded to revert to less favorable working methods in exchange for keeping his hands clean.
At the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral bazaar (his first public art showing) Roger was stunned when he learned his art was commercially viable. He sold an impressive thirty paintings in under three hours — every painting he brought to the event. Roger then swiftly arrived to Columbia’s art scene from obscurity and with no formal art training to speak of. His bright, textural canvases with dynamic compositions, sensuous color and a vocabulary of symbolism have been warmly welcomed by art buyers, art appreciators and restaurant diners alike and have helped the enthusiastic painter win an enviable resume of artistic achievements.
Since 2007, his work has appeared all over Columbia — from Trinity’s meditation and prayer book covers to the Piccolo Spoleto Festival to the Columbia Museum of Art (one piece was short listed by a juried committee to be featured in the 2007 Contemporaries Artist of the Year show). His paintings grace three different wine bottle labels, and he’s currently preparing for his first solo exhibition of paintings in North Carolina as well as a showing at Frame of Mind: The Art of Eyewear with great promise for further success. Despite recent acclimations for his art, Roger has no plans to swap his position with the church for a full-time artist title, affirming his spirituality will always play a leading role in his life. His nighttime paintings have helped him get in touch with a new, artistic side of himself that he says has only made his quest for spiritual meanings and values stronger.
Modestly, Roger attributes the character of his art to the “happiness of the beautiful, organic world” that inspires him and the freedom that his finger painting technique provides. His paintings suggest feelings of the unadulterated, child-like pleasures his daughter experiences when she plays with paint. He aims to help others live full, peaceful lives and hopes to pass on his child-like appreciation for the beauty around us.
At the close of our interview, after mentioning that one of his paintings is reminiscent of Mark Rotho, he exclaimed, “I love Rothko! His art is on the cover of my thank you notes!” It seems this magical, never-ending, bright, colorful and symbolic world that Roger loves, offers and paints makes his art attractive, but after meeting him in person, it was clear that the man’s sincere, genuine character has also played a role in making his art an overnight success..
Roger’s work will be on display at Frame of Mind: The Art of Eyewear in December. An opening reception is scheduled for Dec. 4 from 5:30-8:30pm.