Pablo Picasso famously said that in order to be a painter, a man must do nothing else. Try telling that to Josh George, scheduled for a new one-man show at Ghostprint Gallery.
George is the rarest of creatures, a man who makes his living as a fine-arts painter while pursuing a variety of interests that define him in other ways. The self-proclaimed beer geek became a wine lover when he was invited to exhibit at a show in Italy. While at the gallery owner's home for dinner, he was served a wine unlike anything he'd experienced. Surprised to hear that it had been made by a man who lived up the road, he was hooked. It was the beginning of a wine odyssey that led him to take a part-time job at a wine shop in New York City when he returned home. "It was a way to learn ... and get a discount," he says.
The Italian experience also put him on the road to being a foodie. He's a regular reader of food blogs and is as interested in a restaurant's menu as its wine list. "I was a vegetarian," he says. "What started me eating meat was wine; drinking very tannic wine requires meat. I dove right in — tongue, brains, kidneys. I cook five nights a week and we eat at the dinner table, me and my wife."
No art snob, George loves comic books and considers Velocity Comics "the perfect comic book store." He's a big fan of comic writer Alan Moore and favors simple drawings that move the storytelling forward. Having done some freelance illustration work early in his career, he hopes to come back to it. "I still want to do comic books someday," he insists.
Like any number of artists, he's also musically inclined. Playing guitar with a punk outfit in New York City called Krack Jack, he calls himself a progressive death metal fan. "I used to play in bands," he says, "but it was too much trouble for everyone finding the time."
Time is an issue for a man who tries to work 9 to 5 daily, cranking out a good-sized painting in a few days using many layers of collage, paint and varnish. About his show of new paintings at Ghostprint, "The Story Thus Far," he says: "What I'm trying to capture is weird snapshots of domestic life. I'm trying to channel Rembrandt without being brown."
The path to Richmond appeared when he was asked to be a judge for the annual Richmond Illustrators juried show. George and his wife came down for the weekend, spent time walking around the Fan, and were charmed by the city and its architecture. "Richmond feels European," he says — "old and so beautiful. Drive down Monument Avenue and you feel like you're in Europe."
And after 10 years in New York City, they were getting burned out. "One of the reasons I moved is because there's lots of good food and wine here," he says, "lots of farmers' markets. There's more of a connection to the farming scene here."
A Kansas City native, George is so enamored of his adopted hometown that he harbors a fantasy of buying a block of Grace Street and opening an urban paradise. "It'll have a coffee shop, restaurants and shops. I'm always looking for good espresso. But my coffee shop won't have any to-go business."
But chances are there will be large-scale oil paintings and comic-book reading in a Josh George coffee shop.