John McNulty grew up in the steel town of North Braddock outside Pittsburgh. From age ten he attended Saturday drawing and painting classes at the Carnegie Museum. With a BS in Graphic Design from La Roche College, and an MBA from Lebanon Valley College, John served as art director and illustrator for several advertising agencies, and in print production for Giant Food Stores.
As a member of Central Pennsylvania’s painting group The Seven Lively Artists, he has exhibited at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Cape Cod Museum of Art, and many galleries in the region.
John has enjoyed teaching oil painting classes in Lower Paxton Township and Hershey, and Digital Illustration at Messiah College. His original poster illustrations for Open Stage of Harrisburg have been part of the local arts scene for three decades. His own painting finds inspiration in the landscape and the human figure.
Experienced in several media, John accepts painting and illustration commissions, and shows his own paintings at the Millworks studios in Harrisburg.
Here is a profile of artist John McNulty, Cornerstone’s artist of the month for May 2019.
Tell us briefly about your background & how you got started in your medium.
Ever since my early childhood I have been fascinated with color and visual phenomena. Like many artists, I have been drawing my whole life, but it wasn’t until high school that I realized that art was something I could dedicate my life to. For college I attended tyler school of art, and I will receive my BFA in painting this spring. I had never touched oil paint until 3 years ago and found it extremely frustrating at first, but very quickly I fell in love with the possibilities of the material. I am still learning every day, but the more paintings I make the more I feel in control of and find freedom with in the medium.
How does your medium inform your viewpoint? Or what do you like most about your medium?
Mixing specific color has been my most recent challenge to overcome, but the process of mixing paint has become a meditative one for me. It is the time when I can really settle into thinking about the painting I plan to make. It takes a lot of thought and attention to detail, but the specificity of color is very important in my work so I love this part of the process.
Recently I have been focused on the color green and how can I make a green painting that feels the way green functions in a landscape. I also think alot about the quality of light and how to paint aspects of the natural world in a way that feels familiar to the viewer.
Who or what have been your artistic inspirations?
I am constantly seeking inspiration from other contemporary artists, it would be difficult to par down into a small list. However the one artist who has been the most influential to the way I am thinking about painting now, is Vincent Van Gogh. Everyone loves Van Gogh and rightfully so, but about a year ago I got to visit his museum in Amsterdam, and the experience gave me great insight into him as an artist, as well as inspiring me to mix more specific color and to develop my own language as a painter.
Do you have a favorite piece in your portfolio?
My favorite piece I have created is titled “Light Rising” it is a fairly large diptych, informed by the abstraction of the landscape reflected in creek water. the painting is a very abstract field of brush marks in various greens, browns, blues and colors which reference light. The process of making this painting was very physical and allowed me to work loosely and quickly and I think that this kind of energy, coupled with very specific color, resulted in a painting which has a profound spiritual and enlightened energy.
What would be your advice to artists just starting out in your medium?
It is difficult to give advice to other young oil painters, because I feel as though I have just started using the medium myself. However, one thing I have learned is that every painting made was worthwhile. All of the ugly, bad paintings I have made have taught me something and it is most important to always be working and setting goals for yourself in order to learn and improve your craft.