George Dillon loves painting with lots of bright color — which won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s seen his work.
“I’ve always enjoyed using color,” he said. “I tend to think it causes a more emotional response.”
He counts Picasso, Matisse, Georges Braque and African art among his influences, and he’s a fan of the modern artists.
“They just stirred up my soul more,” he said.
Dillon wasn’t always a painter, though he took a year and a half of art classes in high school. He enjoyed it, but life caught up to him. He got married and had children, and took a job teaching high school.
So it wasn’t until he retired from teaching at the age of 55 that the Valley Springs artist picked up a brush again. His wife had a couple years to go until she could join him in retirement, and he was looking for something to fill his days.
“I didn’t really need anything to do,” Dillon said. “This just sounded like fun.”
He began taking art classes, and immediately became addicted. The Dillons were always early to bed, early to rise, but for a few months he was staying up painting until 3 a.m.
“I just really got into it,” he said.
That was in 1998. He’s been painting ever since.
That has partly been thanks to his mentors and teachers. He’s learned from landscape artist Charles White, watercolorists Penny Soto and Joan Dougherty, portraitist Gary Bergren and oil painter Judie Cain. Ben Kikuyama, a Hawaiian artist, has been a mentor in mixed media and 3-D art, as well as an inspiration, Dillon said.
His style has evolved over the past 20 years.
“When I first started painting, I did a lot of whimsical paintings,” Dillon said.
A lot of his early pieces also centered around scenes he and his wife saw while they traveled. She’s visited close to 100 countries, Dillon said, and he’s only three behind her.
“I didn’t think I could ever do a portrait,” he said.
That’s changed. He found a good teacher, and has completed more than 20 portraits now.
He draws on his experiences teacher for inspiration, too. His favorite piece (so far) is a spin on Picasso’s famous series of paintings of fellow artist Dora Maar. Dillon’s version was inspired by many of his female students — young women who would say they wished they were pretty. They were, Dillon said, but that intimidated the boys too much to speak to them. The girls took that as rejection, he said.
In his version, Dora Maar looks at herself in a mirror, with the two versions — one based on Picasso’s paintings, one based on a photo of Maar — representing how she may have seen herself.
Sometimes he just enjoys experimenting, too. He based a series of paintings on his granddaughter, in the style of various artists — Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack and others.
“The Picasso one has four eyes on the painting,” he said. When his granddaughter was 4, she looked at the painting one day, then said, “Grandpa, don’t give me so many eyes, it hurts my feelings,” he said with a laugh.
Some people don’t like his art, Dillon said, but he doesn’t mind. He enjoys creating it.
“When I like it, it doesn’t matter if somebody else doesn’t like it,” he said.
Dillon has been a member of the Lodi Community Art Center for about five years, and for the second time he will be the gallery’s featured artist.
He invites the community to come and view his work.
Dillon hopes visitors will find their own meanings in his works and their emotional response. For those who prefer some guidance, he offers a tip: “Often my titles help to discover what the art piece is trying to convey.”
He will be at the Lodi Community Art Center for a reception on Aug. 2, and invites the community to come out and meet him.