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Artist ~ John Van Dreal


Artist’s Statement: If modern art is essentially (and I greatly simplify here) an expression of an artist’s aesthetic ideas, social values, political ideals or feelings with a greater emphasis on a subjectification (or aesthetics defined by the modern artists themselves or the critics that support them), then I probably fit into a pre-modernist view of aesthetics.  In the pre-modernist view, the artist’s job is to create beauty, mostly by imitating nature (the human form, the world around us).  In this way, the artist captures moments, rendering them as beautiful, and thus reconciles the viewer to the common experience of being human and seeing the world.  The pre-modern artist does this by learning and perfecting skill, craft and the power of observation.  And while the artist does this in a deeply personal manner-- by indulging in the process and experience-- the result is something that is easily comprehended by other human beings in a beautiful and meaningful way.

My artistic style and method, as well as my philosophy about art, is founded in my admiration for the Northern European realists as well as American Realists of the early 20th Century.  As a craftsman, I build surface and texture through layered oil painting combined with thin applications of translucent glazing.  I have found that such an approach allows me to capture light as well as render form that has a sort of intrinsic identity.  This is especially important when working with still life, the figure and portraiture because character and spirit are necessary features that the work must offer the viewer while remaining a subtle expression of beauty as it is found in the simple arrangements of form within the quiet moments of life.  I study and report these moments by continually sketching, writing and painting on multiple canvases.

Of lesser mention, but of possible interest-- I often catch my cat Alice in the studio after painting sessions.  Occasionally, I catch her rubbing against the canvases, possibly infatuated with the images, the texture or just because cats do pretty much whatever they want to do.  This of course, provides plenty or actual cat hair, stuck within the glazes of paint.  I consider it textural and possibly constructive (as cats are virtually indestructible), but at the least… it certainly adds a little of the here and now.  Other organic material from the studio probably include a bug or two, my own hair, beer, cigar smoke, dust, and pollen.  Imagine the possibilities of a hybrid when science and art finally meet sometime in the future, through genetic cloning.

I also capture the actual pure color remnants from my pallet and employ it compositionally throughout the painting, providing a work that is a representation of artistic process, from basic subject sketch and composition through creative interpretation and the use of material and medium.  The completed painting is a collection of moments with nothing wasted or left behind.

Using this method, combined with traditional aesthetic principles, allows me to create contemporary images that are evocative and spiritual, and hopefully connect with the viewer on a personal level. By indulging in form and the aesthetic, I attempt to paint the denominators most common to human beings in their search for the beautiful and sublime, and thus hope that my art offers a sort of connection to good things.

Ultimately, I paint for aesthetics and beauty, not originality.  Skill, craftsmanship, passion, sensuality, light… these are things that I think will link the past with the present.  The content of my work is about the subtlety of these things as they are a part of the human experience.  The work is not about social cause, politics or morality.  It is, after all, the subtle things that provide the most meaningful links we share.  In this way, the work is done to connect to the individual and the personal, not the public or a social/political cause.

When the work is completed, I want the viewer to interact with the painting in several ways:  First, and most importantly, on a formal level... with form and content as first impression.  Then, on a figural level… as the images are revealing and representative of the human body or the environment around us as we experience it and as I experienced it while I painted.  The viewer should also experience the craftsmanship, skill and respect at which the work is executed.  And finally, the viewer should detect a subtle narrative (this is where my writing comes in) as a feature of the entire work in its ongoing impression.

Thanks for reading this.


Figure Polyptych 1 in Progress
30 x 30






Figure Polyptych 2 in Progress
30 x 30







Figure Polyptych 3 in Progress
30 x 30







Figure Polyptych 4 in Progress
30 x 30






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About the Artist

Original Art:  (Oil painting, printmaking and drawing.)  John Val Dreal earned his BFA in painting from Brigham Young University in 1986.  Since that time, he has been engaged in developing a career as a professional artist and currently has work represented by several galleries throughout Oregon.  His paintings are collected by artist patrons throughout the Northwest.  He is known primarily for his still lifes, although his portraiture and figure work hang in many collections.  His latest work is a series of paintings prepared for the 2007 and 2008 exhibition schedule at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Oregon; Coos Museum of Art in Coos Bay, Oregon; and Corvallis Arts Center in Corvallis, Oregon.  Please see his Resume, Artist Statement and Artist Biography for a list of awards, collections and a description of his artistic process and philosophy.

School Psychology, writing and system’s design:  In 1989 and 1991, John completed two graduate programs through the Brigham Young University College of Educational Psychology.  Throughout the first decade of his career, John practiced as a School Psychologist administering diagnostic assessment, consulting on specialized education and assisting in the development of special needs classrooms.

For the last eight years he has been engaged in the specific task of designing, writing and implementing a system of violence risk assessment and management within the Salem Keizer School District.  He has also been instrumental in exporting that system throughout Polk and Marion Counties as well as many other counties and school districts within the Northwest region and throughout the Nation.  He is a frequent presenter and instructor at violence prevention institutes and conferences throughout the country.  He currently sits in coordination of the Mid-Valley Student Threat Assessment Team, is a member of the Marion County Threat Assessment Team and a member of the Mid-Valley Partnership Steering Committee.

Community Service and Involvement:  In 2001, John was a participating artist in the Portland Kows for Kids city art project.  With this project, over 100 artistic adaptations and creations using five-feet long fiberglass cow molds were temporarily installed throughout the city.  Many were permanently placed in public and private settings.  John’s work is now a permanent installation at Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital.  The entire event raised over two million dollars for New Avenues for Youth and Trillium Family Services.

In 2005, John assisted in the formulation of Salem’s Salmon in the City, a project placing artistic adaptations and creations of five feet long fiberglass Salmon molds throughout downtown Salem.  John served the project as both a participating artist and as a member of the Steering Committee.  The one year long event raised over 130 thousand dollars for Salem Keizer Education Foundation, the Salem Art Association, Ike Media and Mid-Valley Partnership.

John is also an annual artist donor to the SITKA Ecology Foundation and the Salem Art Association’s Clay Ball.


For more information visit www.johnvandreal.com.




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