James Halloran
LandscapeFlowersStill Life


This March I will be having a solo show at Mott Gallery in the Carytown neighborhood of Richmond, VA. I am very excited to say I will be exhibiting mostly new landscapes that I have been developing over the last two years. Many works have never been exhibited. I have been working in the tradition of the American Tonalists, where a landscape is painted with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. Please support me for the opening reception on March 26, from 6-9pm if you can make it. The show will run from March 23-April 22.


March 23-April 22, 2016
Opening Reception March 26, 6-9pm

Mott Gallery
3027 W. Cary St., Richmond VA, 23221
Closed Monday & Tuesday


About four years ago I found myself in the Freer Gallery in Washington DC, in a room surrounded by dimly lit landscapes that seemed to be depictions of night. I thought it was peculiar to paint that which isn’t there; darkness, absence, a fleeting moment. Whistler’s Nocturnes absolutely floored me. I had been deeply inspired by George Inness beforehand and through a bit of research, found they were championing similar causes, and during a time of radical change in the art world, they were painting radically subtle images. Paintings that were soft, fuzzy and mysterious.

The American Tonalists were charged with painting landscapes with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. They were said to have painted softly. They worked in the late 1800s and are often represented by James McNeill Whistler and the deeply spiritual George Inness. Whistler stated that “paint should not be applied thick. It should be like breath on the surface of a pane of glass.” Whistler’s been described as “painting air” and I think that captures my intent. The “air” could simply refer to the fog and atmosphere but it also could mean the emotional state of a place. Over the last few years I found myself painting more softly. I felt myself relearning how to paint.

Through the Tonalists I not only relate to the aesthetic and the process of blurring lines, subtracting forms and unifying color but also altering some exterior reality into another more personal, interior one. And then there is the obsession. The repetition. You’ll notice I paint the same subject more than once. I hope the places I paint are familiar, even if you haven’t been to the place. You’ll be seeing them again.

To start a painting, I usually use photos of my own or from friends that move me in some way. I often ask my wife to point the phone out the window, taking blurry photos at 70 mph on our long drives to and from Buffalo, my first home. The photos are usually gray, making editing simpler, akin to changing a B&W photo into color. The paintings start out as small oil sketches, then I increase the size when I’m sure it will work. At conception, I usually have an overall color in mind. Using some basic color theory I try to contrast the final coat with what’s underneath. Think red on green or blue on pink. If I’m lucky, you can experience two colors at once. Go see the Rothko room in the Phillips collection to see this technique perfected.

I want to paint like the slow moving, weightless reeds at the front end of the film Solaris, Tarkovsky’s meditation about loss using a ghost in space. I want to paint the way Whistler can almost will the paint off of his brush without the brush touching the canvas. I am deeply inspired by art and artists and I try to surround myself with things I find inspiring. I jokingly told my painting class that I am an obsessive painter, but that fact shouldn’t be applied to my personal life. Honestly, it probably should. I play music fanatically, often on repeat. I’ve listened to an album more than ten times in a row in one sitting, just last week. I watch the same movies over and over again. I consume something until the big pictures fall away into the details. I paint the same way. I can paint fast but I think and move slowly. A teacher once told me that “the further you walk away the closer you are to home.” I think the Tonalists have given me a home, for now. But honestly I’ve always painted this way, it’s just, like many things, a gradual change.


James Halloran was born in Buffalo, New York in 1983. Initially studying classical painting under his mentor, Mary Ann Doering, James went on to receive a B.F.A., with a Concentration in Painting, at the University at Buffalo in 2005. After graduation, Halloran relocated to Northern Virginia where he continues to work from his home studio. In 2013 James was selected to participate in the Washington Project for the Arts Select exhibition and Gala. He was also a two-time finalist for the Bethesda Painting Awards. James continues to exhibit his work both locally and nationally. As an instructor, he teaches a variety of classes for both children and adults.