Artist Bob Corley shares process, works with JCA audience

Published 6:50 pm Friday, November 20, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Every artist’s reception at the Johnson Center for the Arts is a big event. But those that feature local artists are especially special because “they’re homefolks.”

The artist’s reception at the JCA Thursday night was for one of Pike County’s native sons, Bob Corley.

Never mind that the world is in the midst of a pandemic. Never mind that masks are required by governor’s order. Never mind social distancing. Just never mind. Bob Corley is homefolks and, to top it off, an amazing artist, and it was fitting that he was honored by his hometown Thursday night.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Corley’s exhibition, “Beyond the Photograph,” is a captivating look at photography as Corley sees it in the digital age.

The Troy native began his artistic career as a traditional photographer, but three years ago, he shifted his focus from traditional photographic images to “digital painting,” which he describes a “combing photographic skills with editing techniques.”

To put it simply, Corley said he takes a photograph and, when his has finished “digitally painting” the photograph, “there is nothing left” of the original photograph.

And, Corley’s artwork is about shadows, about his fascination with shadows.

With a computer and editing software, that Corley said are his canvas and paints, he creates artwork that is even better than the original photograph.

The “Beyond the Photograph” exhibition features 15 of Corley’s digital paintings of people, places and things. One of the paintings is of a cluster of coffee cups, which would not be an interesting photograph as such, but, with nothing left of the original photograph, it is “Art!” one viewer exclaimed.

Prior to Corley’s art talk, there was time for the guests to view Corley’s artwork. Then, everyone settled in to hear just how Corley makes art.

To illustrate his talk, the artist displayed the painting of a beach scene on an easel and shared his thinking process for the digital painting.

“The photograph was taken on the East Coast where the sand is not Gulf-beach sand,” Corley said. “I liked the young girl in the photograph but I didn’t like her shadow.”

So, with his computer and editing software, Corley weaved his magic. The sand became sugar-white, and the shadow, dark, elongated and sharp edged. Better than the original photograph.

Corley said he seldom works on just one painting. Rather, he works on three or four digital paintings at a time. Some paintings take months to finish and one, took even a year.

Corley laughingly said a painting is finished only when his wife says it’s finished.

Asked how he chooses the subjects for his paintings, Corley said he is attracted to an image by its shadows.

“Without shadows, you can’t tell where the light is coming from,” he said. “There’s just something about shadows. Without shadows, you don’t have a painting.”

Bill Hopper, president of the Troy Arts Council, had viewed the “Beyond the Photograph” exhibition prior to the reception but, gained a greater understanding of digital art and, therefore, a greater appreciation for the art form after Corley’s art talk.

“All of Bob’s work has been considerably photo-shopped,” Hopper said. “I didn’t realize how much time digital photography takes. Bob actually changes a photograph into a painting, a digital painting and he ‘’paints’ with lights and shadows. Digital photography is an art form that I didn’t know about but now have a great appreciation for.”

Hopper said it was an honor to have Bob Corley exhibit his work at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

“To have a local artist’s work featured at the Johnson Center is an opportunity for our communities to see what these artists are doing and what they have accomplished,” Hopper said. “There is a wide variety of art out there. Our local communities have opportunities to be exposed to different art forms and different artists and that is not something other communities our size have. And, we should take advantage of those opportunities.”

The Johnson Center for the Arts is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. The Christmas Tree Extravaganza is the featured exhibit in the Mack and Mary Gibson Gallery. The student art show, “Art the Size of a Dollar Bill” is featured in the lower gallery.

Admission to the Johnson Center for the Arts is free.