Contemporary realist artist, Michael Lynn Adams, is known for his luminous oil paintings. He was born in Ohio, lived most of his life in Southern California, and currently lives in Ashland, Oregon. For generations, his family has been involved in the creative arts. Adams recalls, “I remember as a boy watching Grandpa and Dad paint watercolors. Seeing images appear on paper was pure magic.”
In grade school, Adams entertained family and friends with cartoon drawings. By high school, his interests expanded to art history, and he became enamored by Michelangelo’s drawings. He wanted nothing more than to draw like him. While in high school he enrolled in college drawing courses.
Adams received a BA in Art from California Lutheran University. Shortly after graduating, he returned to his alma mater to be the director of the university’s marketing office where he regularly had the opportunity to do illustration work. In addition to his marketing responsibilities, he taught design, drawing, and painting. During his free time, he painted for pleasure.
In 2012, Adams resigned from his administrative job at the university, however, he continued to teach art. He also co-founded an international academic art event, The Representational Art Conference, which he directed for three years. In 2015, he made his full retirement from the university to focus solely on painting.
For every painting, Adams aspires to create a unique object of beauty. He loves the physicality of this world, and he believes that reverence for his subject leads to beauty. He loves the process of oil painting and draws on his interest in visual perception and the phenomena of light and color while he explores the details and subtleties in his subjects. The resulting paintings often bring him a curious sense of wonder. Adams explains, “sometimes, it truly is magic how pushing paint around on a two-dimensional surface creates the beautiful illusion of reality.”
Adams’ work hangs in private and public collections in the US and abroad and is featured in the current issues of Fine Art Connoisseur and Southern Oregon Magazine. A recent tutorial by Adams was published in International Artist Magazine.
“My art celebrates the simple beauty and vitality of commonplace objects. Painting these images is an act of contemplation that I hope produces objects that bring the joy of discovering unexpected beauty in things we often take for granted. A bunch of onions, a head of garlic, a sliced lime, a peeled lemon, can all bring a sense of wonder when we take the time to look.”Michael Lynn Adams
An Interview with Michael Lynn Adams
Who are you and what do you do? Why do you do what you do?
I’m Michael Lynn Adams, a contemporary realist painter.
Why do you do what you do?
I love the challenge of realist painting. Always curious to see what I’m capable of, I enjoy pushing my skills beyond what I have done before. In addition, sharing my paintings with others and learning how they feel about them adds to my joy.
How do you work?
My paintings are inspired when I encounter something that strikes me as beautiful and presents me with a painting challenge. Throughout the painting process, I search for clues of how to express what I felt when first experiencing the subject. My greatest joy as a painter is the exploration and discoveries of the way light behaves, and the fascinating patterns found in nature.
What’s your background?
For generations, my family’s been involved in the creative arts. I remember as a boy watching Grandpa and Dad paint watercolors. Seeing images appear on paper was pure magic. It still is, even when it’s me doing the painting.
I received a BA in Art from California Lutheran University. Shortly after graduating, I returned to the university to be the director of the university’s marketing office where I regularly had the opportunity to do illustration work. In addition to my marketing responsibilities, I taught design, drawing, and painting.
In 2012, my strong interest in art history, technique, and philosophy of representational art led me to co-found and direct the Representational Art Conference, an international academic art event. After directing three conferences, I retired from the university allowing me to paint full-time.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Curiosity and discipline. Curiosity to explore new ideas and experiences, and to challenge old ways of seeing and thinking. Discipline to build skills to put those experiences into a clear visual expression.
What role does the artist have in society?
Each artist offers viewers a unique way of seeing and understanding the world. Although my natural visual language is realism, I love the infinite diversity of ideas and forms that art can take.
How has your practice changed over time?
When I did illustration, I worked quickly to meet deadlines. I now work mostly without deadlines and relish the rewards of taking time to explore my subjects more deeply.
What work do you most enjoy doing?
I enjoy the process of oil painting, regardless of the subject.
What themes do you pursue?
A search for beauty in all things is my core theme.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
Early in my painting career, I spent three days painting and in conversation with Richard Schmid and a dozen of the best alla prima artists in the nation. This private event was a crash course in the world of professional artists. It profoundly changed my life and inspired me to work toward becoming a better artist.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
What’s your favorite or most inspirational place?
When I’m painting landscape, anywhere around Ashland. When painting fruit and veggies, the farmer’s market. When painting flowers, our garden.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Move in closer.” This was Grandpa’s critique of some of my early photographs. I’ve moved in closer ever since.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
To make and share art that people love.
In the Studio with Michael Lynn Adams