Photo realism is the ability of an artist to create images in a very realistic way—for which Marietta’s Jeff Surace does well. Surace does not implicitly state that his work is “photo realistic,” but he does admit he takes a painstaking effort in crafting his art in a manner unique to him.
Surace was born and raised in the Scranton area of Pennsylvania, popularized by the 2008 Democratic primary contenders Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who then were both senators seeking a nomination for the presidency.
Exposed to art around the age of five, Surace was given an oil paint set and he he created a horse, which he says looked great for a five year old. But it was perhaps the recognition and praise he received for his labor on the small painting that made something inside him click.
“I knew right then at that very early age this [art] was something I wanted to do,” says Surace.
As the years went on, he focused mainly on drawings, though only for his own personal collection. He admits an influence to his development was his Aunt Nancy, a high school art teacher in Scranton. However, his parents were a mainstay in keeping his creative aspirations alive, especially after they later moved to Downingtown—a small town outside Philadelphia—and later when he decided to set out for college.
Surace found himself in the midst of the hot, humid days of the Savannah summers while attending the Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD. At SCAD, Surace found comfort in exposure to other artistic minds on campus. He says these people would shape his influence and interest for art as he learned techniques of other artists.
Studying illustration, Surace says he found himself while at SCAD; college was a starting point to his awakening. Upon graduating at the top of his class with a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), Surace left SCAD determined to pursue a career as an artist allowing him to leave his own artistic “fingerprint” on the world.
Surace’s determination paid off enabling him to find work as an illustrator for magazines, books even architectural renderings. But none of these jobs satisfied his love of painting. As a result, Surace took a job as an artist in the decorative arts industry, a high volume art distribution network. Brokers in the industry, known as art publishers, supplied artwork to hospitals, hotel lobbies, and other corporate settings.
During this time Surace began to also define his artistic technique, one in which he uses a pilot knife in creating his images. He credits artists he met with the art publisher for exchanging ideas and becoming exposed to even more techniques. The techniques and styles he learned benefited his work in discovering how they related to textures and images.
Surace migrated from the high volume arts arena to working in fine art for himself. Becoming an entrepreneur had its pros and cons but he managed to find a way to keep the lights on.
“It’s a very tough thing to do [being an entrepreneur], it’s something you have to work at it every day; but it’s wonderful to be able to share this experience with Laura,” Surace explains.
He learned to carefully craft his images by making intricate slices into the fabric of his canvass; the slices would be laced with traces of color creating masterful pieces of artwork with a very real impression. Eventually Surace graduated to working directly in the environments he painted and began devoting his time to painting landscapes only.
“I want to be inspired by my work, it’s when I’m in nature creating I feel closest to God; I feel ‘third person’ like I’m a witness to what’s happening,” Surace adds.
His spiritual connection extends mostly to the Appalachian Mountains where he spends much of his time. Surace describes being the realm of nature as his current source of inspiration; he enjoys the immediacy in seeing changes happening as he is working.
In 1999, Surace and wife Laura opened Art Show, their first co-owned art gallery in Inman Park. Surace would continue to work on and off with the art publisher for the next 10 years until he and Laura decided to open an art studio on Marietta Square.
Surace encourages aspiring artists to learn what other artists are doing to sustain themselves in these tough economic times. He recommends creating your own art shows, or creating exhibits of your own at different and interesting venues. He says artists should take the time to become engaged with social media and create email distribution lists for developing their followings – which are essential as he sees it for success.
“I want my legacy to be where people can see a unique eye of what I’ve created in nature,” Surace concludes.