Most of us have seen the painting while watching ABC’s Modern Family. It’s greets you at the entrance of Jay and Gloria’s stunning home. With it’s passionate reds and rich browns coming together in a calming sense of home and comfort, “Junk Food” has been admired by countless viewers. Many of you have emailed me in regards to this work of art after seeing my set decor posts and asked who created it and where can you get a copy of your own. I was more than happy to pass along the info I could find but it made me want to know more about the mind behind the highly loved painting.
Californian based artist, Nathan Rohlander created Junk Food as a part of his “A Different Point Of View” series. One visit to his website and it’s clear why people are so attracted to his work. His pieces are both soothing and mesmerizing to the eye. As his bio explains, “His work brings a contemporary approach to realism.” Rohlander was kind enough to do an exclusive interview discussing Junk Food and his life as an artist.
Interview With Nathan Rohlander:
RB: How did it transpire that your (and your wife, Amy Runyen’s) work came to be on the set of Modern Family?
NR: As a student at Art Center College of Design I started working in the entertainment industry as a scenic for music videos and commercials. Creating large scale paintings for videos like A Long December by the Counting Crows, 500 by Lush and commercials for companies like Mountain Dew, Nike and Lexus was a great education. Occasionally I would work with still photographers too.
While working on a shoot for Dave Matthews my right hand was crushed in a freight elevator. The good news is my micro skills are left handed and my macro skills are primarily right handed. The injury required two surgeries and took a long time to heal. It gave me time to do a lot of thinking. My decision was to become independent and focus on my dream as a fine artist.
Some of my friends started an art rental business in the entertainment industry. I sold their rental company a few paintings. Some of those paintings became popular and were used on TV shows like “Third Rock from the Sun” and “Las Vegas”. The set designer for Modern Family saw my work on sets and came by our studio to check out my art. They ended up buying a boat painting that hangs in the Dunphy house and Junk Food. They mentioned that they also needed a red piece for the kitchen in the Dunphy house and so my wife created the pomegranate for them. That’s the story in a nut shell.
NR: Yes, we watch. As soon as we sold the paintings to Twentieth Century FOX we started watching. Who knew it would become a weekly ritual and a favorite show? My favorite character is Gloria, that lady is hilarious and very beautiful too. Her sense of humor and accent are fantastic and it’s fun to see her and Jay chatting, joking or arguing in front of Junk Food. The next in line is Cameron or Cam, he is quite the funny man. After that I vote for Phil an awkward and funny individual. The whole cast is spectacular as is the show, thus it has become a hit.
RB: What results have you seen since having your work displayed on the Modern Family set?
NR: Wow, the response has been great. Someone emails or calls a few times a week about Junk Food. Some weeks it’s almost every day with multiple contacts in a day. Print sales are up and new clients for originals is on the rise. My waiting list for originals is growing and that is really cool! A lot of people have been introduced to my work through this show and the exposure is great. A big thanks to you too, Reckless Bliss, for making it easier for people to locate me. The people who fall in love with Junk Food seem to respond to the series of paintings on my website titled “A Different Point of View”. Quite a few gravitate to Maui, Popcorn and Happy Hour I think because of the similarity to Junk Food along with many others. I am very grateful to Modern Family helping the stars align. The set designer is fabulous and I am totally thankful to her as well for seeing the potential in my work.
RB: What inspired you to create your "A Different Point Of View" series?
NR: My paintings are sequential, one leads to the next. As a lover of portraiture I wanted a figurative expression that was unique. So when I began it started with shoe portraits. I would ask a friend for their shoes and create a painting that represented the individual, a portrait. It blossomed into commissions and a practice. In the beginning of my art career a conscious decision was made for the work to move from the ground up starting with the soul/sole. Then the concept progressed and the point of view, POV, moved up the figure. The series “A Different Point of View” are moments in time that present themselves to us daily. I practice staying vigilant and looking for the overlooked. Then taking that moment and crystalizing it on canvas.
RB: Can you explain the particular inspiration behind the highly loved piece Junk Food?
NR: A particular inspiration for this piece is hard to define. I believe in good times and good friends. This image is a moment observed from time spent with friends. It’s the result of a daily practice and a way of looking at life around you.
RB: Why do you think people responded so highly to your work after seeing it on Modern Family?
NR: That’s a very good question. I would love to think it is because the work resonates with the audience. A great work of art can speak to anyone. The true beauty in a work of art is when it asks the viewer a question. My guess is people identify with the lady in the red pants and the black sandals.
RB: Why do you create art, what is your purpose?
NR: Helping and influencing people is a passion of mine. Sharing what I see with others and relating it to their lives is rewarding. If we could all slow down for a minute, life becomes so rich. A lifetime of positive reinforcement from peers helped solidify the direction. An up-bringing from parents that work hard and perform at a high level gave a good base to build from. The reality of why I create is the love of drawing and painting my surroundings and experience, it is my religion and my compulsion.
RB: At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to pursue art as a career?
NR: After winning my first art contest when I was five, the path was set. The contest was sponsored by the local fire department. The grand prize was to have lunch with the fire chief and ride in the truck.
Art is what I have done best all my life. With a lot of help from great teachers and support from my family and friends it helped me realize my dreams. I feel really fortunate having always known that I wanted to be an artist.
RB: Where do you find your influences from?
NR: Observation of every day life. Frequenting museums and being an avid traveller have helped. Studying art history and the figure are true loves. How we as people interact with each other and our environments is the place I like to find fuel for thought and image making.
RB: What’s an average day at work look like for you?
NR: It varies greatly and I love that. It was great working on my latest drawing books and it’s very typical for me to work with a model. If I hire a figure model for the day it is usually in five hour stretches. When working on a book some days and nights are spent writing as well.
On days that I teach, time is spent commuting and in the classroom. Teaching is a joy. Working with passionate art students and helping them learn to see is very rewarding.
Work also entails travel and gathering reference photos. Studio days are my favorite. I love painting for eight to ten hours working on my fine art.
RB: Do you have a particular piece or collection you are most proud of?
NR: This last year I finished two books with Walter Foster Publishing, an educational figure drawing book and a head drawing book that were released in 2011. I am very proud of this accomplishment and it validates a life time of study and work. As for paintings “Moroccan Market” from the “A Different Point of View” series is a personal favorite.
RB: You’ve had several educational books published as well as worked as an instructor at various colleges; what led you to the field of education?
NR: Education is a way to continually learn and improve. I have been blessed with great teachers in my educational pursuits. Helping others and sharing knowledge is a passion of mine and it’s a joy to give back. Coming from a family of educators it was a natural fit. During my Masters Degree teaching presented itself and it has been a part of my life ever since.
RB: Being that you’re married to fellow artist Amy Runyen, how is the dynamic between the two of you when it comes to creativity? Do you ever collaborate?
NR: My wife is the best. It is such an advantage to have her, she is a fantastic artist. We continually help each other through our creative processes. It is so nice to be able to talk color, shape, space and form with someone that understands and has her own opinion. We as artists understand the world visually and it is nice to be around someone who sees the way you do. Don’t get me wrong we sometimes disagree but that helps make us better artists. She is a teacher as well so we have to be careful not to go into teaching mode while we’re working. We haven’t collaborated much but plan on creating work together in the future, stay tuned.
RB: What art hangs in your home? Who are some of your personal favorite artists?
NR: We have a small original print by the Clayton Brothers we enjoy a lot. Some prints from street artists as well. Different cultural pieces and folk art from our travels to Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, South America and Asia are the main staple. We like hand craft a lot. The paintings on the walls are mostly ours. We live in a loft and work and live in the same space. This means most of the work we surround our selves with is our own work in progress.
I feel Matisse has been a big influence for me in the way he looked at the world and Carravagio is a favorite for the way he painted. Alphonse Mucha is so inspiring and it is phenomenal the way he told the story of the Slavic people in his Slav Epic. Norman Rockwell impresses me with the way he translated community and culture into imagery. Currently Vincent Desidario, Jenny Saville and Odd Nerdrum for their depiction of the human figure and their dialogue with art history to name only a few. The list could go on and on.
RB: I am especially attracted to your work using oil pastels; do you have a favored choice of tool when you create your work?
NR: Oil pastel is a blast because it combines the act of drawing and painting so seamlessly. My favorite medium would be oil painting. Drawing in graphite and ink are a close second.
RB: In your opinion, what is the most difficult aspect of being an artist?
NR: Living in this rat race! I long to break free and will do so one day.
RB: What have you found to be the biggest reward as an appreciated artist?
NR: It’s nice to share the way I see the world with others and help people look at it a little differently. Seeing others find beauty and joy in something you created sure makes you feel good. One of my biggest joys is to wake up and find an e-mail from someone I never met before from a different state or country stating that my art moved them in someway, you can’t beat that.
RB: What advice can you give to budding artists?
NR: Keep the dream alive! To do that you must never give up. Excellence is the result of hard work, practice and experience. A person who is willing to work hard will out perform a person with talent who isn’t. Focus on surrounding yourself with inspirational people and images. Embrace passion! Be gregarious and feed yourself with museums, galleries and travel. Create boundaries for yourself and within those boundaries try to break free. A decision is better than no decision at all. Worry not about what to create, respond to the world around you and produce!
RB: What's next for you?
NR: My passion is creating figurative oil paintings and work that is based in the observational practice. To make more work about the world and people around me and continue to expand my global market place.
Before we continue on to the giveaway I wanted to take a moment to say a big huge thank you to Nathan Rohlander for taking time out of his day to to answer my burning questions and also to his lovely wife, Amy Runyen for allowing me to include her beautiful work on Reckless Bliss. It was an honor to feature your work and get to know you better!
After so many requests and comments and love poured over this painting Mr. Rohlander has generously offered one lucky person a SIGNED print of “Junk Food” for their home!
I am so thrilled I actually get to feature this print as a Reckless Bliss giveaway for someone to hang up with pride. It’s icing on the cake that Mr. Rohlander has personally signed this print for you too! The print measures 24”x16” in size.
SORRY CONTEST NOW CLOSED. GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE!
*Reckless Bliss receives zero compensation for hosting any and all giveaways*