Dennis Heckler’s landscape paintings take the viewer on a serene trip through the countryside of the United States. Heckler grew up in the urban setting of Buffalo, NY, but escaped to the country to visit his grandparents’ farm. These childhood memories grew into an adult love of exploring the outdoors, which shines in his art work.
Heckler’s style is influenced by the Impressionists who reacted to the invention of the camera by painting quick, gestural scenes with visible, energetic brushstrokes. Previously paintings were hyper realistic, but with the invention of the camera, impressionists sought to push the bounds of what painting could do outside the dominate realism. Impressionist painters do not just capture the scene in front of them, they interpret the moment, and translate their findings into art.
Heckler uses the impressionistic style to create beautiful works full of texture and color with gorgeous skies that make you want to step into his pieces. By using a palette knife, he creates a creamy-textured surface with the paint that allows for a variety of color. The palette knife provides an in-the-moment quality to the painting. You see the artist’s hand from the gestures with the palette knife which connect you to the artist’s emotions in that moment. With Heckler’s use of a palette knife, the viewer can follow along as the artist paints and tap into the emotional flash of creating.
The ability to capture ‘a moment in time’ causes the viewer to react to the beauty and tranquility of the scene. Heckler depicts idealized landscapes that are recognizable but enhanced which leave the viewer feeling hopeful of finding such a scene, of knowing such a scene might exist somewhere.
Where do you live and tell us about your work?
I live in Yazoo City, Mississippi. My studio is in a historic old elementary school only a few blocks away from my house. If you are of a certain age, you will remember the old schools with the very tall windows where long poles were necessary to open the top of the window. The studio still has the blackboards in it too. Great for sketches and teaching art classes.
How did you become a full-time artist, is it something you always dreamt of doing?
I knew I was going to be an artist from age four. Once, for a moment, I thought of being a baseball player.
Where do you draw the most inspiration for your work?
So many artists have inspired me but a lot of inspiration comes from what I see and hear and feel.
How has your work/inspiration evolved or taken on new meanings over time?
I have always loved traveling and being outdoors. Now my art captures moments inspired by my travels and time spent in nature.
What do you find to be the most rewarding part of the process? The most challenging?
Honestly, the most rewarding part of my painting process is appreciating that I actually get to paint! I love being in the moment, really looking at a scene up close and objectively. The challenge is to translate through the painting what I've seen and felt to the viewer.
Tell us about your process-what materials do you use, what techniques?
I paint in a contemporary, impressionist style with palette knifes on canvas-mounted panels. My technique is painting multiple layers of wet over dry paint to establish vibrant colors and areas of thick, lush texture.
How did you start to find your own artistic voice? What advice to you have for an artist struggling with that?
I believe most people in the arts have had a person or two that gave them a compliment or word of encouragement. Most artists are very generous with their knowledge. Find a mentor who inspires you with their open mind, work ethic, and passion for what they do. Use this as a foundation. Then learn how to trust your own instincts.