Painting anything from enormous abstracts to seaside landscapes, Jim Grabowski never forgets to incorporate a feel of adventure and “unpredictability” into his work – “you wanna have surprises,” he says. To ensure an unexpected outcome, Jim insists he never draws preliminary outlines, “letting the first stroke dictate what the next one is going to be.” He describes one of his recent favorites – a vertical abstract primarily done in greens, purples, whites and yellows – as continuously “unfolding like the skins of an onion. Every time you look there’s something new going on.” A prolific painter and aficionado in both realism and the abstract, Jim has covered thousands of canvases of varying sizes, ranging from medium – a 24 in. x 30 in. – to colossal, his largest being a 9 ft. x 13 ft. diptych at the New Britain General Hospital.
Jim graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 1966. After a year of teaching art in Meriden, CT, he returned to Central to pursue his Master’s degree. Next he spent a few years teaching in West Hartford, and at the Institute of Living in Hartford. He focused on encouraging students to throw themselves into their art, to find ways to succeed and express themselves. However, during his time as a teacher, Jim found that he needed to do more; he needed to create. Painting in every spare moment at home, Jim often brought his pieces into school. As he developed a following and gained confidence, he stopped teaching and took to the road with his work. He cites his first “big break” as Glastonbury Art’s own “On the Green” Show Fine Art & Craft Show. He continues to honor his roots by devoting himself to the continued success of “On the Green”.
After 20 years of doing shows, he was able to cut back on the traveling and make a career producing work for his client base and by selling his work through art galleries across New England. Images Art Gallery in Briarcliff Manor, NY and Chabot Gallery (the number one gallery in Providence, RI) are just two of the many venues where his work can be viewed and purchased.
Now a successful and renowned commission artist, Jim’s job demands that he must sometimes paint for an audience. Nevertheless, he remains true to himself, attesting that his goal is to “create some new visual treat that he likes, and maybe someone else will too.” Despite his modesty, there is no doubt that his clients are more than content with the final product. After about 45 years as an artist, he has amassed an impressive collection of clients, including many well-known corporations. Aetna Life and Casualty, IBM, The Marriott, Harvard Business College, Apple, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Otis Elevators, and American Airlines, along with more than one hundred others, are all on his ever-growing list of collectors. Locally, The Hartford Insurance, Bristol Public Library, St. Francis Hospital, and Gideon Wells School are just a few lucky owners of Jim’s cherished artwork. His clientele expands well beyond the local level however; his pieces are proudly displayed across the state and nation, and even internationally, at various corporate offices, law firms, libraries, banks, hospitals, airports, hotels and retirement homes. A recent job with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line marked a momentous spot on his resume. Jim composed 521 heavily textured collages, color-coding them by deck, without ever seeing the ship. After years in the business, he has developed a knack for expressing what his clients want – though even they may not be able to envision it – using designs that subtly express the company’s values or line of work. When painting to decorate an airport, for example, he produced abstract works with bright colors that emulate flight. Jim believes that the key to success is to “capture the imagination of people.”
Though a veteran in the field, Jim never hesitates to try something new with his work. Though his primary medium is acrylic paint, he has worked most recently on a collection of dynamic collages that implement materials as diverse as paper, acrylics and foam core, putting them together in unfamiliar ways. In the past he has even added rusted sheet metal to his collages for increased dimension and excitement. His constant innovation exemplifies the enthusiastic artist he is. Painting for the sheer enjoyment of it, he believes that “the moment you stop loving it, it’s over.”
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