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Home FEATURES Studio Visits Studio Visit: Henry Lewis

Studio Visit: Henry Lewis

Written by Andreas Trolf & Mike Short   
Monday, 26 March 2007 06:47
Andreas and Mike Short check out this SF artist's studio down in lurker-ville.

By Andreas Trolf and Mike Short

This week we go hassle San Francisco-based painter/tattooer/graphic designer/all-around-good-guy Henry Lewis.


Henry’s studio is located in scenic downtown San Francisco, just a stone’s throw from the city’s finest amenities: plentiful crack, regular crowbar beatings, and some of the world’s finest lurking. We couldn’t get in right away because of the lady camped out in the doorway, but she eventually obliged and allowed us to pass. On the day we went to hang out, this was taped to Henry’s window:




The studio space is shared but no one else showed up, so we put on some music (lately Henry’s been really, really into My Morning Jacket, which I teased him about a little) and drank coffee and looked over some of Henry’s recent works. He’s got an upcoming show at Corey Helford Gallery in L.A., so we couldn’t shoot a lot of the new stuff but there was still plenty to keep us busy and with which to entertain you.


This is where Henry sits and paints and smokes cigarette after cigarette, ostensibly for hours and hours every single night, after he leaves Everlasting Tattoo, where he works with these two dudes. If I didn’t know Henry so well, I’d swear he never slept. But in fact, that motherfucker sleeps a lot. He just does it in the middle of the day and is ultra productive at night. It’s a fact.
Once we got settled in with our coffee, I asked Henry to show us some of his recent work. This is the face he made:


Then he held up this lovely painting of a skull.



Henry’s been working almost exclusively in oils over the past year or so, and has become incredibly adept with the medium. There’s something about oil paint that you can’t get with any other paint; it has to do with luminosity. The layers all build on each other and when handled with some skill, the canvas fairly glows. It’s also a very subtle medium and difficult to master. Look at Rembrandt or El Greco. But since you’re so artsy you should know all this stuff already, right? If not, you can use your Google box and do some learning. Or better yet, go to a museum or look at a book because the colors on your computer monitor won’t do the paintings any justice. Sorry if I’m being pedantic, I’m told it’s one of my most glaring character flaws (along with the intimacy issues).
But this is about Henry Lewis, right? Here are some more of his fine paintings:


This was my favorite piece he had in the studio. I know it’s wrong to play favorites, but this one just really spoke to me. Perhaps it was the half-boob.


Like most figurative realists, Henry works from life. He doesn’t just make this stuff up, people. But since it’s also incredibly inconvenient to have a young lady just standing around in your studio all day draped in a sheet, he works from photos that he’s arranged. See how this one looks almost exactly like the above oil version? Go figure.



What’s that Henry? More paintings? Well, don’t mind if I do:




By this point I’d finally convinced Henry to turn off My Morning Jacket. I attempted to commandeer his stereo while Mike Short made some more nice portraits, but before I could choose anything Henry yelled for me to put on Sluts of Trust. Curses, foiled again by Henry’s musical predilections!
Then we just all sat around for a while talking about Gerhard Richter.
Here’s a photo of Henry that I feel sums up his character really well:


Henry’s a born storyteller and entertainer. He’s always going, “Wait, wait…did I ever tell you about that one time in Burkina Faso? I hadn’t slept for three days and for some reason this Russian pimp was after me…” Seriously, it’s always something with this dude, which is probably why he’s always the center of attention. Well, it’s either that or his giant afro acts as some sort of homing beacon. But I digress. See how Henry’s gesticulating with his hand? That’s how he tells stories—like an old Italian man. Only usually there’s more bourbon involved.




Another of Henry’s favorite pastimes is imitating old blues guys. He’s always, “When I was a poor black sharecropper we used to sing this old negro spiritual. Like to hear it? Here it goes…ooohh oh oh oh.” That’s what this photo is of.






This is a portrait of Henry’s father.


After a while Henry got sick of me whining about my girl problems. He said, “Man, this is about me okay? Not you. This is my time!” and then he just told Mike and me that we were starting to cramp his style and that we should probably make ourselves scarce so that he could get some work done. As Mike packed up his camera and lights Henry just sat down, ignoring us, and got back to work.


Then he said, “Hey man…” and I thought everything was cool again and we could continue talking shit. I said, “Yeah dude?” with a hopeful smile on my face, but he just told me to make sure to include a link to his website and I was all, “Oh, okay.” To be fair, Henry wasn’t exactly sure what his website was, nor when it would be up. So to be safe, you should probably check both moremocking and moremockingsf in the next couple of weeks.

Every good artist has a huge collection of stuff. It’s true. They keep random shit taped to their walls for inspiration and referencing. I know what you’re thinking, you’re like, “But I’m an artist and I don’t have anything taped to my walls, smart guy!” You know what? That may be the case, but it just means that you’re not a good artist.





Mike and I snapped a few more photos as Henry’s humming grew ever more impatient.




Then he snapped and came at us with a hammer.


Oh yeah, you can contact Henry through Everlasting Tattoo or, more likely, the bar next door.
I love you, Henry. The hammer wounds are healing nicely.

That's it I guess. Still, there's always this. {moscomment}

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