'I can paint here the rest of my life': Local artist Luke Allsbrook finds inspiration in the landscape

By Anne Baker | Oct 02, 2013
Photo by: Anne Baker Artist Luke Allsbrook works in his home-based studio in Waynesville.

There’s something striking about seeing a work of art in progress.

Its layers are stripped down, allowing a glimpse of the inspiration behind the work itself. And, for local artist Luke Allsbrook, that inspiration often comes from the landscape of Western North Carolina.

Allsbrook was born in Chapel Hill but grew up in Augusta, Georgia. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts from Indiana University and a master of fine arts from the New York Academy of Art, Allsbrook returned to North Carolina and settled in Waynesville, where he now lives with his wife, Renee, and their four children, Boyd, Charlotte, Calvin and Margaret.

“I didn’t appreciate what a great place it was for landscape — there are so many different kinds,” he said. “I can paint here the rest of my life and not run out of subject matter.”

Allsbrook’s art is naturalistic and a bit romantic, and, inspired by artists like Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Van Gogh and da Vinci, Allsbrook favors realism over pure abstraction. Yet he’s hesitant to talk about his style of art, instead choosing to focus on the truth that he strives to convey through his artwork.

“I’m more interested in finding something beautiful and capturing it that way,” he said. “I’m trying to capture what’s in front of me.”

It makes sense, then, that Allsbrook is also attracted to the work of C.S. Lewis, the novelist, poet and theologian who also sought to depict truth through his work. Allsbrook said that the work of Lewis has had a major impact on how he thinks about not only art but also life, inspiring him to, in essence, humble himself to nature.

Lewis’s influence is especially evident in Allsbrook’s series “The Four Loves,” named after the book by Lewis with the same name. In 2007, Allsbrook completed four paintings that each represent the four kinds of love described in Lewis’s book: eros, or romantic love; storge, or affection; agape, or charity; and philia, or friendship. Each painting, which is 42-by-42 inches, depicts the type of love with a combination of landscape and figures. The series is testament to Allsbrook’s artistic abilities, but also to his philosophy — that art is complex, but not uncertain, because good art should impart life in various ways.

Allsbrook is a disciplined artist who often works outside in nature. Although he enjoys many different kinds of painting, including portraiture, still-life and series work, he generally focuses on two specific types: “plein air,” or painting the landscape while outside (the term “plein air” is French, meaning “in the open air”), as well as painting larger works inside his studio, which is located in his house in Waynesville, allowing him to be close to his family. When Allsbrook works inside, he often uses his plein air paintings as studies.

Allsbrook’s mastery of plein air techniques enabled him to serve as a tour artist for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during his visit to the United States in November 2005, an opportunity that Allsbrook called incredible.

“[Prince Charles] is an artist himself, and this is a way he gives back to and supports the arts,” Allsbrook said, explaining that the Prince traditionally brings an artist with him on his state tours in order to document his travels.

Allsbrook, who was recommended for the position by a British artist he met while painting in Normandy, France, traveled with the Prince’s staff for five days during the west coast stage of the tour, painting and drawing the landscape of organic farms in Marin County, California.

Allsbrook has a long list of accomplishments — his work is not only in the special collection of HRH the Prince of Wales, but also the U.S. Department of State, Forbes, Mercedes Benz and more. He has also had solo exhibitions in numerous North Carolina cities, including Asheville and Charlotte, and in places like Atlanta and New York. Yet, despite the honors, he maintains simplicity, choosing to concentrate on the natural scenes around him. In fact, it is his surroundings that Allsbrook finds himself coming back to whenever he is distracted.

“A lot of times if I get stuck, I’ll work for 20 minutes and take a break, and then come back,” he said. “You’ve got to go out and find something to inspire you.”

In North Carolina, Allsbrook’s art is available for purchase at Blue Spiral Gallery, located at 38 Biltmore Ave. in Asheville. View his art online at www.lukeallsbrook.com. Allsbrook also runs a monthly group for anyone interested in connections between art and faith. More information about the group can be found on his website under "ArtGroup."