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I am a Raleigh artist, a craftsman, and a licensed Professional Engineer recently retired from a national practice devoted to power, telephone, and CATV utilities design and work practices. Over 28,000 people have attended my live seminars and countless others have used my DVD training. My passions include painting with acrylics and watercolors, turning and carving wood, and carving leather, but it is abstract painting that really floats my boat. My abstract paintings are represented by the Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. I was the owner of 311 Gallery, 311 West Martin Street, Raleigh NC 27601 from late 2014 to mid-2020.

Allen demonstrating transparent acrylic glazing techniques at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh, NC.

Allen demonstrating transparent acrylic glazing techniques at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh, NC.

Like many children of the 1950s, my first exposure to art was in landscape oil painting classes. I took lessons for several years until developing an allergic reaction to some of the related chemicals. Dad was a good illustrator/engineer (he designed and built office chairs and desks). From him, I learned illustration and woodworking techniques in our basement woodworking shop.

My interests in wood carving and leather carving began in the programs Dad taught for local Boy Scout troops and have continued to increase in intricacy to this day. In my youth, I made all of my carving tools and woodturning gouges with a forge and anvil. While at NC State, I also taught some Boy Scout classes in Raleigh.

My interest in abstract art and acrylic paints blossomed at the NCSU School of Design in 1961, when I had an opportunity to participate in beta tests of new Liquitex acrylic formulations under the tutelage of Joe Cox and George Bireline. I also worked on sculptures with Grant Joslin. The works of Leroy Nieman, Alexander Calder, Piet Mondrian, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock greatly influenced my early acrylic paintings and glazed tile murals. During the 1960s, I also worked with ink washes in abstract forms and watercolors for cartoons (yes, I like a good joke with about 3 levels of entendres).

My art interests took a back seat during the 1980s and early 1990s while I built my consulting engineering firm and related businesses, but they emerged again in the late 1990s—almost with a vengeance to make up for lost time. My interests in acrylics and watercolors exploded when I discovered the Raleigh Store of Jerry’s Artarama, its workshops, and the Art of the Carolinas it sponsors each year in November. I have studied under Judi Betts, Bob Burridge, Joe DiGiulio, Sharon DiGiulio, Sterling Edwards, Stephen Quiller, Bob Rankin, Michelle Theberge,and others in recent years.

These people have inspired me to take my personal art craft to higher levels. They  also inspired me to apply my love for teaching to art. I find that interactions with my art students increase both my understanding of why certain things work or don’t work well and my ability to translate that into action in my own art.

Like many artists, I enjoy some things more than others, but I also enjoy breaking out of the mold and trying new things. I find that walking out on a limb sometimes leads to greater views from higher trees. I often learn more from a spectacular failure than from a successful piece and use that failure to build even more spectacular success.

I just love color — particularly bright color! But, I have had to learn to reign in my desire for lots of color, because too much bright color often reduces an otherwise good composition to a ho-hum status. My Earth Series resulted from a conscious effort to concentrate more on balance and value contrast using rich, rather than bright, complementary and contrasting colors. Minor pigments in some colors are major pigments in others. The result is harmonious color. For many of these paintings, small splashes of bright color play against the main design to create movement through the painting.

I am enjoying pushing the limits of modern acrylics using combinations of transparent watercolor techniques and opaque acrylic techniques. These superb capabilities allowed me to give freer rein to my desire for lots of hot color in my Riots of Color Series. Each painting in this series has a relatively benign underpainting that is overlaid with glazes of bright colors, as well as complementary opaque areas. Each also contrasts freeform designs with structured shapes. Using both the right side and left side of the brain can result in a great marriage of opposing senses. I have taught the use of acrylic glazes in this style of painting at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh.

My Dots and Lines Series is playful. Most of these paintings use muted colors with a few bright spots or lines playing off against the basic design. This series uses simple designs, with simple color schemes, but each painting has lots going on to entertain the viewer.

My Southwest Series also allows me to explore the use of bright colors with more earthly colors, but in a very structured format. Many of this series of paintings feature earth tones and metallic colors in combination with bright yellows and reds.

As much as I enjoy abstract art, I cannot completely disregard my landscape roots. I mix a few landscapes in between  abstracts paintings to help soothe the savage beast. In recent years, I have concentrated more on seascapes–somehow sand and sea grasses just calm my soul, regardless of whether a storm is brewing or the day is bright and sunny. However, I cannot give up cool mountain air and rushing streams. In an earlier life, we used to spend our vacations wandering with our cameras into wilderness areas of Alaska and the western states to produce magazine cover photos. They were great times for us–and those feelings come back when I paint one of those places. Even the desert southwest in summer can be a richly rewarding place to paint.

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