There are several words that come to mind when one thinks of the great Sir Anthony Hopkins: brilliance, talent, versatility and honor, to name a few. Fava beans, Chianti and lambs, to name a few others.
And now, with a handful of Hopkins’ paintings hanging at Ojai’s own Primavera Gallery, art can be added to that list. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, it was the stunning natural landscape of America — as well as the encouragement of his wife, Stella — that provided the impetus for the 68-year-old Wales native to start painting in 2002.
From the very beginning, Hopkins, who now calls Malibu home, painted instinctively and with an urge to describe how life and nature feel as opposed to how they look in reality. “I can’t plan anything because I don’t have that academic background,” said Hopkins of his painting process. “I just go with my instincts and flow — and I love bright colors.”
Indeed, Hopkins’ love for bright colors is evident in the five landscape paintings now gracing the walls at the Primavera Gallery, where they will hang indefinitely. “We are honored and humbled that his [Hopkins’] work is featured here,” said Khaled Al-Awar, owner of the gallery, which serves as an aptly colorful showcase for Hopkins’ vibrant works.
All of the paintings, fairly impressionistic pieces rendered in acrylics, exhibit a fondness for both bright colors and extreme texture. In one such painting, which features an incredible orange sky and what looks to be a choppy sea beneath, the relatively uniform dark-teal waves appear to jump right off the canvas. Some of those individual waves, which are reminiscent of rows of endive leaves, look as though they could be grasped between thumb and forefinger and yanked off the canvas for consumption — possibly accompanied with a delightful onion dip.
It’s no surprise that Hopkins is a fan of Vincent Van Gogh, whose works, such as the amazing “Irises,” are all about the painter’s interpretation of nature through color and texture. It’s a piece so beautiful in person that the messages inherent in its textures are lost when mass-marketed and sent around the world on postcards. Like the work of Van Gogh, a celebrated creator of highly textured impressionistic pieces, Hopkins’ paintings are about nature experienced, not reproduced in factual detail. “I like rugged landscapes and big skies,” Hopkins said. “I like painting what comes to mind and I like making my impressions.”
These impressions have often been formed during Hopkins’ exploration of America over the course of many cross-country journeys. Hopkins, who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, particularly identifies with Southwestern desert and mountain landscapes, and said he especially enjoys Santa Fe.
His ink drawings and paintings are abstract, visual interpretations of what he’s seen on his travels. Some of his paintings reflect the “brightness and loveliness of Mexico,” while others are clearly nods to tempestuous oceans and hillsides that appear to waver slightly, breathing softly from the canvas. Still others are impressions from Hopkins’ childhood. “I liked Van Gogh and I liked the impressionists, and I wanted to shove my hand right down into nature.”
If the works at Primavera are any indication, Hopkins can consider his hand officially shoved. He admitted that he’d never painted with acrylics before he took up painting about four years ago, but trying new things doesn’t seem to faze him. When it comes to painting, Hopkins abides by his own advice, which is the advice he doles out to young actors in the process of honing their skills. Acting, after all, is just another venue for creativity.
“I teach actors sometimes, and young students,” he said. “I say, ‘Don’t analyze it all. Just do it.’ ” Sure, it sounds like a Nike commercial, but good advice is good advice. “I just say, ‘If you never acted again, no one would give a hoot. Think badly; be uncool. Do the worst acting you can.’ ”
I’d like to tell Mr. Hopkins that, were he to never act again, a whole lot of someones would give a hoot. But it must be this devil-may-care attitude that ensured his success. So he’ll keep acting and he’ll keep painting, and we’ll keep watching from the sidelines, wondering how this mysterious Englishman got to be so cool.