Eric Anfinson
Eric Anfinson is at home in his own studio.

Eric Anfinson wasn’t always an artist but he has turned into one. He has humbly learned that just putting paint on a canvas or managing to sell a piece or two doesn’t really make a good painter. Anfinson has figured out that being an oil painter means living in perpetual doubt, becoming a critic both good and bad, being open to learning and insanely making paintings over and over again. The result? A style and unique vision that is so notably Anfinson, no one can doubt whose work is on the wall. On Thursday, March 1, The Studios Of Key West will open an exhibit of more than 40 of his new works in a show titled, “Without Within.”

Being self-taught isn’t easy by a long shot. Having grown up in Minnesota, Anfinson’s introduction to art was duck stamp prints and somewhere, dogs might have been playing poker as well. He actually came to Key West as a writer, only picking up painting to relax, a crafty hobby. Fifteen years later, he hasn’t written a thing since and has created an empire of an art career. “This town has a way of shaking it out of you,” said Anfinson.

“When I started painting, I liked my vacuum and wanted to exclude any outside influences,” said Anfinson, acknowledging his lack of formal training. “But after 4 to 5 years, I gained a creative confidence and became ravenous about collecting information.”

His chosen subject matter is always people, but he rejects traditional portrait painting and scoffs at realism. Having had a studio at The Lemonade Stand in Bahama Village, he said, “was good training to learn to defend my point of view to the public.” Now sequestered at his own studio at home, Anfinson can focus less on others’ opinions and more on his own.

His latest series is delightfully observational, much like Anfinson himself. In his real life and on canvas, he quietly studies people. Through his paintings, he strips his subjects of their most personal qualities and mutes and purposely distorts their physical appearance. Anfinson is looking for the universality of his figures. “I want to give the viewer space to interpret the painting how they wish.”

With a soft palette of earth tones, Anfinson will present the “I AM” series of 28 24- by 18-inch portraits, demonstrating people as a template for one another. Taking away the specific specialness of his subjects, he transfers that quality to the painting itself. What is happening on the canvas is more important than the actual subject, the clever crime of any good artist.

While Anfinson’s work is often compared to Modigliani’s portraits, threads of Degas and Cezanne can be seen throughout his style and brushstroke. His work has evolved over the years, resulting in a more refined, focused body of paintings and in many ways the portrait of the artist himself.

Eric Anfinson at The Studios of Key West

Opening reception

Thursday March 1, from 6 to 9 p.m.

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