COLFAX — If Henry Stinson’s vivid oil paintings offer an intensified view of life it may be because he’s seen it from the other side.He was not quite 5, playing with a toy truck behind the family couch on a Sunday after the Fourth of July when an electric cord got in his way.
“My mom was frying chicken. That’s probably why they didn’t smell me right away,” Stinson said.
He wasn’t strong enough to pull it out with his hands so he used his teeth.
“Then I was on the ceiling looking down on myself. I saw the tunnel, the light, the whole thing.”
He spent two weeks in the hospital. He credits the accident for allowing him to see that there’s more to life than just the physical.
“It was such an uplifting experience,” said Stinson, 56, who lives in Colfax where his paintings are on display at the Colfax Branch of Whitman County Library. Stinson will speak about his work while painting someone from the audience at a Meet the Artist event at the library next Thursday.
Stinson likes to work big and fast. He doesn’t labor over details. Instead he looks for “color shapes and
harmonies.” Among the paintings on display in Colfax are some portraits of Pullman roller derby girls from his “Nine Muses” series. In each, a young woman in a derby helmet looks out at the viewer. His brush captures scrappy, wary, bold and feminine natures.
“I love to paint people. I love quirky. I’m a little odd myself, so I can relate,” said Stinson, who lives in Colfax with his wife, Debby, and their 14-year-old daughter.
When all together, the “Nine Muses” form a 10-foot-tall by 10-foot-wide image. Each painting took three to four hours to complete.
“When you paint big and fast there’s an energy to it, there’s a physicality to it. You actually work up a sweat. I make decisions very quickly, trust in a higher power, get out of my way and do what I need to do,” he said.
He ends up keeping most of his large paintings because they are out of many people’s price range, he said. The most he has sold a work for is $11,000.
As a youth Stinson kept his proclivity for art hidden for a long time. His dad was a career military man and an older brother had already declared himself an artist.
“The whole idea of both his boys being artists was just a little too much to handle,” said Stinson, who was 30 when he found a teacher that took him to the next level as an artist, Ron Lucas of Seattle.
Stinson’s subjects are often light-hearted and inspiriting. By the time he was 39, his parents, brother and sister had all died. Paired with his childhood accident, this led him to want to infuse his work with hope.
In another series Stinson built 100 robots from things around his house (a door knob, cellphone, pepper shaker) and then painted each one on 6- by 6-inch canvases. The works were exhibited at the Bonner David Galleries in Scottsdale, Ariz. The CEO of Nike bought 36 of them, he said. Eventually all were sold and a German company later turned the series into a 2,000-piece puzzle.
“Usually I would never do that many of one thing. It’s not in my nature. I get bored.”
What: Meet the Artist: Henry Stinson
When: 7 p.m. April 21
Where: Colfax Branch of Whitman County Library
Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.