The year was 1969. The Space Age consumed America and Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon. However, then 7-year-old Jon Flaming was preoccupied with the wild Texas west. “It was like another world—filled with waiting adventure,” the burgeoning Dallas-area artist says. “This seemed like a place where anything was possible.”
It turned out anything was possible—including transforming Texas from his childhood playground into an inspirational well eventually fueling a fine-art career. Surrounded by vintage cowboy hats, Flaming depicts his great state through large-scale oil-on-canvas paintings featuring anything from ordinary farmhouses to the extraordinary, like his Picasso-esque “Modern Cowboy” series. Piece by piece, he’s reimagining the Western art genre with a modern folk twist, and all in the dusty palette of home. “I pull colors from gravel roads, wheat fields, old rusted tractors,” he says. “I’m constantly searching for new ways to represent the state.”
Born to musicians, Flaming has long nurtured his imagination. “I’ve always needed to create,” says the artist, who began his career as a graphic designer. After putting his kids to bed, he’d work relentlessly on personal pieces. The local art world soon took notice and he earned representation at David Dike Fine Art and the interest of high-profile collectors. Eventually, he decided to pursue painting full-time, crediting his success to experience and habit: “I focus energy on decisions that drive my work forward,” he explains.
Flaming channels much of that energy into seeking inspiration, in architecture, music, or even photography. When an idea hits, he sketches it first before scanning it into Adobe Illustrator to fine tune colors and composition. “I’m pretty certain of the work before putting a brush to canvas,” he adds. Flaming prefers oils for their slow drying process and “exibility, which allow him to work sections longer and dial in on precision. “I try to tell a story with as few elements as possible,” he says.
For Flaming, those stories are constant. “There aren’t enough lifetimes to share all the ideas in my head,” he says. So he works on them one at a time, including his latest collection, “Westland,” at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland. “I stand on the shoulders of past Western artists, but I don’t wish to walk in their footsteps,” he says. “I’d rather blaze my own trail. That beautiful old horse has already been ridden.”