The lines between work, creativity and family are definitely blurred for Little Rock artist and architect Jeff Horton. He and his wife, Jennifer Herron, collaborate daily in their thriving architectural practice, Herron Horton Architects, while his professional projects serve to inform and influence his oil paintings. And it all takes place in the recently completed home/office/studio the pair shares with their children.
It was during his own childhood that Jeff became interested in art. “I spent many childhood days drawing and watercolor painting from Walter Foster’s How To books,” he says. “It became apparent early on that I enjoyed art, and I’ve been pursuing it ever since. In fact, it was Jeff’s interest in art that lead him to a career in architecture. During a high-school career day, he shadowed an architect in North Kansas City, who introduced him to both the office and the job site. “By the end of the day, I realized that architecture involved drawing and design, and that I would be able to use my artistic skills,” he says.
While studying architecture at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Design, Jeff was able to pursue both his passions by taking a variety of painting and drawing classes as well. It was there that he discovered abstract expressionism. “This way of painting opened a new door me, and ever since, I have been pursuing abstract art,” he says. “This shift from a realism perspective to abstraction has been a real struggle. Abstraction may look simple, but it’s very complex to express what you cannot see.”
Jeff often begins a painting with an image or a photograph, pulling out individual lines and planes to create the painting’s unique perspective. His work always seems to draw the viewer in through its forced perspective and rich coloration. “As the painting progresses, it begins to form its own space within the two dimensional surface,” he says. It’s the process that holds the most drama for Jeff, rather than the final product, because he particularly enjoys watching the colors take on their own personality and direction.
The relationship between art and architecture is a much-explored one for this multi-talented individual. “In one of my fifth year architectural projects, I took photos of a steel billboard structure as research, and I decided to use the same images as inspiration for a painting that I was working on in my fine arts studio,” Jeff says. “The lines and openness of the structure drew me to paint an oversized abstraction, and to this day I try to blur the two-dimensional boundary to create a three-dimensional depth in my paintings. It’s this feeling of creating space on the canvas that makes a direct connection back to my architecture.” This freedom to experiment with space, color and line inevitably feeds back into Jeff’s buildings in a way that keeps his eye fresh and his creativity flowing.