April 28th, 2023
“There’s beauty in naïveté” local Gallery MAR artist Aaron Memmott states, reflecting on his earliest works and the progression of his craft. He wisely chooses to embrace the journey and to view every oil painting that he completes as a channel marker on his voyage towards mastery — a never-ending quest in his opinion.
As a former art professor, Memmott’s scholarly, almost academic approach towards oil painting and his personal emphasis on lifelong learning has earned him a true command of the media. Somehow, each brushstroke feels both painterly and deliberate. There’s a look of effortlessness to his work that only comes from years of careful study and consideration. Whether he’s painting a sparkling snowy slope, a quaint farmhouse on the hill, a High West Whiskey still life, or a Park City Main Street cityscape, his incandescent oil paintings glow with reflected lights and soft, pastel hues, capturing the serene essence of each subject.
It was when painting one of his Park City Main Street cityscapes en plein air that Gallery MAR owner Maren Mullin first met Aaron Memmott. We’re proud to have now represented Memmott at Gallery MAR for nearly 15 years since. In our conversation with the artist, we discuss the magical happenstance of this first meeting, the artistic journey of the artist, and what he loves about living and painting in our beautiful state.
Gallery MAR: How did you first know you wanted to make art your profession?
Aaron Memmott: I’ve known I wanted to be an artist from a young age. When I was a kid I was really into drawing and skateboarding and graphics. By high school, I started to paint and by the time I got to college at the University of Utah, I didn’t have anything else that I wanted to major in. I never really questioned whether or not I wanted to make art my profession.
Gallery MAR: I talk to a lot of artists and what they struggle with is battling the practicality of turning their art into their profession. It’s so great that you had the confidence and the encouragement early on.
Aaron Memmott: I had some encouraging teachers and parents. In retrospect, I never really had a Plan B. I just pushed forward and made it work.
Gallery MAR: How and when did you discover oil painting as your primary media?
Aaron Memmott: While I was at the University of Utah, I was studying underneath Dave Dornan and Paul Davis and some of these great Utah painters. Then I went to a graduate school in San Francisco to the Academy of Art University. I majored in Illustration to get my Masters because I was thinking it might be more marketable. The Illustration study was really helping my drawing. By the end of the program, I had started taking a couple oil painting classes and had improved substantially since the last time I picked up an oil brush. I never did too much professional illustration work, and I quickly started selling my paintings at art galleries and fine art festivals.
I was also teaching. At the end of graduate school, I got a job teaching at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I was lucky to have that opportunity, so I was an adjunct professor there for four years and then I got a job in Savannah, Georgia. It was a full-time teaching position at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I taught in the Foundations program. The curriculum consisted of a lot of Color Theory, Intro Design, Storyboarding, and things like that. I was able to incorporate a lot of my illustration background into the curriculum. After three years in Savannah, I thought, “I think I want to give painting full-time a shot.” So I quit my job, and I left Savannah. I’ve been painting and haven’t taught in that capacity since. It’s been about 15 years.
Gallery MAR: I love to hear how your teaching style informed your painting style and vice versa.
Aaron Memmott: They really did feed each other. Through teaching, you’re continuing to study, so it all goes back into your own work. Right after I left Savannah and came back to Utah, I met Maren. I was painting on Main St. in Park City. She just kind of stopped and looked at my painting and very nicely said, “you know, there are city ordinances about painting in the street, but I just opened a gallery down the street. You should come in and paint there.” I’ve been showing at Gallery MAR ever since. That was a great happenstance, and it’s been incredible to be with Gallery MAR for all these years.
Gallery MAR: What have you love the most about working with Gallery MAR and owner Maren Mullin?
Aaron Memmott: She is just easy to work with – she’s totally understanding and definitely seems to have a way of looking at paintings. She has a great eye. She’s very encouraging and always has been. She’s always recognized the potential in me, and it really makes you feel good, knowing that she has your back.
Gallery MAR: Seeing your work around Gallery MAR, it seems that you have really developed quite a beautiful style as well. I can always recognize an Aaron Memmott brushstroke in the gallery. I see some influences of impressionism in your work, but there’s something else very distinctive about it. How would you describe your artistic style?
Aaron Memmott: I would say that my style is contemporary, representational with a painterly quality. I build the painting in layers. I’ll do some direct painting and then do some glazing along the way with these transparent glazes. Then I work back in and build up the lights on top of that. In terms of what makes it an “Aaron Memmott,” honestly that’s just an evolution of time.
Gallery MAR: A lot of your work is also Western-inspired. We love your High West Whiskey still lifes, your snowy mountainscapes, your Main Street Park City cityscapes, and all of your Utah subject matter. What do you love the most about painting Utah?
Aaron Memmott: I love the diversity of subject matter that Utah offers, and it’s all subjects that are in my backyard. I don’t have to reach very far to find interesting things. Seasons change which creates interest. I’ve always painted my surroundings, but I’ve loved getting back to Utah where I’ve spent a lot of time and have family roots.
Gallery MAR: What do you love the most about living in Utah? What’s your favorite thing about Park City in particular?
Aaron Memmott: Park City is just a fun, great mountain town. It’s full of vibrancy and people from all over the world. Plus, it has this old, quintessential Western historic Main Street which I’m a sucker for. I love the seasons here as well – winters are incredible, especially this one. In summer, you’ve got mountain biking and hiking and fishing. All those outdoor things are what make Utah so special. Park City is a one-of-a-kind place.
Gallery MAR: What are you currently most excited about in the studio?
Aaron Memmott: At the moment, I’m shuffling a bunch of things. In terms of a piece itself, I’ve got a piece here that has a rotating rooftop and it’s under this blanket of snow and there’s a train coming through. I like the palette of that. There’s something about the pastel palette, that I’ve always been drawn to, with gray-blues and pops of warm, pastel colors. The piece is very pattern-heavy, but it has a soft quality, too. Conveniently, it’s also my backyard. I actually was inspired by the reference photo that I was getting while trying to take some photographs for your former SnowMARgeddon blog (photo and painting in progress above). Sometimes you just get that cool shot that you just know is going to make an even better painting.
We would like to extend our gratitude to local artist Aaron Memmott for his time and insights. Find all of Aaron Memmott’s available work here at Gallery MAR on our website or in the gallery today.
Interviewed and written by Veronica Vale