Painter Allen Levy’s style is one that’s all his own — literally. With practically no formal training, Levy has spent the last eight years organically developing his craft. Starting Wednesday, his work will be on display at Studio 5 Gallery at the Workhouse Arts Center in the exhibit “Endless Horizon.”
An Indiana native, Levy graduated from Purdue University with a degree in marketing. During his last semester, he took a painting class and quickly learned not only did he love the art form, but he was good at it.
“The teacher told me: ‘Always remember, you have talent,’” Levy said. “And I filed that in the back of my mind.”
Levy, who now lives in Woodbridge, moved to the area in 1998. It wasn’t until 2005 that he picked up a paint brush again.
“It all started in my garage,” Levy said. “I started painting in the garage and sort of developed my own style ...” That style can be characterized by a layering technique.
“I use mostly acrylic paint but it’s all about the layering,” he said.
“Each of Levy’s pieces is developed first through palette knife work and under-painting. From there, Levy layers paint on the canvas, varying the technique slightly every time.
“Sometimes there are really thick layers of paint ... sometimes it’s wet on wet, sometimes it’s wet on dry,” Levy said. “I use pallet knives to add or remove paint and then you can start to see through the layers.”
After a friend of Levy’s saw his work, he managed to get him into a gallery back in his home state. To Levy’s pleasant surprise, his paintings started to sell.
“I knew there was some demand,” he said. “I knew I had some potential here with it being my passion.”
Four years ago, Levy, who was working in the marketing and circulation department at USA Today, made the decision to pursue art full-time.
“I turned in my resignation ... and just said, I’m going to follow my passion and see how things go for a few years,” Levy said.
Today, Levy is an associate member at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, though he does most of his work in Lorton.
While Levy said most of his pieces range between 10 and 12 layers of paint, there is no hard-and-fast rule.
“I keep adding layer upon layer until it gets to the point where it just feels right,” Levy said. “It’s finished when it feels right and that’s kind of the way I go about it ... I just kind of let the painting take me in its own direction ... I go with a feel, a gut feel.”
Despite the name of the exhibit, Levy said he isn’t trying to create a landscape. Rather, a horizon is just one of the many interpretations of his work.
“It’s like a dreamscape,” he said. “What I’m painting isn’t anything specific but a collection of what I’ve seen in the past somehow coming out on the canvas in its own unique way.”
Though Levy’s work started out as strictly abstract, he said he is beginning to work a little bit more in the realm of realism, including adding clouds or a reflection in the water. But as with the layering technique, it varies from painting to painting.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Levy said.
He may not have taken the traditional path, but Levy is happy he made the decision to follow his passion.
“I’m not a typical go to school and get trained [person],” Levy said. “It’s just kind of like I discovered my ability a little bit later in life.”