In 2009, Sarah Harbin was enjoying an Art Walk with friends and like many, a Charleston Art Walk is not complete without a stop down the historic corridor to East Bay Street to Robert Lange Studios. Known for its uncompromising excellence in identifying talent that is without limit and exploding in creative flow, Robert Lange Studios has become the model for art, not just in Charleston, but throughout the country. Their culture of acceptance in the art community has brought in admirers from all walks of life including Kevin Costner. As Sarah soaked in the diverse range of exhibits, she was taken by one particular piece that was hanging in the single use restroom. Robert Lange Studios has a practice of highlighting an artist in the restroom area. As she absorbed the detail, she knew the artwork was already “mine in my heart.” She purchased it and today it is still a very meaningful part of her home.
That artist was Nathan Durfee. Today, Sarah’s painting has very defined meaning and that young artist, whose work she purchased, was awarded the Best Visual Artist Award four consecutive years from 2010 through 2013 by Charleston City Paper. This has been a long journey for the creative mind of Nathan Durfee. This isn’t a rags to riches story. This is a creative talent in the art community that has a wonderful story to share. Through his images and colors, Nathan creates a visual world that has taken flight and mesmerized children and adults throughout the Charleston community.
When I met Nathan at Kudu Coffee downtown, he was working diligently on a new piece for his father. one that would compliment a birthday gift of a new bike. I wanted to break the ice quickly and dig into the personality of this artist.
“What inspires you Nathan?”
He replied, “eavesdropping, other artists and brilliant people talking.”
Quite a profound list uttered without hesitation. This opened the door to a very candid few hours with this middle child who studied illustration in Savannah, GA. His playful, giddy laugh showed his childish innocence and proves very important in his works which combine adult subject matter and elegant landscapes. This careful tapestry of beautiful tragedy incorporates the bittersweet imperfections of life with elegance and sensitivity.
Many find that moment when inspiration hits and they can pinpoint that exact time when they just knew. For Nathan, he never had that moment. He summarized his career as “scattering a bread crumb trail” until he found his destiny. Now featured in Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans, Nathan’s work has found a niche in the Southeast. His style and approach is one of spontaneity. Many approach art with the idea of meticulously preparation, thinking though each brush stroke mentally for hours paint is lain on canvas. Not Nathan. He takes an idea and begins. It is refreshing to see him go from mind to creation so quickly and grow the idea with each minute and hour of passing time.
Like many creative types, ego does play into the personality type and is critical to pushing oneself to seek out their inner greatness. Nathan felt this early in this career, even when he was struggling to find an audience, Over time, he has developed a resistance because having too much of an ego could not help him become a better artist. Nathan also, on occasion will listen to patrons talk about his work and gain insight into how others perceive his style, characters and image depictions. It is part of his continuous learning curve.
Nathan, who shows tremendous maturity at this early stage in his career has been greatly influenced by Joe Sorren, Illustrator Phil Hale and Illustrator Dave Mckean . If you look closely and compare the colors and styles, you can see how the influence has rubbed off on Nathan.
Over the course of our discussion, we talked about memorable commissioned works, great customer experiences and future plans. On December 5, 2014, Nathan and Robert Lange Studios will be unveiling an eagerly awaited new collection.
“Nathan, if you are in front of a young student, whose life ambition is to become an artist, what advice would you give?”
- Don’t get discouraged
- Don’t get cocky
- Stay in between
This is exemplary advice from an artist whose style is already influencing other. For now, we see many years of amazing work ahead that will gain further exposure and further accolades for this Charleston talent.