Had he followed the money, Aaron Fields’ ongoing path to becoming a full-time artist could have gone in an entirely different direction. “In sixth grade one of my older brother’s friends asked me to draw a design for a tattoo of a heart surrounded by a thorny vine and a dagger through it,” he remembers. “She paid me $50, and I thought ‘Wow, that was fun and a lot of money.’”
Rather than putting ink on skin, Fields went to AB Tech for Fine Arts and briefly pondered photography as a more reliable way to pay the bills than painting. “I got a job at the Biltmore snapping photos of visitors,” he says. “I would shoot thousands of people a day and realized pretty quickly it was more customer service than photography.”
A fortuitous connection with New Morning Gallery led to a job there and confirmation of the inner connection he first felt in his high-school AP art classes. “During my interview at New Morning, I knew it was where I wanted to be, surrounded by all different kinds of art, in a gallery setting that is super relaxed and serene.”
At New Morning, under the meticulous eye and daring vision of legendary founder John Cram, who passed away in October 2020, he learned the peculiarities of a gallery — lighting, how to properly hang and group, the best shade of paint for the walls. Being immersed in that world also inspired Fields to pick up his own brushes again. “Jeff Laibson, a jazz musician and artist from Florida, was especially helpful to me in [teaching] technique and how to express abstractly what I was trying to figure out with my life.”
A friend at New Morning introduced Fields to Reid Dawson, owner of Foundation Studios, who enlisted him to help with setting up shows at the River Arts District complex. Through Foundation, he met Robert Nicholas, who hired Fields when he opened Marquee.
Increasingly, his work was finding space on his employers’ walls, often created at their request. “Reid told me he had a space at Foundation and wanted me to be the featured artist,” Fields recalls. “I had nothing finished, but there was a space to fill, so I jumped on it.” A three-panel abstract landscape sold the first week it was up.
Last fall, Nicholas offered him a wall at Marquee. “I got a panel of wood and made ‘October Drive.’ It really expresses my favorite time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway.” Fields frequently uses wood panels or doors as the surface for acrylic, spray paint, and paint markers he employs for his work.
“Clouded Sulphurs” at New Morning attracted the interest of a couple who fell in love with the painting and asked Fields if he would mind adding flowers to the spring landscape. “That was really fun, working with them. I should have had flowers from the start — they added more life and color to the piece.”
Looking back to a time in his life when he was so uncertain if the artist’s way could be his, Fields marvels at where he is today. “The way things fell into place confirmed daily that it was happening. Painting has shown me a lot of who I am as a person — that I can make mistakes and use them in a piece. Keep moving forward and it will work out.”
Aaron Fields, Asheville. Fields’ work is represented in the River Arts District at Foundation Studios (27 Foundy St., Ste. 10, foundationstudiosavl.com) and at Marquee (36 Foundy St., marqueeasheville.com); and in Biltmore Village at New Morning Gallery (7 Boston Way, newmorninggallerync.com). Also find him on Instagram: @aaronfields24