Glow and Gloom


Joe Parrott’s oil paintings display his passion for light and shadow

Certainly Joe Parrott inherited artistic abilities from both sides of his family. His grandfathers were painters and designers — one of them designed the first blade sign in front of the Tennessee Theatre — and his father both ran a screen printing company and was a set artist at the same theater. But it was the box of oil paints that passed to him after his grandfather died that put him on the path he has followed throughout his life, even while running the shop he took over from his dad.

“When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I’d set up a still life and paint it using his paints,” he remembers. “That’s how I got into painting. I would experiment with watercolor and sculpture, but I always came back to oils. I didn’t get serious about it until after I graduated from UT. I took no art classes, it was strictly business administration. So it started as a hobby, and I enjoyed it so much.”

His first love was architecture. “I just painted buildings around town. I painted Sullivan’s Saloon in the Old City a lot. That area was just slums back then (in the 1970s). I painted the Southern Railway Station. And the train yard from the Gay Street Viaduct over and over.”

Van Gogh influenced much of Parrott’s early work. “I used his impasto technique, using lots of heavy, thick paint.”

Eventually Edward Hopper became a major influence. It was the light that captivated him as he painted. “I’d go downtown in the early mornings when there was nobody out. The light is clear and pure then, and the buildings were pretty much shuttered. If I saw an old building with good light on it, I’d paint it.”

Gradually he moved into landscapes, still working in oils. And though he enjoys plein air painting, “this thing makes it so much easier,” he says, holding up his smartphone. “I can take photos and come back to my studio and paint in comfort.”

The District Gallery on Kingston Pike represents Parrott in Knoxville. His work can also be found at his website,

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.