JJ Cromer


J.J. Cromer is a fine self-taught artist and a very well educated young man. Not a credential one often hears about a self-taught artist, nevertheless it is a fact. Having a bachelor’s degree in history and two master’s degrees, one in English and another in library science means he is well schooled, just not in art. His penchant for education comes naturally enough; both parents were science teachers. He was not encouraged toward art when he showed an aptitude for drawing in childhood but he says his mother was supportive of his creative instincts, his father clearly wanted him to become a doctor or lawyer.  This is a bit poignant, since his father had some aspiration to be an artist in his youth. 

Being an artist though was not a practical thing to do and after all practical is how life is supposed to be when you live in small towns of southwest Virginia.  Cromer was born in 1967 in Princeton, West Virginia. He grew up in Tazewell, Virginia and except for his years in college, has lived in this corner of Virginia most of his life working in a  public library.  Soon after he and wife Mary were married, he began to “draw” incessantly. It was a pastime while watching television in the evening. The pastime gave way to obsession and drawing developed into painting.

Experimenting with new techniques and learning rapidly what works for him, he has developed technical competency and his own unique set of artistic styles. His works are expressive and vivid.  Often they are obsessively detailed.  Objects may be recognizable but always describe his special viewpoint. They are sometimes witty, sometimes satirical, or even sad, but rarely obvious or “normal”.  He is often partial to faces and once expressed a “desire to paint all the faces in the world”.  A formidable task indeed, but given the range of emotions he captures, and the obsessive nature of his labor, one wonders is it inconceivable?  Cromer’s works have grown in scale while retaining intensity.  They not only entertain but often challenge the viewer.

Since his first exhibitions in 1999, Cromer’s works have rapidly gained widespread recognition by art galleries and astute collectors throughout the United States.  In addition to many private collections his works are included in the permanent collections of the High Museum of Art, Taubman Museum of Art, Intuit: the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, the American Visionary Art Museum, and Longwood Center for Visual Arts among others.