Russell is an award-winning portrait painter with paintings in collections in Europe and across the United States. Russell has painted professionally for over 25 years, painting portraits for executives, physicians, university presidents, deans, judges, philanthropists, as well as private families.
Russell was born and raised just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in Moon Twp. As a young boy in the fourth grade, his love for art was recognized by his grade school art teacher Betty Phillips, and he was selected to attend the Tam O’ Shanter art classes for gifted artists at the Carnegie Museum. Russell is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia where he was the co-recipient of the Cadwalader Landscape Prize. It was during the two years at the Art Institute that he spent a semester abroad studying art and painting in Florence, Italy. That experience in Italy convinced Russell to make painting his life’s work.
Pursuing his passion for painting, Russell enrolled at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. While there he immersed himself in the Academy’s tradition of American Painting and was influenced by the great early painters such as Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, Cecilia Beaux, Thomas Eakins, and Charles Wilson Peale, the founder of the school.
During Russell’s training he traveled to museums copying the portraits of old masters helping him to learn and understand the lost techniques of these great painters. Russell is not only a portrait painter; he also enjoys painting landscapes and still lifes. Influences of the Bucks County Impressionists known as the New Hope School, and in particular the works of Daniel Garber and Edward Redfield can be seen in Russell’s work. He spent much of his time while in Philadelphia traveling to Bucks County and painting the same fields, quarries and river scenes that these inspirational painters captured on canvas. Another very important influence on Russell’s work is the world-renowned portrait painter Nelson Shanks. Russell would visit his studio during the early days at the Academy and take work out to be critiqued by Mr. Shanks. Later Russell would attend several workshops with Mr. Shanks at the Pennsylvania Academy and at Incamminati, the school founded by Shanks.
Since moving to Tucson with his family in 2000, Russell has enjoyed painting the American Southwest. Russell works in his warehouse studio in the Arts District where he conducts painting classes two mornings a week for the experienced artist. He also holds an open studio session one evening a week where artists can come and work from a model. Because of the demand for his portraits, he still continues to travel for commissions for institutions and families across the country. Although corporate and institutional portraits make up the majority of his commissioned work, the family portrait, especially children’s portraits are becoming increasingly popular. In addition, Russell is incorporating his skill as a portrait painter to include Western Art, depicting ranching life of Southern Arizona and Native Americans and their culture.
Russell is a member of the Portrait Artists of Arizona, Tucson Plein Air Painter’s Society, The Brown County Art Guild, and the Hoosier Salon of Indianapolis, where he was the winner three years in a row for Outstanding Work in Any Medium, Outstanding work in Portrait, and Outstanding work in Landscape.