Tulsa native and Impressionist-style painter Derek Penix credits his wife for his No. 1 ranking in the ArtDataIntel top artist lists, a compendium tracking competitions over time.  

“She has the blame for my awards,” says Penix. “I don’t remember when this began, but years ago, my wife said we should enter national shows. I said I wasn’t ready, others were better – I had a lot of excuses. I avoid the art world because I like what I like – not all art. I’m in my own world, not scouring galleries and magazines. 

“But she started entering me in various competitions, and I started placing virtually every time. I did learn that I work better under pressure and in a hurry, under deadline, when she’s saying, ‘The deadline is tomorrow.’ I tend to overthink and with time limits, I go faster. It’s fresher and I don’t have time to overwork it.”  

Always one to go his own way, Penix laughs and says, “I took a lot of art classes and goofed off in school and didn’t pass eight grade art because of joking and playing around – I was their first and only person not to pass art class.”

Penix mowed a lot of midtown Tulsa lawns once he moved to the area with his family in 1999, and soon found himself using borrowed and gifted paints from his supportive parents to get serious about art. He remembers choosing apples and pears to arrange with grapes from the vines of a lawn-mowing client to create a still life. 

His story of ‘discovery’ is one of happenstance.

“I’d done some paintings and was in Royce Myers’ gallery with my mom. Royce’s sister, Donna, was there, and my mom was like, ‘You should see my son’s art.’ Donna said to go get it, and I ran home a few blocks and grabbed a few,” he says. “When I got back, Royce had showed up and said, ‘We can sell these.’ And they started selling.”

When asked to foresee future artistic horizons, Penix isn’t quite sure, but he’s not too worried.

“I don’t know – ask my wife,” he says. “I’m exploring lots of different subject matters – I paint everything. Seagulls are my next new thing. I want to do more of downtown Tulsa, and maybe a show at Royce’s this fall. I’m still figuring it out. It’s a quest that continues.”

Penix’s Inspirations

Penix says his style is considered Impressionism, influenced especially by the French and Russian artists in that style in the early 1900s, and masters including Sargent, Zorn and Sorolla. 
Oklahoma native Leonard Wren is a “massive, overwhelming influence,” he says. “I didn’t know him personally, but back in high school, I was in awe; I’d see his paintings and prints at Ziegler’s. The colors and shapes and brush work and broken color and paint qualities, when you’re close up, just mesmerized me. My mom, Deborah Grimm, paints; she and her dad, my grandfather, were huge influences.”

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