The Simpsonville artist John Pendarvis spends a lot of time sitting at his desk. He stares at multiple screens while wearing faded jeans, an oversized sweatshirt, and low top Converse All Stars—the unofficial uniform of computer programmers, which Pendarvis is and has been for the past several decades. First with Fluor/Daniel and currently with IBM. But it’s the paint splashes on those old jeans that tell the story of Pendarvis’s true profession.
After receiving a degree in math from South Carolina State University and pursuing graduate work at Clemson in numerical analysis, Pendarvis moved to New York to attend The Art Students League. It was during art school that the artist made the decision to take his work to the next level. “One of my professors was talking about decisions you make in your life,” says Pendarvis, “and that at some point you’re going to have to decide you’re no longer an amateur. So after that when anyone asked me what I did, I would say I was a professional artist.”
The computer geek in him has always been in perfect harmony with the artist. “Computer programming is a lot like art,” says Pendarvis. “It has symmetry, it has logic, it has flow, it has balance—art has all of those things.” It has been said the best computer programmers are musicians for their ability to see beauty in complex numerical systems. It should come as no surprise Pendarvis plays an instrument. “I went to college on a saxophone scholarship,” he says.
Pendarvis has no fixed subject matter, but when something strikes him, be it masks, dogs, or even saxophones, he goes at it full steam, creating a series which often develops into 40 or 50 works spanning two to four years. “As you’re working on one piece, it may lead you in a direction to try this or try that,” says Pendarvis. “I like working on a lot of pieces at one time.”
His media are just as varied as his subject matter. Now working on a series of 36 12-by-12-inch self-portraits, Pendarvis is experimenting with mixed media, collage, conte crayon, palette knife, charcoal, and encaustic, which is painting with hot wax. “I’ve been working with encaustic for a couple of years,” says Pendarvis. “It’s a little different technique, but I really like the texture.” Pendarvis notes that even though painting with wax has been around for centuries, it’s recently become the “in” thing to do. “So I’ve backed off of it a little bit because of that,” he says. “I don’t want to be en vogue—what fun is that?”