Sunday, December 03, 2006

Alone With My Lyrical Paintings

I’ve been told that my paintings edge towards the graphically-influenced. It’s true that I was raised by the video gods that started with a VCR in every home (I remember my friend Howard Short had the only Beta machine in Poplar Bluff, Missouri), hacking games on a Commodore 64 and reveling in the first generation of Nintendo. I used my school lunch money to buy comic books, when I should have been eating from a government-approved menu. When I first left high school for college, I had dreams of becoming an animator.

A lot happened along the way. I fell in love with paint and the act of telling a lifetime of stories with a single image. I was never very good at working within a group – that should have been an early sign that I wouldn’t find happiness in the collaborative nature of animation, illustration or graphic design. The downside of my years directing an Arts Council were all the moments I had to share my decisions and ideas with my board of directors. I knew the ideas had merit and I knew they’d get approved; but the simple fact that I had to involve someone else in my creative process was uncomfortable. I changed my major from graphic design to study painting and drawing, under a photorealist, after only one semester in college. The design courses involved turning-in thumbnail sketches for approval as well as other methods of “hand-holding” for every project. The idea was to prepare students for the rigors of working with clients and editors; it didn’t fit within my process. Painting and drawing classes were much different. Start a work on Monday, finish it sometime Thursday night (or Friday morning) and hang it for critique on Friday. Love it or hate it, no matter… start another one in class the next Monday. It was the process of continually painting that I kept with me after those days had passed into memory.

Not soon after, I acquired a family – first a wife, then children. I left four years of the Arts Council world behind in order to teach and begin showing my own art for the next five years. Next, I left teaching to exhibit fulltime and I was still young so the draw of a dependable income didn’t influence me quite as strongly as it probably should have; though I never really considered the loss of steady pay as a drawback to my traveling lifestyle. A few years ago, while visiting Santa Fe for the first time, I took-in an Arthur Wesley Dow exhibit at the Fine Art Museum. I was forever changed by his early 20th century woodcuts created in homage to the Japanese artists of the “Orient”, as it was popularly called at the time.

Today, I largely create paintings with more than a hint of that graphic influence. My process tends to put more emphasis on the idea of utilizing printmaking techniques to create monotype-esque paintings than any actual effort towards modernizing subjects for the 21st century or attempting to create pure monotypes from the standpoint of a traditional printmaker. I truly enjoy the random process I invent along the way and live to create challenges for myself with each new piece. For example I have a painting on display at my gallery in Albuquerque that was created entirely with a brayer; another that was created using only a single 2”x4” uncut block of balsa wood. I like the challenge of unconventional materials to enhance my journey in the creation of a piece and the story it tells. There was a period of literally months in Montana, when I created stacks of paintings with only a bottle of sumi ink and a one-inch flat brush (not the typically recommended tool for a sumi-e painter). I like reading the rule book, then laughing as I ignore the laws of traditional painting. My daughter dreams of being a novelist, I tell her work hard to learn all the ridiculous rules of grammar so that no one has a reason to complain when you choose which ones to cast aside. – DN

No comments: