Why the Abstract Expressionists Matter to Me

Screen Door Study Coming Along Slowly

Screen Door Study Coming Along Slowly

I have this conversation with my high school students so much, that I cannot remain silent about it on the blog.  Especially when we come to the end of the year in art history and my students, knowing the kind of work I do, ask me if I truly enjoy studying and teaching about the Abstract Expressionists.  I tell them that they are among my favorite artists and muses.  I have read major biographies on Rothko, De Kooning and Pollock, and have read The Collected Works of Robert Motherwell.  Of course it goes without saying that I have read biographies of Wyeth, Hopper and Homer and have studied their works extensively over the years.

But I draw much inspiration from the lives of the Abstract Expressionists (New York School) and have learned a great deal, studying their works.  For two weeks I have been poring over Willem De Kooning’s works, and the textures I saw in his painting “Excavation” made me decide I wanted to try a close-up study of this paint-peeled, abused screen door.  As I’ve worked on scuffing, scumbling, scribbling and texturing the wood on this door, I’m reminded of techniques I’ve seen from De Kooning, Motherwell, and Cy Twombly.  Many of the techniques that contribute to the overall paint quality of De Kooning’s paintings I have tried to put into this watercolor.  And for years, I have joked with plein air painters that I copy just as much from Jackson Pollock as Winslow Homer when attempting to render tree foliage.

Robert Motherwell is a kindred spirit, because he was a scholar of art history and philosophy and a lover of literature.  He was also a splendid writer.  I haven’t found too many “published” artists that I’ve enjoyed reading more than him.  I understand that he was perpetually conflicted between studio time and reflective, scholarly time in his lifestyle.  I love that conflict, and love reading that a man was successful, not having to choose one over the other.  That is one reason why I’m choosing to leave the studio for the night (unless the creative bug bites me again, or the muse whispers in my ear).

The other reason I am backing out of this painting is the need to look at it from a distance, study what is going on, and decide on what exactly to do next with it.  Again, I find that Willem De Kooning was often ridiculed for that.  He would look at a painting for thirty minutes, pick up the brush, stare a little longer, add one or two strokes, and then sit back again for another thirty minutes, looking, contemplating, deciding.  Sometimes, at the end of the day, he scraped every bit of the painting off the canvas and onto the floor, completely obliterating his day’s efforts (I don’t plan to do that with this watercolor).

So, I plan to spend the rest of this evening, reading, journaling, contemplating, looking at this watercolor, and deciding my next move. I’m very happy with what has happened so far, and hope it continues, tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Why the Abstract Expressionists Matter to Me”

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

    buen trabajo/good work! we need to back off ever so often and distance ourselves from our work. enjoy your evening! z

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you. It’s been pleasurable, reading, journaling, and looking up at this work in progress from time to time. I think I’ll be ready to go back after it tomorrow.

      Like

  2. paintlater Says:

    I am so glad you are able to instil in your students an admiration or value for the work of Abstract Expressionists. So often they are dismissed by realist painters. By the same token I was influenced by my teacher who had a healthy respect for Andrew Wyeth. Cheers Sue

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Sue, Thank you for sharing that comment with me. My high school teacher turned me on to Andrew Wyeth, though he himself was an abstractionist. He introduced me to the work of Pollock, and that in turn led me to the other Abstract Expressionists. I love learning from all of them.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: