Posts Tagged ‘De Kooning’

Why the Abstract Expressionists Matter to Me

May 1, 2013
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.

Some Early Afternoon Watercoloring in the Man Cave

April 26, 2013
Painting in the Man Cave

Painting in the Man Cave

When one becomes totally absorbed in the painting, the painting has a relation to one which is extremely complicated and, I think, quite profound.

Barnett Newman

I echo the sentiments of Newman.  I cannot explain why “robin’s egg” blue has always held my attention, but from my earliest childhood memories, it was my favorite color, and I found myself staring at it, whether it was a chamber pot at my grandparents’ farm, a nest of robin eggs, a particular coffee mug on the grandparents’ table, the metal dipper that hung from their pump handle–I loved that color.  About ten years ago when I saw this pail, I knew I had to have it because of its color.

All day at school today, while leading discussions in philosophy over the writings of Nietzsche, or lecturing art history classes on the life and work of Willem De Kooning, my mind’s eye stayed on this “blue pail” painting lying on the drafting table in my Man Cave back home.  And alas, I had over two hours’ worth of appointments to tie me up after school.

Finally I got home and got to lay down some darker glazes on the background of this piece, darkened the insides of the pail, and took a shot at putting the grooves in the surface of the Coca-Cola crate, and then laying in the colors and script on the side of the crate.

I have a few more interruptions pending, but hope to return to the studio later this evening to see if I can kick this watercolor a little further down the road, so to speak.  There are plein air invitations pending for tomorrow, so I need to see how much studio time I can get put in over this weekend.

Thanks for reading.