Meditation on Materials


When my friends visit my house, I always make a point to have them run a hand across the surface of a painting. Everyone secretly wants to do so but no one will say so. A no go in a museum. It is forbidden. When I convince them that it is ok, that the painting will survive, they give it a try armed with a sly smile. There is always resistance. Fear borne by convention. It is simply a “civilized” response. In the artist’s studio, a taboo is broken.

In a verbal illustration of a painting, I find my finest tools are tactile. The feeling I want to draw out of my work is not intellectual. The subject is just an excuse. Rather, I want to unearth a quality from the materials themselves.

I am seeking a slickness to the surface like sea worn glass on a beach. Slightly muted and translucent.

An untanned gemstone tinged by browns and greys. Complimentary colors to complicate crystalline clarity.

Sometimes cold pressed oil seeps like sap onto the surface of my palette. Linseed feeds liquid layers of glassy color that dry suspended in resin. A micro chasm of the wry eye trapped in bar top shellac.

A kinetic quality.

Lower layers scrubbed surface. Turpentine thinned and kneaded with a black boar bristle brush. Little windswept strokes visible beneath the gossamer oil. Proof of a storm before the calm enameled seas –varnished and glistening.

When titanium fully dries, pure Pyrenees peaks rise. Visible bristles chiseled into the western edge.

I don’t think in terms of subject. Subject exists on the condition of my materials. Orange glow from beneath a medium sheen. Harsh highlights- plastered merengue curl skin exposed to air.

An appreciation of the process is an understanding of the craft. Even the vision is envisioned in its materials.

“Painting, like poetry, selects in the universe whatever she deems most appropriate to her ends.” Francisco de Goya

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