“I paint because I must.” - from the artist
Q: What led you to become an abstract artist?
A: There are a number of ways I can approach the answer to this question.
Humorous: Because I can’t paint a realistic scene to save my life.
Emotional: I create (write, paint, produce) partially out of the fear I will be forgotten when I die. Whatever mark, literal and figurative, I can leave behind is a driving force of my creative output. I desire to be respected for my work.
Financial: I paint to sell and make money. I have a daughter in college who has made shopping an Olympic sport and she has won gold the last five years. I have to make money somewhere and, in my infinite brilliance, I thought selling art would be a great way to do that. HA.
Finally, Truthful: I paint because I must. When I close my eyes, I do not see darkness, I see a vista of colors, images, shapes and patterns. I paint to clear my mind of these images, so I can have peace. I paint because it is cathartic. It is a respite from the responsibilities of life. I can step into my studio, turn on some great music, pick up a brush and simply forget the rest of the world exists. It is a wonderful feeling to get lost in the flow of creation.
Oh, how about a Metaphysical answer? I am an abstract artist, because life is an abstract concept and the only way to capture its true essence is through marks and colors on canvas and paper. Is that deep or what?
Q: Where have you studied and how long have you been an artist?
A: I am a self-taught artist. I did take art classes beginning in junior high and spent every minute that I could in high school in either the art room with the teacher, Dr. David Newcomb, or in the creative writing class with Ron Davis. (I still remember both teacher as they had great influence on my life.) My senior year of high school my class schedule was painting, art teacher’s aide, creative writing, creative writing teacher’s aide, then two film classes at my local community college. I knew how to game the system, but also did well in school, so I glided through school and then went on to film school courses.
I am a firm believer that art is a soul thing not something that can be taught. Yes, you can learn color theory, rules of composition, and the technical aspects of painting, but Art, with a capital A, comes from the soul. For every rule of painting, I can give you numerous examples of artists who have broken those rules and critics love them for it. I have very strong feelings about this subject.
With all of that said, I read. A lot. I read about artists whose work I enjoy—the masters of course, Picasso, Monet, Kline, Pollock, Motherwell, Rothko, Modrian, Miro, but also Paul Klee, Sean Scully, Brice Marden—the list goes on forever. And those are just the mainstream artist. I love “low-artist” (a term I detest) such as Shag, Kelsey Brookes, Kenny Scharf. Reading about other artists and listening to how they describe their craft is probably the greatest art school of all.
Q: Where do you derive your inspiration from?
A: Ah, the dreaded question for all creative types.
I am constantly inspired by random patterns and colors I see. The way the light falls on a surface, or the texture of a wall; these things cause me to stop and for some reason I am driven to reproduce what I see with paint.
Nature is full of colors, patterns and shapes that inspire, but that is such a cliché answer. It is true, and that is why it is cliché. I love looking at photos of the earth from a bird-eye-view. When I see a forest from that angle, and notice the patterns and textures, I want to recreate what I see on canvas. Or waves, and the residual white water left behind on a beach; these things make we want to capture the image in a permanent way.
Music is another source of inspiration. I can close my eyes when listening to music and see vivid patterns and colors. I try to capture that in my art.
Q: Although your work is abstract, you maintain several different styles from color block and, cubism, representational and non-representational and more. Can you explain why you vary with so many different styles?
A: You’re touching on all of my hot button topics with art.
Painting, or really any act of creation, is a journey not a destination. While we will complete a work—a canvas, poem, novel, screenplay—it is truly only a step on a path of the act of creating.
I may experiment with styles and techniques from canvas to canvas. Each work is a step. Some steps are better than others and I learn along the way. Does that mean I return to previous works to re-work them applying what I have learned since I first painted a piece? I say, no.
This would dilute the journey and body of work. It would in affect be saying the destination—in this case, a finished canvas—is more important than the journey (the exploration of applying paint to canvas).
For this reason, I cherish the steps, the experiments, and while I may ultimately prefer one aesthetic step over another, I do not consider one wrong or more correct.
Gauguin experimented with different techniques—flat colors, each compartmentalized and simplified, or a high viewpoint which flatten his subjects, while also working with blended colors and eye-level viewpoints. Should he have re-worked canvases once he found a style, or technique, he preferred? Should he have created a uniform portfolio of work?
No! We would have lost the richness of his artistic exploration. We would have lost the journey he set out and invited us to follow on.
Picasso started in a traditional style of painting, but he was restless. He wanted to explore, experiment and wanted to destroy painting as it was known at the time. We are much better for his journey. Without the steps of his journey we would not have had Cubism, and within Cubism, we had the Cezannian styles, Analytic, Synthetic, and Crystal styles, all of which led to the various journeys of Constructivism, Futurism., Suprematism, Orphism, and De Stijil. So many steps. So many journeys. All on roads of creation.
I may have gone down the rabbit trail a bit. The simple answer is, I paint in various styles because that is what I see. Some critics will tell artist, you must stay with one style and perfect it—become known for it—I understand what they are saying but you have to follow your soul. Why do we set limitations on ourselves? Why must an artist be labeled? Pigeon-holed? Put in a box? I honestly do not understand that logic.
Art is rebellion. So, I paint in the style that interests me for that day. I come back to motifs all the time and often combine motifs into something new. That is part of the journey. That is part of my rebellion.
Q: What message are you sending through your art? Or what do you hope for viewers to take away from your art?
A: Another hot button. I’m not sure I have a message. I am drawn to attractive colors, shapes and patterns. That’s what I try to create in my art.
My Wondrous Stories series is simply a motif of color fields covered with layers of soft swirling blended colors and thick palette knife strokes.
My latest series, Volume is simply me playing with negative space and illustrating voluminous spaces as if made of concrete. I limit the color palette to only black, grays and white.
Honestly, I just want to make a beautiful image on canvas or paper. I want the viewer to see beauty and have some emotional connection with the work.
With my Mark Series, I reject the notion that art must be created with a multitude of layers comprised of under-painting and textures. Instead, I strive for the simplicity of one stroke of the brush or knife on the surface. Any complexity is derived from the act of the paint contacting the surface of the paper, or canvas. The texture, smoothness and weight of the paper determines how the paint will interact with it—I can force the paint to do what I want, but often prefer to allow the two media and medium to interact naturally.
In the art world there are too many pre-conceived notions that art must have meaning or on how art must be made—how it is created, what size, what color, and on and on. I say let art be art.
The mark is the art. The art is found in the mark.
Q: How do you view your art career in five years?
A: I do hope that my art is recognized as being worth recognizing. I think all artists are frustrated by the belief that their art is worthy of attention especially when they see other artists receiving recognition. We all wonder, “Why are they being celebrated, and my work isn’t?” I think all artists are naturally sensitive and that can affect our confidence. There is a bit of arrogance in thinking that if I paint something people will like it, but at the same time, an artist puts themselves out there and is just asking for rejection. Unfortunately, that is what we receive most often and that hurts.
In five years, I hope someone looks at my body of work and says, “This is good. This is worthy of attention. I want to own this.”
We’ve come full circle with the first question. Why do I paint? I want my art to be noticed and respected. I can only hope someone will say, this is of equal quality to works by other artists. In five years, I hope my work is selling to collectors and is sought out by those who love art.
Doug King is a talented artist, writer and film-maker living and working in Dallas, TX. He is currently Editor-in-Chief for Dallas Style and Design Magazine and continues to write freelance in addition to painting.
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