Acrylic Painting

Route 44 – A Journey – Chapters 14, 15, 16

Chapter 14 A few years before, my parents had sold their business and moved to Oklahoma City to be closer to my brothers and their families. Moving to Oklahoma City was also the logical move for us at this time. So, we packed up another U-Haul and headed up I-44. We found a nice little rent house on the north side of Oklahoma City, fairly close to my mother and my two older brothers. Jo had great clerical skills and never had trouble finding a good job and Oklahoma City was no exception. I on the other hand was a different story. My oldest brother knew the owners of one of Oklahoma City’s oldest and most respected art and frame shops, Denton Frame. I called them and they interviewed me and offered me a job the first week we were there. I came to work that first day thinking I knew everything there was to know about framing artwork. I had two degrees in art, I had framed most of my work for the past 12 years and I had even managed a small art supply and frame shop in Lawton the last month we were there. What more could I learn? Well, the very first day I made more frames than the entire month that I managed the shop in Lawton. The first month I made more frames than I had made in my life and the frames were more complex. In Lawton, I prided myself in mat selections almost always using a double mat with a nice contrasting color accent then surrounding the work with a thin simple frame. At Denton’s, Mrs. Denton would choose three and four color mat combinations with frames that would consist of four different moldings put together. It was hard work and I learned a lot about the framing business and the successful system that Mr. and Mrs. Denton had put together over 40 years in the business. The house that we were renting had a spare bedroom that I converted into a studio. I continued to work on my collagraph series, finishing up two large paintings that I had started at Cameron and several smaller collagraph prints that I printed on the press at Cameron before we left. Quickly, I ran out of printed collagraphs and to continue this series I would have to find a press to print more images. I considered purchasing a press but that was a lot of money, so I started experimenting with the collagraph plate making techniques and adding color as I built them as apposed to coloring them after they were printed. The last painting of this series was completed on canvas using these techniques. I have included this painting in my retrospective show because of its significant contribution to the evolution of my artwork. Chapter 15 After almost a year at the frame shop I really wanted to use my art talent more, so I started looking for graphic design related freelance work. I answered an ad that I saw in the newspaper, seeking illustrators. It turned out that the company was a recording studio that was looking for design and illustration help for album covers. This seemed like a very glamorous job and at the interview I learned that the company was divided in two parts. One part of the company worked with Christian music and the other worked with secular knock off music. The majority of the work they were looking for at that time was the knock off music. Let me explain, during that time period, the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there were very few copyright laws on performed and recorded music. In the early ‘70s there were a lot of companies that sprung up called “bootleg or pirate” companies. They would buy the latest recordings and duplicate them and sell them in eight-track format at a cheap price in truck stops all over America. They didn’t pay royalties and the original artists and recording companies got nothing for these sales. As you might suspect, legislation was quickly passed making this illegal. Many of those same companies started making “sound alike” recordings to keep their product legal. A “sound alike” was a recording of the same music by a different artist that tried to sound as much like the original as possible. For a short period of time this was legal and that is where I came into this picture. The company that I interviewed with was one of those companies. They gave me one assignment to see how I would do. They would pay $75.00 for an illustration of Dolly Parton to be used as cover art for an eight-track tape. The product name was “The Hits of Dolly Parton” and in real tiny type “as performed by The Nashville Sound.” My illustration career was born! They loved the Dolly Parton illustration and quickly gave me more assignments. I started doing one to two of these a week in addition to my full-time framing job. I liked the challenge and we could certainly use the extra money. After a few weeks the recording company asked me if I would be interested in a full-time position with them. I knew from the beginning that this company was a little shaky but I really liked the idea of making a living with my art skills. I talked with them more about the opportunity and they told me not only would I be working full-time but also I would be the creative director of the newly created art department. As the director, I would be in charge of the entire creative team and could hire additional artists to expand the production. That’s all I needed, a title and I was in. When I started working they didn’t even have a place for me or the newly created “art department” to work in, so they asked me to go to their warehouse/manufacturing plant. They literally put a drawing table in the middle of an open area in the warehouse and said “Here’s your desk, we’ll put walls around it soon.” So, I started working. There was one other illustrator, a production artist and a secretary when I started. Everyday was a new experience, the first day we kind of huddled in the middle of this giant open space. The next day when we got to work we had one wall propped up and another being built. The next day we had four walls and a door. It really got interesting when they started putting the roof over us while we were working! I eventually hired another illustrator and another production artist/typesetter and we gradually built a pretty efficient team. The company had a large catalog of products that they were selling (or trying to sell) with type only labels, usually printed on day glow paper. Our job was to make these products look like real tapes from major recording labels. This was no small task and they wanted it done yesterday, so we worked. We had 3 illustrators and our goal was to finish one product each day. That meant one full color illustration per day or five illustrations per week for each illustrator for a total of 15 per week. One of the things I noticed very quickly was that the covers started all looking alike. This was no real surprise under the time restraints we were under. I also noticed that even though the illustrations looked really good they did not look like real products from major labels. Most of the major labels used photography, so we started using some photography to vary the look and style. This not only helped with variety but also it was less labor intensive so it helped us achieve our quotas. At first I hired a professional photographer and used his studio for a couple of projects. I had always used photography to shoot slides of my paintings and while I was in school I learned how to process film and use an enlarger to make prints. Working with a professional photographer and watching him in the studio gave me the confidence to try it myself. I realized that all I needed was a little more professional equipment, so I talked with the owner of our company and he agreed to purchase a lighting system and a 4x5 camera and just like that my professional photography career was born. We continued on at our frantic pace, and I began to do more and more photography work while the others did illustrations. This continued for about a year and suddenly we caught up with the company backlog of products. My supervisor talked with me and told me that I would have to trim my staff. We had grown to about 8 --  3 illustrators, 2 production artists, and 2-3 support staff. This meant I would have to fire someone. This was the hardest thing I had ever done. I started with the last production artist I had hired. This bought me a couple of weeks before I had to let someone else go. After the first, the second and third came pretty quickly and it never got any easier. The questionable ethics of the company and their instability really pushed me toward leaving and starting my own design studio. I talked to the owner of the company and he seemed relieved at the prospect of me leaving and going back to a freelance basis so I started looking for a small office space that I could set up shop. Originally I asked one of the remaining illustrators to join me and a writer/public relations friend that we had worked with for a short period of time in my new graphic design/ad agency. They both came with me but it was a struggle financially and my illustrator friend left after about a month. The PR person left after about a year and it was down to me. In addition to the pressure of starting a new business, Jo and I had our second child, a beautiful baby girl we named Devin. I struggled on for the next 15 years. During these years I continued to paint and tried to stay up with current trends in the fine art world. In the late seventies and early eighties I became aware of a minor art movement called Abstract Illusionism and in particular with an artist by the name of James Havard. I was definitely influenced by his work and started using some of his cast shadow techniques on commercial illustration projects. Later, I used these same airbrush techniques on larger scaled paintings. In the course of writing this book and researching my facts I came across the Wikipedia definition of Abstract Illusionism. Abstract Illusionism, a name coined by art historian and critic Barbara Rose, is an artistic movement that came into prominence in the United States during the mid-1970s. Works consisted of both hardedge and expressionistic abstract painting styles that employed the use of perspective, artificial light sources, and simulated cast shadows to achieve the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Abstract Illusionism differed from traditional Trompe-l’oeil (fool the eye) art in that the pictorial space seemed to project in front of, or away from, the canvas surface, as opposed to receding into the picture plane as in traditional painting. Primarily, though, these were abstract paintings, as opposed to the realism of Trompe l’oeil. By the early 1980s, many of the visual devices that originated in Abstract Illusionism were appropriated into the commercial world and served a wide variety of applications in graphic design, fabric design and the unlikely decoration of recreational vehicles. This proliferation of Abstract Illusionist imagery eventually led to the disintegration of the original artistic movement and its transition into the mainstream. I found this definition quite ironic since I first used the technique in illustration and then converted it to fine art, just the reverse of the definition. I have used this Trompe-l’oeil technique in various ways for over 30 years. I guess I am no longer (and probably never was) in the forefront of innovative trend setting art. Oh well, it still interests me so I’ll keep doing it until it doesn’t feel relevant to my work. [caption id="attachment_895" align="aligncenter" width="555"]Commercial illustration projects greatly influenced my future paintings and where I discovered "Abstract Illusionism." "Book Cover Comp" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper Commercial illustration projects greatly influenced my future paintings and where I discovered "Abstract Illusionism."
"Book Cover Comp" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896" align="aligncenter" width="520"]"Book Cover Finished Illustration" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper "Book Cover Finished Illustration" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_897" align="aligncenter" width="468"]"The Gift of Life - Magazine Cover Finished Illustration" / 8.5"x11" / photography, Xerox copies and acrylic on watercolor paper "The Gift of Life - Magazine Cover Finished Illustration" / 8.5"x11" / photography, Xerox copies and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption] Chapter 16 The next major series of work was motivated by these early illustrations. The first was a book cover illustration for a book that pointed out restaurant locations in the state of Oklahoma. I used a road map and colored dots with abstract acrylic paint splashes all glued in a collage technique to rough watercolor paper. All the elements had airbrushed shadows that made them appear to float above the watercolor paper ground. The second was another cover illustration for a local health magazine. The featured article was on the topic of organ donation and the gift of life. Again, traditional illustration and photography were collaged onto a rough watercolor textured paper with airbrushed shadows. The primary inspirations came from the Abstract Illusionism movement and an illustrator by the name of David Lesh. Lesh uses a collage technique with Xerox copied elements, typography and paint on rough textured surfaces. These two commercial illustrations were very successful for me and inspired me to take the concepts to a larger scale. About this same time my early mentor back at OU, Gene Bavinger, developed a technique of painting in reverse on glass. This technique produced some of the most visually exciting paintings I have ever seen and became his trademark style that he explored until his death in 1997. Bavinger used very thick transparent acrylic paint and applied it to large plate glass sheets with a variety of tools including brushes, palette knives, squeegees and occasionally spray guns. As I mentioned the paint was very transparent so he layered the thick paint on to build up a rich and deep color saturation. Occasionally he would lift the glass up to see his progress from the bottom because it would eventually become the top. When he was satisfied with the layering, he would apply one last thick coat of straight polymer acrylic followed by raw canvas. The acrylic would bond the canvas to the rest of the paint and after it dried, he would peel it off the glass. The canvas would then be stretched in a normal manner on a stretcher frame. As I mentioned, the result was spectacular. The paintings were deep, rich and textural while the surface was shiny and totally smooth. This new technique inspired me to combine the glass technique of Bavinger with the collage and imagery techniques that I was using in my illustration work. The first couple were fairly small, approximately 24”x36” and allowed me to experiment not only with the technique but also the imagery. They gave me the opportunity to use my photography skills and combine images that I had created earlier in my career. The first images were black and white personal images that I hand colored. This later led to commercial images that helped tie my two worlds of Graphic Design and Fine Art together. The bulk of this new series had a central image theme, flowers. The inspiration for these images had a direct tie to my design/photography business. One of my largest clients during the late eighties was a floral wire service company by the name of Carik Floral Services. They were based in Denver, Colorado, and I knew the owner when he worked in Oklahoma City for American Floral Service. He was head of sales and I worked with him on several promotional and advertising projects. When he started Carik, I developed the logo and corporate identity for his new business venture. After the company was established, I started working for him on several photographic catalogs. He would fly me to Denver and I would rent photo equipment and set up a temporary photo studio in his warehouse. We would work for about two weeks, then I would fly home for about a week, then fly back and start all over. We did this for almost the entire summer to complete their first sales catalog. My job was to shoot 4x5 transparencies of each floral arrangement as the floral designers finished them. There were three floral designers working in the design studio with almost unlimited fresh flowers to pick and use in their arrangements. Even with three designers working, I still had quite a bit of down time, so I filled that time by shooting “flower portraits.” These “flower portraits” eventually became the imagery that I used in my floral painting series. In 1990, I got two separate calls from different friends, to tell me that they had seen ads in different newspapers advertising an opening at Central State University for a teaching position in the Art Department. Amazingly, I had also seen an ad in the local newspaper for the same position. I thanked both friends and told them I would check it out, but frankly, I didn’t have much hope. My previous experiences had taught me that often positions advertised in this manner were already filled and the ads were merely a method of satisfying state government regulations on hiring. I did look into it and was told the position was still open and was given information on how to apply. I immediately started the application process and submitted my credentials, letters of recommendation, and slides of my work. The position was for a person to teach graphic design and computer graphics. My degrees were in Fine Art, but I had been practicing Graphic Design as a professional designer for the last 15 years, so I felt comfortable in my abilities to teach in this field. My computer skills were not very good because this was a very new skill at that time. Most of the graphic design production at that time was still being done manually. Even with my extensive professional experience, I was still not very optimistic about this position. As I mentioned, it had been 15 years since my last teaching position at Cameron. Outside of the first summer after Cameron, when I was actively looking for a new teaching position, I had not heard about a possible teaching position let alone applied for one and all of the sudden three separate leads, all for the same position. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways! The hiring process at the University level is a very slow and methodical process. I was not surprised that I had not heard anything from Central State, in fact I kind of forgot about it when I got a call from a professor in the Art Department. He introduced himself over the phone and said that his call had nothing to do with the teaching position, but rather he was looking for information on how computer technology was being used in the graphic design profession. He asked if he could come to my office and talk with me further about this topic. I said, “Sure” and we agreed on a date and time later that week. The professor’s name was Bill Wallo and at that time he was the gallery director at Central State. The Macintosh computer was fairly new at that time and the desktop publishing software, PageMaker, was making a lot of news in the graphic design industry. I did not own either but I had read several articles about them and had talked with many designers and production artists at various service bureaus in Oklahoma City. When Bill came to my studio, he brought a friend, Dave Hessie. They were very interested in my opinion on the topic of desktop publishing and what they called multi-media. To this day I am not sure what that word multi-media means in the context of computer graphics, but we spent a good hour talking about the topic. I shared with them what I knew which was not much. At that time service bureaus were primarily typesetters and color separation houses and they did not feel the new “desktop publishing” quality was good enough to affect the current methods of graphic design production. The one thing that I took note of was the amount of industry buzz there was about this new topic. You could not pick up any graphic design periodical without seeing at least one main article devoted to the new computer and software. In the 15 years of my professional design career, I had never seen anything that commanded that much attention. In less than two more years many of those typesetters were closed or had converted to digital output service bureaus. It took about two more years for the color separators to go out of business and the rest is history. Through our discussion I learned that both Bill and Dave were painters and became friends in school, so I steered our conversation toward fine art and showed them a couple of my new pieces which both used photography and a collage technique. Bill seemed very interested and said he was curating a new show that he felt my work was perfectly suited for. I said I would love to participate and he verbally asked me to get a couple of pieces ready. I said I would and thanked him for the opportunity. I submitted a couple of pieces to the group show that included about 10 artists from the local area that used photography in some form in their artwork. I went to the opening and this was my first visit to the campus. I later found out that Bill was on the search committee for the position that I had applied for and I definitely think our meeting had something to do with me being hired. I finally got a call from the chair of the search committee, Dr. Jim Watson. He asked if I could come to the campus for an interview and I quickly agreed to do so. The committee included Dr. Watson, Bill Wallo and Dr. Joann Adams. The interview went well and they introduced me to several other faculty members and asked me a few questions about my teaching philosophy and how I would handle a few specific teaching situations. They asked me to come prepared to show my work and talk briefly about it to a small group of faculty and students, which I did. After my lecture they showed me around the art building and explained specifics about their program and students. At that point Dr. Watson walked me across campus and pointed out a few buildings on our way to the Administration building. In the Administration building I met with a person who explained the benefits and salary package, but no one actually offered me the job. I left feeling pretty good about the interview but a little confused. Later that week Bill Wallo called and offered me the job and said they would prepare a contract that would make it official. I was elated and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. I immediately started planning and finishing all the current work in the studio so I could close the studio. Thinking back on that time period, I now realize that everything went together amazingly well in a very short period of time. By the time the fall semester started, all of my business responsibilities were pretty much settled and I was able to concentrate on my new job.
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Route 44 – A Journey – Chapter 13

Chapter 13 Even though a teaching position at Cameron University in Lawton hadn’t worked out I stayed friends with Jack Bryan and kept in touch with him and what was going on there at Cameron. When I decided to look for another position, I called Jack and told him of my plight. He said that they would be looking for a temporary replacement for my friend that got the job I hoped that I could get. He had been granted a sabbatical and was going to leave for a year. This was my dream job and even though it was technically a temporary position, I thought there was a good chance that my friend would not return. He had never been very happy there and I knew he wanted to leave. I talked it over with Jo, we were both very homesick and hated the weather in Iowa and now that the school situation was less than great, we decided to take the chance. I called Jack back pretty quickly and told him that I was interested in the position and he replied how quickly can you get here. So, after only a year in Iowa we were putting our house on the market and planning to move back home. Maybe everything was going to work out. The housing market in Sioux City had not improved over the last year and we didn’t have any problem selling our house at a nice profit. We quickly packed up, rented another U-Haul and headed for Oklahoma. My parents had left Lawton and moved to Oklahoma City a couple of years earlier but Jo’s mother and sister still lived in Lawton. They were excited about us moving back and started looking for a house for us to live in. By the time we got there, they had found a small two bedroom in the same neighborhood that they lived in, in fact it was just two doors down from the house Jo’s sister lived in. This was maybe a little closer than I would have chosen but amazingly we had fun. When I was a student at Cameron, the Art Department had a couple of classrooms in a general classroom building. They had expanded now to two barns on the edge of campus. One of the barns was a concrete dairy barn that was at one time part of the agriculture program. The other was a metal barn, also at one time part of the agriculture program. The concrete barn housed painting and printmaking and the metal barn housed sculpture and ceramics. The buildings had their obvious problems but it was nice to have dedicated space that you didn’t have to share. I taught all my classes in the concrete barn. It was the smaller of the two buildings but it was functional. We even had a small gallery that I took responsibility for booking and curating shows. The larger metal barn had a hayloft that was not being used so I asked Jack if I could use it for a studio. He said sure, so I started cleaning it up, adding lights, tables, etc. to make it functional. It was a little cramped but I made it work for painting. I was teaching painting and printmaking so I used the schools printmaking room for my prints. During this period I was painting with acrylic as usual but I wasn’t painting on canvas. I was experimenting with painting using as little substrate as possible. I was using a lot of acrylic paint with a little cheesecloth to keep the paint from stretching. These paintings were inspired by Ed Moses’s resin paintings. I was trying to get a similar paint layering while keeping the painting flexible and less brittle. Throughout my career I struggled with visual continuity between my prints and my paintings. The standard printmaking methods lacked the spontaneity that I had come to rely on in painting. The difficulty in printmaking to work on a large scale also seemed to hamper the visual energy I felt was so important in my paintings.  I had used a collage technique for years in my paintings to build texture and image. In the current paintings I was using paper, cheesecloth and string in a collage manner to help stabilize the acrylic polymer. So, in printmaking, it seemed like an obvious move to work with collagraph techniques. Collagraphs are intaglio prints that use collage techniques to build the printing plates. This plate making process was very similar to the way I paint without using color. I would start with a cardboard plate similar to mat board or chip board then build up texture with modeling paste and gluing textural elements to it using acrylic polymer. The finished plate would be inked with standard etching ink and wiped off the surface leaving ink in the recessed parts of the plate. The plate would then be printed on etching paper using an etching press. The resulting print has textural effects that are very realistic and unique. The whole concept of printing is to produce multiple images but to do this, every part of the process must also be duplicated exactly. This makes color application difficult and the process to apply color very stiff. For these reasons I decided to forgo the multiple duplication and hand color each piece making it a one of kind work of art. This resulted in a very rich and visually exciting work that complemented my paintings. For the first time my love of painting and printmaking seemed to be working together. The rich textural effects of the collagraph prints ultimately affected the paintings and pulled me into a subtle but new direction in painting where real texture was an important visual effect. This led me to experiment with larger paintings created with smaller prints that are pieced together. My art was developing nicely but my teaching job was coming to a screeching halt! I don’t think I really realized what was happening. If you remember my position was a one-year replacement position and my year was coming to a rapid close. I had really never let myself think about the fact that this was a temporary position. I felt from the beginning it would work out to be more but now it was coming to a close and nothing seemed to be opening up. My friend was definitely returning so that position would no longer be available. I started looking for a new position at a new school on a national basis. I attended the National Art Association conference in Los Angeles but found nothing. Things were looking pretty bleak for a full-time position. Cameron’s program was growing and there was a possible need for part-time or adjunct work. Jo and I talked it over and neither of us wanted to move so we decided to try for a part-time position at Cameron and stay in Lawton and seriously pursue my professional painting career. I talked to Jack Bryan about the possibility of me staying on at Cameron as an adjunct professor. Jack was less than positive about this possibility but said he would ask the other faculty. This was my first clue that everything was not as wonderful at Cameron as I had thought. I had made good friends with the sculpture instructor and the adjunct ceramics instructor but I had not gone out of my way to make friends with the art education instructor. This turned out to be a big mistake. Without going into a lot of painful details, I was not asked to return in any capacity to Cameron. I was devastated, I had never been fired before and technically I wasn’t fired in this case but it sure felt like it. I was very disappointed in Jack, it felt like he didn’t fight for me, which really hurt and had a huge negative impact on our relationship. On reflection, I was so young and naive; I didn’t have a clue about the inner workings of an Art Department or the politics that it took to run one. Even though I thought I had done an excellent job in teaching my assigned classes and had stepped up and done more than had been asked of me by organizing and directing the gallery, maybe I really wasn’t a good fit in the organizational growth of the Department. Whatever the reason, I was out of work and the reality finally hit and we realized our future was not in Lawton. [caption id="attachment_886" align="aligncenter" width="501"]The first Cameron paintings were inspired by Ed Moses' reisen paintings. These were done with acrylic, cheesecloth and paper and were hung unstretched. "Yellow and Blue With String" / 36"x36" / acrylic, string and cheesecloth The first Cameron paintings were inspired by Ed Moses' reisen paintings. These were done with acrylic, cheesecloth and paper and were hung unstretched.
"Yellow and Blue With String" / 36"x36" / acrylic, string and cheesecloth[/caption] [caption id="attachment_887" align="aligncenter" width="480"]"Six Panes" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper and cheesecloth "Six Panes" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper and cheesecloth[/caption] [caption id="attachment_889" align="aligncenter" width="469"]"Opposite Rotation" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper and cheesecloth "Opposite Rotation" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper and cheesecloth[/caption] [caption id="attachment_888" align="aligncenter" width="437"]"Textured Chevron" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper, muslin and cheesecloth "Textured Chevron" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper, muslin and cheesecloth[/caption] [caption id="attachment_880" align="aligncenter" width="721"]"New Start" / 5"x6.75" / collagraph print on Arches Buff Cover "New Start" / 5"x6.75" / collagraph print on Arches Buff Cover[/caption] [caption id="attachment_881" align="aligncenter" width="646"]"Pork Bait" / 7"x7.75" / collagraph print on Arches Cover "Pork Bait" / 7"x7.75" / collagraph print on Arches Cover[/caption] [caption id="attachment_882" align="aligncenter" width="609"]"Birthday Jitterbug" / 6.75"x8.5" / hand colored collagraph print on Arches Cover "Birthday Jitterbug" / 6.75"x8.5" / hand colored collagraph print on Arches Cover[/caption] [caption id="attachment_883" align="aligncenter" width="644"]"Blue Spot Spinner" / 8"x8.75" / hand colored collagraph print on Arches Cover While teaching printmaking I produced a series of collagraph prints that had the same visual appeal that was in my paintings. The plate making process was similar to the techniques I used in painting and the heavy actual texture was refreshing after the lack of texture in the resin paintings. These prints and this printing tecnique led to larger works and my next series. "Blue Spot Spinner" / 8"x8.75" / hand colored collagraph print on Arches Cover
While teaching printmaking I produced a series of collagraph prints that had the same visual appeal that was in my paintings. The plate making process was similar to the techniques I used in painting and the heavy actual texture was refreshing after the lack of texture in the resin paintings. These prints and this printing tecnique led to larger works and my next series.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_884" align="aligncenter" width="725"]"Collagraph Painting" - 64"x80" - acrylic on Arches Cover mounted on panel board "Collagraph Painting" - 64"x80" - acrylic on Arches Cover mounted on panel board[/caption] [caption id="attachment_885" align="aligncenter" width="707"]"4-Way 4 Panes" - 64"x80" - acrylic, modeling paste and muslin on canvas After leaving Cameron, I no longer had access to a printing press, so I started experimenting with collage techniques on canvas and then using thin glazes and wiping them off similar to the inking process in printing. This began the development of painting techniques that I still use today. "4-Way 4 Panes" - 64"x80" - acrylic, modeling paste and muslin on canvas
After leaving Cameron, I no longer had access to a printing press, so I started experimenting with collage techniques on canvas and then using thin glazes and wiping them off similar to the inking process in printing. This began the development of painting techniques that I still use today.[/caption]
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Route 44 – Journey – Chapter 12

Chapter 12 This time we rented a U-Haul and moved ourselves. We weren’t going to make that mistake again. The problem this time was we had a baby to take care of so we thought it would be better to drive our car rather than tow it. I talked with one of my students who agreed to come and help drive the truck and we bought him a plane ticket back to North Carolina. It was a long hard trip but it went well and we made it to Sioux City with no major problems. Dalton and his wife were expecting us and said we could stay with them until we found a house. He had made arrangements with the school to store our stuff in a school owned storage building so we were set for a while until we found a place to live. They lived in a big old two-story house with a full basement. There were plenty of bedrooms for us and it was great fun to see them. We had been good friends through grad school and we even visited them once after they left Norman when Dalton took his first job in Wisconsin. My student that helped drive also stayed at their house a couple of days before he flew back to North Carolina. The job offer and move had all taken place so quickly we didn’t know anything about the school, city or state. As it turned out there was a housing shortage in Sioux City when we arrived, particularly in rental property. Our stay with Dalton ended up being about six weeks. We couldn’t find any place to rent so we started looking for a house to buy. We ended up buying another old two-story place about 5 blocks from school. This was a truly scary event for us; buying our first house was no small thing and it took a lot longer than we thought before we finalized the deal and could move in. Jo took the baby and went back to Oklahoma for about three weeks. This was definitely better for her, she had her Mom to help with the baby and it reduced the burden on our friends. By the time we could move into our house school had already started and it had started getting cool. I will always be very grateful to Dalton and his wife Linda for opening up their house and being such great friends. I have great memories of them and that house. As it turned out those are about the only good memories I have from our stay in Iowa. One of those memories included other graduate school friends coming to visit. At that time whenever two or more artist friends got together we pulled out a slide projector, found a clean wall in a dark room and started showing each other what our new work looked like and any other slides of inspiration. The guys, there were four of us, went down in the basement and plugged in the projector and started looking at each other’s slides. The girls all stayed upstairs and talked and visited leaving the men to be men in the basement. We were in the basement watching the slides in total darkness. The light and humming noise from the projector were the only noise or light in the room. I suddenly heard and felt a fluttering noise close to my face. I jumped and said did anybody see that. The other three looked at me like I was crazy then we saw something flutter through the light and project a shadow on the screen. We all jumped up as this mysterious flying thing flew all around the room. We finally figured out it was a bat and it definitely had our attention. We quickly turned on the light so we could see the critter and this just made it fly more frantically around the room. We were all dodging and ducking as the bat flew around us. Dalton kept some sporting equipment in the basement so one of the guys grabbed a baseball bat and Dalton picked up tennis racket. I picked up a scrap of wood and we proceeded to try and knock the evil critter out of the air. Needless to say we were all scared silly of this tiny little animal and I guess we were screaming like little girls. Jo and Linda came to the stairs and wanted to know what was going on. Dalton finally made contact with the tennis racket. I think it was a very clean forehand with topspin, Jimmy Connors would have been proud of the shot. The bat hit the wall and fell lifeless to the floor. We all felt like big game hunters after the big kill, the girls were not impressed. When we finally moved in our new house it had been almost two months since I packed up my porch studio and I was anxious to get a studio set up. As I mentioned earlier our house was a two-story house with a full basement. This was not unusual in Iowa; almost all the houses had basements. The basements ranged from completely finished to completely raw with dirt walls and floors. Ours was somewhere in-between with concrete walls and floor. With a new baby and more furniture than when we moved to North Carolina there wasn’t much space available upstairs for a studio so, it was downstairs to the basement. There were some positives; I didn’t have to worry about getting paint on anything or being excessively neat, cleaning and putting every thing away after each time I used it. There were also some negatives; one of those was the lighting or lack of it. At the time I realized that it wasn’t very good light to work in and it definitely wasn’t like the natural light filled studio in North Carolina, but I didn’t think it would affect my work. I was wrong but I really didn’t notice it until we moved away from Iowa, back to Oklahoma. I still think the work done in Iowa was good but it is definitely different from my other work, particularly in color and light. The work generally is darker and lower in contrast. I think this is partially because of the studio, but not entirely. I call this series of work my “Basement Series.” Teaching at Morningside College and living in Sioux City was good at first. It was great to reconnect with Dalton and his wife. We also enjoyed the other faculty at Morningside. We became good friends with an exchange faculty member and his wife, Roy and Sheila Jones from Southport, England. The three art faculty members, Dalton, Roy and myself all had similar ideas about what contemporary art was all about. That was definitely different from North Carolina. The students were a little more sophisticated than North Carolina. All of this was good but things changed during that first year. Shortly after Jo returned from Oklahoma, she became sick with what we thought was a simple cold but it got worse and worse and we couldn’t find a doctor that would take new patients. Along with this, winter hit! Winter in Iowa is brutal. We had never lived anywhere that had that much snow or that was that bitterly cold. On top of the severe weather, the Art Department began to have problems with the Administration of the College. Dalton was acting as temporary Chair of the Department while the actual Chair was in England as the other half of the exchange. He started having a few minor problems early in the spring semester and it came to a head over an invitational sculpture show in our gallery. One of the invited guest artists submitted a three quarter life size carving of a nude human male figure. The administration felt it was inappropriate for a Methodist based college. Dalton argued to keep the sculpture in the show on the grounds that it was art and very appropriate. They left the sculpture but fired Dalton. The art faculty, all of the art students and many other faculty members were appalled. We immediately started protesting with letters and meetings with the administration. They said the reason had nothing to do with the show or the sculpture and insisted that it was because of low enrollment and economic reasons which made no sense. I learned a valuable lesson about politics in small colleges and universities. Administrations can do anything they want and justify it with economics and there is nothing you can do about it. I lost my Dad that spring to a heart attack. He died just a few months short of their 50th wedding anniversary. We were all very upset, particularly my mom who was also suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis. All of this tension and the weather was more than I could endure; I started looking for another position immediately. [caption id="attachment_874" align="aligncenter" width="562"]Iowa Basement Series 3 sm "Iowa Basement Series - Dotal Pingere Red Grid" / 45"x45" / acrylic on canvas[/caption] [caption id="attachment_875" align="aligncenter" width="636"]iowa dots 1 sm "Iowa Basement Series - Dotal Pingere 3 Panes" / 66"x90" / acrylic on canvas[/caption] [caption id="attachment_876" align="aligncenter" width="466"]Iowa Basement Dotal Pingere sm "Iowa Basement Series - Dotal Pingere Blue Grid" / 66"x66" / acrylic on canvas[/caption]
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Route 44 – A Journey – Chapter 4

Chapter 4 Since I thought it would be possible for me to get a MFA degree in one year from OU and was pretty sure I would be accepted into the program, I didn’t bother to apply anywhere else. Both assumptions were very naïve. As it turned out I did get admitted, barely, into the program. I found out later that the faculty tried a new method of selecting their new graduate students. In previous years each faculty member chose the students for their area, i.e. the painting faculty chose the painting students, sculpture faculty chose sculpture students, etc. This year the entire faculty unanimously voted to accept or deny each student. This proved to be almost disastrous for the program, there were only two graduates accepted for the fall 1972 enrollment. Normally, 12 to 15 students would be accepted. So, I began that summer, enrolling in 12 graduate hours. Armed with my new “wrinkle technique” I started working with a goal of 15 – 20 new pieces during the summer. At that time the graduate curriculum was very loose at OU. They had several graduate level studio classes that you could take multiple times with a maximum of 12 total hours in each class. I enrolled in 4 of the classes for 3 hours each with a different professor for each class. You met with each of your professors once a week for critique and just worked. There were no set assignments or projects unless one of your professors asked you to work on something specific. The idea was that you were a working professional and you would work to produce and improve your craft. A simple process that many students had great difficulty adapting to but I loved it. I started doing smaller color studies on paper. These works were full watercolor paper size (22”x30”) and I primarily worked on color and different paper folds. They were quick and I could easily do one or more a day. I was using an airbrush to apply the paint so I was using a variety of airbrush media. I experimented with colored inks and dyes as well as watercolor and acrylic. Tube paints needed to be thinned to a very thin consistency so even the opaque paints became somewhat transparent. This transparency aided in the color palette by multiplying the color with each application. These paper studies were important in the development of the larger works on canvas. It was a great way to perfect and work out problems with spraying and the application of paint. They also quickly led me to push beyond the natural phenomenon of the wrinkle. I started trying all kinds of fold and wrinkle patterns. Everything from ridged grid patterns to deep complex wrinkles and everything in between. Then I experimented with masked areas and over-painting hard edged elements, this led to pouring thick paint over the flat wrinkle illusion to drastically juxtapose the two textures. That summer was very productive, I finished with about 30 watercolors and about 6 large-scale canvases. It was the first time that I had the time and freedom to just work. It was exciting! That summer the school allowed me to set up a temporary studio in the brand new Fred Jones Memorial Art Center. Even though it was temporary it was great because it was a new state of the art facility with plenty of space and all the necessary technology (compressed air) to explore this new technique of painting. All in all it was a very successful summer and I assumed my professors felt the same way because I received all A’s. The first hurdle of my one-year marathon had been successfully completed. [caption id="attachment_808" align="aligncenter" width="802"]"Wrinkle, Pour and Magenta Grid" Acrylic 57"x84" "Wrinkle, Pour and Magenta Grid" / Acrylic / 57"x84"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_809" align="aligncenter" width="604"]"Yellow Window" Acrylic 66"x90" "Yellow Window" / Acrylic / 66"x90"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_810" align="aligncenter" width="415"]Here It Comes sm "Here It Comes" / Acrylic / 66"x84"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_811" align="aligncenter" width="493"]Thin Gold Line sm "Thin Gold Line" / Acrylic / 60"x72"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="602"]Looking Out sm "Looking In" / Acrylic / 66"x96"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_816" align="aligncenter" width="450"] "Looking Out" / Acrylic / 72"x72"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_814" align="aligncenter" width="462"]arc wrinkle sm "Arc Wrinkle" / Acrylic / 72"x72"[/caption] In the fall I had to move my studio. The University had several old buildings on what was called North Base. North Base was an old Naval facility that dated back to the WWII time period. I know what you are wondering, a Naval Base in the middle of land locked Oklahoma? Well, it’s true; the story I was told was that the Navy used it as artillery training for the big guns on ships during the war. The buildings were mostly old frame barracks but there was one concrete building that was the bathhouse for the base swimming pool. There was space available in this building so that is where I moved. The sculptors seemed to be in the old barracks and the painters were in the bathhouse. I had met several of the graduate students a year earlier when I was a senior. I had become friends with a graduate printmaker named Dwight Pogue. He was working with commercial printing techniques and trying to use them in a fine art approach. I became very interested in these techniques and I helped him build a process camera out of found parts that we scrounged from the Government surplus that we had access to in Oklahoma City. We installed this camera in one of the barracks and eventually used it to shoot large-scale negatives and positives for screen-printing. We eventually wrote a book and printed it at Dwight’s dad’s printing company in Missouri but that is another story. Through these efforts I met many of Dwight’s fellow graduate students and friends. One of Dwight’s friends was a painter by the name of Otis Jones. Otis and Dwight had been friends as undergrad students at a small University in Pittsburg, Kansas. Otis also had a studio in the bathhouse and we became friends. Otis was very progressive in his painting. His paintings at the time were large arrangements of a wide variety of materials including thinly painted cheesecloth, natural muslin and raw and painted wood. These materials were assembled in a variety of arrangements on a long wall with some of the wooden elements giving dimensional support to the draped and flowing cloth elements. This visual style was almost radical for me at the time but was very interesting. The better I got to know Otis and the more I watched him work the more I realized how dedicated he was to this new art form. There were a lot of advantages to this method of working. One was cost of materials; one set of materials could be used over and over and over with almost unlimited variation possibilities. Another advantage was storage. Another close graduate friend, Dalton Maroney, recently told me of a time during this period when he helped Otis transport and install an entire show in Otis’s Volkswagen Beetle. The biggest disadvantage was this type of work had no real permanence. Almost none of this type work exists today; it lives by its photographic record. Otis, Dalton, Dwight and all of my graduate friends would become very important in my personal art development. I continued to work with the “wrinkle technique” but watching my fellow grad students work with arranged work in painting and sculpture accelerated my growth and my desire to go beyond the natural beauty of the wrinkle illusion. I worked with the wrinkle technique through my Mid-Way Show. For most of the graduates this show occurred after the first year when the student had finished approximately half of the required 56 hours. Since I was working on the accelerated plan, I scheduled mine after my first fall semester. I had successfully completed 28 hours at this point. The show was at the new Fred Jones Memorial Museum and consisted of eight large stretched canvases. [caption id="attachment_818" align="aligncenter" width="739"]Grad School Midway Show 1971 Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption] [caption id="attachment_819" align="aligncenter" width="739"] Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption] [caption id="attachment_820" align="aligncenter" width="727"] Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption]    
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