As I write this post, a recent memory springs up in my mind. Earlier this year, my dad had an art show at the Steffen Thomas Museum focused on Christian Art. One afternoon, Chris and I decided to go over there so I could look at his show. I am always amazed at my dad’s art and this was no exception. As we went from painting to painting, I could not imagine the countless hours he spent on each one of these paintings.
However, our trip did not last countless hours as I looked over 30 paintings in about twenty five minutes. This was not due to my lack of interest, but more to my novice mindset towards art. Art is similar to most skill activities in that people that are active in said activity can better understand and articulate the small actions that lead to a great piece of art, a great football play, or a great movie. I am embarrassed to say that I did not pay close enough attention to the intricacies of my dad’s art, but I accepted to write these articles in hopes I could learn more about my dad’s favorite past time.
Is painting two pieces that are strikingly similar, a lack of creativity or a different expression of the same idea? When I first saw these two paintings side by side on Chris’s website, I could not distinguish if one was just the finished product of the other. The first painting seems to have larger and thicker brush strokes than the second, which has more white spaces separating the strokes. Both paintings are surrounded by a black box that has an opening on the northwest corner. The opening could be an escape from whatever the black box contains. But I do not believe that the box holds evil or Chris would have used a different color than a calming light blue. Imagine the light blue being replaced by a dark red, the paintings would have a menacing feel to it. The shapes inside the black box make the painting continue on and on like a hole going to nowhere.
One aspect that I love about both of these paintings, Chris lets the art happen instead of “correcting” the mistakes. In the second painting, there are black dots right above the black box looking as if they it was an accidental drop of paint. If this was my painting, I would most definitely try to cover up “this mistake” and enlarge the top black line. But this would make the painting lose its integrity as thin strokes. The black dots are my favorite part of this painting, they immediately draw my eyes and show a contrast from the first painting. Painting two paintings that are similar may be to some a lack of creativity, but I believe that Chris was not finished expressing his idea and needed two paintings to show that idea. Or, he just likes painting black and blue squares which is still pretty cool if he paints like this.
- Carter Atchison, Student, Wofford College
Before writing this post, I read an article about abstract art discussing Piet Mondrian views on art. Mondrian was involved in the De Stijl art movement, an art style focused on isolating a single visual style that would appropriate for all aspects of modern life. The style resulted in implementing geometric blocks of primary colors and vertical and horizontal lines. Mondrian’s art theories greatly affected his abstract art style & his quote about abstract art stuck out to me when looking at this painting, Mondrian said
“The emotion of beauty is always obscured by the appearance of the object. Therefore the object must be eliminated from the picture.”
When I first look at this painting, I see splatters of ink. There seems to be an incident where ink has spilled all over the canvas. Reminiscent of the incident of an ink pen breaking in my pocket and ruining a pair of jeans I had when I was a kid. As I try to make sense of this painting, I run into problems. My eyes scan the painting, and the big splatter of blue paint could be a break of ocean water from the wave, ( the other expanse of blue). Then I run into the problem of what the black circle is surrounding the blue splatter. While the other colors seem random & in no particular order, the black lines seem to be purposeful.
I was drawn to this painting because Blue is my favorite color. Blue is associated with calmness, but I think this painting shows a different side of the color blue. This painting shows the strength of blue, like an ocean, calm but has the possibility to be destructive & explode. Chris could have planted the brown to show that the water had taken over all of the land except for two small parts. Reflecting back on the Mondrian quote earlier mentioned, by Chris not becoming fully immersing in painting the object “perfectly” he is able to express the real message.
- Carter Atchison, Student, Wofford College
As a kid, the few times painting with my dad in his art studio is one of my fondest memories. My art career was relatively short, but my art style was eerily “similar” to his, or at least that was my goal (This was never accomplished). Our childhoods greatly affect how we experience the world and how we express our creativity. Chris’s father painted houses as a career and Chris would come paint the houses. I am not well versed in the art of painting houses, but I can confidently say that abstraction & creativity are not norms for painting houses in the South. A homeowner would be furious if their house ever looked like this painting with splotches & random colors on it. The homeowner would probably hear complaints from his neighbors, Southern hospitality. I am always curious on how my grandfather’s occupation with purposeful & little abstract painting affected how Chris looks at painting.
At first glance, I swore that the brown in this painting was an abstract dog playing in a puddle surrounded by a green landscape. After a little reflection though, I take back that assumption for two reasons. First, I believe that as humans when we see anything, we try to make sense of it. Whenever anyone sees abstract art, they try to put it in a category, try to understand it, instead of just experiencing it. My second reason for taking back the dog assumption is because, quite simply, my dad does not like pets enough to do an abstract painting of one.
Similar to the last painting, there are a mixture of colors clashing together. But even more than that, there are “random” red splotches everywhere on the painting. What convinced Chris to put red splotches on a painting that most would assume does not need any red? Why put more or less red splotches on an abstract painting? Its amazing to see all the creative art expression of Chris, because has hundreds of these small paintings on paper.
Carter Atchison, Student, Wofford College
This painting will start off a collection of posts showing Chris’s abstract art that are painted on paper. My interaction with abstract art has always come with the argument that abstract art is simple & easy to do. However, abstract art has always been my favorite art form. I am always curious to hear what the artist is thinking while he is painting the piece. Does the artist have a central theme while he is painting abstractly or is the art random expression? This painting caught my eye because of the sense of chaos & the use of colors.
The title of the painting being “Untitled” allows the viewer to make up his own mind about the emotions being expressed and I believe that a personal evaluation allows for the viewer to get the most of the art. My favorite part of this painting is the white paint, “interrupting” the background colors. This painting reminds me of Risk, a war game that I used to play as a kid. The different colors represent the different armies trying to spread their territory, the white and red colors seem to be at war as the white lines spread like fingers trying to control the red area. This painting represents beautiful chaos to me.
The title of this painting is “Sad Mary”… this title is purposely vague to leave it up to the viewer as to which “Mary” this painting may refer to. In image 1 you can see that this painting started out as a work on paper – it is “clipped” to the easel on the left for reference for the larger painting. The first pass of the larger painting was spontaneous and only took a few minutes.
I worked quickly with large brush strokes and even let the paint that ran off her chin remain as it became more complete. In the earlier work Mary looked masculine and I gradually softened the lines and shapes to make her more feminine as I continued. The started the skin tones in black and white and added color as I went along. In the final version Mary looks noticeably sadder than the previous three. I increased the size of the inside of her hood as I went along. I ended up subduing the black shadow throughout the painting by the time I completed the final draft. I moved away from the orange color in the bottom left corner. Then, I shifted to a more yellow shade in the upper left corner in the final draft.
Funny the processes used in painting – it just happens and I have learned “when to stop” – which is an art of it’s own!
Sometimes in the painting process I reach a point where I don’t know if I should continue painting or leave it as it is. For this particular painting, John the Baptist, I reached a point where I was pleased with the progress and I left it dormant for a week or so. When I revisited the painting I decided to add some flesh color and I really think it breathed new life into the painting. Which version do you prefer? Lighter or Darker skin tone?
This painting is from the FARM Art Show at the Madison Morgan Cultural Center in late 2014.
The show paired artist to a specific farm in Morgan County. I choose the Lambert Farm.
The original idea for this painting and all 6 paintings I did for the show, came to me after talking with Robyn, my wife about painting Lambert Farm as a number of different American Modern Artist… and I ran out to my studio and made a color pencil sketch to capture the idea quickly.
Below is the original color pencil.
This painting ended up on a 6 foot wide by 4 foot tall canvas. This is the painting in progress on the large canvas. Note the color copy of a second study I did in Adobe Illustrator taped to the upper right of the canvas for reference.
I have added details, see below. I used a gutter cover that had uniform holes in it to prevent objects from falling into your gutters to start the dot pattern in the sky… what a nightmare. I painted and repainted those dots!
Below is the finished painting that was in the FARM Art Exhibit.
Here is one of my favorite paintings… really love the concept of taking a Picasso painting of a Spanish tragedy and using the painting look and style to tell the story of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald on Television on the 60s.
This is the third and largest version of the painting I have made. It is 6 foot wide and 4 foot tall.
First I used the 9 grid system to transfer the underlying composition/drawing. Here I have started roughing in the painting… getting the figure and ground separated.
This next image you can see that I am defining the characters faces and bodies and making the background more solid.
Below I have added more details. The background is more formed. Notice some of the earlier details were whited out to start over.
Below is the finished painting.
This painting is not for sale – I may be dreaming, but… my idea is to donate this to the Georgia Museum in Athens, Georgia or the Morris Museum in Augusta, Georgia.
I have had questions over time about how I work (how an artist works really). I do sometimes take quick snap shots of different points I get to in a painting. I am doing a little series of posts that will show some of the stages a single painting goes through as I develop a work. I do have different starting points… sometimes pencil sketches on paper, or a small painting on paper first before going to a larger format. But, like with the example below of “Matthew Listening by Candlelight” I started with an overall wash of a dull color. After it dried, I took a smaller brush and dipped it in some left over brown and started drawing from a photo reference right on the canvas.
The next day, I went out to my studios and mixed brown and dark blue together to make a near black and with a pretty wide, flat brush laid in all the darkest parts away from the imaginary candle light source. (the photo reference was a man sitting outside in bright daylight). I used a mix of yellow oxide and gray to dab at the highlights.
After that, I used the three previous color mixes and filled in the rest of his face. Finally a sloppy wet mix of medium dark to tone the entire canvas down giving it the old candlelight look!