Friday, September 12, 2008



Things That Are Blue

Oil on canvas, 28" x 40" (approx.), 1984
Private Collection
Click image to enlarge

In the summer of 1984 I was unhappy with the progress of my artwork. I felt the need to change my routines in order to try to shake something fresh out. Not having done much still life work, I decided to set up this arbitrary arrangement in my studio and vowed to spend some time with it. The objects were plopped down alongside each other pretty casually--I didn't want them to be "artfully" composed.

I worked on the painting for several weeks, and remember getting completely absorbed in that wrinkled white cloth. I was amazed at the incredible range of subtle color that was in the whiteness (this bad photo doesn't do it justice.) The longer I looked, the more I saw. It was a maddening, humbling, exhilarating lesson in the discipline of simply looking. I didn't know it then, but this painting was the beginning of six months of still life painting that took me down a completely unexpected but exciting path of new explorations.




Objects in Time and Space

Charcoal and acrylic on paper, 22" x 30",(approx.)
Private Collection
Click image to enlarge

This painting was done several weeks (maybe months) later. I was getting increasingly interested in experimenting within the still life format. I wanted to find ways to surprise myself; to make the paintings more open-ended, less pre-planned. For this piece I decided to build a kind of unpredictability into the painting process itself. None of these objects were ever placed together in this arrangement. I would set one thing on the table and draw it on the paper. Then I would remove it and place the next object to draw, choosing an almost random placement. In this manner the design grew organically over time, and the space each object occupied was, in a way, only in my mind.

10 comments:

Sheila Vaughan said...

Don, it's a frustrating time for you with the "techie" problems you're experiencing and I hope it is sorted soon for your sake. BUT, what we would have missed in your reflections of the past 20 years or so of work and these absolutely wonderful paintings. It sounds dramatic but they make me feel humbled and even priveleged to just put a bit of paint on the end of a brush and keep going! I love Trespasser by the way. It is so powerful in its simplicity. Thanks Don for sharing this earlier work.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

This is a beautiful painting, as are so many of these earlier pieces you're sharing. Thank you for letting us take a look. I'm inspired!

Sylvia Jenstad said...

Very cool way of doing still life...I like the end result...

Don Gray said...

Boy, Sheila, what a fine compliment--can't tell you how much I appreciate that. Thank you!

Don Gray said...

Diana, you're very kind. I get inspired when I visit your blog, so "back at 'ya!" :)

Don Gray said...

Thank you, Sylvia.

Erika Nelson said...

Don your past works are quite different from your current ones, they were much tighter huh? Are you feeling more expressive these days or in the past? Each style is beautiful and amazing in its own way! But since I don't have the tenacity to paint that tight, I can definitely relate more to your newer pieces. Did your style get more relaxed about the same time you surrounded yourself with cows? :) I hope your tech probs gets resolved soon. Thanks kindly for the note!

Don Gray said...

Hi Erika, thanks for the comments and questions. My feeling of whether I'm being more or less expressive varies moment by moment, depending on the mood I'm in and how well or poorly the painting is going. It has always been that way. History shows that lots of painters seem to get looser in style as they age. Not sure it has anything to do with cows. Probably just bad eyesight.

JEANNE ILLENYE said...

SPECTACULAR!!!!!!!!!!

kcb said...

I don't much about art or what private collections mean, but I know what I like and I love this painting. Do you make copies of ones like this to sell or anything? I especially loved Trespasser and was wondering specifically about that one too.
Kami Baxter