Monthly Archives: December 2014

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Jul 1976

KCAC Forum Newsletter Volume 2 Number 7 July 1976

PROFILES: SUZANNE RICHARDS

KCAC Logo_Angry Artist Today, whenever I visit the Nelson Gallery, the sensation of the huge columns and the mysterious smell that overtakes me as I step inside, always brings back a flood of feelings attached to my first visit at age seven.  I was taking art classes recommended by my grade school teachers impressed, I guess, with the “talent” I showed for coloring my blue birds and red apples so beautifully! I was so thrilled to  discover such importance and a sense of specialness attached to “coloring”, and it was then I decided to be “an artist.”  And, I think it must have been very shortly after that I managed to get my parents to frame some of my crayola drawings and had my first one-woman show on my bedroom wall and fixed up a room in the basement as my studio.

I continued to study art, spending two and a half years at the Kansas City Art Institute before moving to San Francisco and getting a BFA in Painting from the San Francisco ARt Institute in 1965.  From there I traveled a year throughout Europe spending most of my time inside the museums seeing first hand all the masterpieces and realizing perhaps that was more of an education than any of my years in art school.  I returned to San Francisco to work in an advertising agency and over a period of four years I did everything from secretary, to junior art director, to freelance illustrating, to account executive before I took a long look and realized how little time was left over for painting and decided to quit, come back to Kansas City, and rearrange my life so I could paint all the time and do whatever was necessary to make that possible.

I set up a plan for myself of shows, contests, juried exhibitions, memberships and PR goals that I wanted to accomplish.  This basically was – do EVERYTHING there was that came along (locally, regionally, and nationally) that I could do.  And that became a full-time job.

Three years have passed now.  Some of the feelings I might share with you, or some of the things I didn’t know then and have the answers to now are: Would I have enough discipline and creative input to be able to paint every day? Could I stand living on an income below the federal poverty level when I had become used to a nice salary and rather extravagant lifestyle?  Did I really have to start from scratch and go through all the elementary stages of an artists’ career, or couldn’t I just skip it and move into the more rewarding levels? Could I survive in Kansas City as an artist where the “art scene” is hardly recognizable? The answers are all YES.

And so here I am today with a studio in the River Quay, painting away and loving it more and more with every day that passes.  A lot of painting time must still be put in before I can say I’ve reached a level of maturity in my work that meets my personal requirements, but I DO KNOW that it is possible to expect to have a successful life as an artist if you are willing to seek out your own solutions to whatever might be obstructing your path.

I don’t have any “definitions” for my “style” of painting and prefer not to explain much other than to talk about what excites me visually and motivates me to go paint.  And one thing that intrigues me is light and shadow patterns.  You might say I’m a traditionalist in that I still love a canvas and a brush and the formal elements of line, color, form, and space. I’m not, at this point, especially concerned with “what” I paint.  And what I’m striving for might be called a visual “feeling” that is truly my own and is transmitted to the viewer via the canvas.

In closing, I do think an artist can live and work in Kansas  City and not feel too isolated, but I do feel it is necessary to get back to New York and other art centers as often as possible to be revitalized, not only by the new things that are going on but also to see again and again what’s gone on before us.  And I think it is extremely important to all of us to continue to develop a strong art community here.

And each day as I squeeze out my Cadmiums, I think of DeKooning in his studio on Long Island and Diebonkorn in his studio in California, and all the artists in between, squeezing out their Cadmiums and I am so very glad to be a part of it and and not tearing off in a frenzy to a 9:00 am client presentation (after being up all night in preparation), only to convince someone to buy something I don’t believe in myself.

That stronger wordless under-current of meaningfulness I felt at the gallery as a child made such an impact, that today it still provides incentive and sustains me when encountering the daily difficulties and seeming impossibilities of being an artist.

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum May 1976

KCAC Forum Newsletter Volume 2 Number 5 May 1976

BOOK REVIEW: “MASTERCLASS IN WATERMEDIA”
by Edward Betts

KCAC Logo_Angry Artist At first sight this book may seem to be just another “how to paint a watercolor” book, but more careful observation of the plates or even a glance at the table of contents will begin to persuade one that there is much  more to it.  There is.

As Betts explains, the concept of the masterclass is common to the fields of music, dance, and photography and the first masterclass for advanced watercolorists was begun by Barse Miller at Rangemark, Maine in 1965.  When the latter died suddenly in 1973, betts took over the class.

The book describes in detail the techniques of transparent watercolor, opaque water media (gouache, casein, and acrylic), collage, mixed media, and other techniques of painting without a brush.  Betts deals with the creative process from the beginning to end and discusses the difficult issue of meaning in abstract painting with great clarity and precision.  Betts’s philosophy that semi-abstract painting is the highest possible achievement is by no means revolutionary, yet it is stated so straightforwardly as to make me consider the possiblility that this form of art will ultimately prove to the the mainstream of the twentieth century.

Although the book is largely a portfolio of Betts’s work, both his realistic watercolors which he does for relaxation and his larger abstract acrylics, it also includes a number of excellent color plates of works by other leading American painters in aqueous media, thus giving the reader an idea of the great variety of contemporary styles.  Some may object to Betts’s style of painting as being overly “technique-y,” but he is well aware of this trap and advises: “Whatever methods are used in painting without a brush, the main thing to keep in mind is that they should not be allowed to descend to the level of gimmicks or novelty devices, mannerisms that display the skill of the painter without expressing anything pictorially significant.”

The writing is almost without exception to the point and easily understandable.  The format is somewhat standardized, consistent with the idea that the book is describing a class, but it is free from the dogma that characterizes the run of the mill “how to paint” book.

Betts demonstrates the process of starting with an image from a photograph or a sketch from nature and transforming it according to its particular qualities and to those of the medium being employed, to achieve a finished painting.  He also describes other sources for pictorial images, such as his interest in upside-down sports photographs.  Many of the paintings in successive stages of development as well as the materials used.  The captions to the photographs are lengthy, well-thought-out, and often as revealing as the text.

Betts lauds acrylics for their flexibility and permanence, and the chapters on collage, mixed media and paintings without a brush present a complete description of contemporary techniques.  Painters who use brushes and prefer oil paints may find themselves considering the possibilities of acrylics.  Betts’s long experience lends insights into what methods and materials will create a lasting work versus ones that will deteriorate (for instance, the colors of colored tissue paper are extremely fugitive).  The property of acrylic medium to completely seal and protect materials from air and moisture makes it ideal for collage and mixed media.

The painter who already knows these things may be unexcited, but the recurring idea of the enjoyment of the act of painting, particularly when it involves experimentation, certainly is one of the positive reinforcement.  Furthermore, one cannot help but admire the thorough-going revelation of techniques and attitudes and reflecting on this can help clarify one’s own ideas about how to make a painting.  Betts explains the traditional approach of painting from nature toward abstraction although he favors the revers approach which is improvisational.

Concerning nonobjective painting, he writes,
“I am convinced that in order to keep the forms in nonobjective painting vital and varied, to prevent repetitious, sterile design, it is essential that the artist stay in constant contact with all things visual, that he keep his eye eternally alert for forms and combinations of forms that he can eventually put to use in his paintings.  The wells of invention can go dry unless they are continually fed by intense observation.”

Betts teaches advanced painting at the University of Illinois and his credentials and list of awards are more than impressive.  Knowing the author personally has probably biased my view, but I feel the book is a stimulation and worthy addition to any painter’s library.  “Masterclass in Watermedia” is clearly a labor of love, which in part explains its success.  But it is certainly true that water media is enjoying enhanced stature these days, and we are urged to consider, as Betts romantically concludes, if we are not seeing the first stages of a “watercolor Renaissance.”

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Mar 1976

KCAC Forum Newsletter Volume 2 Number 4 March 1976

Beginnings
By Mark Lavatelli

KCAC Logo_Angry Artist Since the advent of Abstract Expressionism as the dominant international tendency in painting, drips, splatters and vigorous brushwork have been major techniques in the painter’s repertoire.  Despite the frequent avoidance of spontaneity in the fashionable sixties movements of Pop and Op art, it would appear that to so many artists in the seventies, this gestural approach still contains a wealth of creative potential.

Spontaneity of paint application is the one unifying feature of paintings of Tom Glabman, 105 E 41st, KC, who’s show BEGINNINGS was on view during the month of February in Missouri Western’s FAC Gallery in St. Joseph.  The show consisted of nineteen large abstract paintings on a number of works in color on paper.  For the most part, the work shows use of fluid, organic shapes and subtle color harmonies, frequently including transparent overlays and drips.  The paintings which were done earlier in time use bright color contrasts and roughly geometric structure in which certain smaller linear forms seem charged with the expressive power of symbols.

Such variety might disconcert those who expect a single style to be represented in depth, but this multiplicity in typical in a young painter, and Glabman says he never wants to limit himself to one style.  Glabman uses acrylics and house paints applied directly to raw canvas.  The paintings are untitled, unsigned, unframed, and unstretched, revealing the literalness of canvas as fabric – a common practice in the avant-garde today.

Glabman’s extensive use of this loose, gestural approach belies his control and sense of design and only a superficial reading of the work could allow the conclusion that his technique is haphazard.  Often previously painted areas are covered up, giving the work a mysterious, hermetic feeling.  Glabman shows that he has learned the important lesson of not being so enamored with one part of the painting that the composition as a whole is lost.  He possesses an excellent sense of color, whether quite and muted or loud and festive.  Sometimes, however, his shapes do not seem integrated and the contours seem labored, making the work busy and overly shape-conscious.  The more successful work shows use of larger shapes and transparencies, revealing the drips in their full glory.

Recognizable images occasionally appear in the paintings according to the viewers imagination and, like the famous twentieth century master Paul Klee, Glabman feels this is natural and does not discourage it.  He feels that the forms in some paintings evoke a sense of “presence” and in others a “stance.”

Despite the unevenness of the show, it gives the feeling of an outpouring of energy and is promising.  Glabman studied for two years at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and received his BFA from KCAI.  His admitted influences are the first generation Abstract Expressionists Still, Rothko, Pollock, and Gottlieb and more recently Japanese art, which he saw first hand while traveling there.  He says he paints “to find out who I am” and sees a close relationship in his work to musical expression.  He says his paintings are “silent music.”