Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Cowboy's Journey

Around 1988, Koenig Art Emporium, the only genuine art store in town went out of business and had a big closing sale. By the time I got there, the place had been pretty much picked clean. On the way out I glimpsed an old set of flat files in the corner and wandered over to take a look.
The drawers still held various colored art papers but nothing of much interest. Then opening the bottom drawer, I saw the BFK Rives imprint on a stack of heavyweight paper and knew I had struck pay dirt.

Rives is top of the line paper for fine art drawing and printing and occasionally I treated myself by purchasing one or two sheets. Yet here was a whole stack of cold-press 240 lb. paper marked 70% off. Opportunities like that don’t come around often, so I bought the entire lot.

After that my slacker nature kicked back in and the paper sat unused in my studio for over a year. Finally, desperate for some spark to ignite my withered creativity, I remembered the Rives. What would happen if I attempted Oriental brush drawings on the soft textured paper?

Thus began a project that proceeded by stops and starts for yet another year. Standing before my studio work table, I imagined a Japanese calligraphy master about to begin work. With quickness, dexterity and confidence, he suddenly brings forth a stunning visual haiku.

My feeble attempts, however, turned out to be more like muddled blobs. For every half-way decent drawing, there were at least ten second-rate rejects. I was a novice better qualified to sweep out the master’s studio.

I set the project aside for months before daring to again pick up the brushes. But this time there were more drawings that made the final cut. Over time, my files became filled with sumi ink drawings; some good but most uninspired student work.

In 1997, in another creative funk, I pulled out a bunch of sumi rejects and started adding color to them. Using the same method of confident starts and frustrated stops, I eventually accumulated a stack of finished oil, acrylic and ink paintings.

It was from this last group of works that the above painting “A Close Shave” emerged. In 1998, the piece was acquired by the Gulf Coast Museum of Art for their permanent collection.

After the demise of GCMA, their extensive collection was purchased by St. Petersburg College and is again being exhibited in several of its campus locations. And now, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College is holding an exhibition of part of that collection.

“A Close Shave” has again emerged and hangs in the Museum alongside many other excellent pieces from the collection. The exhibition will be up through August and is well worth the trip to St. Petersburg College in Tarpon Springs. For more information call 727 712-5762 or click here.

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