artist is a sensitive someone who has within him a special kind
of flame with which he is able to take cold, manufactured, raw
media and fuse them creatively through his own personality into
a live and meaningful interpretation. The flame burns a bit
differently within each artist, and each flame varies from time
to time in its intensity and meaning. Artists seek to find those
materials with which they can best express themselves, and for
me, lacquer has become a very important part of my studio equipment.
that painting as a creative, emotional, and communicative
activity cannot in any true sense be divorced from the subjective
viewpoint. However for the sake of any who may wish to follow
experimental footsteps, I shall attempt to be as objective
years ago when I started using lacquer as a painting medium,
I worked with a commercially prepared lacquer specifically
designed for artists - a synthetic medium made of fine pigments
dispersed in a fast-drying, plasticized nitro-cellulose lacquer.
This medium is quite luminous and presents a beautiful but
hard surface. It is highly adhesive and can, through the use
of thinner, be handled in similar fashion to oil, encaustic,
or watercolor. Although I still use this particular medium,
I have experimented with other commercial lacquers. Some of
these I have retained; others I have discarded because of
their tendency to become brittle and crack, their failure
to mix and mingle well and also because they are too slippery
to handle. For some time, I have made frequent use of automobile
lacquers, finding these quite satisfactory and well adapted
for use as a painting medium. They are also easily obtainable
and can be purchased in any auto repair shop.
I most often use in painting are conventional oil painting
brushes, both bristle and sable in all sizes, painting knives,
etching needles, scratch board tools, sponges and rags. I
seldom use a true palette, preferring rather to lift the paints
directly from the cans mixing and blending them on the painting
surface. When a palette is used, I favor the disposable type
because of the difficulties involved in cleaning a fast-drying
lacquer from a wood or metal surface.
in the handling of this medium is, of course, peculiar to
my own nature as a creative individual. Because I have found
that a great number of painting surfaces are highly adaptable
to lacquer, I use such surfaces as masonite, stretched primed
or unprimed canvasses, and plywood, each of which offers a
personality its own and receives the paint in it's individual
manner. It is sometimes recommended that the painting surfaces
be primed with a lacquer white. I prefer not to prime my surfaces
because a lacquer priming offers too slick a surface for my
use. The paint is dipped from the can using either a large
bristle brush or a large painting knife, and sometimes I enjoy
the thrill of harnessing accidents by spilling the paint from
the can and then manipulating the results on the canvas with
brushes, painting knives, rags, or whatever seems handy. Two
definite techniques are usually employed in application: the
first and by far the most generally used is to handle the
color loosely in large semi blended areas dictated by feeling
and movement of pattern; the second method uses the paint
in tight geometric forms and involves a much more analytical
procedure with regard to design qualities. Both starting techniques
are totally abstract in concept with absolutely no attempt
at this point toward realistic thinking. Design, I believe,
is of primary importance and must be carefully thought out
in the original concept. At no time have I ever worked a single
painting from start to finish without beginning a second,
third or fourth. The first stage of filling the complete painting
surface is usually done on from four to eight canvases at
one sitting. When I paint I like to feel that I am working
with color, form, line, value, and texture rather than just
making a picture. At the end of this period I have started
a group of paintings; I have finished none. I then leave the
paintings, allowing some time to elapse before they are touched
again. After a healthy painting session I find myself in a
state of happy exhilaration, a feeling closely akin to the
intoxication of any deeply satisfying experience.
step is not one manipulation but of contemplation. I sit looking
at each painting for a period of time, turning it, and trying
to find some affinity between the painted surface and myself.
If no emotional contact is made, I leave it for another time.
If, however, it "clicks," then the canvas is put
on an easel and step three takes place. In this step, retarder
is sometimes used to slow the drying process. The paint is
now applied in thin transparent masses suggestive of the theme,
with no painted linear delineation. While it is wet, sponges,
rags, etching needles, knives, and scratchboard tools are
used to remove the paint, further to suggest the theme. In
other words, painting is a process of application and removal
- followed perhaps by further application and possibly further
removal. Usually, two or three paintings are again left to
dry, and again a period of waiting takes place. This lapse
of time serves two objectives: the first, a technical consideration,
is to allow for thorough hardening; the second, a highly personal
reason, is to prove to myself the validity of my originally
stage of the painting uses paint of opaque or transparent
nature thinned with a mixture of clear lacquer and thinner
in calligraphic delineation. The lines may be heavy and straight,
or they may be soft, thin, and flowing. This matter is dictated
by my feeling about the subject or the pattern. The painting
now is finished.
my paintings generally begin abstractly, the end results can
be, and have been described as, romantic realism. I think
it is most important to recognize that the artist must never
let the cart try to pull the horse. By that I mean one should
never take advantage of all the artistic "isms"
that exist in today's art world to the extent that the style
of the philosophy dictates the art. Classification is a natural
process, and although the label may fit the artist, the artist
should not consciously seek the label.
like to note at this point that my use of the lacquer medium
is not a "catch-as-catch-can' or "what-do-we-have-here"
experiment! As I work, my paintings are carefully thought
out and premeditated in design; many of these paintings are
based upon pencil idea-sketches which I continually make.
While it is true that I enjoy and use what is termed "the
happy accident," I have learned how to produce this accident,
how to create a desired form through, seemingly careless dribble.
I enjoy and strive toward spontaneity but I abhor slapstick.
I am a firm supporter of the thesis that art is a highly personal
form of communication. I also believe that to speak coherently
one must have a well-defined vocabulary. I therefore cannot,
in my own philosophy, condone the 'dribble-for-thrill"
technique or the painter who says of his experiments, "Crude
thing though thou art, thou art art!"
painted about ninety lacquer paintings but I feel that I have
only started in the exploration of what can be done with this
versatile and comparatively new medium. I find that lacquer,
besides doing the things I want paint to do and saying the
things I want to say, has a warm, live, and inviting animation
of its own.