This past weekend, while trying to find the motivation to work on a painting, I came across a pamphlet for the Clyfford Still museum that I had picked up when Thibs and I had stopped briefly at the Clyfford Still museum in downtown Denver to get information on hours of operation and whatnot.
Clyfford Still (1904 - 1980) was an abstract expressionist who was considered one of the preeminent painters of the Color Field school, primarily because his paintings were generally huge canvases covered in thick, jagged swaths of paint that was applied with palette knives, almost like thick peanut butter would be spread on a slice of bread, except the bread would be 2,000 times larger than the average slice, and the peanut butter would be shades of yellow, purple, orange, red, black, or blue.
The museum opened two years ago, and stopping by with Thibs last week was only the second time I had been in it. Not that I do not appreciate the fantastic work Mr. Still produced, it's just that, well, it does not grab me as much as say, the works of Hans Hoffman or Helen Frankenthaler
Color is a wondrous thing, and I've always marveled at the works of artists' who seem to have found a way to almost sculpt with it, using the paint to create paintings in which the object of the painting is the color itself.
Thibs can do that. I've admired his use of color since we were teens. He has an instinctive feel for shades of color that goes far beyond using green for grass and blue for sky.
Hobbits, Richard Thibodeau, 10" X 14", Water-based Markers, 1978
My use of color has always been somewhat technical. It more than likely has to do with my interest in silk screen printing and four-color page printing when I was young. The basics for printing in color back then involved creating color separations - that is, four separate sheets of film were created, one for black, one for cyan, one for magenta, and one for yellow. From those four sheets every color, shade, tint or hue that was seen in magazines, newspapers, books, or even on television, were created.
Turbulent America, Chris Long (nka Bakunas) 12" X 16" Pen & ink w/tempera, 1978
The two examples above of work Thibs and I both produced in 1978 are very evident of our different approaches to using color. Thib's is far more organic and natural, mine is very straight, flat, and structured.
BTW, the example of my work was something I created as a Social Studies assignment. The class was told to write a 1,000 word essay on the turbulent generational conflicts in the U.S. in late '60's/early '70's, and I turned this in saying a picture is worth a thousand words. I got a B.
Even today It is more work than I like to admit for me to create a painting that has a natural feel to the color. I spend an inordinate amount of time mixing paints to come up with the right shade of blue for a sky or the right tint in a flesh tone.
I think I might have to go back down to the Still museum and spend a bit more time absorbing what he created. Maybe I'll hit on what it was he was feeling when he was working, tap into the source of his inspiration.
Or maybe I'll just get to enjoy huge canvases covered in almost intimidating amounts of color. Either way, it'll be time well spent.