Saturday, November 21, 2009


At Utah State University I teach students in the Art Department how to paint. For many painting instructors, that might mean primarily a focus on theory and concept. I'm talking here about the kind of people who never miss an opportunity to use the word "reference" as a verb. But in the courses I teach, I do spend a considerable amount of time actually talking about the physical activity of painting. I don't think it hurts anyone to know how to mix color or to use a system based on local values to create order in an image. But even given my willingness to deal unashamedly with the mechanics of painting, I can't always shield my students from the esoteric stuff. And the fact that I keep coming back to, is that in painting, viscosity counts for a lot. And the truth about viscosity, is that it's virtually impossible to explain it verbally. If the paint has the right viscosity, it's easy to make it do what you want. If the viscosity is wrong, you can forget it. Recently I learned, it's the same when you're making Spätzle.

About this time a year ago, I was in Essen, enjoying an expat Thanksgiving dinner at Seitenblick. I ordered, ate and later wrote about a fabulous meal of Kurbisspätzle, or Pumpkin Spaetzle, pan fried with sauerkraut. We decided to try making it at home about a week ago, but we didn't get the Zähflüssigkeit right and our noodles turned into a kind of spätzlemässig brick. It was still good sliced and fried with the sauerkraut, but I think we'll cook a turkey this Thursday just the same.

The contrast between then and now is interesting in other ways too, and the blog allows me to go back and see more or less exactly what I was doing a year ago. Then, I had just gotten started on several paintings and managed to complete at least one of the larger oils. Now, I'm working intermittently in the studio and starting to think about preparations for the exhibition I'll be doing in January. A year ago, I was spending time with Thore, a one year old German native, trying to bring him up to speed on the American blues tradition. I don't really know what's happening with Thore now. He never calls, he doesn't write... If he's like many of his countrymen, I imagine he celebrated Tag der Deutschen Einheit recently and is trying his best to avoid the Schweinegrippe. When he's a little older, I'll ask him if he can help me out with some Spätzle tips. Until then, I'll just stick to painting and try to get the viscosity right.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Neue Bilder

A Visiting Artist from Korea has mounted a beautifully executed exhibition of 20 white canvasses here on campus in Logan. The canvasses arrived direct from Utrecht Linens on our loading dock two weeks ago and went straight into the gallery. Other than a single number on each, the canvasses are unchanged from the way Utrecht sent them out. I've never been much of an art collector, but this show is so impressive, I've made arrangements to purchase the entire thing. Twenty flawless canvasses do have an eerie kind of beauty to them and I'm at least a little sad that as soon as I get my hands on them, I'll begin the process of screwing them up with a lot of painting.

It's easy to forget, but fundamentally, I am a painter. And now that I've been back in Utah for about 15 weeks or so, I'm actually getting some work done too. My studio here in Logan is less than a fifth the size of where I was working in Essen, and my employer here seems to think I have nothing better to do than teach classes and write an unending stream of "mission statements," but in spite of everything, I have managed to get back to work. I'm busy now finishing a series of paintings I began this Spring in Germany and left more or less intentionally incomplete. The work is going far better than I expected and I'm already making plans for new paintings.

And with my soon to be accomplished purchase of the decidedly "conceptual" exhibition now up in the Twain Tippetts Exhibition Hall in the Fine Arts building, I shall not want for surfaces to paint on. If everything continues to go well in the studio, I'm planning a trip to San Francisco in the early Spring that will lead eventually to an exhibition there in the coming year(s.) I can only hope that any exhibitions I wind up doing will be as successful in the sales department as the one currently on view here in Logan.