Next show: Vivid Visions at Compound Gallery

June 5th, 2012 | No Comments

vivid visions coming to compound gallery in portland, oregon
A vivid vision: One of my newest paintings, which remains untitled, might just be showing in Portland this summer.

An extremely bright spot in my summer will be my involvement in Vivid Visions, a group art show curated by my great friend and fellow artist Oliver Hibert.

What makes this show such a bright spot? The seven artists in Vivid Visions use amped-up, fluorescent paint-powered palettes. Hanging our work together in one room is a gargantuan guarantee to make eyeballs melt!

Vivid Visions will open August 2, 2012 at Compound Gallery, which is located in downtown Portland, Oregon. The six other artists participating in Vivid Visions are Buff Monster, Jesse Hibert, Oliver Hibert, Spencer Hibert, Martin Ontiveros, and Pinky.

In the Studio: May 18, 2012

May 18th, 2012 | No Comments

in the studio may 18, 2012
In the studio, May 18, 2012: New paintings stacked among the old as late afternoon light blazes through the window. In the foreground is Variant, which I painted last November. Read about Variant.

With summer solstice just five weeks away, the daylight of the Arizona desert is growing eye-piercingly bright, white-washing everything in sight. Keeping my studio’s shades lowered is the only way I can prevent my retinas from melting!

There is nothing like desert light. It’s mesmerizing and merciless, life-giving and lethal. It offers inspiration and commands a healthy respect.

And so, with sunlight lending an added glow to my fluorescent paints, I’m giving all I’ve got to making new paintings that have a minimal pop-art vibe. I’m drawing upon all of the things that inspire me visually, synthesizing them into something not seen before, exploring as I go.

Many of these new works are based on sketches I created months ago — in some cases, years ago. If those sketches appeal to me now just as they did before, I know they are worth pursuing today.

New ‘Simple’ Geometric Art

January 9th, 2012 | 3 Comments

I present to you my newest painting — a “simple” geometric artwork I call Variant.

simple geometric art
Simple geometric art: Variant. Acrylic on canvas. 48 inches (122 cm) square. 2011.

What makes this painting simple? Geometric art, as a genre, is characterized by repetitive shapes and motifs that often fill the entire picture plane, forming an allover pattern.

By contrast, although geometric, my newest painting takes a step back, allowing a series of stripes to interact simply with a pattern that appears to be just beginning to form. Neither the stripes, nor the pattern, become the geometric artwork’s focal point; the two elements achieve a fragile balance, framed by negative space.

The story behind this geometric painting is relatively simple, as well. I discovered this composition accidentally one night in late October, after four hours of mashing up patterns and shapes in Illustrator. The moment I arrived at this composition, I knew it had to be painted!

The happy accident that led to this painting only proves to me that as long as I experiment — no matter how long, laborious, or fruitless the process may seem — worthwhile results will follow. Four hours of going nowhere can lead to somewhere uncharted.

Julian Stanczak interview on

November 4th, 2011 | 2 Comments

I remember the first time I ever saw a painting by Julian Stanczak in person. It was at the Toledo Museum of Art, several years ago. Standing before And Then There Were Three, in all of its 4-foot-by-12-foot vastness, I literally felt myself being engulfed by the colors and forms before me. Green and red were banging against each other, forming a warm brown, vibrating against several rhythmic progressions of purples.

julian stanczak interview - and then there were three
And Then There Were Three by Julian Stanczak. 48 x 144 inches (122 cm x 3.7 m). 1971. Collection of Toledo Museum of Art. Photo by Faasdant via flickr.

I remember trying to focus on just one color — training my eyes to carefully scan the canvas from bottom to top edge, in a vertical line — and noted how my perception of that singular color changed, based on its proximity to other colors.

The more I gazed at And Then There Were Three, the more I fell into it, as if a gravitational pull had lured me into a radically different (and far more interesting) reality. I couldn’t pull myself away. I was in bliss.

That moment at Toledo Museum of Art changed my thinking about art and how I saw my own art. Julian Stanczak had joined my personal constellation of art superstars.

Ever since, I have followed the arc of Stanczak’s career with great interest. I have enjoyed the resurgence in interest in his work — as evidenced by his inclusion in the Optic Nerve, presented by Columbus Museum of Art in 2009, as well as CLE OP: Cleveland Op Art Pioneers, on view through February 26, 2012 at Cleveland Museum of Art.

The fact that Stanczak is a Clevelander — he resides in Seven Hills, one suburb east of where I grew up (Hint: It rhymes with “pharma.”) — who attended Cleveland Institute of Art around the time my mother did (ca. 1950), makes him even cooler.

Naturally, when Julie Karabenick, editor and curator of, contacted me last week to let me know that she had just posted an interview with Stanczak, I virtually flipped out. At first, I tried to read the interview on my phone, but quickly stopped once I realized how comprehensive it is.

Clocking in at more than 15,000 words (23 pages of 10-point type, without images, expertly led and transcribed by Karabenick), this interview is a definitive, tour de force window into how Stanczak sees his work, his influences, and his creative process. Read the complete interview on here.

“Color Meltdowns”

Several themes continually resurface throughout the interview. Stanczak’s love of color emerges early; he views color as “abstract, universal — yet personal and private in experience. It affects us emotionally, not logically as do tangible things.”

As the interview progresses, Stanczak’s insights take on a gravity not unlike Paul Klee’s near-mystical observations in The Thinking Eye, but with a playfulness and optimism shared by Verner Panton. You intimately sense Stanczak’s love for color, and his deep interest in creating a visual sensation for the viewer, through interactions between colors.

“I want to fuse many colorants and their gradations into a single color experience — a ‘color meltdown,'” he says. “I am interested in the glow of colors as they interact and intermix, as they give to each other. And there are many factors I must consider to achieve the desired meltdown.”

He speaks of his paintings as an “interactive fusion” of colors, where “visual elements lose their individuality for the sake of totality.” Stanczak’s canvases are surfaces upon which colors invite our eyes to mix them into entirely new colors, forming a “haze” or “glow” as they interact.

Nature as the greatest teacher

Unlike anything else, the natural world has challenged and inspired Stanczak to experiment with colors, forms, and its many sensations. The artist expresses an instinctual fascination with the geometry and visual rhythms that permeate life.

“More than any of my teachers, Nature directed me, and I gained more conviction through, for example, observing water reflections, river currents, wood grain or grasses swaying,” Stanczak says. “In many of my studies the rhythmic use of line or shape refers to weather and light.”

During his early teaching career in Cincinnati and Cleveland, in the late 1950s and early 1960s — a time of great isolation for the artist — nature was Stanczak’s one constant.

“With no one to promote my clean geometry, whom could I turn to for some kind of confirmation? — to Nature, as always,” he observes. “I have always felt that Nature harbors the answers to all my questions.”

Josef Albers

Stanczak’s recollections of Josef Albers, one of his professors at Yale, form a particularly fascinating section of Karabenick’s interview. The artist remembers:

At Yale one of the first lessons I heard from Albers was, “I cannot teach you your art!” Albers used destruction as a method of construction in his teaching. Anything you thought you knew was taken away. The principle was not to get attached to anything too early, but to keep looking, searching, and thinking. Albers made endless demands for you to be better, to be a more observant participant in life. You experienced total emancipation from what to do, how to do it and what to think.

[Albers] gave me the courage to explore color beyond the classroom. He gave me the mindset to accept questions as part of life’s energy. My paintings and my search for understanding of color were based on a step-by-step process of observation. My observations might not match those of another person, but they became my foundation to build upon. I was gratified that Albers chose to include one of my pieces in his Interaction of Color portfolio.

Albers emerges later in the interview, when Stanczak drove to New Haven to invite Albers to the opening of his first solo show in a New York gallery — Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings, at Martha Jackson Gallery in 1964. The exhibition’s title unnerved Stanczak, but particularly rankled Albers.

Stanczak remembers:

I found him aroused, pointing to the exhibition announcement in the paper. Without a greeting he said, ‘Your obligation is to correct that!’ I asked him what term he would use to describe the work, and he said ‘Perceptual painting.’ He was imperative about my responsibility to take action against something like this. I tried, but the term had already entered the public domain.

Stanczak viewed his paintings as an opportunity for “perceptual experience,” not purely optical experience. The latter was, in his opinion, a matter of merely “registering visual actions blindly.” Pattern and illusion — eye-attacking art-making tactics, on their own — never motivated Stanczak the way they did so many of his contemporaries.

Reading Karabenick’s interview is like a walk through time, spanning Stanczak’s life and the art currents surrounding and shaping him. The interview offers remarkable insights into one an artist’s lifelong approach toward color, form, and his highly individualistic art-making process — which undoubtedly has involved many miles of tape.

I consider this interview a gift that will continue to unfold new meanings as I re-read and reflect upon it, in a way very similar to seeing Stanczak’s paintings in person, up close. It is a master class that any artist can attend, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have experienced it.

Poster for Maricopa Community Colleges Student Art Competition

October 19th, 2011 | No Comments

A new poster, based upon one of my recent paintings, will soon be circulating throughout the 10 campuses of Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC), promoting the college system’s 26th Annual League for Innovation Student Art Competition.

MCC student art competition poster
Posters for Maricopa Community Colleges’ 26th Annual League for Innovation Student Art Competition.

The poster is based upon my 2010 painting Flat Space, Imagined Place. MCC designer Janet Sieradzki used the graphics file that resulted from original digital sketches for the painting. (Since 2001, I have designed all of my paintings digitally before painting them.)

I’ve enjoyed a fruitful, collaborative relationship with Maricopa Community Colleges over the past several years. In 2004 and 2005, I designed a pair of posters for MCC’s Honors Forum Lecture Series. My art has been featured on a 2007 faculty convocation program and a collection of winning entries for a 2007-2008 student writing competition.

MCC student art competition poster
2007-2008 MCC publications featuring designs adaptated from my paintings.

Overall, I’m very happy with this new poster, and I’m very excited to see how the art competition turns out. My thanks go to Ms. Sieradzki for inviting me to share my work. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with her yet again!

New Miniature Artwork for Think Small 6 Miniature Art Show

October 17th, 2011 | No Comments

I present to you the smallest painting I have ever made: A three-inch by 2.5-inch (7.62 cm x 6.35 cm) miniature artwork for the upcoming Think Small 6 miniature art show, held at Artspace in Richmond, Virginia.

miniature artwork

Titled Deconstructed Mash-Up in Improvised Colors, this new miniature artwork reflects my recent experiments in abstract and randomized compositions. I landed upon the composition on accident, while designing something very different on my computer. When it came time to make this painting for Think Small 6 — I was working under a deadline — I kept changing the colors as I went. In essence, this painting is a study; I am considering an attempt at a larger version, using different colors, soon.

Think Small 6 is an international miniature artwork invitational, bringing together pieces by 260 artists from around the world. The show will open at Artspace on Friday, October 28. A preview gala will be held on October 27.

I have priced this painting, which is signed and framed, at the low-low price of $59.99. If you are interested in acquiring it for your collection, please contact Artspace at

Chaos Theory 12 in downtown Phoenix

October 8th, 2011 | No Comments

The Chaos Theory 12 group exhibition opened Friday night at Legend City Studios in downtown Phoenix. Organized by longtime downtown Phoenix-based artist Randy Slack, Chaos Theory 12 brings together new works by 60 Arizona artists.

I chose to exhibit Waveform, I painting I produced in February, but had not shown before. Here are a couple of glimpses.

chaos theory 12 phoenix
chaos theory 12 phoenix

You can find the painting on the gallery’s back wall, which is visible from the gallery’s entrance, through late November. Legend City Studios is located at 521 W. Van Buren Street in Phoenix. See a Google map.

There is a good chance that the gallery will be open for Third Friday art walk festivities. I will be posting updates about special events, as I learn about them, to my blog, my Facebook page and my twitter feed.

I extend my compliments to all of the artists who are showing in this well-presented exhibition, as well as my gratitude to Randy Slack, for inviting me to participate.

This fall 2011, three art shows in three states

September 27th, 2011 | No Comments

This fall 2011, I will have a lively exhibition calendar: three art shows in three different regions of the U.S.

fall 2011 art shows
The Vormance Expedition, which I will be exhibiting at Louisiana State University’s Student Union Art Gallery, starting October 23.

2011 20”x20”x20”: A National Compact Competition and Exhibit. The LSU Student Union Art Gallery at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. On view October 23 – November 30. In this an all-media competition, which is open to professional artists residing in the United States, works cannot exceed 20 inches for any one dimension. Juror Julie Sasse, chief curator of contemporary art at Tucson Museum of Art, selected 49 works by 46 artists. I will be exhibiting The Vormance Expedition, a painting I produced in 2010.

Chaos Theory 12 at Legend City Studios, 521 W. Van Buren Street in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. See Google map. On view October 7 – late November; opening party from 6pm until “???” on October 7. Organized by artist Randy Slack, the annual Chaos Theory invitational brings together dozens of highly talented Phoenix artists. The exhibition has been described as an “unofficial barometer of the art scene.” Although so many visions are represented in this show, the works all seem to harmonize magically. This will be my third Chaos Theory; view photos of the 2010 show. It is always a great honor to be invited to participate in Chaos Theory.

Think Small 6 International Miniature Art Biennial at Artspace Gallery, Richmond, Virginia. On view October 28 – December 18. This will be my fourth time participating in the invitational miniatures exhibition, which challenges artists to produce work that does not exceed three inches in any dimension. See the three miniature paintings I produced for Think Small in 2005, 2007 and 2009. I have not yet produced a piece for the upcoming ThinkSmall6, but I will certainly be working on something very soon. … And you’ll be the first to see it here on my blog!

Peter Halley: Artist Studio Visit

July 15th, 2011 | No Comments

When geometric artist Peter Halley opened the doors of his Chelsea studio to guests on July 10, 2011, James Kalm documented the event with a fascinating video.

Kalm’s video offers an first-hand look at Halley’s newest eye-popping paintings and studies, as well as his jaw-dropping inventory of fluorescent paints.

I’m beyond inspired! Nevermind this blog stuff … I’ve got to get back to painting!

30-Minute Abstract Art Sketches

June 30th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Lately I have been experimenting with time-based abstract art sketches. For 30 minutes at a stretch, I attack a given composition with all I’ve got, working to produce something visually compelling under the pressure of a time limit.

Because the clock is ticking as I go, I have to work fast, and I have no time to second-guess myself. I am forced to “turn off my brain.” My intuition takes over. I go into a zone where some of my most creatively satisfying work happens. Things just happen.

abstract art sketches
abstract art sketches
Two recent abstract art sketches: I am in the process of refining these sketches into compositions that I will eventually paint. Going forward, I will be careful to honor the spirit of the original sketch — in other words, not tinker too much.

These 30-minute abstract art sketches also offer me a format for keeping my compositional skills fresh. It’s almost like how baseball players take batting practice every day, stepping into the batting cage and hacking away, working on the mechanics of their swings, trying to relax, and not to force anything, in the process.

Ideally, just like batting practice, I’d like set aside time each day to make a sketch, working on one specific design motif or geometric element per session. Unfortunately, I haven’t quite found the time to do this every day!

Another benefit of the 30-minute approach is that it prevents me from tinkering with a composition until I reach the point of diminishing returns, something I have encountered in the past. In fact, last summer I produced 24 different takes on the same composition! Results varied by the end, anyway: Once I started painting, the painting took on new life, deviating from the original sketch in significant ways.

I should add that I started experimenting with 30-minute sketches four years ago. The spontaneous art that followed, part of an art lottery project, eventually resulted in paintings such as Corporate Wellness Program.

We’ll see, indeed, whether my current batch of abstract art sketches will metamorphose into paintings in the physical realm.