Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: abstract art

Sage Cruz Field Discusses His Interdisciplinary Practice

Sage Cruz Field links various forms of visual representation through his diverse body of work. Paintings and prints depicting animals hang eclectically with photographs and forays into the colorful language of abstraction. Manipulated with everything from acrylic to oil and spray paint on substrates such as cardboard and mattresses, Cruz Field’s paintings simultaneously evince sensations tangential to street art, lyrical abstraction, and figuration. These expressive techniques inform Cruz Field’s use of animal and human forms to expose the iconography of the representational pictorial plane as an emotional and psychological space.

Cruz Field currently lives in Syracuse, NY, where he is seeking a BFA in painting at Syracuse University. His works will be exhibited in a solo exhibition open to the public at Spark Contemporary Art Space at 1005 E. Fayette Street, Syracuse, NY on April 18, 2015. Cruz Field’s artwork can also be found on his website and tumblr.



Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your process and aesthetics. How do you usually start a painting?

Sage Cruz Field:
I deliberately start a painting either abstract or realistic. My realistic pieces tend to illustrate a moment in time. Oils are an amazing tool, but I love to exaggerate space or form with the puff of spray paint. I am always drawn to worn materials because they are an immediate representation of time. Lately, I have gone back to acrylics in order to create a pop art sense of space in pieces.


Paul Weiner:
What artist or artists do you feel have had the greatest influence on your work?

Sage Cruz Field:
My father has been my biggest influence in art. Seeing him working as an artist, whether it be oils, drawing, or murals, shaped who I am today. I am surprised sometimes to see colors and shapes in my pieces that stem directly from him. Seeing an old sketchbook of his one day really made this click for me. I always have to give credit to the graffiti artists I grew up seeing in the streets. Their language has also had a major impact on me. Other professional artists tend to be an afterthought.


image (8)

Paul Weiner:
You work in both abstract and figurative painting as well as photography. Is there any difference in how you think about making work across these different mediums?

Sage Cruz Field:
As I said, my realistic work is usually quite calculated even though the narrative may be open-ended. My abstract pieces are a series of experiments that end with victory or defeat. Over the years, I have, of course, tried to evolve the process of my paintings in different ways. Photography has definitely been a catalyst in changing my approach in all mediums. The immediacy of a photograph is powerful and hard to get a grasp on. In my eyes, however, the brush and camera are very similar tools.

image (6)


image (7)

Paul Weiner:
Many of your recent works use animals as the subject. How do you decide on these animals and how does their presence impact the painting?

Sage Cruz Field:
Over time, my use of the animals has changed. I began using them as vehicle to communicate emotions such as grief, joy, or rage. Since then, my connection to these animals has mostly come from personal encounters in which I had the ability to photograph them. Sometimes, I find myself following animals to photograph them or just see where they lead me.


Paul Weiner:
You mentioned the connection between your work and graffiti artists you see on the street. Is the ideal setting for your work public like graffiti, in a more private space like a gallery, or somewhere else?

Sage Cruz Field:
Like the work of street and graffiti artists, I have strived to become versatile in different environments. Maybe this is why I am attracted to video, design, and photography. I never considered separating myself from a specific platform such as a gallery or the street. Instead, I have tried to understand the power of each and their relationship to the community. I have worked very hard to contribute my work to the surrounding community in various ways. A vast space like the internet is very saturated with artists, and your local neighborhood is always substantially less.



Paul Weiner:
When did you first start painting and how has your work evolved in recent years?

Sage Cruz Field:
I began seriously painting in high school when I received a scholarship to take free classes at the Steve Carpenter Studio. Steve is an extremely accomplished painter and amazing teacher. I focused here on still life painting. I was also accepted into the New York State Summer School of the Arts while in high school. Here, I focused on figure drawing and installation art. Experience with printmaking has also affected how I approach some paintings. Music has integrated into my art and photography in many ways, mainly through press passes and photo clients. Overall, I have maintained a specific outlook on color and energy that I hope people can recognize.

Please view Sage Cruz Fields’s websitetumblr, and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Ronald Lukas Brings Together Abstraction and Figurative Art

Ronald Lukas is a painter residing in Southern California who holds a BAE from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has pursued an MAE through the University of Chicago. Lukas has held a wide variety of art-related jobs, including his time as a teacher. His artwork is also available online at



Paul Weiner:
How have your experiences as an educator affected your practices as an artist?

Ronald Lukas:
Ever since my elementary school days, I wanted to be an art teacher. Basically, I was into the visual arts at an early age. For me, as a visual artist, teaching art was a line of work that paid my bills and, most importantly, kept me focused on art. The rewards of my earning a degree in art education and teaching art were not only an income but also obtaining a general art, commercial art, and fine art perspective, appreciation, and understanding.

Teaching is an excellent working environment for a practicing artist if he or she can deal with working/teaching in a classroom environment. Teaching art can help elucidate an artist’s path. It did so for me. It nailed down what area in the arts that I wanted to be eventually involved with, and I worked out how to accomplish the goal. I am now, after performing as an art teacher, advertising artist, liturgical artist, photographer, and an art consultant, a full-time painter.




Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Ronald Lukas:
I’m a direct painter, paint on canvas. Right now, I’m involved with expanding my painting process with different base paints.





Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting? Take us through your process of finding a subject conceptually.

Ronald Lukas:
I let the process of painting do the work. Then at some point I take over. Someone once said, “I’d rather see a bad painting with an idea than a good painting without an idea.” I subscribe to that! All my artwork is subject and composition oriented. It’s the result of my whole life and many different environments. My painting and subject matter are triggered by the moment. It’s very spontaneous, nothing is planned. It becomes planned when I become involved with the exact painting itself.





Paul Weiner:
Do you have a preference for a certain type of paint or surface?

Ronald Lukas:
Yes. Artist’s oil paint. The colors are rich, alive, and sensual. I’ll combine it with oil-based enamel and sometimes with an artist’s acrylic paint. The ground is stretched gesso cotton or linen canvas.




Paul Weiner:
How do you balance dueling interests in abstraction and physical form?

Ronald Lukas:
For me, the main difference between abstraction and realism is that realism, since the invention of the camera, is boring to paint. But I will admit that it’s a people pleaser. I’ll also admit that, when I’m in a wussy state of mind, I will occasionally flaunt my technical realistic painting skills to justify my credibility. All my abstract figurative painting starts off with a quick, fairly realistic image, and takes off from there. If I’m working from a human model, the approach is the same.





Paul Weiner:
Some artists think that figurative painting abilities are prerequisites for working in abstraction. Do you agree with that idea?

Ronald Lukas:
Nope! It’s a false assumption. Abstractionism is about subjective emotions, not objective reality. The old expression way back when was: “If you can draw the human figure, you can draw anything.” Most well-known modern and contemporary abstractionists never had the skill. Today more than ever, realists project a photographic image on their canvas and trace it. Aside from concept, what’s most important is the artist’s ability to master the dry and wet medium. Generally, realists have a problem. They can’t get past it!

Please view Ronald Lukas’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Exploring Erotic Photography with Gottfried

Gottfried is a photographer living in Berlin. His artwork spans a large range of work focused on or incorporating the idea of fetishism, and he has been working as an artist for over forty years. His artwork is available for view online.



Paul Weiner:
When did you start working on art?

Getting on towards forty years ago, and, in that time, I have conceived and produced works on three continents.

My beautiful picture


Paul Weiner:
What subjects do you find most interesting in your art?

As I have already written in my philosophy, as set out online, “in fact, people, their expressions, and their eyes as windows to their soul, in no matter what circumstances, are much more the meat of my metier.” A lot of my work has involved the erotic and also elements of fetish or, at least, quite a few works carry an innuendo in that direction. It is when a person is in pursuit of his or her fetish, whatever that may be, sexual or otherwise, that one sees the widest range and greatest brilliance of expression. Very often these are expressions, which are reserved for only the most private sphere, are indeed subjectively secret in nature. My style has, as is the case of all artists, developed with the years, but one can still perceive such elements, if one looks closely enough, even in some largely surreal or abstract works, such as ‘Psychedelic Mushrooms’.

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 11.41.33 PM

My beautiful picture


Paul Weiner:
Do you work in digital or film?

For the most part I have produced works very predominantly in negative and transparency film, but also in oil, crayon, pencil, and mixed media, encompassing various combinations of those materials and techniques. But your question was simple, and the simple answer is film, at least up until very recently, when I partially adopted digital since that has now seemingly become a fairly compelling medium. One has to admit that it greatly simplifies much of the now possible, to use movie terminology, post-production.


My beautiful picture

Paul Weiner:
Do you find any inspiration in abstract expressionist painting?

Yes. I find inspiration in abstract expressionist works or, rather, should I say, I find satisfaction in the production of an abstract expressionist work. In fact, as I remark in my online philosophy, “I value impressionism…because that can add meaning at a more subconscious level. Such added meaning, however, comes with some abstraction; and so the term abstract expressionism was coined.” I realize that your question was specifically directed at paintings, since you asked, “Do you find any inspiration in abstract expressionist painting?” However, to me, although I have produced a couple of such paintings, it is clear that an artwork of this genre can well be other than a painting. Of course, early abstract impressionists such as Mark Tobey who, to a degree, anticipated the all over look of many of Jackson Pollock’s works – very often worked in traditional media, an early example being Tobey’s 1954 “Canticle,” which was produced in casein on paper.

However, traditional media (and casein is, indeed, an ancient medium) exercises, for me, by no means any limitation on the production of abstract impressionist work. I like to think that my “Two Sisters,” for example, is in the vein of mid term artists in that scene, but still an all over style, having a simplified pictorial, color dominated element, although nonetheless it is rather more figurative than many of the works of early artists in that genre. That is, perhaps, simply my interpretation of the average of abstract impressionism.



Paul Weiner:
How did you find your interest in erotic art?

I began my photographic career shooting candids at large fairs and exhibitions, and this spun off the occasional newspaper and magazine submissions. Through this, I came to know a quite renowned newspaper photographer of that era. He did a lot of high fashion work, both for a major newspaper and also commercially on his own behalf. He introduced me to fashion work, and I eventually came to have quite a bit of work in that area, shooting for catalogues, magazines, ads, etc. One of the models asked me to take some glamour shots of her for a magazine campaign. Up until then, the usual, frequent enough, visual exposure to that type of work was more the saucy pin-up and the, so to speak, “page 3 girl” type of image, all of which, in my estimation, lacked expression and emotion. In short, they all lacked the “eyes as windows to their soul” element.

I was impressed by many of the nudes of Bill Brandt, but they, again, for me, lacked that direct appeal. Then, it was just at that time that I was attracted by the change in emphasis of the work of Helmut Newton, in which he now pursued overtly sexual themes. His juxtaposition of elements in his photographs was fascinating. These new photos of his were, in a way, tough but polished, aggressive and cold, and often disconcerting. But there was always a balance of eroticism and beauty. The eyes were not the windows to the soul, but the body and the juxtaposition said it all.

So, armed basically with these inspirations, and my own ideas, I took my first steps towards a representation of the erotic world. Fortunately, the product of those first, tentative steps was a success, and I began to receive further requests for such work in relatively quick succession. With that, the basis for expanding and delving further into the erotic and then fetish world had been laid out.

Nonetheless, as with all artists, things change with time. I now tend towards more mundane topics, although, even in a proportion of that work, I cannot resist the temptation, or perhaps it is purely subconscious, to hide erotic or fetish elements within the work.


My beautiful picture

Paul Weiner:
With your work in film, do you develop your own photos?

In the case of black and white, I develop my own film. I find that this is better than working with a lab because I know the circumstances in which the images were shot so I can have a better feel for the development rather than having to shoot so as to align the negative precisely to a lab procedure. By doing it myself, I can tweak the development according to my feel. As for the prints, I make my own b&w prints because, there, I can make many minor adjustments during the exposure and development process, which are simply impractical to have carried out by a lab, or, indeed, largely impossible to convey adequately to the lab operator. However, with color material, where I work almost exclusively with transparency film, I establish a working relationship with a good lab and let the lab process the film. A good lab is able to make quite a sufficient number of variations to the process if these ever should be needed, but I find, generally, that this is needed only infrequently.

Please view Gottfried’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Christian Duvua Gonzalez Blurs the Line between Abstract Painting and Photography

Christian Duvua Gonzalez is an artist from Coral Gables, Florida working in mediums of abstract photography and painting interchangeably. More of his artwork can be found online.



Paul Weiner:
Your abstract paintings and photographs are very similar in aesthetics. Do you purposefully look to create photography that fits together with your painting?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. On some of my abstract paintings, I channel through the vision from some of my photography and create a unique style of painting. However, I feel abstract expressionism gives me the opportunity to connect with the freedom I seek as a painter.




Paul Weiner:
How do you find subjects for your abstract photography?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have to thank my dad for giving you the answer for this question. I remember like it was yesterday when my dad told me this for the first time. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, he said, “Son you have to look both ways when crossing the street.” Well, I took that to heart, and I added up, down, and all around to that equation. I feel that art is everywhere, all around us, and all we need to do is open our minds to pay attention.


Paul Weiner:
Tell us how you begin a painting.

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Well, I can tell you what I don’t do when I start a painting. I don’t start with an empty canvas. I don’t believe that anything is empty; everything possesses the ability to open your mind, from a white canvas to a stain on the ground. I start my paintings in a relaxed state, usually with a glass of pinot noir and some music as I let the mood take over.


Paul Weiner:
Do you prefer a certain type of board or canvas to paint on? Also, do you print your abstract photography in a way that it can be viewed with your paintings?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I love all surfaces, from wood to canvas, and even linen napkins. I feel every surface has an inner shape screaming to come out. Allowing it to come to life is the reward. I try to separate my photography from my paintings to show the meaning behind the vision, but, in some of my photography, I try to make it simple for the viewer to translate the connection between the two.


Paul Weiner:
Could you name a few artists you’ve drawn inspiration from?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have been influenced by different artists from different eras as I’ve gotten older, but there are few that have impacted my mind in a personal way. I find inspiration by Albert Kotin, Barnett Newman, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell and Gerhard Richter.


Paul Weiner:
I noticed that a lot of your artwork has geometric themes to it. Would you consider your work styled on geometry?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. I have a huge passion for math and equations. I feel that geometry plays a big factor among artists, as it helps guide the structure of a subject.

Please view Christian Duvua Gonzalez’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Gert Scheerlinck Repurposes Obsolete Objects for Painting

Gert Scheerlinck is an artist from Belgium who paints on a wide variety of diverse materials. Finding inspiration in obsolete materials like CD cases, Scheerlinck incorporates vast new textures in his abstract paintings. The artist has recently exhibited at the Gaanderij Academie Beeldende Kunsten, and his artwork is also available online.

Untitled - umbrella

Untitled - house


Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting?

Gert Scheerlinck:
Let me start by explaining that I not only paint on canvas, but I have used different carriers such as rubber (1), styrofoam (2), plastic, glass tile (3) and CD cases (4). However, regardless of the carrier, I usually get inspired by something I find or see. It might be a rusted piece of iron, a blistered wall, a torn down billboard, or one of the many old doors seen in Barcelona. Finding or seeing such an element often starts me off painting. Throughout my years of painting, one thing that has always been a source of inspiration is anything decayed or withered. Once I have started the artwork, the real challenge is to stop at the right moment and let the painting speak for itself to make it more powerful.





Paul Weiner:
Do you use a conceptual process to create your ideas or do you base paintings on intuition?

Gert Scheerlinck:
My early artworks were mostly based on intuition and always abstract. Because of the material or structure,paint mixed with sand, the result was very unpredictable. I knew the painting would never turn out how I pictured it at the very beginning. It was a lot of scraping, scratching, and hard work to come to a point where I was satisfied with the result. In my later paintings, I felt like evolving more towards conceptual work. I started painting series. Some good examples are the street fragments (4,5) and the project, R.E.F.L.E.C.T.I.O.N.S. Both started off as a concept, but, in the end, intuition took over while painting.



Ocre (0)


By getting regular feedback from various authorities in the art world, I realized I could rise to a higher level. I thought I started from a concept, but I was often driven by a study or a mere object such as a picture or a piece of junk. It took some thinking and self-reflection, and when starting a new project (8) I could see the difference myself. The entire concept of my recent artwork is a crossover between abstract painting and the representation of incomplete objects. Instead of painting on the found materials, I now glue them on the back of cd cases. On the in side of the case’s front, I paint a dysfunctional object. Because of its incompleteness, it has become completely useless. This is the first time that I have deviated from only painting abstract work. This object, being incomplete, is the key to not deviate from. I don’t allow myself to paint anything else. It gives the painting its story. When both back and front are finished, I assemble it all as one piece like a window into the world.

Paul Weiner:
What is the strangest material you remember painting on?

Gert Scheerlinck:
It is not so much a strange material as it was an experiment for me to paint on a different carrier. That’s why I painted on styrofoam (2), rubber (1) or even glass tile (6). I have always been intrigued by how paint, often mixed with matter such as sand, reacts on a material other than canvas. That’s also how I came to start painting on CD cases. I wondered how my paintings would look like on the backside. Since you cannot see through canvas, I thought of glass or any other transparent material.

How did I end up painting on CD cases? Again, it comes down to using a material that will cease to exist. CDs are bound to disappear. Since we have digital music, a CD will no longer be the carrier of music but something that is no longer of use. When you take away the CD, what will become of the case? Both the fact that I had to paint differently, namely, the result would be on the back of the carrier, and the fact that a CD case would become a useless object, intrigued and inspired me.

Hydro Power





Paul Weiner:
What types of paint do you prefer for painting on CD cases, rubber, and other diverse materials?

Gert Scheerlinck:
When I was about 15, I loved painting with my father’s old paint from, which he used to paint on wood. Because it was oil based paint, it took a long time to dry. When I started at the academy, I could choose between two teachers. I took the one who understood what I wanted to achieve and who wouldn’t force me into painting only figurative works. He was a big supporter of acrylic paint because there were many benefits associated with it, including fast drying speed. I’m rather impatient. When I’m working, I don’t want to take the time to let the paint dry. When I have an idea, I need to be able to put it on canvas or another material almost instantly without having to wait too long for the paint dry to put another layer on it. I‘ve always stuck to acrylic because I’ve never felt the urge to switch. It works for me.





Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about how you originally became interested in painting.

Gert Scheerlinck:
Although it seems like a simple question, it isn’t. I can’t give you any other answer than that I’ve always been a painter. During my first two years at the academy, I studied fine arts. It was actually a nice introduction to various techniques. I was drawing using charcoal and crayons or painting with either watercolor or acrylic paint. Although I learned a lot, I wasn’t happy. If felt like I was losing two years because I wanted to paint the whole time. After those two years, I could finally indulge into paint. I became more and more interested in Arte Povera, Informal Art, and admired artists like Antoni Tàpies, Alberto Burri, Bram Bogart, Cy Twombly, and a master painter closer to home, Raoul De Keyser. I’m starting to get recognition now, but during my first years, I had to explain all the time why I used tape, rope and other non-artistic, sometimes downright dirty, materials, and I didn’t use oil-based paint. Apparently I wasn’t a “real” painter. It happened again only just a few weeks ago. Someone posted a comment about one of my painted cd cases, “for me, this is not a painting.” It confuses people. I’ve always had an interest in installations and assemblages, as well. That’s partly why I assemble and paint on cd cases; I want to cross both worlds. I don’t even exclude further deviations from mere painting, but paint will always be present.




Paul Weiner:
Where have you lived throughout your life? Do you think the cultures around you have altered your painting or not?

Gert Scheerlinck:
In lived in Aalst during my art studies. Aalst is an industrial town about a 30 minute drive from the capital of Belgium, Brussels. Aalst is famous for its carnival; the writer, Louis Paul Boon; the very first printer, Dirk Martens; priest Daens; and painter, Valerius de Saedeleer. Originally, the city was poor and had many abandoned and dilapidated public houses. Although there is a lot of industrialization and decay in my paintings, I can’t say that the city has had a big influence on me. I do not think she has made me who I am as an artist, disregarding the art school I attended in Aalst.

I’d rather name Barcelona as my main city of influence. To me, Barcelona equals creativity and inventiveness, and the city is always very alive. For the past eight years, I’ve been going there on a yearly basis to find inspiration and working material on almost every corner of its streets. In Barcelona, I even asked my wife to marry me after being together for over 12 years. If someone is responsible for pushing my boundaries and driving me forward, it’s my wife. I owe a lot to her support.

Please view Gert Scheerlinck’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Stephen Mauldin’s Experimental Painting Techniques

Today’s interview is with Stephen Mauldin, a painter and instructor living in Oregon with great interest in creating new painting techniques to express content he has developed for over forty years. Mauldin holds an MFA with a concentration in painting and printmaking from the University of Idaho as well as a BA in art from Oklahoma City University. He has exhibited his work in many galleries throughout the Northwest and beyond. Read the interview, and then find more information and artwork online at




Paul Weiner:
How has your experience as an educator affected your artwork in terms of process and aesthetic preferences, if at all?

Stephen Mauldin:
I can’t say that my teaching experience has affected my process or aesthetic preferences. Teaching basic design and color theory has certainly deepened my understanding of basic design principles and the intricacies of color, but I think what teaching does most is to keep things fresh. All the knowledge and skills one uses as an artist are eternally fresh for each new group of students. Their enthusiasm for receiving that knowledge and acquiring those skills prevents one from taking it all for granted. Plus, one continues to learn as one teaches. My knowledge of art history ,though still limited by most standards, I think, has expanded exponentially over the years due to teaching.

The deal is, I’m a single-minded guy. I think it was Matisse who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that every artist has one idea they refine for a lifetime. That’s certainly been true in my case. I’m still addressing the same issues I was nearly forty years ago when I left undergraduate school. I bring more life experience and artistic experience to bear on those issues, but the core issues are still the same. Where I live and what I do for a living has never had any immediate impact on my work as an artist. If I hadn’t taught, I think my work would have still taken a similar path.



Paul Weiner:
As an artist who has been trained in smaller art markets like Oklahoma City and Moscow, Idaho, how do you feel about the commercial art system that clusters around major cities like New York and Los Angeles?

Stephen Mauldin:
In the digital age, it seems a little silly since most things can be done anywhere now due to the internet. However, not many people are going to buy a large, expensive painting over the internet, sight unseen, so galleries are still necessary. The key issue, though, is the “critical mass” of collectors necessary to sustain a commercial art system. That’s what New York and L.A. have that other cities don’t. That allows them to create the gallery infrastructure that draws collectors from elsewhere, as well. That’s one of the biggest complaints here in Portland, Oregon where I live. We’re known as a creative magnet and there are thousands of working artists here with more arriving every day, but there are nowhere near enough collectors to support them all (not even including the collectors who occasionally travel here to buy art). It’s a frequent complaint in Seattle, as well.

The downside of the system is that it lets a handful of people define what is the “best” art of any generation and limits the variety of art being seen by the public. There’s art being produced every day all over this country that’s as good as anything made in New York or L.A., but few people see it because of this system.






Paul Weiner:
You mentioned the rise of the internet as having an impact on art collection. Since many patrons are unwilling to buy expensive paintings online, do you feel that the value of contemporary art is diminished when it is sold on a store like Etsy?

Stephen Mauldin:
Not necessarily. What I was suggesting is that I doubt many people are going to drop several thousand, or tens of thousands, of dollars on a piece of art they’ve only seen online. Much of what any piece of art offers is too subtle to be seen online. If the piece can be sold for a few hundred dollars, people are more likely to take a chance. On the other hand, I think serious collectors prefer to see the art “in the flesh,” as it were, since they are more discriminating by and large. That said, much of what is on sites like Etsy is what I would call “wall décor,” not to be mistaken for Art. As my basic design students learn, Art has three essential elements: subject, form, and content. Subject is what the art depicts; form is how it is organized; and content is what it communicates. Wall décor usually has the first two elements, but is often thin on or completely lacking the third. Also, whereas collectors are usually most interested in content, people who buy wall décor are usually most concerned about whether it will match the couch. There may very well be some excellent art on Etsy’s site, but I doubt if many serious collectors rely on Etsy or similar sites to add to their collections. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy work off of my site without seeing it first.




Paul Weiner:
Could you explain your concept for your String Theory series?

Stephen Mauldin:
The String Theory series didn’t begin with a concept, per se. I experiment with paint frequently. Robert Henri noted in his book The Art Spirit that mastering a medium does not come from being taught what he calls “stock phrases.” He suggests there, quite accurately I think, that mastering a medium comes from thoroughly understanding the properties of that medium. To that end, I am constantly playing with paint in order to more fully understand what it can and cannot do.

So, one day, while paying with paint, I taped an ultra-fine straight pin to the end of a palette knife, dipped it into some paint, cocked the palette knife back, and slung a very small quantity of paint onto a piece of paper. The resulting mark was absolutely electric, playing out into lines smaller than a human hair and crisper than one could ever create with a brush. It immediately struck me as the perfect visual signifier for the “strings” of string theory, electric little knots of energy. With the paintings in the String Theory series, I took that idea and married it to those issues I mentioned earlier. The face is actually derived from a mannequin head I bought while in graduate school, which has come and gone in my work ever since and is used to signify some sort of “higher intelligence” in the universe. What I’m trying to suggest is a universe teeming with intelligence on multiple levels. By the way, a palette knife breaks in half after about two hours of slinging paint like this, so I had to devise an alternate tool.



Paul Weiner:
Tell us about this alternate tool you’ve developed!

Stephen Mauldin:
I wish I could tell you that it’s something amazingly complicated that took natural engineering skills to develop, but I simply stuck the pin in the end of a Colour Shaper. They’re like paint brushes with some form of rubber shaped like bristles instead of having actual bristles. I had bought a bunch of them years ago but found that I didn’t like them. They had been laying around the studio for years, so when I was looking for a solution to the failing palette knife problem, they were there, and they worked. They wear out, too, but it takes months instead of hours. I prefer one particular type that’s hard to find, so I just bought about $150 dollars worth of them in case I can’t find them in the future or they’re discontinued.





Paul Weiner:
How would you define your style of art?

Stephen Mauldin:
I don’t know that I really have a “style” since my work changes rather significantly every few years. The issues stay the same, but the way the paint is applied changes dramatically. In the beginning, I used brushes and applied paint directly to canvas or panel, as most painters do. Then I started shaping the canvas over objects and applying paint with an airbrush to simulate the play of light and shadow on those objects, stretching the canvas after the fact. That was continued on rip-stock nylon for a while to get finer detail. After that, I made all the marks for paintings on glass first, and then collaged them into “paint assemblages” of sorts. Next, I used a tool designed for putting stripes on picture frame molding to draw directly with paint and produce pieces infused with a dense web of spirals and arcs to suggest the patterns of sub-atomic particles. That was followed by extruding thickened paint into actual webs that were about a half-inch deep. Later, I stamped the image onto canvas using rubber stamps that I carved myself. Now I sling paint with pins.

Actually, it dawned on me recently that I have always been led by the paint. As I have played with it over the years, it has continually revealed new things to me and suggested new technical directions. Ben Shahn said, “The painter who stands before an empty canvas must think in terms of paint.” Over the years, as I’ve addressed the issues I do, that’s what I’ve done – thought in terms of paint and how I can make it convey more clearly what I’ve been trying to communicate.shadow1








Paul Weiner:
Is there a certain type of paint you prefer? Also, would you consider your revelations about paint and its application to be equally important to the actual products you create?

Stephen Mauldin:
I’ve used NovaColor acrylics for thirty years. I started using them when I worked with an airbrush because they’re slightly less viscous than tube colors and require less thinning to be sprayed. It’s a high quality, heavily pigmented artist’s color and is much less expensive than any other brand I’ve found, so I’ve stuck with it. They’re great people to deal with, too. Producing the electric little mark that I’m so infatuated with now is all about viscosity. If the paint’s too thick or too thin, all you get is little dots or a big mess. Curiously, only the warm colors with NovaColor will do it. I think it’s the properties of the pigments, so I’ve taken to modifying the cool colors with Utrecht’s extra stiff colors. I tried gel mediums and everything else I could think of with no success until I stumbled upon the Utrecht solution almost by chance.

I don’t consider my revelations about paint to be of much importance since they would be of little use to anyone else. They’re a reflection of my temperament and have resulted in painting methods that are extremely time consuming and mind-numbingly tedious by most people’s standards. Actually, the importance, in my mind, lies not in the products or objects I create, but in the content contained therein. The paint and the objects are only means to an end.

Please view Stephen Mauldin’s artwork online at and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.