Critique Collective

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

Tag: drawing

Mary Luke’s Paintings Merge Existentialist Theories and the Human Figure

mary luke

Detail of self portrait, 2013

Mary Luke is known for paintings involving existentialist commentary on the human figure, particularly as it relates to aging. In her monumental oil paintings that often extend five or more feet in either direction, Luke develops a tour de force of painterly figuration, engulfing viewers in voids and distorted body parts. Luke often works on unstretched canvas, applying various papers, paints, tape, and detritus from her studio to create heavy layers of rich, malleable textures and an atmosphere reminiscent of action painters like Willem De Kooning. Better yet, her recent works plunge into the realm of gesture and ephemerality, where her non-archival paintings are given a life span mimicking that of her subject, elderly human figures. Though many of Luke’s recent works may be seen as vignettes, these single figures act as decentralized nodes for a postmodern theoretical discourse when placed in the gallery setting. A visual language emanates from the didactic works, which is punctuated by elegant aesthetic choices including swirls of impasto oil paint, varying line qualities, and enticing pops of color.

Luke recently relocated to Philadelphia after graduating from Syracuse University with a BFA in painting in May of 2014. She has displayed her artwork in the Piazzale Donatello 21 in Florence, Italy, Katonah Museum of Art, SUNY Purchase, and various galleries throughout the Syracuse area such as 914 Works and XL Projects. Further images and information about Luke’s work can be found on her website.

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Installation at Piazzale Donatello 21 in Florence, Italy, 2013


Paul Weiner:
What kinds of materials do you use in your work?

Mary Luke:
Oil paint is the leading medium in my work. However, I am interested in combining oil paint with other mediums including charcoal, graphite, pastel, ink, and acrylic paint. And, although I generally paint on canvas, it is often stretched directly onto the wall, exposing imperfect shape and fraying edges.
This combination of materials and collage-like process along with my informal presentation is key to my work. I allow things to remain unfinished, and I find form in the scraps of paper and other studio debris often recycled from other works.

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Self Portrait, Sitting No. 2, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How has your work evolved over the past few years?

Mary Luke:
I have always focused on the human figure as a subject in my work. And although that has not changed in the past few years, my style, portrayal, and scale of the figure has evolved dramatically. I find it important for artists to develop observational skills through traditional means before being allowed to utilize distortion or abstraction in their work. That way, they fully understand that which they are abstracting. That is why there is a definite transition from my early work, which employs aspects of realism and impressionism, to my recent work, which focuses more on gesture and exposes the process of the painting rather than masking it with fully rendered form and space. My work has also grown in size over the years; I find that my larger works have a greater effect on the viewer and allow them to enter the painting as the subject.

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Self Portrait, Sitting, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Which artists have been most influential to your practice?

Mary Luke:
There are many artists who have influenced my work. Francis Bacon has probably been the most influential, especially in my most recent body of work from the past couple years. I have always admired his distorted depiction of the figure often placed in an equally distorted space. He has an incredible ability to create these figures that make you uncomfortable yet empathetic. I similarly strive to allow for the viewer to place him or herself in the context of the painting; in that way, the work becomes something greater than a painting and allows for a very personal, yet universally human, emotional response to the work.

I have also avidly studied the works of R.B. Kitaj who utilizes bright colours and layers of space and form, mimicking collage. He also creates disorienting environments which provoke a sense of psychotic-ness, similar to Bacon.

Both Bacon and Kitaj stayed faithful to figurative art during times when abstraction dominated the art world. Since then, many artists have continued to abandon the figure as more media is introduced into contemporary art. Despite this, I think the figure will always be a vital part of the art world and my body of work as it is inevitably the most relatable to both the artist and viewer.

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Self Portrait, Collaged, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Do you see painting as being more about expression or is it a tool for conceptual and political commentary?

Mary Luke:
I think that painting lends itself equally to expression and conceptualism. When you think about it, concept comes from expression; at least, that is how it should work. I do think that contemporary art is often over-conceptualized, meaning that the concept is more important and precedes the expression of the artwork itself, leaving little for the viewer to look at and contemplate. Whenever art is described and used as a tool for political commentary, it completely loses its expressive and artistic quality because it is being extorted and manipulated into something synthetic and insincere. There is a fine line between these realms of art, and I think the only way to decipher between the two is to determine if a piece of art can speak for itself or if it needs translation. It is the latter that we need to avoid.

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Old Woman, 2014

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Old Man, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Many of your recent paintings involve elderly figures. Why did you choose this subject matter?

Mary Luke:
There are a few things that attracted me to portraying elderly figures in my recent works. First, it has to do with form; the ideal human form as the media and society is concerned is completely different than the ideal form in figure drawing. Figure needs mass, space, shapes, line, etc. to make it visually appealing as well as interesting to draw in the first place. Though the idea of folds of skin and wrinkles and sagging body parts seems off-putting, these qualities have so much potential for capturing emotion as well as a sense of physical being. I am very concerned with confrontation in my work in that I want the viewer to confront the figure and vice versa; therefore, it is necessary to give the viewer a figure that, though two-dimensional, has a physical presence.

The second reason I have been painting elderly figures is more conceptual than the first. I try to incorporate my studies and interest in philosophy in my paintings. There is an inarguable connection between existentialist theories and my portrayal of these aging human forms who, when you really look at it, are only made up from gestural lines and glimpses of body parts. So, although they seem physically there, it is really the mind and consciousness of the figure that has brought forth its existence on the canvas. Again, I believe that elderly figures have the greatest potential to relay this idea because you can see their bodies aging and deteriorating, further emphasizing the role of conscious existence.

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Self Portrait, 2013

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Self Portrait, Reaching, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Where would you ideally display your work? Does it belong in a traditional gallery setting or a more alternative space?

Mary Luke:
Of course, as an artist, it would be ideal to see my work in a gallery or a museum. However, I find that my paintings thrive most on the walls of my studio, where they were created. Few people get to see my work in that environment, but it’s interesting to see how the space has been transformed by the making of the piece and vice versa. In that way, you can see further into the process, see what was left behind and what was included and how my paintings progress together.


Please view Mary Luke’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Olivia Boi’s Intuitive Abstract Paintings

Olivia Boi is an artist whose work hinges on the emotional abstraction of the human form. Boi has exhibited in The Last Brucennial and multiple exhibitions in Sideshow Gallery as well as a wide variety of local galleries throughout Massachusetts. Having recently graduated with a BFA from Montserrat College of Art in 2013, she participated in the orientation week of the New York Arts Practicum at the same time as fellow Critique Collective interviewee, Corey Dunlap. Boi’s work is also available for view on her website.

Dancing with You 2014

Dancing with You, 60″x108″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2014


Paul Weiner:
Given the rise of new media artists working with all kinds of digital tools, how inclusive does the art world seem for young painters like you right now?

Olivia Boi:
Well, it is challenging for myself and my friends as recent graduates of art school. Mostly, I believe it is important to be consistent with the motivation in your process as a painter. You have to continually put yourself in a position to be aware of what is going on around you in the art world. It is crucial to share your work with the public and talk about it with as many people as possible. That being said, I strongly feel that there is an urgency for painting in the art world today, and artists will respond to that. The success of the artist is based on the artist’s needs and goals, whether they are new media artists or painters, and it is always a struggle.

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In the Bathtub, 42″x42″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little bit about how you begin a new work of art both conceptually and physically.

Olivia Boi:
I start a new work when I feel compelled to relay something I have experienced or seen into a more permanent state. It all starts out pretty overwhelming, but it is a familiar chaos that is my starting point. I get this feeling, and I don’t want to do anything else except to start figuring out this painting, to work. I first ask myself about the scale, and then I usually mix a palette based on my sensations to start at that. I lay out some general lines and movements from which I’d like to build. It is a really intuitive process that is different every time I start or revisit a piece. I work in layers according to color, to work out some internal logic of the painting. Lately, I have been favoring paint heavily, making up most of my practice. I am inspired by the figure and how it can be abstracted and reinterpreted. Currently, I am working on a series of scrolls that are meant to hang all together, and right now I have about 9 of them, each 43” x 84”. Usually, when I am considering a painting, I think of myself physically in my studio. My space is an area where I can leave everything the way it is as I am done working. I am very particular about my work environment in order to set up my work ethic. It needs to feel lived in, to generate a fluid spatial movement that allows a sort of meditative quality to my work. When I paint, I feel like I come in contact with another side of myself that is never brought out otherwise.

The Night of December 25th- 2014

The Night of December 25th, 43″x84″, Charcoal and Oil Stick on Paper, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How did your experience with New York Arts Practicum impact your life as an artist?

Olivia Boi:
After I left the program, I became more grounded both as an individual and an artist, which was, in part, due to my experience attending Practicum. I am very interested in showing my work in New York City, and I have been exhibiting there for the past three years, notably at the Side Show gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Currently, I have a painting in The Last Brucennial, a biennial survey put on by the Bruce High Quality Foundation in Manhattan. I am really proud about that, especially about showing next to legendary artists such as Joan Mitchell. I realized at this point in time in my life, I am happy to work in New York without living there. I would like to get to things on my own time and by doing them my own way.

holding on to the blue 2014

Holding on to Blue, 48″x64″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
In your paintings, do you focus primarily on the formal aesthetic concerns of composition or are there more conceptual reasons behind your work?

Olivia Boi:
The main focus in my work is composition through color, line, and form. You could say my work is conceptual in its contingency through my daily life. By that, I mean I investigate my own emotions, intensities, and desires in each piece through a formalist language of paint.

Each painting is made up of constant decision making, meaning I don’t know what it will look like until I have worked through everything. It is a visual conversation I have with the work in my studio.

Standing on My Own 2014

Standing on My Own, 30″x78″, oil stick, acrylic paint, and charcoal on paper, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider yourself an abstract expressionist or are you using abstraction as a medium for a different kind of thinking than modern masters like De Kooning and Pollock?

Olivia Boi:
I am very inspired by the abstract expressionists. I think that studying their work has created a path for my artistic practice. De Kooning and Pollock are two of my favorites. They used abstraction as a medium, as a language. Obviously, I don’t have the same concerns as they did in the 1950’s in New York, but I admire their unique and intense visual language, and I’m looking to create my own. It has to do with a love of and a need to paint. My current work definitely has a relationship to Abstract Expressionism, and it can be understood through similar formal concerns, but I’m not looking to make my work look like theirs. They are an inspiration among many others.

hearing about everyone elsecrop

Hearing About Everyone Else, 60″x64″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that you took part in the last Brucennial. Tell us a little about your experience with that exhibition.

Olivia Boi:
I was invited into the last Brucennial by girlfriend Sara Benson. She attended the Yale Norfolk Art program. She was invited by a friend of hers, and Sara then invited me.

I shipped my painting to New York from Beverly, MA. I didn’t know how many people were going to be in the show, and I had no idea that the work of Joan Mitchell, Cecily Brown, and Louise Bourgeois would be included as well. They are some of my top favorite painters, and to exhibit my work with theirs was a huge honor. I submitted a small, 16 x 20 inches, painting called Separation, which consists of a light green and black palette. I was not able to get down to see it in person, but my father attended and documented the exhibition for me. I feel really lucky and proud to be included in that amazing experience.

Paul Weiner:
As a young artist, what kinds of publications do you read?

Olivia Boi:
I read publications such as Art in America, New American Paintings, Artforum, Sculpture Magazine, and The Brooklyn Rail.

My Parents Marriage 2013crop

My Parents Marriage, 74″x66″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
To what extent do you find art education important for contemporary artists, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels?

Olivia Boi:
It is important to have an education about art so you can understand the context your work exists in. There is so much to know. You can go to school and study contemporary art theory and history or you could choose to not go to school and try to educate yourself in the same topics. I think it would be really challenging to learn everything school has to offer on your own. Either way, it is up to your personal motivations because there is so much to learn, even for people who have completed both undergraduate and graduate studies. It is important to educate yourself about everything you can as an artist, which is separate from pursuing a masters of the fine art world. But I think that education in art and studying art history is crucial to a career. It is necessary to know about the people who have practiced this kind of work and theory before you so that your work can be included in the larger conversation. It is important to see other artists’ work
and specifically how they work; it can help shape your own practice. You really have to read and watch everything you can get your hands on, including documentaries and biographies. Education is not an option. It is expected. You need to know what you are talking about to be taken seriously.


Please view Olivia Boi’s work on her website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Multimedia Black and White Imagery by Richard Borashan

Richard Borashan is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily with black and white imagery. He is currently pursuing an MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Borashan’s work has been featured in a wide variety of galleries in California including White Gloss Gallery, Gallery Godo, the CCAA Museum of Art – Rancho Cucamonga, BANG Gallery, and at a 2010 UNICEF Invitational Show.

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Untitled (Anna) ; charcoal drawing on paper


Paul Weiner:
What are you working on in your studio right now?

Richard Borashan:
Right now, I’m doing a back and forth thing between some large-scale drawings and sculptures. It’s pretty typical that I work on a few different things at the same time, and I try to keep it that way. It helps me keep a big picture state of mind while I work through so many different mediums.

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No Title; silkscreen, ink on paper

Paul Weiner:
Describe the various processes you have used to create black and white images over the past few years.

Richard Borashan:
Each work starts with a similar foundation. I develop a concept and then go digging through my archives of source material to see what type of imagery would be a potential fit. It’s pretty much the equivalent to filmmakers going through all of the locations they’ve scouted. Once I have a few picked out, I decide which medium would be a good fit and take it from there.

If the imagery is being translated into a drawing, then I usually just stick with charcoal or graphite and paper. If I’m working with print, then it’s either with silkscreen or a basic laser/inkjet printer. Video is a tricky one because I haven’t played with it enough yet, but the couple videos I’ve made in the past have been either with a DSLR or a VHS camcorder. I’ve been dying to shoot on some 16mm and Super 8, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. The sculptures I’m working on now are a mix of found objects, enamel, and, potentially, some sort of resin coating. I’m still working it out. Each of the above mediums has a unique process to it as well. There’s definitely a lot of different things going on from beginning to end.

Paul Weiner:
What do these works mean to you? Are they more conceptual or narrative?

Richard Borashan:
I try to find a balance between the two. The conceptual aspect of the work is very important to me, but I also like creating the opportunity for a viewer to construct their own narrative and be involved in their own way. I spend a lot of time thinking about how each of the works interacts with one another and what kind of environment they create when viewed together. They all have their own individual reasons for being created, but I also think of them as contributing to a whole. I like the idea of smaller things making up something bigger.

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No Title; silkscreen, ink on paper

Paul Weiner:
Many of your pieces have very similar aesthetic qualities regardless of the medium you use to create them. Do you try to create some kind of ambiguity as to how you’ve created these images?

Richard Borashan:
Actually, as far as how they’re created or any formal decisions, I’m trying to accomplish the exact opposite of ambiguity. The mediums I choose for each work are chosen for specific reasons, and they are very much part of their conceptual makeup. As far as the content and meaning behind the images I use, those are things I prefer to leave more open to interpretation.

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No Title; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
Where do you find inspiration for your art?

Richard Borashan:
In general terms, just things that are out in the world. That’s the main reason why the appropriation of images is important and why I don’t really work in abstraction. I’m more interested in dialogue with what’s already out there rather than only being confined to art itself.

To be more specific, I use culture, society, movies, music, the internet, books, and really anything that has to do with people or any form of media. All above the above play major roles in my practice. I watch a ton of movies, like, at least 4 or 5 a week, sometimes more. Right now, I’m obsessed with classic horror films and classic texts from Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Homer, Hitchcock, Kubrick, etc. I watched Nosferatu again the other day for like the third time this month. I can’t get enough of them.

Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of cultural images and objects carrying meaning through appropriation. Could you name a few of the places where you’ve appropriated the subjects in your images from?

Richard Borashan:
Over the years, I’ve amassed an archive of at least 20,000 images and counting. They’re spread out over a few external hard drives. A majority of them are from the internet from google image search, blogs, yahoo news, or whatever. I’ve also scanned books, magazines, and newspapers and taken screenshots from movies and documentaries. I’ll take anything from anywhere. I’m a digital hoarder to the maximum degree. I’ll save anything that catches my eye for any reason, and, when the time comes to start thinking about using something for a work, I basically go shopping through my database.

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A Moment in Time; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
Why do you feel compelled to draw some images while a print, video, or sculpture might be more appropriate for another image? Give us an example of a specific image you have made and why you chose the medium you did for that piece.

Richard Borashan:
It all comes back down to the conceptual aspect of it. I’m extremely detail-oriented, so things like mediums and titles are just one more opportunity to contribute something to the work. Even when I leave a work with No Title, it’s for a specific reason. The larger silkscreen pieces I’ve made more recently worked better with silkscreen because I wanted the feeling of vintage or nostalgic photographs for each work. A lot of the blemishes and accidents involved with the process really allowed me to get that specific aesthetic, whereas something like drawing or laser printing them wouldn’t have accomplished the same thing; believe me, I tried. The heavy amount of technical process involved also created a lot of distance between the artist and the work, which I felt was important for them.

On the other hand, the images I’m working with right now are being turned into drawings with the intention of doing the opposite of the silkscreens. I’m trying to eliminate distance between the artist and the work. I’m not using any tools other than the actual charcoal and paper, and I do all the blending and details with my fingers. The images I’ve chosen play with the relationship between romance and tragedy. The classic idea of a very hands-on artist putting everything into his work is a very romantic, and potentially tragic, notion. It feels very fitting.

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Supermodel Death Dive; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for viewing your work?

Richard Borashan:
Actually, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to have my work displayed in a situation where the aesthetics were a complete contrast to how the work was presented. The drawings and some of my other works have a clean presentation, and I could see them shown in a really beat up abandoned building or something. And since the silkscreens are usually assembled hastily with masking tape all over the place, I can see them in a very sterile environment. Or, you know, there’s always the good ole white box gallery we’ve all come to know and love.

If possible, I’d like to give a shout out to my people, the Time Base crew. It’s a small group of us who get together bi-weekly to discuss and critique time-based and new media work. If anybody is in the NYC area and would like to join, check out timebasenyc.tumblr.com. This has been a ton of fun Paul, thanks a lot.


Please view Richard Borashan’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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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 http://www.ronaldlukas.com.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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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

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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.

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ISOMO 2&4

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Jonathan Wright’s Dynamic Painting Exploration

Jonathan “Jono” Wright is a figurative and abstract painter living in Denver, Colorado. He holds a BFA from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and has also studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Boulder Academy of Fine Arts, and the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy. Jonathan’s work is available online at http://www.jonowrightart.com.


Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Jonathan Wright:
Currently, I’m working on a collection of abstract pieces that are 12”x15” for a boutique called Moxie. I’m really excited about this project, as there is a sense of collaboration with fashion, something from which I find a lot of inspiration. Hopefully I’ll be able to strike a balance between true aesthetic exploration and commercial viability.

Paul Weiner:
Since you’ve studied art at various programs in Boulder, Denver, Philadelphia, and abroad, which of these experiences has shaped your artwork the most?

Jonathan Wright:
It’s hard to say which educational experience has shaped my practice the most, as they all play a part in my current approach. For example, my early interest in graffiti and the training that I got as a teenager from Elvie Davis gave me a real appreciation for drawing and having a sense of attention and elegance to line quality. The training I got in Phillly gave me an introduction into how to paint the figure and how to mix colors. What I got from Metro was a sense of approaching art making in an elemental way such as line, volume, composition, focal point and so on.

Having all these different experiences presents me with the challenge of unifying my vision, which is something I’m learning about right now in my practice. I feel like I have a good technical foundation and a decent level of skill, so the question that is in front of me now is what do I really want to paint. What really turns me on? Also, what is commercially viable? So there’s a balance that has yet to be found.

Paul Weiner:
As an emerging artist, would you say that you feel limited or not by the commercial art market? Do you feel that the commercial level of art gets in the way of your attempt to unify your work in the way you would like to?

Jonathan Wright:
I would say that I feel influenced by considering the retail viability of my artistic ideas. Sometimes I make work that I strongly intend on selling, such as still-lifes or landscapes, while other times I make work that is focused on exploring something just for my own enjoyment.

What I’m finding about Denver is that it seems to be a market where you have to ride the razor’s edge of producing work that is decorative enough so people feel comfortable hanging it over their couch while simultaneously being edgy enough that it still has a spark of authentic exploration. That’s a tough road to navigate. Sometimes this dynamic feels limiting, but it can also feel like an interesting challenge. It really depends on where you want to take your career. If you want to be really avant-garde than your retail viability will probably be minimal, so you make your living doing something else. I suppose I’m trying to ride that razor’s edge of selling interesting and beautiful work.

To answer your question about unifying my work I would say that yes, this dynamic does make it hard to find unity. It takes a while to sort through all the educational influences and all the art market influences to come up with something I truly want to focus on that’s also commercially viable. But I feel ok with that. I think that’s what a true artist has to cope with.

8 vision outside of the oasis Niya, 2012, acrylic on paper, 36x48

9 loulan, 2012, acrylic on paper, 36x48

Paul Weiner:
Take us through your process for starting a new painting and developing a concept.

Jonathan Wright:
My process begins with an aesthetic impulse like a color or a form. It can come from nature or other art, such as painting or dance, something I’ve sketched in my book, or maybe something I’ve seen on the street. Oftentimes I find inspiration from fashion or textiles.

One thing I think is interesting is when multiple artists begin putting out similar aesthetics independently, as if they are responding to a similar impulse floating around in the culture that they then explore independently of each other.

But back to me. I begin with an impulse and sketch it out. However, my process and interests are kind of bipolar at this point. Sometimes I like to hone my skills and make highly realistic work, while at other times I’m interested in exploring something non-objective. Thus, depending on what I feel like making, whether it’s realistic or non-objective, my approach is quite different.

If I’m going to paint something realistic, I’ll use Photoshop to collage an image from which to reference. Then I begin the classical process of painting with oils, starting with an underpainting and continuing with opaque layers of paint. If I’m interested in exploring something non-objective I like to use acrylic on paper. With this approach, the medium is really forgiving, and I can edit, destroy, and create as I go along.

In all honesty, I find the non-objective approach more interesting as far as process goes because there is more that is unknown and more to discover. However, I still really like the results I can get when painting realistically. So one of my long-term problems, and remember it’s the problems that keep us going, is to get comfortable enough with my figure painting that I can incorporate the destroying/creating dynamic into that process. Artists like Alex Kanevsky, Kent Williams and a host of others are inspiring to me in this vein.

As far as “concept” goes, that term is something that I find terribly inadequate to describe the nuances of what visual art communicates. Painting especially is incongruous to this notion. The information that develops in a painting during its creation comes from the merging of the physical world of the materials and the subjective world of the artist.  During this process, one has to let go of expectations and conceptual rigidity. Some initial impulse to create is needed, which could be conceptual, but you have to release your expectations and just let go at some point. In my opinion, art is most interesting when it presents something fresh and unknown, which is kind of antithetical to conceptual art.

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Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of bringing abstraction and figure together for the sake of dynamism. To that extent, how do you feel about Anselm Kiefer’s way of melding expression and figurative art?

Jonathan Wright:
Although I haven’t studied Anselm Kiefer a lot, I would say that he is fairly post-modern in that he is drawing from representational painting and sculpture in a way that activates their culturally collected meanings. He utilizes that history and then adds some expressionism into the mix. And he is successful with that mixture. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of his works in person, which I expect is more impactful than on the page or online, but I believe it must deliver quite an impression. But, in speaking to the representational/non-objective dynamic, I think it’s a really vibrant solution to the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, which kind of became too subjective, too limited.

There’s a long history at this point of artists negotiating this terrain, from Willem de Kooning, Diebenkorn, and Neri to contemporary masters like Sangram Majumdar, who totally blows my mind. In the case of Majumdar, he transcends representation by dancing with materiality, illusion, and, most important of all, spontaneity. It’s his ability to include it all, so to speak, that’s so interesting. He harmonizes  the result oriented approach of realism with the subjective spontaneity of Abstract Expressionism.

Another aspect that I see within this dynamic of what we could call form and formlessness is that it speaks to the transience or impermanence of our time. On the one hand, there is a lot of fragmentation going on in the collective psyche and on the other, we see that nothing lasts forever, which is a very Buddhist point of view. It’s a tumultuous time, which is being reflected in this aesthetic device.

6 record keeping 3, 2012, oil on paper, 9x9

7 record keeping 2, 2012, oil on paper, 9x9

Paul Weiner:
What do you find most appealing and most frustrating about the Denver art scene?

Jonathan Wright:
I think Denver has a specific flavor of energy that is unique and interesting. I’m not sure if I can really articulate it, but is has everything to do with geography and history. It’s dry and dirty and a bit outlawish. This is Denver’s strength, but I don’t think it can ever be pinned down.

That being said the art culture here can definitely feel out-of-touch and a bit late on the scene. Denver is kind of catching on to the ideas that originated in the big art centers five years prior. This, in my opinion, gives no one in this town the right to be snobby or exclusive because the people running the show here aren’t all that tapped in anyways. So Denver’s isolation is a strength and a weakness. It’s got an underdog vibe, which is invigorating, but also an air of exclusivity based on insecurity. Take it or leave it, I guess. Overall, it does provide a good emerging art scene, someplace to get your feet wet and perhaps continue to show even after one is more established.

It’s great. It’s home.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned how Denver is a great place to get your feet wet, which makes plenty of sense. Are you considering making a move to a larger art market like New York or LA at some point?

Jonathan Wright:
At some point, I think it’s inevitable if you want to keep going with your art, as I do, to make that move. Some artists have stayed in Denver and have made a good name for themselves; maybe Phil Bender would be an example. But, yes, I would like to make a move to the West Coast within a year or so. Like New York, there’s a lot of great figurative work going on in LA and other styles of painting as well.

This whole thing has a lot to do with money. There’s simply more money in LA or San Francisco, perhaps also a more sophisticated market, not to mention a more diverse demographic. That equals a more vibrant and commercially viable art scene. I’m excited

to get a few more exhibitions under my belt and to develop a stronger artistic identity before I make the move. That being said, I would never turn my back on the community here in Denver. I’d still love to show here if the opportunity were to arise.


Please view Jonathan Wright’s artwork online at http://www.jonowrightart.com and like Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Konnie Laumer Exposes the Beauty of Denver in Paint

Konnie Laumer is a self-taught painter from Denver, Colorado exploring figurative and abstract art through acrylic, iridescent, and metallic paint. Her work can be found online at http://www.artbykonnie.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
When did you begin painting, and how did you settle on becoming a painter?

Konnie Laumer:
I’ve been creating art since I was a child. My father was very artistic and saw that I had an interest at an early age, so he started helping me and teaching me how to draw people and the basics of perspective. I picked up on it very easily and was a natural. Then, after I graduated from high school, my aunt gave me lessons in painting. I was hooked. I didn’t start showing and selling until around 2007. I was freelancing as a web and graphic designer and just got fed up with bad paying clients, so I started pursuing my painting at the urging of friends and family. Then I showed as much as I could wherever I could. As soon as I sold a few pieces, I was hooked.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you start your realist paintings? Is it any different from how you begin your abstracts?

Konnie Laumer:
My realistic city scenes are drafted out in pencil on canvas first, measuring every line and calculating with a reduction wheel that converts the size. This is very time consuming and can take days before I put any paint down on the canvas. This way, I don’t have to guess if I’m getting it right and I can focus on the colors, shadows, lines, and technique.

My portraits just take constantly looking at the photo or subject, back and forth while painting, until I see my subject materialize on to the canvas. Sometimes it feels like magic. Before I know it, I’ve captured the subject’s soul, which usually reveals itself through the eyes, be it animal or human.

My abstract work is quite different with each technique. Some are free flowing, paint in the moment. Others are somewhat drafted out, first with a primer blocked out in black and white. This way I get rich, dark areas and bright, light areas. For example, blues look much different laid on black than they do when painted on white. The same goes with all the colors, metallic, and iridescent paints that I use.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find your subject for a painting? Is this process usually conceptual or intuitive?

Konnie Laumer:
I see a photo that jumps out at me, or a color pallet from something I see that screams “this needs to be put on canvas.” Some of my best abstract pieces were just spontaneous and flowed with the music I was hearing at the time, like a two panel piece I did when I had my studio. Another studio in the gallery was practicing live, funky, jazzy music. That painting just flowed out of me while I listened to the great sounds. So, I guess you could say both.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned your use of metallic and iridescent paints. How do you feel the qualities of these paints affect your work in ways that traditional oil or acrylic paint might not?

Konnie Laumer:
The reflective nature of metallic and iridescent paint is seen differently in day and at night, depending on the lighting giving a different feel at different times of day.
Using them is sort of a signature style I’ve developed mainly because the reflective value they contribute to a painting is something you just can’t achieve in any other way. I love challenging myself to paint sometimes entirely with metallic paints other than the use of black and white, like in my wildlife paintings. Nearly all of the animals, as well as the surreal cityscapes, were painted with gold, bronze, copper, and array of silver tones. Although more difficult to have scanned for prints, when you’re buying an original from me, you know you have the original because the metallic paint would cost a fortune to get printed and would never translate the same way as the original.

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Paul Weiner:
I noticed that you offer painting instruction together with art parties. Have you found this an effective way to balance the commercial and personal sides of your art?

Konnie Laumer:
I offer instruction because I love sharing the experience of painting and find it very rewarding to show people that we all have an artist hiding inside each of us. Most left-brain thinkers believe they have no talent whatsoever and are pleasantly surprised to find it a very rewarding and freeing experience. The art parties are a great way to get together with your friends, do something new, and show off a hidden talent you never knew you had.

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Paul Weiner:
Have you found the Denver art scene particularly accessible? Do you ever feel limited by living in a relatively small art market?

Konnie Laumer:
Denver has a great art community with some amazing talent floating around in surprising places. I have trouble with accepting the way some galleries charge so much for wall space to show art. They become less picky on what they show, and artists with so-so talent pay the gallery bills while rarely selling anything. I feel the art market is what you make it. If you produce great art, at some point it will sell no matter where you are. The internet has done great things to improve the ability to sell wherever you are. You just have to think outside the box at every turn. It is a never-ending process to market yourself and your talent. You need to be willing to open every door of opportunity when it comes your way.

Paul Weiner:
Pay for space consignment does seem to be unfortunately prevalent here in Denver.

Konnie Laumer:
Unfortunately it is not only Denver, but now is becoming a standard practice with many galleries around the country, which I feel is a shame. As with any industry, sometimes you have to pay to get exposure.


Please view Konnie Laumer’s artwork online at http://www.artbykonnie.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Coffee and Rebecca Jacob’s Figurative Painting Skills

Rebecca Jacob earned her BFA at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. She has also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the School of Visual Arts in New York, the Art Students League of New York, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. I picked her brain on her own art practice and thoughts about the commercial art world. Rebecca’s artwork can be found online at rebeccajacob.com.

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Paul Weiner:

How do you choose a subject for a series of work? For instance, how did you happen upon coffee as a motif?

Rebecca Jacob:

Ah, the hardest question to answer! Prior to my coffee art phase, I brought in a painting to show a gallery director. His mot to me was, “you’re cute but you need to find a gimmick.”

At that time Starbucks was new, and coffee shops were just starting to become popular – hence the inception of my coffee art series. I even painted with actual coffee! Recently, I am focusing on reproducing, on linen, plant life and landscapes from my personal world. I also love literature, despite my extreme lack of writing skills. I pull from various sentences, stanzas, poems, etc. to use to title my paintings.

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Paul Weiner:

Let’s talk about the landscapes and nature, then. Do you prefer to paint en plein air or in your studio? Also, do you find photography and other digital advances like Photoshop to be a useful tools or simply annoying crutches for figurative painters.

Rebecca Jacob:

I love the concept of painting en plain air but I can never seem to set aside the time. Hence, the photos in my studio where I can work at night. I use my own photos, but do not use photoshop.  Whereas it saves an artist time to use crutches, I try not to because my drawing skills suffer if I do.

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Are the Tulips too Excitable_10x10_oil on belgian linen

Paul Weiner:

Do you find, as a figurative artist, that the commercial art world has become overly focused on abstraction?

Rebecca Jacob:

With regard to the commercial world of art, don’t get me going! Art is now completely about monetary investment; if a gallery of note says it’s valuable, then it is. Art is stock for investment, nothing more. Artists seems to justify their work in saying that it is there to convey a message, but art, especially art that needs to be explained, is not the best way to convey a message.

Any element of the aesthetic has become irrelevant; this is now expected from the current fashion in the art world. Any skill involved in creating art is also irrelevant, indeed frowned upon, as old fashioned and therefore unworthy. The two basic tenets of what constitutes good art are now ignored. This is why people get away with posing as artists, and the world believes them. I feel that the figure is the hardest element to draw and paint, and should be conquered first and foremost before venturing on.

Paul Weiner:

Do you view your work as conceptual or intuitive?

Rebecca Jacob:

My work is both conceptual and intuitive depending on the day and my mood.

Paul Weiner:

Interesting. I would imagine that most people would find your work worthy of merit in an academic setting in terms of skill. So, would you say that your concepts are driven more by the commercial art world or your own curiosities?

Rebecca Jacob:

I have to admit I am driven by the commercial art world. Who doesn’t want to be a successful artist, especially after the 1980’s!  On the other hand, I also am driven by my own curiosities.

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Paul Weiner:

Take us through the material process you use as a painter. What materials do you like to paint on and with?

Rebecca Jacob:

I generally work small, so I can afford to use the best quality canvas and paint. I have had several mishaps with low quality oil paint chipping off. I also love to work in oil due to the history of it and the lasting power of oil.

Paul Weiner:

Oil painting is certainly a traditional technique. Do you see your style as being rooted in history? Perhaps you could name a few artists who you’ve found influential.

Rebecca Jacob:

I have always been drawn to artists via their stories more than their actual work. For example, take Jackson Pollock. I enjoy reading about his life more than his actual work. Although, when I visited his studio this past fall, I found that I do love his work. I have been obsessed with the lives of artists in Paris from when Paris was the center of the art world. On visiting Paris, I was more interested in finding their haunts and residences than viewing their works. Currently I am drawn to Johannes Vermeer after reading girl with a pearl earring. I also am fascinated with how he created and ground his own colors and the materials they used back then. I currently am trying to use the colors he used in his palette.

Display Blooms Sublime, 20x20, oil on belgian linen

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Please view Rebecca Jacob’s artwork online at http://www.rebeccajacob.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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