Coming Full Circle

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, Opus 1707, RHO, acrylic on archival paper

Q: Getting back to the Northwest School, do you feel any direct influence from those painters?

ReeL: I was very influenced by Morris Graves and Mark Tobey and Kenneth Callahan as a kid growing up in Seattle.  Guy Anderson wasn’t exhibiting that much by then, though he had a lot of visibility with some public commissions like his large painting at the Opera House, which I saw when I was about 11 or 12 or so.

At one point I told my mother that I wanted to do a “technicolor Tobey” when I grew up.

Q: A technicolor Tobey?

ReeL: Yes, Technicolor films were a big then at that moment and the Northwest School — and just about everyone else painting in the Puget Sound back then–were working a lot with palettes that were as grey and dreary as Seattle’s weather: a lot of umbers, and ochres, black and white and a touch of burnt sienna. Very grey and brown. I was thinking of Tobey’s “white writing” paintings,  how fun it would be to do them, but with a full palette, in technicolor, so to speak.  My mother thought that that was hilarious.   And Graves heavily influenced how I approached painting when I was an early teenager.

Q: Aren’t you having a show at the Morris Graves Museum soon?

ReeL: Yes, it will be up March 12th and open on the first Saturday in April and run til the end of April of this year [2016] .  I am looking forward to it, coming back to the institution that has Graves’ estate, which includes two Tobeys as well as his work. It will be like coming full circle, back to my roots. And the people at the museum have been wonderful.

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