Q: I’d like to move on to your technique. At this point it seems you’ve established a distinct working method involving some very specific techniques. When did you start working in this way, or in this direction.
ReeL: From the very beginning actually. There were hints of it in how I combined dry and wet media in that first oil I did when I was twelve. That piece that got kicked out of the student show when I was 15 and put into the professional show was in some ways, technically, a forerunner of my current technique. Then I experimented with a lot of other approaches, often returning to develop this technique further.
Q: I realized I had started to ask a question about Schopenhauer, but we got completely sidetracked. I’m trying to remember what we were saying.
ReeL: I don’t think we got started on anything, other than that Schopenhauer is one of the few formal philosophers who said a lot about art in his major works, but wasn’t a specialist in aesthetics or art or anthropology or anything like that.
Q; So what about the spiritual in art? Why do you think Kandinsky had it wrong?
ReeL: Sir Herbert Read talked about an art of internal necessity. Kandinsky says this internal necessity is spiritual. I don’t necessarily think that is true for everyone. For some, yes; for others, definitely not.
Kandinsky had a specific bias that blinded him to certain alternatives. But that’s OK, those alternatives were not relevant to his own art. It just makes his essay a bit less universal. As we know, Kandinsky had been associated with the Theosophists, so he was pulling core ideas along these lines for his famous essay from an earlier publication written by two theosophists. Kandinsky had to have had access to this publication as it was written by a couple of Theosophists he had to have been aware of … in this publication they proposed a new kind of more truly spiritual painting that was totally abstract, in fact, non-objective.
But they weren’t painters, or at least painters anywhere near Kandinsky’s abilities. Consequently, their samples–their book had color illustrations of samples of this new type of painting they were proposing–their samples were not that persuasive as paintings. Kandinsky was a thousand times better painter, so his breakthrough is still a breakthrough, irregardless these other historical precedents. It is more a tale of how things never really arise from nothing. There are always precedents. It is the genius who sees new possibilities within all the mess that is already here.
Q: What about art in school, before college or art school? How was that for you?
ReeL: Art in school? Right. I don’t remember doing much painting in school before my last year in high school, other than finger painting, and very rarely, poster paints for what I considered really stupid projects.
It was mostly crafty projects, making stuff with paper and glue, and little idiotic holiday projects, all of which I hated. Totally turned me off.
Q: I’ve heard that you had a somewhat unique situation as a kid with your younger brothers, in terms of how you played and a possible preparation for making art. Could you explain a bit about that?
ReeL: When I was six, I invented this thing we called “scenes”, where on a long strip of shelf paper a couple yards long cut from rolls my mother always kept around for lining the bottom of our shelves, I’d draw a scene, or schematic background, of say a landscape and then draw on typing paper figurines to cut out and play with on that background. In this way we could create any environment and people it with anyone or thing we wanted. Dinosaurs, spacecraft and super heroes, monsters and fabulous beasts, Continue reading “Scenes”→
Q: Do you remember your first painting.? I mean other than school work or what you considered kid stuff.
ReeL: Yea. It was a crucifixion in oil, about 30 by 24 inches, sort of a Baroque piece with deep shadows and a ray of light coming down from the right, after a Rembrandt. Jesus was very semitic: black kinky hair, dark skin. I was twelve.
My grandmother who was not religious, in fact she always made a big point about how the Scandinavians were converted to Christianity by the sword and had ruined Continue reading “First Painting”→