When ReeL was growing up in Seattle, the top painter in the region then was Mark Tobey. Though no longer around, he had lived openly in Seattle and had inspired many people who were then working there. ReeL was particularly excited as a kid by Tobey’s White Writing paintings. But like most Puget Sound artists of Tobey’s generation and of the subsequent generations dominant when ReeL was growing up, their palettes were dominated by ochres, umbers, siennas, whites, greys, and black. It has been quite clear, on the other hand, that ReeL has always been interested in the potential of color, though ReeL has stated that early on he accepted Klee’s maxim “that to truly master color, you must master grays,” ReeL clearly felt it was necessary to not be limited to them.
Growing up ReeL also watched a lot of film. One of his schoolmates who would often watch the same films later became a full-time film critic at the New York Daily News. At the time, one of the big things in film was a patented color process called “Technicolor” that brought a new vividness to color films.
ReeL, who was very close to his mother, states that one gray afternoon, as he and his mother stood in front of a “white writing” Tobey at a show at the Seattle Art Museum, he said to her, “When I grow up, I’m going to paint a technicolor Tobey.” She reportedly laughed and said, “I have no doubt you will!”
So here is ReeL’s first “technicolor Tobey,” it is the first of a series of similar paintings, all done on a modest scale that fulfill that promise to his, now deceased, mother. Thus, in a way, they are a fitting tribute to both the fond memory of those wonderful Tobeys that inspired his youth, and his mother, who accepted and nurtured his art from an early age.