Sketchbook Look Introduction and Seattle

Sketchbook Look Introduction and Seattle

When I make a sketch my brain goes into recording mode where I'm taking in everything I see to make calculations and decisions to get my subject translated down onto the paper but by default everything going on around me gets lodged into my brain too. Because of this, when I look back at a drawing I can instantly tell you who was around, what I might have been eating, if I was listening to a podcast or music or nothing.

Artist Interview: Robert Jessup

Alright.  So I just recently had a whole bunch to say about Robert Jessup.  After I said what I had to say, I figured I would take a shot in the dark and send him an email letting him know just what it was that I had been saying. 
So now I have something else to say about Robert Jessup.  Dude is a gemstone.  What a great guy.  Robert got right back to me, both thanking me for my interest and responding that he would be “delighted” to answer some of my questions about his work.

A bulk of my questions centered around one bigger idea:  “What is going on with the major switch in stylistic choice that began in 2008?"  Looking through Robert’s work during this time period,  it is clear to anyone that this artist was making some major decisions about how to make a painting.

Check out these paintings:

"Man Climbing a Cliff in the Mountains", 2008, 68 inches by 64 inches , oil on canvas

"Robert", 2010, 44 inches by 42 inches, oil on canvas

"Landscape with Two Figures" , 2012, 60 inches by 66 inches, oil
Pretty clear, right?

“My work has changed drastically since returning from a life-changing trip to Europe in 2008. I went with the intention of learning from the techniques of the great Baroque masters, but I came back fueled by a spirit of radical invention and expression. While my narrative paintings had always been anchored in my ability to envision what I could remember and imagine, I returned from this trip determined to not just envision, but to become aggressively visionary.  I wanted to reconfigure my imagined world, to subvert what I knew and destroy what was comfortable. So I changed what I imagined. Then I changed how I drew.  Then I changed how I painted. Now, my drawing is primarily directed by my capriciously impulsive, insouciant, and perverse Line.”

I am in love with Robert's more recent body of work and am so thankful (Thanksgiving day post people!) that this transition developed.

In the studio:

Another thing that I am thankful for is the dedication that was drilled into me at my alma mater, to straight up do WORK in the studio.  I think my parents can probably get in a bit on that hard work and dedication thankfulness too, but I'm getting away from my point here.  Because of this beliefe that hard and steady work in the studio is so vital, I am strongly compelled to hear about other artists’ studio practice.  The variation from artist to artist is huge, but one thing seems consistent and that is that the artists who go to the studio with consistency, and make SOMETHING, even if it is terrible or unimportant, seem to be the most satisfied with their efforts.  I remember hearing Dana Schutz (post about her work from a little while ago) answer questions about this during a talk she did at BU four years ago; she sleeps in, gets coffee, makes her way to the studio in the afternoon sometime, looks at things, preps for a while, breaks to eat, then paints until about 4am.  I could live like that.  laxin laxin laxin WORK.

What a beautiful mess this pallet is!

A studio day for Robert is any day that he does not have a class over at the University of North Texas where he is a Professor of Drawing and Painting in the College of Visual Arts and Design.

"Sometimes, the painting sessions are fifteen minutes, sometimes they are three to four hours..."  "I'm doing these little works on paper and when I don't feel quite up to the messy work of slogging around in the oil paint, I can make these little pictures. My table for doing them is set up in my studio, where I can look up and see the canvas that I'm working on. I usually only have one painting on canvas going at a time, but during the course of a painting, I may have several works on paper going. I also usually don't complete a work on paper in one sitting. I often have a fast start of one sort or another then leave it alone. Then I'll come back and respond to those first markings and try to advance the form and nascent imagery. Altogether, these little works probably take between two and four hours over a couple of days to bring to completion. The paintings proceed in much the same way, but over a longer period of days and sessions. Most paintings, though, have always been completed in a week to ten days."

A woman looks at 'Le jardin d'Hiver,' 1968-1970, a work by French artist Jean Dubuffet 

Guston, de Kooning and Picasso were also on the list.

Dubuffet and Scully are two artists I haven't seen before, always thrilled to see more artist's work.  I know the last three artists' bodies of work but they are definitely worth looking at for those who are unfamiliar.  

So that wraps it up.  A big thank you to Robert Jessup for being game for my question, hopefully this is something I can do with other artists in the future.

Robert Jessup

"Little Me as a Dog", 2012
Oil on Canvas, 20"x20"

I received my copy of New American Paintings the other day and have not been able to get my eyes away from the pages with Robert Jessup's work.  From what I can see, he has been working in representation to show the viewer a story for the majority of his career.  The past two years of paintings however, have drastically changed in style. Jessup says of his process, "A painting is done when the last punch lands," and that his work is made with "...equal parts deliberation and desperation."

"Head Woman 12-26", 2012
Oil, 18"x18"

There is an aggression and immediacy from the swooping strokes of Jessup's brush that channel a sense of honesty and memory.

Here, look at some of his older work to see the stylistic switch I'm talking about:

Nighscene, 1999
Oil on canvas, 70"x80"

Sister, 2001

Oil on Canvas, 60"x60"

Half Head, Ice Cream, 2004
Oil on board, 11"x14"

Cloud Series, #11, 2006
Oil on canvas, 30"x30"

Couple, Bedroom, 2007
Oil on canvas, 44"x42"
from the couples in love series

Although there has been a huge shift in the way Jessup is using his paint, I would argue that the narrative remains present in his work.  The two portraits at the top from this year are equally as capable of relating a narrative as "Half Head, Ice Cream" from 2004, with an additional kick from the raw application of paint.  In the newer work I spend time looking at the piece trying to find landmarks such as a nose or an ear and in the older work I am spending that same time trying to figure things out, like "Where did that lady get that amazing purple wig?" or, "What's up with that angry cat?"  There is an equal balance of detective work the viewer must put to in both bodies of work, which is what stimulates me as a viewer and challenges me as a painter.

Here are a few more of Jessup's work from this year with the new style and a huge punch of narrative.

"Cloud and Meteor" 2012
Oil, 42"x48"

"Dr. Jung with his Mistress in the Mountains" 2012
Oil, 64"96"

"A Family Climbs the Mountain" 2012
Oil, 64"x84"

"Portrait of a Woman (Robert's Thumb)" 2012
Oil, 48"x42"

I had such a hard time picking work to show here, do yourself a favor and go to Robert Jessup's website and have a look at more of his paintings.