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Painting on Paper as a Form of Drawing

Studio wall- Image courtesy of the artist.
Studio wall- Image courtesy of the artist.

What are the benefits of working on paper? Can painting on paper be a kind of drawing? Working on paper has a certain liberation to it, one does not have to be precious with it. Working on paper allows me to work through a process. The thought process reveals itself differently. Because of the casualness of paper, I could create and not be too calculated in the process.  When I went to art school, it was mandatory and part of the curriculum to take both drawing and painting courses. I had a natural curiosity for painting. In my painting classes I would learn about specific painters, from professors, and then research them. The process nourished itself. I would take some aspects from the artist’s work I discovered and tried to make it my own. In my drawing classes, I was never sure what to do, I was a little more lost, and I did not really understand what a drawing was, or how to make a drawing. At the time, when I thought of drawing, the materials helped define the term. I use to think that drawings had to be made with graphite, colored pencils, charcoal, paper, or some other drawing medium.

Another problem I had with drawing is that they were flat. What I mean by this is that paint has body, it is physical whereas graphite and pencil are less fleshly. I favored the physical material over the flat one. I struggled in art school and in drawing class figuring out how to make a drawing and not a painting. Inevitably I would end up putting paint on paper and called it a day. These were my drawings. I did not realize that the work could be about the process and that drawings can be made with paint and paper.

Once I was no longer in school I did not have the burden of making drawings, and I didn’t, I just kept painting. If I had to work out an image or a passage, I would do it right on the canvas. As a result, that sort of method added to the painting’s content. The covering up revealed another layer of meaning. It was only at the time of my graduate studies, I returned to paper by my own choice based on a specific need. In graduate school, I was producing paintings that consisted of combining specific sets of colors. Without having a solid understanding of color theory in my undergraduate studies, I began the process of creating my color scheme. I had to invent and qualify my own color relationships. There was a need to work out the problems, and I did not want to reveal that process on the painting’s surface. This is where my interest in working on paper as a form of drawing began. There was a liberation that I felt. I was able to work out the visual problems and create at the same time.

After graduate school, I had the opportunity to travel to several art residencies. Being in a residency away from home and or abroad allowed the process of working on paper to develop even more. The other benefit of working on paper is that it is practical and are less difficult to transport. You can stick an entire body of work in a portfolio and carry it from one gig to another.

Fast-forward to recent years. After making several bodies of work that consisted of paintings, I decided to open up my process and visual language. The problems I started having with my paintings were they were becoming too dark; color and light were being reduced to lighter and darker hues. This came about as a result of the work being too labored. I felt the need to retain an absolute clarity of color and not overwork the image. Additionally, I felt the need to question my process and shed parts of it that no longer seemed relevant. Creative block, as it would be, working on paper is an excellent way to figure out the problems and inevitably reinventing the imagery for paintings.

Creating on paper has broadened the scope of possibilities for me. The paintings on paper I make are drawing-like. I call them drawings because the works are much more about the process of discovering. Painting on paper has allowed me to take a risk, open up visual imagery, go deeper in that areas that I know and mostly it has allowed me to reinvent myself. There is a liberating feeling of being confronted with a sheet of blank paper putting a markdown and then responding to that mark and so forth. As a result, a thought process is recorded and revealed. The works on paper are an abbreviation of an idea, a schematic. They are not finished works of art because they are not  In my studio, I keep a range of paper in different sizes. If I have little time to invest in making painting the paper is always available and ready to work upon. I still don’t really know how to draw or make a graphite or charcoal drawing. But whatever the function is I love to work on paper. Perhaps the works are drawings or paintings/studies on paper, but it is a practice I am actively engaged in on a regular basis.

DME Drawing-A Study, 2014, 30” x 22”, oil, ink, and collage on paper,- Image courtesy of the artist.

“Untitled”, 2018, 16” x 12”, oil on paper- Image courtesy of the artist.

“them”, 2015, 7” x 7”, oil on paper – Image courtesy of the artist.

Palette table – Image courtesy of the artist.

“Formulas for Painters”, 2014, 22” x 30”, oil, ink, and collage on paper,- Image courtesy of the artist.