Guston via Schutz via Salle

Sometimes a quote about painting will really get into my head, influencing how I try to paint. Lately, I’ve been thinking about this passage from Salle’s How to See book (bold emphasise my own).

“(Dana) Schutz is a picture builder, not an illustrator. Her style is first of all addressed to a workmanlike sense of form; it’s never arbitrary. She doesn’t just draw with the brush; she’s a constructor. She makes good use of a first principle of representation; where there’s a change in plane, there is always a change in value, the lightness or darkness of a form. Look at a three-dimensional form – a coffee cup – in the light: one side is dark and one light. Shifts of value define the edge of a plane in space, and when a plane changes direction, a dark shape next to a lighter one, it creates a sense of form. Exploiting this simple principle allows Schutz to barrel through densely packed scenes efficiently, using a big brush, and not getting caught up in illustrational details.” p.59

That phrase “barrel through densely packed scenes efficiently” really appeals to me. I love the idea of being able to dream up complex scenarios and paint them in a way that is crisp and visually legible without being laboriously executed. Anything to take the pressure off technical execution and free up more mental energy for imagination!

With Salle’s words in mind, I painted this doodle improvising shapes using the “simple principle” that he describes. It’s not quite a “densely packed scene”, but it convinced me that this is a very quick and effective way of creating legible form.


170107b (2017) oil on canvas 20 x 18.5cm

Later I realised that this looks more like a Guston painting than anything I’ve done before. At first I was surprised, because when I made it I’d been thinking about how Schutz used to render form (below), so it seemed odd that the painting came out looking so much like Guston. Then I remembered that people often point out the influence of Guston on Schutz, so I guess it makes sense that if you borrow from one artist, you might get something they borrowed from someone else.


Dana Schutz Untitled (2001) oil on canvas 54.6 x 43.2cm


Philip Guston Blue Water (1976) oil on canvas


4 thoughts on “Guston via Schutz via Salle

  1. Pingback: More small doodles | dailydaub

  2. Pingback: New material: Wing mirror | dailydaub

  3. I recall this without the commentary, posted in your Facebook. I made a derisory comment about the finger/digit.

    I’m glad I got around to reading your background to this. Wherever your inspiration is coming from , and whomever is influencing how your paintings look, I am getting more enlivened to read you passaging; getting an inkling of what is exciting you and seeing you pushing it out.

    I’m never too sure about “meaning” in painting and I have a delicious anecdote about a lauded Aussie sculptor’s response to someone trying to suck meaning out of a work. But this is different to intent – and you are sharing your intents, in part, as you tackle various challenges and potentials you choose to face.

    I am loving this moment in your thinking and your relating of pushing it. I hope you learn to love it and throttle it!


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