Updated: Jan 27, 2022
Today's Google header reminded me it's Georges Seurat's 162nd birthday. The father of pointillism, the French artist is the single greatest influence on my painting style.
In the mid-90s, there was a popular pseudo-underground Philadelphia-based wrestling promotion called Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). Unlike Vince McMahon's campy World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and Ted Turner's also-ran World Championship Wrestling (WCW), ECW, led by creative tsar Paul Heyman, offered something different. Heyman didn't have the deep pockets of Turner, nor the brand value McMahon provided, so some his talent was, for all intents and purposes, less-than. To compete, he consistently found ways to hide his talents' limitations while accentuating their skillsets. The wrestlers who couldn't cut promos were billed as silent killers. Greenhorns were protected, executing well-timed bursts of simple but devastating offense. And, of course, the overall content was utterly unique compared to mainstream wrestling.
What's any of this got to do Georges Seurat?
I was just getting back into traditional art in mid-2012, an act I feel has become perpetual. (Quite a few failures to launch since, sometimes because my mind wanders, ofttimes because life differs with my plans.) I was very cognizant of my limitations. Rusty from years of inactivity, and having never painted in any advanced learning environment, my technique was non-existent. I've seen the blending quality other painters at all levels have exhibited. I couldn't compete with that. So I didn't.
I went the Paul Heyman route, and sought to accentuate my skills and hide my shortfalls. I knew the general shape of my forms was where it needed to be. That was the focus. But how to render those shapes? I recalled a painting I had made in first grade art class. It was a turtle on a hill (I wish my mom saved that one), probably painted with acrylics or whatever craft paint was deemed safe in the late-80s. (SPOILER: All paint was deemed safe in the late-80s.) We used the eraser end of a fresh pencil to dab colors from palette to paper. The dots were relatively large, but for all intents and purposes, this was pointillism, as explained by our wonderful teacher, Mr. Hower.
TANGENT: As a parent of grade schoolers, I have yet to come across another art teacher whose curriculum is so deeply rooted in art history, modern or otherwise. Seurat, Gaugin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Monet, Dali. I learned all about these artists before I was 12. Thank you, Mr. Hower and Fairfield, NJ, public schools.
I swapped the eraser for an old brush, and almost carelessly slapped paint onto my 12x12" canvas. Some hours later, Tiger Mask. I adapted the style for my ensuing Muppets series, and even took pointillism to a minimalist extreme with a number of pixel paintings.
Never would have expected that back in my cramped Brooklyn apartment I'd still be haphazardly slapping acrylics onto canvas, but I've embraced it. This is me. And yes, when I'm feeling particularly orderly, it's back to pixel painting. Meanwhile, in a sense, I can trace my collage work back to Seurat as well. Random comic books and magazines, broken down into smaller, color-based components to be rebuilt into something new is, in theory, very much like Seurat's pointillism.