11 July 2011

Don West


Can you briefly describe what you do?

I paint. I use a number of different mediums and approaches to paint. I struggle for mastery. I fail a lot.

What drives you to make work?

The satisfaction I get from doing it, although I abhor failing.

Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?

Painting often entails making the support or finding the support or stretching canvas or a combination of all these while conceiving of the work. Making drawings or studies where necessary. Assembling materials. Scraping palettes, cleaning brushes. Mixing colors. Often I make or stretch a group of things or supports on which to paint conceiving of a full series of work, the individual pieces of which inform and relate to one another, one a continuation or a contradiction of the next. These may take different shapes and forms and various dimensions. Nothing is off the table. I work with all sorts of materials. I recycle a lot and have done for years. I’ll use anything and everything that comes to hand or mind, whatever the piece dictates. If I don’t know how to do it, I learn how. Anything that will contribute to the piece is fair game. I also contemplate and consider making frames where applicable. Some works are about line, color, composition, gesture, etc.; some are about process, some are about challenge, some about image or surface or space. Whatever presents itself to me gets a hearing. Each work finds its own way into existence with its own set of rules and demands. When actually painting, I do more looking and thinking than painting. But wherever it begins and wherever it ends, it is always and ultimately about illusion. I play mostly. Watch hummers at the window feeder. Burn incense. Listen to music, make and drink coffee. Run the vac, do some calisthenics, lift some weight, write in the studio journal. I’m always working to put myself into the receptive state through which the artwork appears, engaging the painting dialogue that is ongoing and evolving when the work is coming.

How long have you been working in that way?

I present myself for work in the studio everyday. Studio life is solitary. I put in 6 solid hours at my job, sometimes 7 or more. It used to be 8 or better, every day, until I turned 60. But now, at 65 years of age, I’m usually only good for about 6 hours; after that, it’s non-productive. I’ve been working this way, for 35 years.

Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?

The only artist who hasn’t been a profound influence in my work I haven’t discovered yet. I’m constantly on the prowl for another great artist’s work to see. I learn something even from the bad ones. It doesn’t matter what type of art it is. I copy to learn the most interesting and applicable techniques and processes from the greatest artists I can find. I try things out and practice to make them mine.

What, outside visual art, informs your practice?

The world, the universe, other people, museums, galleries, beauty, truth, honor, love, existing. You could take every other interviewed artist’s response you have on this website to this question and insert it here in my interview. It would be applicable.

How would you like people to engage with your work?

However they want. I try to create something that is drop-dead beautiful to me. Remembering that beauty comes in many many forms. My work is not about expressing something to the viewers. I’ve no agenda, social, political or otherwise. I’ve got nothing to tell or express to them. My work gets me through my day. That’s it. It’s all about making it for me. It would be good, of course, for them to love it enough to buy it, as that’s I how I make my living. But they will get out of it what they are willing to bring to it. Only art made that way will grow more profound over time for those who have made the commitment to live with it.
Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?

Aside from terrific difficulty or top-notch craftsmanship apparent in a certain work, not a whole lot of stuff impresses me anymore. I’m absolutely worn out with the tons of “important” mediocre conceptual flotsam/jetsam that is stuffing the galleries. I will say that many of those great paintings, traditional and/or contemporary, that I’ve seen over the years, the best ones, continue to impress me. And I just saw a small, very traditional seascape by DeAnn Melton here in Tucson that was extremely pleasurable to view.

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

Two new galleries and a one man show of new work coming before the end of this year.

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