Painting and Drawing:

Painting and drawing are something that I, like almost any artist, have been obsessed with since I was a child. I think I first became really “serious” about them in high-school when I began to discover the great artists of art history. Like many artists I have worked my way through the influences of any number of predecessors. Upon first entering art school I was greatly attracted to the work of the Dutch Renaissance and Baroque. I was obsessed not merely with Breughel, Bosch, Rembrandt, and Vermeer… but also with the “little Dutch masters” such as Ter Borch, Ruisdael, Avercamp, Steen, Dou, etc…

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Dutch Landscape 1987

I was not initially fond of watercolor… as my college professors tended to stress the rapid techniques favored by Paul Cezanne especially, which left great passages of white paper showing. I came to actually like watercolor, however, after discovering the techniques of J.M.W. Turner and Gustave Moreau who both employed layer after layer of transparent washes… building up subtly modeled forms and a great sense of atmosphere. I favored this approach to my own watercolor works… whether it be of an invented Dutch landscape or a still-life painted from observation.

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First Calvary
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Copy after Michelangelo’s “Study for the Libyan Sibyl”

After my first year of art school I never utilized watercolor again. Largely, I believe, this was due to the fact that my focus shifted from landscape and still life, to the human figure. I didn’t feel that the rather atmospheric effects of watercolors were at all suited to what I was attempting to achieve in drawing and painting the figure. In awe of the magnificent figure studies of such Renaissance masters as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo, I began to employ the same media as utilized by them: terra-cotta and sienna chalk. I used this in endless life-studies and even in copies after the works of these Renaissance masters.

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Figure Study (Bob)

With time I began to explore the pastel drawings of Degas who led me to a use of a broader array of chalk and pastel… as well as to a greater degree of finish to my life studies. I began to think of these drawings as finished works of art and to consciously concern myself with composition and atmosphere.

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The Late Show

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The Queen of the Night

During my 4th year of art school I was profoundly influenced by the work of the German Expressionists and Edvard Munch. My works took on a dark… often disturbing, psycho-sexual content. The forms were simplified and flattened out… and yet the dramatic use of light and dark and atmosphere remained ever at the fore of my consideration.
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Prodigal Son

Very little of the work of this period employed oil paint… indeed most of it was not even on canvas. Most of the works that were painted on canvas were painted with acrylics. I had a love-hate relationship with acrylic as a medium. Having the habit of leaving a painting at a moment’s notice I often returned to find several brushes ruined… caked in dried paint. Acrylic also had the habit of simply burning up my brushes as if I were painting on sandpaper. On the other side… it allowed for loud, screaming colors that augmented the atmosphere I was attempting to convey. It also dried incredibly fast… allowing for me to work up a painting rapidly in layers of scraped and scumbled paint.

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Footsie

Most of my “paintings” at this time were produced utilizing a combination of acrylic washes and pastels upon large sheets of paper. While the distortions and stylizations owed much to German Expressionism… the actual technique was rooted far more in the work of Degas, R.B. Kitaj, and Jime Dine. A “painting” such as Footsie measured around 50″x80″.

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Charlotte and Marot

While the theme of many of my works of this period was that of a manner of psycho-sexual drama and angst… the form these works often took was deeply rooted in my knowledge of art history. The drawing above, for example, clearly alluded not only to J.L. David’s famous painting, The Death of Marat , but also to certain of the “bather” images of Degas and Bonnard.

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Studio Still-Life

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Studio Still-Life

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Daisy

The works of this period continuously employed a dramatic use of light and of a suggestive and even oppressive atmosphere… even if they were based upon life drawings of the common, every-day items found in the studio… or upon the posing life models.

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By Electric Light

-In my final year of art school I returned once more to oil paint. Almost all of these paintings were lost over the years… and most never documented. Perhaps this is for the best. I began to develop a far improved sense of color at this time… looking often to not only the German and French Expressionists, Degas, and Bonnard… but also the California Figurative painters of the post-Abstract Expressionist era: David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, etc… On the other hand… my sense of paint manipulation was weak… and the structures or forms tended to be rather “mushy”… as if everything were made of blobs of melting ice cream.

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Halloween

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The Westsiders

Shortly after art school the largest influence upon my painting became the work of Max Beckmann. This, unquestionably had a positive impact. Beckmann’s use of bold black contours and simplified solid forms led me to a far greater sense of structure in my paintings. Unfortunately… this influence was not to last. Shortly after this period I abandoned painting altogether for a while… focusing upon collage and assemblage.

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Christine (The Black Bra)

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Christine (The Letter)

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Couple

After having left painting for almost 5 years I made a sudden return in 2000. Having grown frustrated with the abstract collage and assemblage work I was making at the time, one day out of the blue I grabbed a porno magazine and opened it to an image of a couple caught in the act… and began to simply paint this as faithfully as I could. I was shocked to discover that this painting (not shown) suggested far more possibilities than anything I had done for years. I jump headlong into a series of large paintings (5 or 6 x 7 feet) painted from life: portraits, paintings of my wife, self-portraits, couples, etc… I most probably would have continued on in this direction to the present time if it weren’t for the sudden loss of my studio. I was forced, by circumstances too complex to go into here, with my studio mates to leave the studio we had shared for some few years. This move eventually evolved into a long, drawn-out lawsuit that resulted in my not having any usable studio space for some few years. As a result… I once again returned to collage… a medium I was able to work with in a small office room of my home.

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Still-Life with Black Gloves

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Still-Life

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Still-Life

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Still-Life

Only recently… over the course of the last 9 months or so… have I once again returned to oil painting. In this return I have been somewhat cautious… tenuous in my steps, as I have begun with the most basic of imagery… simple still life objects… often arranged in a manner that recalls the concerns with geometric forms and structure that has so dominated my collage work over the last few years. While I greatly admire the simple still-life paintings of Chardin, Morandi, and Avigdor Arikha… and acknowledge the fact that “great art” can be the result of the most humble of subjects… I somehow suspect that such subjects will not satisfy me for long. I am almost impatient to see how this… my latest… and perhaps my permanent return to oil painting will evolve.

3 Comments

  1. Ronald J. Sherno said,

    January 8, 2008 at 5:33 am

    To Stlukesguild, Just to comment on the painting and drawing section (above), and forwarning you I’m semi-literate on art generally although I’m constantly exploring the art, architecture and design articles from many sources. Soon, I’ll be able to visit some art museums that have intrigued me for years. Anyway, you have a style that is unique and no artist comes to mind who draws or paints in this way. I sense you have the genious and energy to pursue this wherever it may lead you. I must admit that many artists and references are unfamiliar to me and I have to search them out. What can I say except that your work is impressive on many levels and I feel priveledged that you would reveal them. It will be fascinating to see where this leads. Ron p.s. you can use my direct e-mail anytime

  2. Gustav Highstein said,

    December 2, 2012 at 4:32 am

    Hi,
    I am putting together some Bach Concerts in January and when looking for Dutch Renaissance works for my concert posters I cam across your little Dutch landscape. I think it is a marvelous little painting. Light and at the same time full of depth. How would you feel about it being used on a poster? I hope you won’t mind my asking. Thanks regardless for sharing your lovely work!

    • stlukesguild said,

      December 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Gustav…

      Certainly feel free to use my painting for you poster. All I require is that you credit me, David C. Kuss, as the artist, and send me an image of the finished work.

      Yours
      Stlukesguild
      stlukesguild62@gmail.com


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