Thursday, August 16, 2007

Interview: Randy Bacon

Randy Bacon's art doesn't lend itself to appropriate viewing on this Web site. It has nothing to do with the content -- his West Texas landscapes capture character of the place and the quality of the light with stunning nuance. No, the work doesn't lend itself to this Web site because of the format -- his canvases are very horizontal. And I mean very horizontal.

Fortunately, Randy's a creative problem solver. Check out his Web site -- it's one of my favorites.

Randy's a Fort Worth artist, but a lot of his work highlights parts west: Marfa, Anson, Albany, Blanco. I love Randy's art, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his work.

The Caravan of Dreams: You recently completed your MFA at TCU. Were you painting before? Why did you decide that the MFA process was a journey you needed to make?
Randy Bacon: I was a decent painter through college and the first five years after undergraduate degree, but when I moved to Fort Worth in 1985 and became partner in an ad agency I co-founded with Jim Stuart, there weren't enough hours in the day to paint any more. So I didn't paint for 20 years, the business was so demanding. I always meant to get back to painting, but didn't think it would take so long. When we closed the agency five years ago, the first thing I did was start painting again...I accepted the TCU scholarship two years ago because I wanted to get better, but mostly because I wanted to study with Jim Woodson, a great painter who's work I've always admired. It was a great experience in every way.

TCoD: How did your thesis exhibit go?
RB: Great. Humbling. Lots of people came. I was happy with how the paintings looked in the gallery, the installation and lighting were good. And then when the show moved to Grace Museum in Abilene, I was happy with how the show looked there too -- different atmosphere, lighting and feel, but equally good. (See Randy's painting, Patricia, below. It's on display at the Grace.)

TCoD: You may be just out of school, but unlike so new grads, you have already had an entire career in advertising. How did you decide to leave your old career behind and were you able to apply any of the lessons you learned through advertising in your art?
RB: That was a giant leap of faith I've never regretted. And after running an ad agency all those years, I wasn't afraid of hard work -- plus I'd learned how to 'trust my gut.'

TCoD: Many of your paintings are very, very horizontal. How did you arrive at the conclusion that a long, horizontal canvas was the best format for your work?
RB: Movies. I look at things like a letterbox movie screen. The windshield makes a great editing tool. And West Texas is so well-suited for panoramas, especially when your eyes become like a movie camera making a left-to-right pan to take in the vastness. (Randy's painting, Ballinger, is below.)

TCoD: How do you choose the places you paint? Are these real places, places from your memory or both?
RB: These are all real places, but places I know very well, so the paintings often are a hybrid of reality filtered through memory. I like to choose situations that make me curious, like what just happened here or is about to happen? -- especially when there is some subtly, mysterious narrative element.

TCoD: Explain your process of putting together a painting? How long does the process take and how much revision is involved?
RB: I wish I could explain that, but I can't. Some paintings happen effortlessly, quickly, and others are a lengthy struggle -- and I'm often surprised at which are which. It's unpredictable. In order to really paint all day long, I usually have four or five paintings going at one time so when I get stumped or a surface is too wet ... I can switch to another painting in order to keep working.

TCoD: Quality of light is a big part of your painting. What aspect of the light in West Texas interests you most? What is the hardest part to capture?
RB:The colors of earth and sky in West Texas can be dramatic, especially early in the morning or late in the day. Hardest part to capture? I suppose to communicate a sense of movement in a still format.

TCoD: Who are the artists who influence you most and why?
RB: So many. I couldn't have had a better teacher than Jim Woodson, in addition to being incredibly talented, he's one of the finest people I've ever known. Other artists; I love Hopper, Inness, Wayne Thiebaud, Rackstraw Downes... because of the great ways they solved the same kinds of painting issues I deal with. But I love all kinds of stuff and admire many artists, whether they are applicable to me or not. Anslem Kiefer, Matisse...I'm all over the place on what I like to look at. And I love some of the Texas regionalists like Alexander Hogue, Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, William Lester and Everett Spruce.

TCoD: You are an artist from Fort Worth, but I haven't seen any examples of Fort Worth reflected in your art. Am I not looking in the right place? Are there any local places you'd like to paint?
RB: Oh, I've done many Fort Worth paintings, but not in the last couple of years, so you haven't seen any on the web site or in the museum shows.

TCoD: So what does it mean to be one of the "Texas Five" at David Dike Fine Art? David Dike handles works from a lot of great Texas regionalists from the past, so how does it feel to have your art hanging in a gallery that includes great Texas artists such as Jerry Bywaters and Tom Lea?
RB: It feels good of course! The five are the only living artists David represents.

TCoD: Good point. Describe your process of putting together a painting. How long does a typical painting take? How much revision is involved and how do you know when it's done?
RB: I love to work on site, but rarely can because of the time involved. It might take a month to finish a painting and since most of my sites are out of town, I usually take reference photos to refer to and do some site sketching for composition. Sometimes I can start a painting on site and then finish in the studio, working from the references. (See Texas Theater Marfa above)

TCoD: Thanks for your time, Randy. Good luck!

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