Category Archives: Highlighted

Ellen Soderquist and Drawing the Nude

FAE is pleased to offer artworks by Dallas artist Ellen Soderquist. Ellen has been working as an artist since 1973, and has been teaching life drawing classes since 1979.  Highly respected as an artist and educator, Ellen is known for her exquisitely rendered and highly developed graphite drawings of the nude figure.  She teaches life drawing and lectures on the nude as a form of art explored by artists throughout history.

Ellen in the Studio, 1983
First Inspirations

Ellen Soderquist was raised in Texarkana, TX, where she showed an artistic inclination from a young age.  Because Ellen’s father was a photographer, there was always art on the walls of their home while she was growing up.  Along with his photographs, there were also drawings and watercolors by other artists, and they had artbooks in their library.  However, her favorite book was not an artbook, it was her mother’s copy of Gregg Shorthand.  She told me she “loved looking at that book and all those squiggles.  Before I learned to write, I remember writing pages and pages of squiggles.”  With amusement, her mother would later read the imaginary letters to her.

In Kindergarten, Ellen was inspired by one of her teachers who illustrated children’s books.  She would often draw her students while they were playing at recess.  During naptime, she would let Ellen peer over her shoulder to watch her draw.  Watching an artist work made quite an impression on her.

Image of a 2008 graphite on paper drawing of a nude figure and her shadow
Shadow Play: Yvette’s Gloves, 2008, Graphite on Coventry Rag paper
Why the Nude?

Ellen’s first formal art training was at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  Unfortunately, she found her first drawing class, where they worked from still life setups, so tedious she nearly switched majors.  It was not until she first started drawing the nude from a live model that Ellen was “hooked.”  Even though life drawing was only “taught to discipline and train the eye and hand,” like the still life setups that had totally bored her, she completely embraced the challenge of drawing from the model.  She was fascinated with the discovery that “the slightest movement or nuance of pose can change everything.” To Ellen, this was a revelation.

Even though Life Drawing was not emphasized in SMU’s art program, Ellen was intent on pursuing drawing the figure. This discipline was only required for two semesters, but Ellen was able to outwit the Registrar by finding a way to take a life drawing class every semester.

The course load emphasized what Ellen refers to as the “isms,” studying abstraction, expressionism, and minimalism. These influences can be seen in Ellen’s rendering of the figure in the void, using a minimalist background to draw the viewer’s consideration to only the figure and what is being said through the body and its pose.

Vittoria Colonna #2 (yellow), 1985, Graphite and Nupastel on Rag Paper

Ellen received her Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Texas Tech University in 1968. Her portfolio included expressionistic paintings, watercolors, prints, drawings, and a few abstractions and landscapes – but more than anything the nude was the dominant theme throughout her portfolio.

In 1971, Ellen went to Austin to work for the University of Texas.  As an employee, she was able to take classes for free, so she signed up for a life drawing class in the UT Art Department.  At the same time, she was reading Kenneth Clark’s book, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, and came across the concept that the nude is not just a subject, but is a form of art. These realizations cemented her direction as an artist, and she decided that her art was “the nude”.

Odd Jobs and Influences

The University of Texas hired Ellen as an illustrator for academic papers and projects.  Her first job on campus was working for Gérard de Vaucouleurs in the astronomy department. Ellen was part of a team of artists that worked for NASA through the university to draw maps of Mars under the supervision of Dr. de Vaucouleurs. They worked from the Mariner 9 photographs of Mars’ topography to add in the planet’s albedo, or light and dark markings, with graphite.  Their work was published in Sky and Telescope magazine.  Ellen’s second job in Austin was working for the Zoology department, making illustrations for the professors’ published articles.  For this job she worked in ink on a kind of mylar called Herculene.

Ellen’s quadrant of the Mars albedo project, published in Sky and Telescope magazine

Both illustration jobs helped Ellen hone her drawing skills and define her later working practice.  While rendering her illustrations of fauna at the Zoology department Ellen became accustomed to working on mylar, and from the Astronomy department she worked with graphite. Drawing extensively with these materials led Ellen to her “particular technique” when she moved to Dallas and became a professional artist.

In her Dallas studio, 1983, this photo illustrates how Ellen sharpened her graphite and pencils in the same way that she learned from drawing Mars’ albedo.

In 1981 Ellen was awarded a $2,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  With that money, she purchased a drafting table and used the rest to produce a series of three lithographs in collaboration with Texas’ finest fine art print shop at the time, Peregrine Press.

Ellen in the studio, working on lithostone in 1982.
Controversy and Censorship

Ellen knew that her choice of subject matter would occasionally cause controversy.  She recalled her first group exhibit at DuBose Gallery in Houston, where she was confronted by a gallery patron who labeled her artwork as pornographic.  Ellen said she spent time visiting with the woman explaining what her artwork was about.  She was pleased to learn later that the woman had purchased one of her drawings.

Image of a 2008 graphite on paper drawing of a figure's torso from the side
Jamie’s Torso, 2008, Graphite on Arches Paper

In 1981, Ellen was surprised that one of her works was removed from an exhibition at the Plaza of the Americas, an office building in downtown Dallas.  The show’s sponsor, The Texas Fine Art Association, had awarded the work second prize.  One of the people in charge of the building decided to exclude five works from the exhibit, including Ellen’s, saying that they were inappropriate for public view.  Ralph Kahn, a Dallas dealer who was known to not shy away from controversy, offered to exhibit the five “inappropriate” works in his gallery.  Bill Marvel, art critic for the Dallas Times Herold, wrote an article about the incident titled, “No Nudes is Good Nudes.”

Dallas Times Herald article, “No Nudes is Good Nudes,” April 4, 1981

Ellen believes that people who react to her work in this way do not understand her intention. She wants “the graphite to feel like flesh on the surface of the mylar.”  She wants the gesture to convey the figure’s inner spirit to the viewer.

An Artist’s Voice

These encounters deeply affected Ellen. She wants her figures to communicate a sense of strength, intellect, and capability.  The critiques that she is most pleased with describe her figures as “intelligent, sensual, highly developed, elegant, and provocative.”  She has examined attitudes about the nude throughout the history of art and sees this art form as a means of “understanding our humanity.”

In numerous series of artwork, Ellen has pursued a conceptual itinerary that spans the gamut of human emotions and relationships and she has explored contemporary attitudes about the nude as well as those of other cultures throughout the history of art. She strives to bring the complex relevance of the unclothed human body to the consciousness of contemporary culture.

*****

Available artworks by Ellen Soderquist on FAE

Detail image of an Otis Huband painting, there is a sculpture of a nude female torso in the center of the interior of a studioOTIS HUBAND: A Consummate Artist
Landscape of a farm house and a windmill by William ElliottDallas Painter WILLIAM ELLIOTT (1909-2001)
photo of a young Valton Tyler smoking a cigarette in the printroom at SMUThree Important Early Paintings by VALTON TYLER
Photo of the printmaker working in his studioYUKIO FUKAZAWA: Master Printmaker
An early painting of a male deer standing in the foreground of a deep rugged landscapeEarly Career Paintings by JIM STOKER: The Eternal Naturalist
a brush, pen and ink landscape drawing by Everett SpruceDrawings from the Estate of EVERETT FRANKLIN SPRUCE: Texas’ Most Celebrated Modernist
Watercolor and collage of an abstracted landscape by M. LeeMARJORIE JOHNSON LEE, An American Modernist
Photograph of John Albok with his cameraIntroduction to the photographs of JOHN ALBOK, Part II: the Photographic Archives Collection

 

 

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Flatbed Press: A Texas Fine Art Institution

It would be accurate to say that Austin-based Flatbed Center for Contemporary Printmaking is one of Texas’ most respected Fine Art Institutions.  Its antecedent, Flatbed Press was founded in 1989 when artist/educators Katherine Brimberry and Mark Lesly Smith partnered to open a Fine Art Press in a small warehouse on West 3rd Street, just west of downtown.  Following the model of the famed Dallas-based Peregrine Press, their dream was to make the printmaking arts available to emerging artists, especially those who lived/worked in Texas.

An image of Flatbed's first location.
West 3rd Street Studio

Katherine and Mark equipped their space with everything they needed to produce prints in the traditional relief, planographic, and intaglio techniques and provided a gallery space for exhibitions of prints.  Since both had full-time teaching positions, they spent most of their spare time teaching interested artists the art of printmaking, and then editioned the works they produced.  They also pursued publishing projects, did contract printing for those artists who were experienced, and allowed artists to rent the presses when available.  They quickly became known for their collaborative skills and were sought out by those artists who seriously wanted to see how their vision would translate into the medium.

This image shows the interior of the first Flatbed press Room.
Press room at the 3rd Street warehouse location

We need More Space: First Move

This is an exterior view of the MLK site Flatbed moved to.
Flatbed Press’ second location at 2830 E. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin

They realized that their West 3rd Street space did not allow for growth, so in 1999, they moved their operation to an 18,000+ square foot warehouse in East Austin on Martin Luther King Blvd.  To commit fully to the project, both Katherine and Mark gave up their teaching positions to run Flatbed full time.  They wanted to make their new home more than a press and gallery, so they subleased the space they did not need to artists and other creatives.

Image of hallway in the MLK bldg.
Looking down the hall to the press room in the MLK building
An image of the press room with two people sending behind a table proofing prints
Ann Conner and Katherine Brimberry reviewing Ann’s Prints in the press room

In the years that followed, Flatbed became the most highly respected press in Texas.  A partial list of the Texas artist luminaries the press has either published or printed for includes: Terry Allen, Luis Jiménez, Mary McCleary, Melissa Miller, Andrea Rosenberg, John Alexander, Keith Carter, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Billy Hassell, Sharon Kopriva, Bert Long, Linda Ridgeway, Julie Speed, David Everett, and James Surls.  In addition to their standing as a fine art press, their building became the epicenter of the burgeoning East Austin arts scene.

image of Flatbed press owners Mark Smith, Katherine Brimberry, and Lois Jiménez stand at the press
Mark, Katherine, and Lois Jiménez stand at the press

Co-founder Mark Smith left the business in 2012 to pursue his own art.  However, because of his ongoing friendship with Katherine, Mark collaborated with her on an anniversary book about the press titled Flatbed Press at 25, published by the University of Texas Press in 2016.

image of the cover of the Flatbed Press book published by UT Press
Published by University of Texas Press

Losing their lease: Second Move

As often happens when artists move into an area, it becomes gentrified, rents soar, and either the artist is hit with lease renewals they cannot afford or the landlord decides to not renew at all so they can repurpose their buildings.  In this case, in 2019, Flatbed fell victim to the latter scenario.

image of the front entrance to the current Flatbed Center for Contemporary Printmaking
Entrance to the Flatbed Center for Contemporary Printmaking, 3701 Drossett Drive, Suite 190, Austin
Image of the Flatbed sign on the side of the building.
Flatbed Center for Contemporary Printmaking, side view

At this point, most people who had reached a normal retirement age and were faced with losing their lease would have closed their business.  But instead, Katherine decided that what she had built was more important and needed to continue.  She moved the Press to a new 6,000 square foot space, renamed it Flatbed Center for Contemporary Printmaking.

Image of the community press room in the new building
The Community Press Room

In addition to what they have always been doing, Katherine made the business more community oriented with print making classes and 24-hour membership access.  She also designed a new gallery into the space, so Flatbed is able to host both traditional and experimental print-based exhibitions.

The flat file storage room in the new building.
Flatbed’s flat-file room
The new gallery space during an artist talk
Gallery talk at the new exhibition space

Katherine the Great:

Katherine standing behind a press in the press room of the first building
Katherine standing next to a 3rd Street Flatbed press

What has made Flatbed such a successful institution are the people who have managed it.  In Katherine’s case, because of her teaching background, calm demeanor, and depth of knowledge, she excels at collaborating with artists.  After working together on a project, artist Betty Ward called her an extreme facilitator, then added, Working with Kathy was almost like, working with yourself.

Katherine examining a proof print as it is being pulled off the plate.
Katherine pulling a proof off the printing matrix

Regarding her role, Katherine says, The main objective of a publishing press is to help artists who may not be familiar with printmaking.  Our role is to help them create work in the fine art print medium by being technical collaborators.  All the mark-making and decision-making is their own, with our technical assistance.  There is a long tradition of this type of collaboration in the printmaking world.  If the artist approves and the type of technique allows it, we are able to create small editions of hand-printed multiples.

Katherine pulling a proof off a large intaglio plate
Collaborating with artist Lance Letscher

The prints she helps publish vary in style, technique, subject, and size, but are all the unique creations of the artists by their own hands.  Some of the techniques derive from the 17th century, and some involve the latest digital resources.  The artist’s experience in the shop is often an experimental blend of old and new printmaking processes.  Each project is artist-driven; the shop’s motto is- What would happen if . . .?

Prints from the Flatbed Collection:

FAE is pleased to be collaborating with Flatbed and now has prints available from the Flatbed Press collection.   Check back regularly to see what new works have been posed by this Texas fine art institution.

*****

Available Flatbed Press prints on FAE.

Other Related Available Collection Blog Posts:

Andy and Beckie Reisberg stand in the main exhibition space at Phonographic Archives GalleryThe Photographic Archives Collection of Andy and Becky Reisberg
Regionalist landscape watercolor by Charles T. BowlingThe Dorothy and Mat Garland Collection

 

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Otis Huband: A Consummate Artist

Otis Huband is a consummate artist in every sense of the word.  When engaged in conversation, he is very sociable and will talk about art in most any form, however, he is far more interested in producing art than talking about it. Otis’ mother vividly remembered when her son returned from his first day of kindergarten and announced that he was going to be an artist. Otis said she thought it was very cute at the time, but, when he had not changed his mind as a teenager, she worried that Otis would have a hard time making a living.
The artists Otis Huband standing in front of one of his paintings.
Otis Huband in his studio

Now at 87 years of age, he has still not changed his mind, nor has he lost his Virginia accent despite spending most of his life in Texas. Otis confirms his decision, To this day, I have never pursued any other course in my life. Nor was I ever tempted to do so. Nothing to me was ever as interesting or nebulous as art.

 

This image shows the entire painting whose detail was used as the main image.
Gilbert’s Garden, c.1960, o/c, 56 x 40 in.
EDUCATION & EDUCATOR:

Otis transferred from the California College of Arts & Crafts, located in Oakland, to the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in 1958 to finish his requirements for a BFA. During this time, he became proficient in all the traditional fine arts media. He loved being a student and said of the experience, I know that I learned more from my fellow students than from our well-intentioned and likable instructors. I would say that being in an environment five days a week with a congenial and, for the most part, serious group of seekers made a profound impression on me.

This is an image of an Otis Huband collage painting where newspapers were used showing the day before stock market closings.
A Closure, c.1989, 1989, mixed-media, 49 x 40 in.

In 1961, Otis received his MFA, also from Virginia Commonwealth University, and shortly thereafter traveled with his new bride, Anne, to Italy where he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Perugia for a year. When funds ran low, they returned to the US, settling in Houston, Texas, where Anne was offered a job teaching math. In 1967, Otis became an Art Instructor at the Houston Museum School of Fine Arts (now Glassell School). He left the Museum School in 1971 determined to focus on his own work.

During the 70’s I wanted to find a unique voice uninfluenced by current styles or fashions. Something based on universal aesthetic principals that apply to all painting, both ancient and contemporary. 

Otis retired from teaching in 1982 after working as an art instructor at the Art League of Houston for 11 years.

A painting of an abstracted figure in a landscape filled with foliage.
Soft Rapollo 2, 2000, o/c, 52 x 37 in.

Six years before Otis retired from teaching, he had become so frustrated with the commercial side of the art world, he stopped making any effort to show his work in art galleries. Instead, he opted to focus on painting and sold his work privately.

During this period, he was invited to have solo shows in non-commercial settings in Houston such as the University of Houston and the Health Science Center in 1985, the Goethe Institute in 1889, and the Museum of Printing History in 1993. He did not show his work again in a commercial gallery until art dealer and collector William Reaves offered him a retrospective at his new Houston gallery in 2010 when Otis was in his late 70’s. Valley House Gallery in Dallas began representing Otis in 2014 and produced a monograph on his work in 2019.

A still life in which the artist used the device of an oval composition in a rectangle.
Weeping Woman with Smoking Leg, c.1970, o/c, 40 x 56 in.
STUDIO PRACTICE:

Otis’ studio practice begins each morning by creating a series of small collages, before he starts to paint. The act of assembling the collages allows him to …make the transition from cognitive thinking to perceptual impulses, in other words, to bypass thinking in favor of impulsive feeling. The collages that result, made from any two- dimensional material that has been touched or altered by human interaction, are not studies for paintings. Otis states the collages, establish an emotional relationship to the materiality of being, seeing, and feeling, and they adjust his mindset for approaching the canvas that awaits him.

A patterned tangle of figures and decorative fabrics.
Interior with Figures, 1996, o/c, 48 x 36 in.

Although his early work was painted with brushes, his later works are composed primarily with oil stick. He loves the freedom oil stick provides as it allows continuous lines to be created without having to interrupt an inspired passage by reloading a brush.

This recent painting shows Huband's use of oil stick to create his current signature style of flat two dimensional areas of patterned space.
Mystical Circus, 2017, o/c 70 x 40 in.

For Otis, the hardest thing is placing the first mark on a pure white canvas. Once that first gestural line or shape is established, sometimes without even looking at the canvas as it is applied, he can then explore all the possibilities it suggests. As the painting evolves, each mark informs the next, figures, or parts of figures often emerge to become elements of an abstracted whole.

For me, painting is like an archaeological excavation.  Unexpected treasures are sometimes found, truths revealed, and aesthetic vistas open up exciting possibilities.  Banalities disappear.  One almost becomes a conduit for aesthetic states which are not always under the complete control of the artist.  That is the mystery and the fascination of art.  It is mystical!

This is an example of Huband's more three dimensional representational style..
Variation of Three, 1974, o/c, 50 x 40 in.

In Otis’ earlier work, the figure would often be the subject, rendered in a representational three-dimensional style, whereas the abstracted figuration that emerges in his later work is distinguished by two-dimensional shapes and patterns that play off the other elements in his paintings.

My paintings are flat and not illusionistic. An honest celebration of a flat surface which is characteristic of most modern art which celebrates paint itself and the flat surface to which it adheres.

A red still life of indeterminate objects.
Refusing Not to Say No, 1982, o/c, 50 x 50 in.
THEN & NOW:

In 2021, Otis will have been a professional artist for 60 years. During his career, he has participated in over 60 group, and 30 one-person exhibitions. In addition to showing in galleries across the country, Otis has had one-person exhibitions at the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center in Virginia, the Oak Ridge Art Center in Tennessee, Wisconsin State College, the University of Houston, and Palazzo Ferretti in Cortona, Italy

Another example of his collage paintings using paper bags, news paper and other found two dimensional objects.
Contact The 1st of 5 Poems, c.1989, mixed-media on canvas, 40 x 36 in.

When asked what makes a painting successful, he replied, The major requirement of a successful painting to me is that it be saturated with the vulnerabilities and frailties of humanity. The exact opposite of “cool” indifference. I want my fingerprints all over it. It is my testimony to passing through this world in this time and being involved with it in a deeply personal way.

I wanted to return to the pure art impulse that I experienced as a child in kindergarten. The honest independence of a child! I still work towards this goal.

*****

See all Otis Huband works currently available on FAE.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

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Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.