Tag Archives: Painting

Donald S. Vogel, His Philosophy and Studio Practice

Amongst the literature that is available on the art and life of Donald Stanley Vogel, are numerous articles, reviews of shows, and even an autobiography titled Memories and Images published by the University of North Texas Press in 2000. There is, however, very little information about his philosophy and studio practice. As the middle child of three, I grew up watching him paint and listening to him talk about his work with other artists and friends. So, while his voice and actions still resonate, I though it wise to document what I saw and heard while watching him paint and listening in on his art-related conversations.

Two ladies in an interior.
Conversation, 1974
Historic Influences

Anyone with a limited knowledge of art history can see that Donald’s style was highly influenced by the French Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists, and with a little more expertise, would include the Nabis and the School of Paris. As a young painter during the Depression, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago and practically lived in their Impressionist galleries. The country was in

Vogel in his Chicago Studio 1942
Donald in his Chicago Studio in 1942

the midst of what would later be called the Great Depression and most of his fellow students were painting subjects that reflected the difficult times around them. In contrast, he decided that the art he would produce from then on would lift people’s spirits like the Impressionist paintings he had grown to love.

Two ladies having tea
Morning Tea, 1978
Using His Imagination

For most of his career, unlike most of the Impressionists, he was a studio painter. He always started a painting with a direction in mind, often generated by a sketchy line drawing of a composition he thought would be challenging. After recreating the important elements of the drawing on a canvas or panel with a burnt umber or raw sienna thinned with turpentine, he would then brush in areas to establish a compositional structure before starting to paint freely with color. But like the subjects he chose, the colors used and how they were employed came from his imagination. Donald often said that he preferred working this way because once you set out to paint something that is in front of you, its presence immediately influences the direction your imagination will take.

Lady seated at a table painting
Afternoon Painting, 1995
Puzzle Master

When Donald stepped up to a new panel on his easel with brush in hand, his approach to painting was to solve a puzzle that had an infinite number of variables and an astonishing lack of rules. He considered the puzzle solved when the imaginary image that then covered his panel had become a “painting.” He defined a “painting” as a work in which the need for another brushstroke, or the removal of a brushstroke, would lessen the artwork’s overall quality. With or without that brushstroke, he said that to his way of thinking, the painting was just a “picture.”

Two ladies placing flowers in a vase and a visitor climbing a stair to joint them
Up on the Terrace, 1996
The Figure as a Piece of the Puzzle

Although his paintings were of interiors, still-lifes, and landscapes, the figure, or a group of figures, was a ubiquitous element. To him the figure, as with all other elements, was only there as part of a composition, just another piece of the puzzle to help move your eye through the painting. He also intentionally clothed his figures in generic outfits so that the painting would appear timeless. When asked how he was able to put figures in his paintings without having a model to work from he would say that “after making thousands of drawings of the figure in my youth, it would be sad if I needed to work from life now.”

Two ladies standing behind a table, one with a cat
Shoji Screen Terrace
The Artist’s Palette
Artist painting in his studio with cat and dog
Donald in his studio at easel with pets, c.1980

Donald derived his colors primarily by tinting white paint. Being right-handed, his white Formica covered palette sat on his right side. At the top of the palette, closest to the easel, was where his containers of brush wash (turpentine)  and stand oil were located. Just below that was a heaping mound of white paint. He would drag a dollop of white out into the middle of his palette and then tint it by mixing in the color or colors that were laid out in a semi-circle around palette’s inner edge.

Donald created his own white paint by mixing equal parts of Lead, Zinc, and Titanium. Experience had taught him that each of these whites had positive and negative attributes and mixing them together would limit the negative aspects of each. Throughout his career, he was happy with the results.

Artist showing artwork in his studio to a client
Studio Visit
Painting in a Frame

Often, especially with larger sizes, Donald would place a prepared Masonite panel in a frame before starting to paint. I learned over time that he normally did this for two reasons.

1. It visually separated the edge of the painting from the chaotic, painting covered wall that was opposite his easel.

2. It steadied the edge of the flexible prepared Masonite panel so it would not bounce back into his brushstroke.

For him, it made painting on panel in his studio easier. For the framer, the linen liners that he used in his frames had to be replaced often because they were usually adorned by errant brush strokes and it was not easy to convince a client that it was a plus that they were getting a free hand-painted liner with their Vogel.

Two ladies standing in a greenhouse
Greenhouse Visit, 1994
Painting to the Beat

When Donald was painting, there was always classical music playing in the background. He would often talk about how music and the elements of traditional media like drawing, painting, and sculpture were similar. His brushwork was quick and direct and flowed without hesitation between his palette and painting, with a rhythm often in synch with the music that was playing. On numerous occasions he would say that if he had not become a painter, he would have liked to have been a symphony conductor.

Woman in interior with still life
Warm Interior, 1976
A Revelation…

Even though the figure was a constant compositional element in most of Donald’s work, in 1969, a distinct change occurred in how his figures were portrayed. That year, he and his wife Peggy delivered a show of his paintings to the Mobile Art Gallery in Mobile, Alabama. After Donald finished helping install, he asked Peggy if she would like to preview the show alone. After walking through the galleries, she called Donald in to join her and asked him to look around and tell her what was common to all the figures in his paintings. Since it was obvious that he did not see what she had observed, she pointed out that the figures portrayed in each painting were not doing anything, they were just either standing or sitting and idle. From that moment on, all the figures in his paintings portrayed an action.

Greenhouse and a man pushing wheelbarrow
Greenhouse, JD Hertz Farm, 1988
The Greenhouse as Muse

In about 1976, Donald started to explore a subject that was not unique, but one under-utilized by other artists, and as it turned out, perfectly suited his temperament. As a young boy, he worked on an estate outside of Cary, Illinois that had a greenhouse on it. Remembering this unusual light filled space, he executed an imaginary painting of the interior of a greenhouse. He thought it such an interesting subject that he immediately painted several more. This subject provided him with an endless opportunity to investigate the lighting effects the interior of a greenhouse affords. He could explore not only the color and shapes of the blooming plants, but also the light filtering through the whitewashed windows and the visual weight of the moist air proliferating through the space. He could contrast the interior cool light he created with the warm light seen through an open door or window revealing the atmospheric juncture between two worlds. It also afforded compositional opportunities with the architectural structures he imagined that made up the enclosures. The greenhouse became a theme to which he would often return.

Two ladies standing in an open greenhouse
Arrangers, 1991
One is Not Enough

Donald’s painting career spanned well over 60 years. He was incredibly lucky as a painter because he worked in a style and direction totally of his own choosing and did not have to divert from this path to be successful. The greatest compliment to his legacy is how much his collectors enjoyed living with one of his paintings, often enough to have acquired a second.
If asked by another artist how he handled creating what he considered an unsuccessful painting, he would say, “Never be afraid to paint a bad painting, you learn as much from a bad painting as one that was successful.” He would then say that if he considered a work unsuccessful, it would never leave his studio.

Three adults and one child standing in a greenhouse
Garden Conversation, 1984
Technical Notes:
Preparing a Support

Until 1945, most of Donald’s early work was painted on canvas. Between 1945 and 1975, he slowly shifted from using canvas as a support to painting on Masonite panels. From then on, most of his paintings from the 48 x 60-inch size size and smaller were painted on panel. With only a few exceptions, larger works were painted on canvas for practical reasons.
He liked working on Masonite because it was a hard surface to work against and it was easy to handle, store and was puncture resistant. Since Masonite is dark in color, he liked the idea of working from dark to light rather than light to dark as is often done when painting on a primed canvas. He even incorporated the dark of the Masonite into his paintings on occasion.
After cutting a Standard Masonite panel to size, he would sand the smooth side of the panel with #80 grit sandpaper in a vertical, and then horizontal direction cutting into its surface to give it a tooth that would hold the paint. (He would never use Tempered Masonite because it was soaked in oil as part of the tempering process, and from experience he had discovered that oil paint would not adhere as well.) He would then seal the panel with Orange Shellac thinned with Methanol by approximately 50-60%. This would keep the oil in the paint from absorbing into the panel and turning the pigment matte. The Shellac would dry quickly, and the panel was ready to go in an hour. (I would personally also recommend shellacking the back side of the panel. This would slow down the panel’s absorption of humidity that could make it sensitive to warping.)

Standardized sizes

Masonite comes in 4 x 8 sheets and Donald would cut the sheets into the optimum number of sizes to maximize using an entire sheet. To this end, the sizes he chose to use were standardized into 8 x 10, 10 x 12, 16 x 20, 20 x 24, on up to 48 x 60 inches. By using a size standard that suited his work, he was able to reuse frames whenever he wanted.

*****

Other Artist Blog Posts:

Artist standing in her studioCHERYL D. McCLURE, Freedom through Abstraction
An image of the artist ELLEN SODERQUIST & Drawing the Nude

 

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
A mixed-media work on paper by M. J. LeeM. J. LEE Estate Gifts to the Amon Carter Museum
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

 

 

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Cheryl D. McClure, Freedom through Abstraction

Cheryl McClure has always enjoyed the advantages abstract painting allows.  Instead of being bound by the confines plein air landscape painting imposes, she is much happier letting the memory and feel of a place inform the direction her abstract paintings ultimately take.  She is interested in the formal elements of surface, color relationships, and the design aspects of a painted surface rather than just rendering her version of reality.  By following this path, Cheryl has truly found freedom through abstraction.

Cheryl McClure painting
Farther Than the Eye Can See 1, 2001, a/c, 30 x 24 inches
Beginnings:

In 1945, Cheryl D. McClure was born in the small town of Hugo, Oklahoma, located just across the Red River from Paris, Texas.  As opposed to many children who become artists, she did not spend all her spare time drawing or even showing much interest in art as a young child.   However, when art did start to interest her, she remembered that from a very early age, she was oddly more interested in the shapes and colors that formed the subject of an artwork, than the actual subject itself.

At the age of 8, she decided that she would like to try her hand at painting, so her father signed her up for the only art class in town.  He bought her the required artist materials, and she joined the class.  To her utter disappointment, she discovered that the only painting taught in this class was how to paint my number.

Painting by Cheryl McClure
Collioure1, 2004, a/c, 36 x 48 inches
Finding One’s Passion:

In her early 20’s she moved to Longview, Texas and started to involve herself as a volunteer at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts.  She also started attending lectures and demonstrations sponsored by the East Texas Fine Arts Association.  Cheryl said of this period that she learned a great deal about art and artists, and this interaction inspired her to attend a watercolor class associated with ETFAA.  She found watercolor tedious because to do it well required a lot of compositional preplanning, but it also showed her the importance of negative space.

A Cheryl McClure painting
Facade 13, 2005, a/c, 36 x 48 inches
Developing a Studio Practice:

On her own, she explored working in other mediums like charcoal and pastel.  The medium she ultimately gravitated to was acrylic.  This medium allowed her to quickly layer and texture the paint on a support without having to wait the long periods between applications, that oil paint would often require.  This allowed her to be more gestural and spontaneous with her paint application, an approach better suited to her preferred studio practice.

Diptych by Cheryl McClure
Wonderous Place 1&2, 2001, a/c, 29.75 x 63.75 inches

When Cheryl paints with acrylic on canvas, she does so quickly, allowing her feelings to be expressed with determined gestural strokes.  After reaching a point of indecision, she will stop and spend time studying where the painting stands and determining what is needed next to advance it towards completion.  She then repeats this process until the elements of color, texture, and their relationships harmonize.

Artist working at the Mississippi Art Colony, c.2000
Cheryl painting at the Mississippi Art Colony, Utica, MC, c.2000
Discovering Encaustic:

In 2005, she discovered Encaustic.  Cheryl was excited by how quickly a layer of wax would cool and harden, allowing her to quickly apply another translucent wax layer of color and add texture.  Although it was not as freeing as using acrylic pigments, it provided another medium that was sympathetic to her preferred working method. This became another compatible medium for her to use in her quest to find freedom through abstraction.

Encaustic by Cheryl McClure
Patina 2, 2007, Encaustic on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches

She became well known as an artist and arts patron in Longview, ultimately living there for 41 years.  As her reputation grew, she developed long-term relationships with 5 galleries around the country.  In addition to an extensive exhibition history, she is asked to teach painting workshops and her work is often used to illustrate books.

Greeting Guests at an exhibition opening
Cheryl greeting guests to the opening of her solo show at West End Gallery, in Winston Salem, NC, 2005
Accomplishments:

I asked Cheryl what things she was most proud of in her artistic career to date.  She quickly listed three things:

Book Cover showing Cheryl's work
The updated version of “The New Creative Artist, A Guide to Developing Your Creative Spirit,” 2006 by Nita Leland showing Cheryl’s artwork on the cover
    1. One of the books that was most influential on her as an artist was, A Fine Artist’s guide to Expanding Your Creativity.  She was thrilled when one of her paintings was chosen to be on the cover of its updated edition titled, The New Creative Artist, Revised, Expanded Edition, a Guide to Developing your Creative Spirit.
    2. The Poet Theodore Worozbyt asked Cheryl to collaborate on a book of his poetry titled Smaller Than Death, published by Knut House Press in 2015.  In addition to the book’s cover, 15 of her graphic wax resin paintings were illustrated in color.  They were from a series of paintings she did titled Johnson Creek Field Notes, inspired by walking along a creek that runs through her property.
    3. In 2011, she was a finalist for the Hunting Art Prize, an annual event to award $50,000 to a Texas artist for excellence in drawing and painting.
painting by Cheryl McClure
Little Pieces of Land 31, 2009, a/c, 40 x 30 inches

For the past 12 years, she has lived on a farm located just outside New London, a little town Southeast of Tyler, Texas.  Her three room second floor studio has a room set up for painting and a dedicated well-ventilated room set up for her to work in Encaustic when she wants a change.  She works most every day either producing or thinking about producing her next adventure into her world of abstraction.

*****

Other Artist Blog Posts:

An image of the artist ELLEN SODERQUIST & Drawing the Nude
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
A mixed-media work on paper by M. J. LeeM. J. LEE Estate Gifts to the Amon Carter Museum
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.

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.

 

The FAE Collector Blog Table of Contents

The FAE Collector Blog provides easy access to more in-depth information about the Collections and Artists that appear on the FAE Website.  The FAE Collector Blog Table of Contents consists of:

  1. Most Recent Post
  2. Collections
  3. Artists

1. Most Recent Post:

Lee Baxter Davis,  A Lifelong Expedition of Discovery

 

2. Collections:

Katherine Brimberry and Mark Smith standing behind etching pressFlatbed Press: A Texas Fine Art Institution
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

 

3. Artists:

LEE BAXTER DAVIS,  A Lifelong Expedition of Discovery
DONALD  S. VOGEL, His Philosophy and Studio Practice
Artist standing in her studioECHERYL D. McCLURE, Freedom through Abstraction
An image of the artistELLEN SODERQUIST & Drawing the Nude
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
A mixed-media work on paper by M. J. LeeM. J. LEE Estate Gifts to the Amon Carter Museum
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 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.

Marjorie Johnson Lee

AN AMERICAN MODERNIST

On May 31, 1911, Marjorie Evelin Johnson was born in Upland, Texas, a small town that no longer exists, in Upton County.  Her father, a country doctor who worked for Humble Oil, constantly moved his family around West Texas to wherever Humble oil workers needed his services.  Most likely from the stress of being in almost constant motion, Marjorie’s parents divorced in 1924 and her grandmother moved the family to Fort Worth where they lived in rental housing until 1938.  Marjorie graduated Paschal High School in 1925 and that next year, at age 15, started working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.  That same year, pursuing her childhood interest in drawing, Marjorie started studying art with Fort Worth artist, Mrs. G.W. Greathouse.

Image of Marjorie Johnson Lee at the Art Students League
Marjorie at the Art Students League
Marjorie E. (Johnson) Lee (1911-1997)

In 1934, while still working with the phone company, Marjorie decided to attended Texas Christian University.  After taking classes at TCU for two years, she dropped out when Blanche McVeigh, a respected artist and printmaker who was a principal of the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts along with Evaline Sellors and Wade Jolly, was impressed enough with her artistic talent to invite her to enroll in their school.  Under Jolly’s tutelage, she became a skilled landscape watercolorist.  In the late 30’s and early 40’s she exhibited often with other prominent Fort Worth artists like Bror Utter and Veronica Helfensteller.  As with many serious artists in the Dallas and Fort area during that time, she traveled to Colorado Springs to take classes at the Colorado Art Center in 1942.

In the latter part of 42, to do her part, Marjorie joined the WAVES and was sent to Norman Oklahoma for training in radio communication and celestial navigation.  In 1943, she was assigned to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida for the next three years where she taught young airmen these skills and painted and drew whenever she had time off.

Image of an abstracted floral still life
Flowers, 1971 Oil on Canvas 24 x 20 inches

After WWII, she moved to New York City to attend the Art Students League under the GI Bill.  In 1947, to be sure she could stay in the city, she took a job with New York Telephone and continued to take classes at the League through 48.

She vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard in 1950 and chose to capture her impressions of the island in pastel.  She returned in 52, and this time chose watercolor, possibly more suited to the Island atmosphere.

She continued the artistic life in NYC and in 1950, met and married an experimental filmmaker and educator named Francis Lee.  Marjorie’s artwork documents their vacations and trips out of NYC over the next 14 years with works from Minnewaska, New Rochelle, Carmel, East Hampton, and Woodstock in NY, Colorado, Glacier Park in Montana, and New Jersey.

Image of an abstracted edge of a river with rocks
Rocky Crossing, 1978 Oil on Canvas 18 x 24 inches

After working for the phone company in NYC for 27 years, in 1974, she moved back to Fort Worth.  Although while living in New York, she continued to show in important Texas and regional shows, retirement provided the opportunity to focus on her art.  She started exhibiting with the Evelyn Siegel Gallery in Fort Worth and entering competitive shows all over Texas. 

About the time Marjorie entered the Art Students League in NYC, she fell in love with color and was won over by Modernist art.  During her vacations she filled drawing books with plein-air, almost fauve like, pastels and watercolors of ebullient trees, fast flowing rivers, and assemblages of hyper-colored rocks.  Upon her return to the city, her favorite pastels and watercolors would often evolve into studies for oil paintings.

image of an abstracted still life
Untitled (Still Life) Pastel and Cut Paper Collage on Paper 20 x 26 inches

After she returned to live in Fort Worth, she started creating brightly colored collages, cut from home-made and commercial colored papers, repurposed watercolors, and often combined with watercolor washes, ink, and sometimes pastel.  They were always bright in color and evolved over time from representational to totally non-objective.

Image of an non representational collage
Swim Through the Sea of Light, Little Swimmer, 1979 Cut Paper Collage on Paper 20 x 14 inches

Marjorie gave up entering competitive shows in 1984 and her last one-person show was held at Evelyn Siegal Gallery in 1994.  She died in a Fort Worth nursing home on February 1, 1997.

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See all available works by Marjorie Johnson Lee.

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