The Initial Purpose behind the Development of Matricism
Drawing is something students most often teach themselves through practice. It is a skill most born artists acquire by their early teens. It is color that keeps the vast majority of young talented art students from gaining the skills required to be great painters. The painting technique books referred to as ‘how to’ books didn’t exist until the late sixties. I purchased almost every one written back then. Once I discovered Sanden’s approach to a recipe for color, it was a simple process to apply it to a method of working through all the colors a painter has at his command. It is a lot simpler to remember numbers and formulas rather than dabs and splashes.
We all remember the idea that there were these “Secrets of the Masters”, which revolved around their use of color and pigment. They represented long lost formulas and techniques that historians have been speculating about for centuries. Actually bits and pieces of these secrets have survived in pockets around the globe, with individual masters passing them on to only a gifted few good enough to gain the opportunity to study with such masters. Many painters simply don’t share what their life’s work has taught them with others. It is viewed as an issue of economics and competition. This leaves the vast majority of art students without an opportunity to learn the most important tool they need, command of color. Study under a great master painter is still the finest way to learn how to use color. For those that do not that opportunity, Matricism provides a mathematical way to learn it on their own.
By making the science of color into a self taught process, it can empower the individual student to train themselves, freeing them from the influence and traps of individual instructors or the complete lack of instruction. It can give them the skills they need to tackle a wider range of styles and subjects from which to express their own ideas. In their professional lives, it can give them the skills to handle a much wider range of clientele as well as market demand, perhaps making it possible for them to survive on the art they create. By studying color independently from style and subject matter, the student of painting can build a foundation of color that will allow them to perform competently in most any form of painting. Most painters learn a subject. They paint flowers, landscapes, abstracts, etc. They spend their entire careers putting out the same type of art. They’re stuck for they only learn how to use color needed for their chosen subject or style. Matricism as an objective color training technique can give the student of painting the skills to express themselves in any form or style their imagination may take them. This is very clear when you look at the art of one of the twentieth century’s greatest technicians of color, Salvador Dali.
Now, as the inventor of Matricism, I expanded it into an avenue for my own explorations in painting. Additionally it is an attempt to find an art style unlike any other, my own way to express ideas to the viewing public. I found that beyond a technique for learning color, the real value of Matricism is that it gave me a new way to express very complex ideas. It gave me more communicative elements to incorporate into a design than any other style I had ever encountered. After painting objects all my life, I could now paint ideas about love and fear, forces like the wind, or the effects of a bullet ripping through the air. I could create complex statements about the cycle of life and death, or the process of learning and invention. This was a very new world for me. In the last twenty years it has also become so for art students from around the globe. The internet is an awesome thing! Not long ago a young art student from Tehran found a copy of my text on the techniques of Matricism and introduced it to the students at Tehran University in Iran.
Students of Tehran University discover the Techniques of Matricism.
"The Techniques of Matricism" translated by Reze Rafii Rad of the university of Tehran into Farsi, 2008. You can download a version here "http://www.scribd.com/doc/29714483/Matricism-Farsi-Translation"
The question is why would these Iranian students study a technique invented by an artist in Texas? Back in the nineties I was represented out in Santa Fe by the late Joe Wade who had a wonderful gallery on the square. He was intrigued by Matricism so he introduced me to Dr. Paul Forester, the head of the Brigham Young University Art Department. A fascinating man who wouldn't use manufactured paint brushes, he made his own by hand. With Matricism based on mathematics and algorithmic processes in a Pointillist execution, it was quite easy for Dr. Forester to see the differences from the techniques of the past. As the greatest art dealer of the twentieth century, Leo Castelli once said, "Knowing what is new is a simple fact of knowing art history!" There was one piece of advise that interested me. "Do not try to introduce Matricism before you teach it to students, then you can introduce a new movement in art!" So, in 2005 I was awarded a 100k grant from the Jeffersonian Institute and my studio was wired with multiple video cameras and streamed onto the internet. Over time small pockets of students from around the globe started tuning in and asking questions as they watched me work. These students, once they understood the concepts of Matricism, had their imaginations explode. They saw a new and powerful way to express themselves through their own cultural symbolism and be relevant in their own societies. These students from Iran can create art that relates directly to Iranian society, relevant to their time, place, religion and politic. Matricism is a new approach to learning color but more importantly it is a new form of expression that can be fused within most any style and culture. It is a new language, a new voice with a range of expression this is unrivaled. Mathematics is universal, expansive, and the challenges and discoveries are endless. Think about it!
There are times as students that we should try to perform like a chosen master and learn how to paint as they did. Eventually we all want to contribute something unique and of value to our profession, to leave behind us a record of work society finds worthy. This is best accomplished by giving society a new perspective on old subjects through the successful expression of new ideas and concepts. The other path taken by artists has been to record history and society around them through a powerful artistic perspective, a unique record of their time and place in history. We see this in the war paintings of Sargent and in the primitive works of Grandma Moses.
With a background in art education and a focus on the history of painting techniques, I have studied most every process of putting paint on a canvas, from classical to the splashing techniques of the abstract expressionist. The painting to the right is in the eighteenth century Dutch style of portraiture completed early in my career. Recreating the human figure within a dimensional cube of space on a two dimensional canvas is the ultimate challenge for a painter’s skills. Only a handful of artists in history mastered the art of portraiture. The cause of this was not the level of difficulty in learning to do so. It involved the difficulty in documenting the science of color for teaching purposes and in the few opportunities for students to access a great teacher. If we fuse the study of color into a mathematical framework, we have a new way to fuse designs through the use of the individual elements of color.
My goal as an artist was never to be a portrait painter. I enjoy performing in abstract expressionism just as much as any style but whatever style I tackle, I believe in doing it with knowledge and intent. I am not a believer in the happy accident school of painting that modernism ushered into the profession. By learning to use color I have been able to perform in many different styles and subjects. This has been vitally important for it has given me a capacity to earn a living as a painter my entire adult life. By doing this, I have spent most every day of my life mixing paint and applying it to a canvas, building my knowledge and experience from which I have explored the artist within me during my free time. It allowed my day job to support my artistic quest through financial support. I then had the freedom to build the knowledge I needed to fulfill my own quest as an artist.
Students of art, or parents of a gifted child need to understand the difference of what it is to be an artist versus what it takes to be a great painter. My approach to an arts education is to learn the skills and crafts of the profession. In this manner one has the tools to be creative, innovative, go any direction they want and hopefully make a living as a professional. As a Texas portrait painter, I have been privileged to paint some of the most wonderful people in society. I have found portraiture to be a very rewarding profession that continues to challenge. I can offer my client the old world style of Rembrandt or the more modern painterly style of John Howard Sanden. I often say that I can paint banker’s suits with my eyes closed, an exercise in craft with little “art” involved. Thus, every so often we artists must go exploring! I have painted cowboy subjects for galleries in Texas, southwestern native styles for Santa Fe, and landscapes for the lazy south as seen in this painting of Caddo Lake, Texas. In addition there are private collectors who watch for the rare, non-objective abstract that comes out of my studio every so often. I make this point for a command of color and technique gave me the ability to survive as a professional and give me the freedom to push paint every day of my adult life. By having such freedom can one hope to become a great painter. It is for the most talented, a lifetime quest!
The use of color has always been the most powerful element of expression in the painter’s tool box, the most traveled path from which to discover a personal form of expression. The knowledge of color has given me the freedom to be an artist and a successful craftsman for the markets. My hope for Matricism is that it will give other aspiring students the skills and freedom they need to chase their own dreams through their own artistic quest.