“Leaving A Beautiful Trace” – Paul W. Wood, Artist – Part 2
I’ve lived my life defined inevitably by mirroring certain aspects of my father. Both of us the youngest of multiple brothers, I’m his namesake but for my initial M, and we’re both artist-creators, seeking to define a creative vision to realize in variety of mediums. He was a mentor and model of a life lived by his own rules. This was reflective in a stubborn steadfastness to a vision that was unshakable by trends and fads.
Let’s track the journey of his style and vision on a path that was more than a simple matter of “finding himself”; it was a knowing refinement of vision through decades of evolution.
I’ve identified four main stages in my father’s artistic development as a painter, watercolorist, muralist, and stained glass craftsman:
1. Draftsman style and absorbing techniques of old masters
2. Applying influences of Abstract Expressionism
3. Developing unique style
4. Evolving personal vision
We will explore #1 in today’s article.
Draftsman having fun with line and form
Let’s look at “The Critic” Paul drew in 1939. The lines are architecturally sturdy and directive. One can imagine his sharpening of the pen or pencil to the thinnest point for a hair-thin stitching and shading around eyes, ears, and neck of the portrait. Signs at this early stage of other mediums; weaving of cloth tapestry that he’ll design in the upcoming years. Exaggerated forms that would blossom into semi-abstract figures in his later years.
In this drawing it’s all about the line as primal extension of hand and finger muscles tightly holding the precision pen with no hesitation, no break that isn’t intended. This is the expression of a craftsman demonstrating a required steely control, yet sneaking through is a wryness, a view of people that shows a tenderness, warmth, and humor of a boy turning man. It’s his father Albert that the figure resembles, so we’re seeing now the inklings of Paul’s future life as portrait artist with an empathetic fascination with people.
As a child, I would spend hours with him sitting in hometown coffeeshops observing passerbys and making up fantastical stories to match the body, clothing, face, expression, and lives we imagined they lived.
Paul adopted influences of his family background in architecture with his precision of the line and its evenly distributed weight. His unique eye showed a perspective of fun, humor, and empathy. His personality reflected in the half-open eye that speaks volumes of sly attitude.
1. Absorbing techniques of old masters
In the years before Paul was drafted, 1938 To 1943, he worked on building his brother’s homes, learning and enjoying building construction especially working with masonry and brick work. He used that experience along with wood carving in the family architecture business to later create unique wood frames for his paintings. In the fall of 1941, he attended The Arts Students league in New York City, going to evening classes and studying figure and portrait painting with Robert Brackman. There Paul found his “future career as a painter-artist”.
One of his works at this time was a large long vertical oil portrait of a monk, and Paul’s mastery of light and texture are wonderful learnings from the old master style of Rembrandt and the Romantic movement. But this is not a totally slavish reproduction; the thick brushwork was to become expressive in landscapes and portraits. His adoration of light and veneration for color is subtle but constrained by the style that is not his own. This affinity will evolve to exploration on his own in his pilgrimages into abstract expressionism.
It was with the heyday of abstract expressionism that Paul found answer to a purity of expression in color, line, and form that we’ll explore in the next part of this series. These will be the “war years” where Paul began showing a style and affinity for portraiture in the stunning brilliance of light and color of Hawaii where he was stationed starting in Nov 1943.