Landscape Derivations

October 26 - December 2, 2009

Tim Spaulding's new paintings have as their subject matter: the beach, the surf, the meeting of land and sea. He paints these subjects because of a long familiarity with the coastal shoreline gained over many years of surfing, sailing, and fishing with his family and friends. When Tim Spaulding was a child, his father and mother started Tim out in the ocean by teaching him how to bodysurf in the shore break at Dana Point, a once premier surf spot in Southern California. Tim also recalls being set down among the rocks at the seaward end of Dana Point adjacent to where his father and a few other surfers would wait in the ocean to catch a wave. This was Tim's father's idea of babysitting. The Southern California coast was then an open and sparsely populated place where the family's surfboard could be safely stored at the water's edge. This, rather than carry it back up the hill above Dana Point to the beach house that Tim's father built shortly after World War II had ended.

Another reason Tim Spaulding paints the beach and its attendant activities is that these are sometimes judged to be frivolous and so do not merit the attention and time it takes to develop a body of work. Tim had as an example for choosing "low" subject matter the Pop artists of the 1960s, whose work he saw as a youth at the first museum on the West Coast dedicated solely to contemporary art. This was the Pasadena Museum of Art, 1960-1974, under the directorship of Walter Hopps.

Tim earned an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of California, San Diego, where he took classes at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla. During his summer breaks from the university, he taught marine biology at the Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California. All of these experiences furthered Tim's understanding of the ocean and the coast, and created within him a desire to get some of this down in paint.

Tim Spaulding makes his paintings in his studio and not on site. The works in the show were for the most part made on unstretched canvas or paper, which is tacked or taped to a wall. The small drawings that Tim makes daily in a notepad can be a starting point for a painting or the drawings can come into play as a painting develops. The paintings are an open-ended affair where things are painted in and out, and shapes and colors are adjusted for size and significance. These alterations make the process of developing a motif and its resolution an oftentimes laborious one that can take weeks, months, and not infrequently years to complete. Needless to say, Tim has many paintings, in various stages of completion, ongoing at any one time.

Tim's fascination with painting began with his father's modest collection of prints which he picked up at galleries and museums on business trips to New York City. These were reproductions of the paintings made by the School of Paris artists such as Utrillo, Modigliani, and Picasso; and also of the watercolors made by the American artist Winslow Homer on his vacation trips to the Bahamas. As a young person, Tim painted copies of these works so as to better understand how they were made and what they were about emotionally. This practice also provided a visceral sense of identification with the artist who had made the original painting. Tim has for many years continued in this practice of copying artworks from the past as well as the present. He does this with the aim of improving his own work.

The first flesh and blood role model of what an artist's life could be like came from the Yale-trained Jirayr Zorthian, who lived with his wife and kids in the rugged foothills above Pasadena. The Zorthian ranch was Mr. Zorthians attempt to recreate his childhood in Armenia, and was replete with horses, goats, pigs, chickens, and beehives for making honey. The Ranch was also a collection of inventive buildings and structures, such as the "Slumber Bridge", that Jirayr built over and into the sides of the oak tree-lined canyons and plateaus which comprised his property. There was a steady flow of notable guests such as Jirayr's close friends, Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman, both Nobel Prize winners in physics, and others such as Charlie Yardbird Parker, whose jazz sessions at the Ranch were recorded and many years later released on C.D. Tim Spaulding spent a good deal of time on the Zorthian ranch and for a period worked for Mr. Zorthian. What Tim learned there was the way an artist goes about a daily routine of art-making. In Mr. Zorthian's case, a routine which produced numerous drawings of children, his family, friends, and animals; and at a slower pace, paintings and sculpture of the same and similar subjects as the drawings. Of equal importance, Tim saw that making art and painting in particular could be esteemed in similar measure to physics, music, literature or architecture. This was an idea not in common currency in the 1960s.

At the age of nineteen, Tim studied painting more directly with another refugee to the shores of America. This was Johnson Chow, a painter and university professor, originally from Beijing, China, who Tim met for the first time at the Pasadena Pacific Asia Museum. An approach to painting that Tim learned from Johnson Chow, with whom he studied for three years, is that of instilling into the character of the paint surface a certain spirit or attitude by the way the paint is applied to the canvas or paper support. Two key components of this are rhythm and sense of touch. Also at play is the opacity or transparency of the paint layer. Johnson Chow called this process the spirit of the brush; an approach to painting that Tim still employs not only with a wide array of paintbrushes but also with the use of rags, newspaper, scrapers, and his hands and fingertips.

Tim Spaulding furthered his study of art at Pasadena City College, Art Center College of Design, and Otis Parsons, all of which are in the greater Los Angeles area. He also studied painting with the Outdoor Painters Project, which was begun by Terry St. John at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Before Tim moved to Northern California, for many years his studio and residence was an old vacation trailer located in Newport Beach, that his family set up in the late 1950s to use for weekend getaways from their home in Pasadena. Tim currently lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.