[Bear Sculpture Jim bought]
In Western Art and Architecture magazine, I was reading an article on one of my favorite sculptors, Tim Shinabarger, when I was appalled and dismayed with the following statement: “James Reynolds work always looked spontaneous and non-labored, as if he had painted alla prima, working up his surfaces in a single creative explosion and getting it right the first try, but that effect actually came from starting and wiping clean, over and over, building down after building up, experimenting until you reach what you’re after.”
This is so untrue! Totally wrong! Jim never wiped down a painting. Besides being a stupid, run-on, ungrammatical, change of voice sentence, it couldn’t be further from the truth. And most upsetting because now that it has been printed in a national magazine, people generations from now will take it as gospel.
On September 18, 2013, I talked to Tim and he was shocked to hear the statement. He said he did not say that. He had seen the article when it came out but hadn’t read it yet. He said it was a total fabrication by the writer misconstruing what he had said. Most likely it had come from a discussion with Jim about the fact that he usually works on a painting 5 or 6 times, and sometimes many more times that that [faces?!]. Jim worked alternately on 6 to 8 paintings at a time, unless he was preparing for a show in which case it was often many more.
He liked to put a painting away, preferably for weeks, for the purpose of having a fresh eye when he next saw it. He could more easily spot mistakes and just generally tell whether it was working or not. He was usually looking for mistakes in drawing and whether the overall color scheme was what he wanted.
But the idea of him wiping a painting down is ludicrous, much less wiping it down “over and over.” Anyone who has ever seen an original painting of his can tell how textured they are from numerous painting sessions and some areas are very obviously done wet on dry. His genius was that he could work on a painting numerous times and they never looked over-worked. They always looked juicy and spontaneous, as if painted alla prima.
But almost equally upsetting, it made me doubt what I’d read of other painter’s working methods, especially my heroes like John Singer Sargent. I studied him for years, reading everything I could find, treasuring every nugget I discovered on how he worked. Probably the most quoted observation of his method was when he worked 2 summers on “garden” painting “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.” His lawn tennis partners said he worked only a brief few minutes each day at dusk and then scraped the painting off. Really? I know so little of his painting methods and routines and now I have to question if even that is true.