Painter Ed Phillips presents his abstract portfolio and talks about taking different directions with his art.
ABI: What inspired you to start painting abstracts?
EP: When I began painting, it was of seascapes and landscapes. My medium of choice was oil paints and my paintings were realistic. After I had been painting for several years, I discovered a contemporary artist from the Netherlands whose name is Eelco Maan. Up until that time, I wasn’t really interested in abstract art. Curious about how he built up texture, I emailed Mr. Maan about the materials he uses in his art. Mr. Maan was so kind and responded to my email almost immediately. Naturally, I began experimenting with these same materials: sand, tissue paper, and modeling paste.
This process took me in a new direction and it felt as if a new world had opened itself to me! I feel as though I owe my current passion for this process and my current work to Mr. Maan! The texture I am building is what my art is currently about as opposed to rendering objects realistically. I have enjoyed building texture and creating dimension in my art and that process has taken me from rendering images exactly as they appear to something else. The art is no longer about the image as much as it’s about the texture and the depth created when I apply the paint.
ABI: Tell us about the use of heavy texture in your paintings.
EP: When I started painting in this manner, I didn’t start out with heavy texture. My first application was minimal and I used very small amounts of modeling paste. As I continued to paint however, I began experimenting with more paste and soon discovered I liked both the subtle depth created with very little paste as well as the surfaces with many layers of paste. I also found that the contrast between those two areas was intriguing to me.
I am always surprised at how beautiful these somewhat controlled as well as the unplanned surfaces are when the painting is complete. At times I will apply a layer of paste, let it dry and begin adding color. Other times, I can add as many as three layers of paste with drying time between each layer. With heavier applications of paste, I will often times use a power sander to sand down various parts of the textured area I have created.
When I think I’ve got the texture where I want it, I apply gesso and paint. Sometimes I remove paint and apply more. The real and perceived depth that’s created when I add color is fascinating to me. As I “pull” paint across these surfaces, I really like the result. That’s when the magic happens! I really enjoy the “happy accidents” that drive the direction of my work.
ABI: Why did you make the decision to work in black and white? What feedback did you receive?
EP: I started painting with color … but found I wasn’t as happy with the result. So I began using only black and white paints. The different values created with these two basic colors combined with the texture I had created was satisfying to me. These early pieces were recognized by an interior designer who used them in a model home. This gave me the confidence I needed to continue experimenting and a black and white series was born. When I decided only to use these two colors, I was able to focus on building texture and dimension in my paintings.
Looking back, I think I was still experimenting with the paste I was using to build texture and couldn’t really focus on the use of lots of color. It was through this black and white phase though that I learned how to apply the paint to a surface with texture.
I saw the different values created with the black and white paint when I moved it around on the surface, and then I became interested in what would happen if I used other colors in my work. Since the black and white series, I have created other groups of paintings using lots of color.