I began my “Forest Warning” series in 2018, and started as usual with some small studies. At that time, a rather new painting approach was becoming “popular” on the web, called “paint pouring”. The major characteristic of this approach has to do with its completely unpredictable outcome, because of the rather free of hand pouring method that seemingly mixes and separates color layers that are sequentially added in the pour. At the beginning, most results are chancy or quasi-successful, but for a trained artist, it is not rewarding to accomplish a painting by chance. Thus, I continued with a few more pours, but then added an experimental touch with a brush.
As shown in my small hybrid of poured paint above, I wanted a tree design with a compliant medium of viscous paint with the panel ground showing also. At the bottom, I added several pieces of masking tape to save two horizontal unpainted lines. My choices of colors was kept simple, with red, white, and two shades of blue. There is very little control of the process, but I stopped the “pour” early, and made selective gestural shapes that suggest a tree. At the bottom, I included a black pouring, but in the upper tree section, I switched to a large round brush and dipped it in a thinned black paint, and painted into the poured red, white and blue area. As my additions of black took shape, I noticed too that I could manipulate the gestures of the existing colors as well. By stopping early in this brushing process, the whole of the poured paint still has an integrity of shape and playful swirling lines.
In my second attempt at this hybrid process as shown above, I did a more complex mixed and poured and stirred painting to begin it, then added the black lines at the end. Again, I think that this hybrid process combines the rich organic mixing of flowing paint with the suggestion of the drawn tree.
In my third and fourth tries at larger pieces and more complex color schemes, I met with failures. Having experienced the process, I came to the conclusion that my own gestural painting process is almost as rich, is better composed in both color schemes and in mark making, and leads to an integrated whole design. Thus, I abandoned the poured paint process and returned to my education and personal experience to pursue painting with meaning.
Thom Wright, as a graduate art student at Cal State University Long Beach in 2005, investigated a potential solution to Global Warming (now Climate Change), which is caused by increasing levels of green-house gases in the atmosphere due to human activity. While taking an art course in Intermedia Art, he researched one of the possible remedies that considers ways to reflect more sunlight from urban areas. He documents his findings in a student art show at the school art gallery in 2006, and in 2020 he submits his findings to the Trump Administration for recommended implementation to begin a test program in always sunny Palm Springs, CA.
In 2005 when Wright was researching Global Warming at the CSULB Library, he came across a newspaper article published in the New York Times concerning NASA research on Global Warming. One of the NASA projects noted that urban development generally increased the absorption of sunlight and raised urban temperatures about +5F versus natural areas, because of the structure rooftops and paved roads that are grey to dark grey in color. They proposed that if all the cities of the world would paint dark rooftops with white paint, that it would reflect enough sunlight to completely remove the effects of global warming due to green-house gases in the atmosphere.
Figure 1 Global average temperature versus time to the year 2000
This proposal seemed to be a rather easy solution to the future threat of Global Warming, and Wright came up with an idea to expand this solution by painting all the black asphalt streets in the world white also. This idea led him to investigate the actual aborption level of sunlight by rooftops and asphalt streets. In order to estimate the percentage of absorption of sunlight with the changing angle of sunlight during the day, he decided to build a new instrument called a solar diffuse reflectometer, and make these measurements himself, using different street materials and paints. Figure 2 shows his first instrument as it is being used to test black asphalt and white-painted asphalt.
Figure 2 The diffuse absorption reflectometer being used in an actual materials test setup using fresh asphalt and white-painted asphalt.
Wright also did experiments on roofing materials, because most colors of materials are a lighter shade of grey or brown. He started with the shingles on his own house that were a light grey color, as shown in Figure 3. Note that at this time he began wearing on his hat, white plastic coffee cup lids from Starbucks, with the letters “SGW”, indicating “Stop Global Warming”. He is shown applying a piece of aluminum foil on his roof top to make comparative measurements of the foil absorption versus the rooftop absorption. He found that as expected, the roofing shingles were about 50% more absorptive than the foil at most sun angles.
Figure 3 Wright making sunlight absorption measurements on his roof in 2005.
Wright next turned to his own street (Erwin Lane in Huntington Beach, CA) to test the levels of absorption during daylight hours. Figure 4 shows a patch of fresh asphalt applied to his own street that will compare solar reflection levels of new black asphalt versus older asphalt. Figure 5 shows Wright making a preliminary assessment of the street asphalt electrical properties.
Figure 4 SGW test patch on Erwin Lane
Wright noticed that there was some white paint lettering on his street (shown in Figure 5), and by comparing the bare asphalt with the white painted asphalt, a higher level of solar reflection was substantiated. These encouraging results led him to consider the effect of the whole street being painted white. He also began wearing white coffee cup lids on his hat to dramatize his plan to do something about Global Warming.
Figure 5 Wright making electrical properties measurements on his asphalt paved street.
In a calibration test of his instrument, Wright measures the electrical and sunlight absorption properties of the Starbucks white plastic coffee cup lid, as shown in Figure 6. It is found to be an excellent reflector.
Figure 6 Wright making electrical measurements on a white coffee cup lid to calibrate his instrument.
The following week, Wright, with his wife Linda, went to Palm Springs to make additional measurements in a desert community with lots of sunshine. Figure 7 shows one of his experiments on a major boulevard in Palm Springs, where his wife Linda has painted a section of the street with white paint to determine the darkening time for a busy street.
Figure 7 In Palm Springs at a major intersection, Mrs. Wright paints the black asphalt white.
To extrapolate his findings to the street conditions found in Palm Springs, Wright first photographed a major street intersection in Palm Springs with its normal daytime lighting as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8 Normal daytime view of an intersection in Palm Springs
Next, working with the Maintenance Department of Palm Springs, Wright paints this intersection with a reversed pattern of white painted asphalt and with unpainted asphalt stripes indicating the crosswalk area. The simulated result is shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9 Later image of Palm Springs street intersection with white paint applied.
Although Wright’s experiments and simulations indicated promising results that could make substantial reductions in the effects of Global Warming, there were several drawbacks that emerged from the simulations for the entire city of Palm Springs. First, there is a potential concern about solar reflection off the white painted streets at sunrise and sunset. The streets of Palm Springs are mostly north/south and east/west oriented, so that near the summer solstice sunrise and sunset periods, the solar reflection off of the white-painted East/West streets would have almost 100% reflection. Drivers facing the sun at those times would experience complete whiteout of their view of the street. However, if they all wore polarized sunglasses, this effect would be reduced by 50%. Still, it was deemed insufficient in allowing visibility of traffic and possible pedestrians crossing the street, especially if the drivers were intoxicated at the time. Although this whiteout condition occurs only a few days of the year and lasts only a few hours, it does happen during rush hour. Attempts to mitigate this effect or to legislate “solar whiteout” holidays did not appear to be likely solutions. In addition, the white painting of rooftops was also brought into question, because there would be a wider range of occurrence of whiteout conditions and times of occurrence on all of the city streets with houses with varying roof angles and house facing angle.
These findings did prove useful in exposing the limits and dangers of this potential solution to climate change. Wright presented a report of his findings at a student art show at CSULB, as shown in Figure 10. And he received an “A” grade in his Intermedia course. It should also be noted that this research was paid for with his own funds. He thanks the city of Palm Springs for supporting this work.
Figure 10 Wright’s art display at CSULB in 2006 of his solar diffuse reflectometer results for white-painted asphalt streets as a potential solution to Global Warming
An important aspect in the decision of buying a painting concerns whether to frame a painting or not. For Abstract paintings, especially large paintings, the trend towards unframed work grows, even in art galleries and museums. At your home it is a personal choice, and to address this for my art, this posting addresses.
Shown above is one of my latest paintings from a new series entitled “Dance #1”, a small work and shown as usual without a frame. Because it is light valued overall, it stands out well without a frame, especially if presented on a toned color wall. In comparison with my present works shown on my website, it has my abstract expressionist elements, where the figures interact with each other and with the “stage” space of the performance. The figures are both dancing and floating, with personal body gestures.
Shown here is the same painting, this time with one of my handmade wooden frames with an Early American brown colored stain. I make my own frames and sell most of them this way, because the simplicity and modernity of this frame and its color reinforce the square format and bring out the color and light of the painting. Not all of my paintings are this light, but I tend to favor warm toned paintings and they work well with the wood frame. The frame itself is as light as the canvas with its wooden stretcher bars. And because I make the frame, there is no after purchase investment in a frame required. For most of my art shown here, I include the frame and the shipping in the stated price.
If you have any further questions about this matter, any other questions about purchasing one of my works, use my “Contact the Artist” page and include your email address. Thom
Now in the 15th week of the corona-virus stay-in in the USA, with some businesses only now beginning o open again, how are artists coping with the drastic shifts occurring in the art market. Taking much advice to heart, I have restarted my art website, which now includes this blog. It does help me in presenting my art on-line to a potentially larger audience than available at art galleries or community art fairs. But it requires patience and some dedication to attract viewers and followers who may refer others. So I am hopeful that I can connect with abstract art lovers who are interested in art about contemporary global issues. This subset of the art market may only be 1 – 2%, yet that may be sufficient if I can address its esthetic and philosophical content.
In 1913 Wassily Kandinsky wrote in the first book on abstract art, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, that “the more abstract the form, the clearer and more direct is its appeal.” His book has been my most important influence in making abstract paintings. He states the reasons to paint are driven by the issues of the age, and for me the major issue of our 21st century is climate change. His book describes the basic language of abstract elements, of form, line, shape, space and color. It has been the greatest influence on Modern Western art since its publication, and I recommend it to all abstract art lovers.
My approach in this dialogue venue is to show an example from a group of paintings or prints with a common theme, and discuss it in some depth. This art website is specifically designed to quickly access the group of work that I am discussing, beginning on my “Portfolio Page”. Usually I include my art statement for this group at the top of the page, then go on in detail about the why and how it’s made. I believe that my readers are familiar with the art history of abstract art, and in particular, would know something of my artists’ influences. I invite these viewers to comment and ask any questions they may have about my work using my “Contact the Artist” page.
My first blogs presented my “In Balance with Nature” and my “Global Climate Change” series, which are two views of my major theme of climate change. These two groups are presently accessible on my website, to which I will be adding more pages and more discussion blogs. My next theme to be presented is “Forest Warning”, which presents another aspect of the impact of climate change on man and nature.
Occasionally, every artist makes a “different” new work, or reworks an old work. I made changes to the work shown above, “Global Transformation”, and present it here as a piece that doesn’t fit in any of my existing categories, and it is a small work on paper. The square format is divided in left/right sides, showing light and dark backgrounds, representing day and night. An abstract mapping presents land divisions and man-made objects like factories and ships. Two earths, one before and one after (climate change) use color to convey the total conversion from the past to the future, from natural to abnormal, from cool to hot, from life to death. Thus, even a small painting can address our predominate issues.
Making visual art about live jazz music became the source of my inspiration and direction in a large group of monotypes titled “The Jazz Combo” series. After leaving printmaking for 12 years, I still had my big press working and lots of cans of oil-based colored inks. These one-of-a-kind prints on paper are meant to have the mark of the music, with abstract, interacting shapes and rhythms in the instruments and the figures. However, monotypes require a rapid working style, limited by the relatively short time that the printing inks remain moist on the plate before printing (about 30-40 minutes). Thus, the initial composition must be in mind, along with a well-defined process to develop all the elements. Each piece is extemporary and adds fresh ideas from the previous monotypes, that then come together in the making.
My first monotypes began with a smaller size (16″ x 20″) to reacquaint me with the whole process again. Above is “Jazz Combo #2”, as an example of my starting place. #1 didn’t make the cut. And I used my previous approach of rolling out the background, then placing stencils inked in patterns onto the still wet background on the plate. These early ones basically were trial runs, kept simple with no mixing and gradations of colors and values. There are the three players with stringed instruments made with cutouts using manila folders. The three wobbly shapes above their heads are also made from manila folders, and used to suggest the out-flowing music from the instruments. At the bottom stage section are torn strips of newsprint. And I have usually used freshly picked nasturtium leaves from my yard to add the rich organic shapes and add to the rhythm of the shapes.
After getting acquainted with my printmaking processes, I then began to make better work, beginning in early 2017. The piece above shows a significant increase in the colors, values and interwoven parts of the two players on either side with their instruments, a central planter of nasturtiums that also has a blue-toned background, and a mix of organic shapes and drawn lines. The colors interact among the figures and the pattern shapes. Note too that the basic background colors are rolled together and blended to change color and value from top to bottom. I like that their feet are in the air and turning in different directions, suggesting dancing with the rhythms. The player on the left has his guitar showing in two positions of play. I also play a jazz guitar, although not very well. But I’m inspired by such great American music.
This post serves as an introduction to the coming addition of ten of these monotypes to my art portfolio. viewing all of them together provides a better understanding of the uniqueness of each one, and of course the breadth of the “theme and variations” presented. A couple of these can work together too. I would appreciate your comments and feedback. Thom
To introduce myself to viewers as an “abstract expressionist” painter, the goal of this post is to walk through a number of stages of development of a selected painting in order to present my painting process and some of my thinking and decision making at each stage. This series consists of acrylic and ink on watercolor paper, canvas and panel. I chose one painting now on view in my “In Balance with Nature” series, where I documented four stages, from initial design to completion.
I almost never start with a white blank surface, because it is somewhat confrontational and has no suggestions as to local variations. So after I primer this panel with white gesso, I first add a thin wash of a mixture of yellow and burnt sienna, then add a random wash of thin India ink, and then a transparent thin wash of white paint. I am just breaking up the space and removing the blank white surface. It reminds me of the early Rennaissance Italian painters process for painting frescos, where they initially make a charcoal drawing on large paper, then transfer the drawing to the wet fresco surface.
Next, I spend some hours doodling with pencil in my artist notebook, making small thumbnail sketches, with many alterations as I go. This thinking refers back to previous paintings in the series, and is experimental, trying out design variations. If I am lucky, it may only take a couple of hours. Once I am satisfied, I transfer the linear drawing onto the canvas, making the black lines as shown here. The bottom shapes of triangles and quadrilaterals are derived from my recent earlier paintings, representing a group of trees. Trees for me have become my primary inspiration for many of my paintings for the past five years. They are my symbols of nature undergoing stress from climate change, its increased forest fires, and effects of human generated pollution to their environment.
Notice too in this early stage that there is a hierarchy of rectangular shapes and lines. I try to create spaces and shapes that are in contrast to each other, to heighten an abstract drama and to simplify the organization of lights and darks.
In the stage 2 of my painting shown above, I have added mostly thin and transparent washes of acrylic colors. There is also the thick, black vertical line that begins the major division of spaces. The vertical format for this painting was chosen as part of the initial design. At this stage, I try variations of colors, and look for rhythms of repeated shapes and colors. In addition, there are suggestions of line movements among the shapes and within the open spaces. Notice too how the color shapes are relating to the random staining variations in the initial drawing. To some artists, this stage may seem tight and obvious and without taking chances. For me, I have tried to make bolder gestures early, but too often find that things get skewed, off balance and require further editing. In fact, that is generally the case in my process too, but my chances of success usually are better in a progressive development of change. It’s sort of like “start with something you know, then get creative as you go”.
In my stage 3 of this painting, I commit to more colors and richer constrasts of colors within and among the three regions of the painting. For the tree shapes at the bottom, I prefer warm colors that suggest not the expected greenery of trees, but the thermal shifts of trees in distress becoming warmer. The red-orange and light blue at the top suggests a sky landscape for a forest scene. Beneath the upper red-orange are dark spots that I had splashed as a organic gesture. Notice that as colors increase the contrast, the geometry of the painting is set. Only the large lower-left rectangle is still unpainted and open to the painting process by preserving the random under-painting variations.
In stage 4 of the painting shown above I have developed the large unpainted rectangle with light colors, light at the top, transitioning to a light yellow in the center, and darker values of a green gray at the bottom. Nothing is solid or simple, but allows for more brushmarks with some relationships maintained to the under-painting’s value patches. In a way it gives me an approach that resembles how realistic landscape paintings are made, but that usually follow observation rather than random patterns that I have preserved. In the bottom green-gray area there are also a mix of linear brushmarks that provide additional rhythms to the tree shapes. Also, some of the earlier shape/color decisions are altered to adjust to these new additions. This lower rectangle becomes integral as on of the large spaces of the composition.
In stage 4 shown above there are many small adjustments to all parts of the painting. The black vertical is repainted and darker, the bottom right area tries a new pattern of vertical colors extending down the right side, and some of the lines are lightened, darkened and varied. This stage also takes a lot time of stepping back and looking at what’s working and not working.
Finally, the finished painting shown above required more adjustments and decisions to clarify and intensify the result. In particular, the upper band with the single red-orange shape is now changed to three horizontal bands. The dark ink spots disappear, not relating to the total painting. And in the large light rectangle the small lines are accentuated with color brushmarks. The blue vertical on the right is intensified to hold up against all the warm colored shapes. Part of this thinking is personal preference and part is an itch that needs scratching. All in all, there is a dynamic balance achieved with many parts relating to the whole and to each other. And that’s my process.
My “Global Warming Cycle” series of paintings began in 2005 when I was a grad student at CSULB and preparing for my Master’s Exhibition at their student art galleries. The subject matter became more important to me, and I wanted to direct my art work towards what is now recognized as the greatest threat to man and nature, and to raise public consciousness about it. My goal then was to raise public consciousness about climate change through these paintings, as well as make paintings that have conceptual significance as well as developing a new abstract style for me.
My approach came from my own profession as an aerospace systems engineer, particularly directed towards early warning satellite design/development for passive-infrared, space-based sensor systems. I was well acquainted with infrared atmospheric physics and IR technologies used to detect and discriminate ICBM missile plumes emitting carbon-dioxide plumes from the natural infrared structure of the earth when viewing it from space. NASA research into climate change included earth weather history and prediction modeling, summarized in earth maps as the above. Thus, my painting approach derives from abstract mapping of the earth. As my basic design format, I selected the “circle in a square”, and developed my own imagined global weather scenarios. An early example of one of my paintings is shown below. Four of my paintings of this series were accepted in a show at the Peter Blake Art Gallery in Costa Mesa (now defunct) in 2009, and the show reviewed in the Orange County Weekly newspaper (now also defunct).
Of course back in 2006, abstract mapping may have been more appropriate for a public that had little interest or recognition of global warming. As the science improved and as earth weather became hotter and more violent, the public and many world governments began to experience the connection of increasing greenhouse gases with climate changes. Later as public awareness grew, my paintings changed purpose and direction. Below presents one of my abstract paintings from 2009. The combination of large, graphic text “GCC” and the sequential images of the earth changing with time present the future choices for man in acting early versus too late with different outcomes. This painting was accepted into the “Made in California” juried Exhibition at the City of Brea Art Gallery in 2009.
In 2017 I returned to abstract figurative painting, which was my initial direction when I was accepted to the graduate art program at CLULB in 2004. The painting below shows one painting that was accepted in the Special Exhibition “Nature Prevails”, showing art works by members of the non-profit artist group, Southern California Artists, Inc., and held at the BC Art Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA. This painting shows female goddess representing mankind and dumping oil-spill pollution into the earth’s oceans, symbolizing our continuing and increasing, toxic, and greenhouse emissions production and its subsequent virulent effects on the oceans, atmosphere and on all life on earth.
During the last decade, I made several more additions and changes to my approach addressing climate change. I will be presenting these as I add them to my art website in the coming months.
The latest painting in this “Global Warming Cycle” series was made this month during the stay-in period of the corona-virus. I combined themes from these two global threats to man into one small painting. We now live in the age of multiple, simultaneous global threats, one caused by human activity with the rise of the Industrial Revolution and the growth of human population, and one caused by a mutated microcosm virus. Titled “Polar Contact Tracing”, it uses my abstract mapping design (circle in a square with mixed media). It probably will be used again by me and other artists facing future multiple global threats.
In this summary of this painting series, I have neglected to cover my aesthetics and painting processes. For now, this overview hopefully generates interest for the viewers, both for this series and three others to be presented.
Three years after I lost my art website to a hacking problem, I have now rebuilt it using the latest WordPress software. There is a Blog page now too, and I have upgraded the site to an e-commerce capability that offers my art work posted for sale. This Blog also serves as a forum for posting more about the why and the purpose of my art making. As I add more of my painting and printmaking series, I will be adding background and supporting information here. Each series will be easily and separately reachable within a few clicks from the Homepage. The Homepage is a static page that has the first level of access to this “Art Blog” page, to my “About the Artist” page, to my “Contact the Artist” page, and to the “Art Portfolio” page that then accesses all of the painting and print pages.
Visitors can learn more about me on my “About the Artist” page, which has my Artist Bio and and a short Artist Resume covering the last six years of my 45 years of art making. I include a self-portrait below, made in 2019, that exemplifies my abstract expressionist style of painting on paper.
My first painting series is actually my latest work, made in 2019 – 2020, titled “In Balance with Nature”. I include my Art Statement here for this series and an example of this work on paper below:
IN BALANCE WITH NATURE
By Thom Wright 2020
This painting series continues with my work addressing Climate Change and how to philosophically aim at the heart of the most basic issue – mankind coming to terms with the need to find limits in its conquest of nature. Only then can the entire planet seek a common goal of reducing green-house gas emissions sufficient to cap the total to a level that keeps the earth within an average of 2K increase that climatologists say is a maximum. Thus, my artistic concerns are not about showing the horror of the consequences of a hotter earth, but a new focus on recognizing the necessity of survival of both man and nature. In my art making I turn this direction into an allegory of making an abstract composition with the quality of balance in its elements – space, form, color, light and movement. I strive to make abstract paintings that present this kind of balance, which is usually difficult to attain. For Modern and Post-Modern painting, these concerns are of the utmost importance. Similarly, civilization needs to accept this goal in its local and global economics to make it happen.
My long background in watercolor painting done in my first twenty years shows up as my love of transparent color, soft edge shapes, combining shape and line, and bold and light uses of color. Looking at my composition also shows my formal approach to design that combines geometric and organic shapes, strong rhythms of shape, line and color, and influences from American and European Modernist and Contemporary painters. And hopefully, this work shows my long-learned lessons in painting in some very good art schools, especially Orange Coast College and Cal State University Long Beach.
With this simple beginning, I relaunch my art website and this Art Blog – Thom