Posted by Jeremy Buben on Art Nerd.
Recently David Hytone, a painter that applies the most paint to any panel I’ve ever seen, sent me an invite to his upcoming show at IMA Gallery. Having seen David’s work before I’ve always been amazed by the sheer volume of paint that he uses to create an abstracted world of texture and color. The works are more like a sculpture than a painting really, of course they are paintings, as they happen to be made with paint. Duh! I sent David a reply inquiring as to whether he could weigh a couple paintings and/or guestimate the cost in paint on one. To my delight I received a much more thorough answer that I think speaks volumes to the process behind the work.
In his reply, David states “I really should weigh the panels before and after, just to see how much they “fatten up”. The panels themselves are a bit heavier than normal, especially the larger ones as they are thoroughly reinforced (that much paint will warp a painting as it dries- as I’ve unfortunately learned first-hand). That said, I weighed a couple of pieces- a 3′x3′ oil on panel weighed just over 10lbs, the 4′x4′ weighed 20 lbs. Based on what I remember from earlier I imagine paint makes up at least a third of the final weight.”
Place for Cautious Optimism
I’ve also been fascinated with David’s work from a cost of materials standpoint. I tend to gravitate towards craft based art when I’m left to roam alone and I understand how price factors in with material costs. But paintings are a whole different animal, rarely do the materials factor into the gallery prices, and each artist uses paint in their own way, rarely putting emphasis on the quantity of paint that they are using. Hytone uses more paint than all the paintings at SAM have on them, in one painting, so how much does it cost?
To this question, David replied “As to the costs, obviously that depends on the size, but other factors come in as well. Lighter paintings and paintings that are predominantly white cost the least, as white paint (and blacks, grays, and many earth-tones, for that matter) costs less than other pigments. Some paintings are cheaper to make because they come into being without a lot of refiguring and exploration, thus devouring a lot less paint. I’ve learned to curtail my use of cadmiums, cobalts and other expensive pigments until late in the process, lest they merely get covered up as the painting evolves, then I’ll come back and use them in the finishing stage (luckily for me, I lean toward earthier reds and greener and grayer blues so I don’t tend to use a lot of cadmiums and cobalts as foundation colors in the first place).”
And that paint adds up, Hytone even broke it down TurboTax style when he told me “Last year’s taxes revealed that I spent over $7000 in paint. This year seems on par with that, if nudging a bit higher by year’s end. (it should be noted that I’ve learned to wait for big sale events at Blick so I can get as much as I can 30-50% off). I imagine I’ve got about $3000 in paint involved in this upcoming show, and while I can’t give you an exact painting-by-painting breakdown, the 3x3s and 2x4s are probably running about $400 in paint a piece, the one 4×4 is around $500 (it uses a lot of white). 12 of the new pieces for the show are 18″x15″ or smaller, so that cuts down on costs a bit, (At 5×4, the largest piece in the show, and the only one that’s not brand new, was in my SAM Gallery show and not figured into these costs).
I find it fascinating to look at paintings layered in oily peaks and streaks, and with Hytone’s work the colors draw one in but the texture holds their attention. It will definitely require pulling out the heavy duty nails to hang a Hytone painting. See all new work and likely some fresh paint (except the 5×4) at IMA Gallery this First Thursday.
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