He’s So Freakin’ Formal!

Yellow Pen by Nat Meade, oil on linen, 24 x 20, 2011.

Focusing on formal concerns in art does not make an artist uptight or unimaginative. Quite the opposite actually—pursuing matters of pattern, line, space, and color can prove to jumpstart free-thinking and expression for a painter or draftsman. That’s certainly the case with Nat Meade.

Often using a combination of gouache, oil painting, collage, and watercolor to create curious and untraditional mixed media art, Meade tells obscure stories that have little to do with what is real, and yet they engage viewers in a strong way. For one, viewers get to think what they want to think. The artist isn’t forcing his ideas on us. In fact, Meade’s “voice” is somewhat muffled in his paintings—you get an impression or sense of emotional direction, but you have to do the rest of the work yourself.

Yet I’m more interested in how Meade visually tells his stories than what those stories could be. And even as I type that I am a little amazed at myself because I really honor narrative in art. I think it is one of the highest forms of communication, but Meade is a master at making what he does waaaaaaaay cooler than what he’s trying to say (or not).

Take Yellow Pen or Lamplight. Both of these are works that I spent a lot of time just staring at. My mind went through a lot of ideas and feelings, but what kept me in front of them long after my narrative imagination petered out was how interesting the elements come together in them. In Yellow Pen, the right angles and straight lines of the light, its shadow, and the edges of the doorway contrast with and are simultaneously softened by the organic outline of the figure’s head and shoulder.

Lamplight by Nat Meade.
Lamplight by Nat Meade.

In Lamplight, the arcing pool of light from the lamp creates a gorgeous, simple curve of shadow on the wall. And that curve is slightly altered and subtly mimicked throughout the work—in the lamp shape itself, in the female figure’s shoulders, and in the folds of her skirt—so that there’s a visual cascade of forms throughout the work.

Because Meade is not concerned with representation as an end in and of itself, he is able to visually express himself in a very strong way. He is following his own trajectory as an artist and that’s the kind of passion and commitment I find inspiring. My hope is that each of us as artists finds the unique processes and methods of working that are our very own—and that is why I ask you to think about where you will take your art into the new year, and urge you to seek out the instruction you need to get there. Right now the North Light Shop’s Season of Savings is upon us, with 30% off so many resources, so find what excites you and spurs you to move forward! Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

3 thoughts on “He’s So Freakin’ Formal!

  1. Is Courtney kidding with the title? What kind of adjective is “Freakin’ “? Does she have to resort to vulgarity to attract attention? Is her vocabulary so limited as to risk offending readers? Just know it doesn’t flatter Nat Meade, nor Ms Jordan.

  2. Jim,
    Artistically, it is known as risk-taking. It worked well enough to cause you not only to read the article, but also respond. You may want to use it occasionally. Rembrandt and John Singer Sargent did. : )