|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
||Lamplight by Nat Meade.
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
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. If you want to read more about Meade—and about
so many other artists with unique processes and methods of working—think about
gifting yourself with a subscription
to Watercolor magazine. You'll find it all there! Enjoy!