Through the Mist - Interview with Oregon Artist Mr. Randall David Tipton
After living in different places for many years, Randall settled in Oregon and now calls it home. To Randall, the west coast of Oregon offers spectacular natural beauty. With nearly all-year round wetness, the ubiquitous, gently rising mist, especially in the wetlands, creates dramatic effects which are ideal for him to ponder, feel, and paint. Through his brush strokes, Randall has artfully depicted these mesmerizing scenes. The colors and layers, accompanied by fine detail work in selected areas, portray an enigmatic and mercurial atmosphere reflecting his state of mind at a particular moment. It is primeval, mysterious and yet sensational. The impression becomes deeply ingrained in people's’ hearts or, perhaps, it penetrates the depths of people's’ minds and stirs up their emotions. Recently, I had the chance to interview Randall. I hope his answers to my questions, below, will help others to understand how and why he draws such wonderful paintings.
Courtesy: Randall David Tipton
Q: Many of your paintings are about nature. Why are you passionate about painting natural landscapes, especially the wetlands of Oregon? What are your sources of inspiration -- photos, live scenes, something else? What kind of scenes most inspire you to draw?
A: I have always been passionate about nature but grew up in a suburb where anything natural didn't last for long. In Southern California, when I was young, it developed rapidly and it was only on summer camping trips that I would see a different world. As soon as I was able, I left the area for coastal Northern California then on to New Mexico. I had dropped out of college and art school. I just wanted to be near an environment somewhat healthy and whole, and paint it. That's what I’ve done since I was a teenager. The landscapes of western Oregon were the ones I felt most at home with though I didn’t arrive here until I was 40. The damp dark forests and boggy creeks were exactly the things I felt compelled to paint. I'm in these landscapes all the time walking around and I know their characteristics well.
Courtesy: Randall David Tipton
Q: On your website, you mentioned it was “a pivotal experience” to work with Richard Diebenkorn in the first master class at the new Santa Fe Institute of Fine Art. How so?
A: The experience of working with Diebenkorn was so important because I was so lacking in formal education. That he seemed to bless what I was doing was super encouraging. He did offer some particular suggestions but mostly it was just his approval. He was like a god.
Q: You portray the fog so well and make the paintings sometimes look “mystical”. The mist fills the background with quieter and softer tones. Could you tell us more about the theme of fog in your work?
A: I live in a temperate rainforest. Most of the year it's wet with a dry period in summer. Whether there is actual fog or not, visibility is usually not far. So mist, drizzle, overcast and fog are very common. Because the landscape is concealed to varying degrees, a sense of mystery is always present. In winter the distinctions between water, air, and land get fuzzy. This, along with the cold, is thrilling to me.
Q: You paint with great visual effects and the fluid usage of colors and shapes. Please tell us how you work with colors, shapes, and lights to create contrasts which yield dramatic and multi-dimensional visual effects.
A: You ask about my 'great visual effects', what shapes and colors I use? This realm is instinctive but I can say once I know what my true subject will be, all the following decisions are in support of that subject. It's usually a mood rather than something specific. I borrow from the insights of modernism to isolate and develop the motif. I want a clarity of intention as well as execution in my work.
Q: What do drawings mean to you? Capturing a moment, self-reflection, or something else?
A: Drawing is something I've always struggled with. I believe it is vital to painting because of how it visually trains the mind. I like my drawings and used to work exclusively from them, but it has a tedium to it that I don't enjoy. I think it uses a different part of the brain that isn't really accessible to me. For years I worked from a live model in figure drawing groups. If I was using a pencil or charcoal, I was constantly revising. If I drew with ink and a brush, I got it right. Before I die, I hope to enjoy it. I have a friend who sits on the curb, opens his sketchbook and then fills it with the world in front of him. No angst at all and he gets the soul of the place every time. I think it is so important and I'm vocal about it too but I always feel a bit like a hypocrite because it isn't something I gravitate towards.
Q: Your paintings harmoniously and so naturally blend realism with the abstract. How do you achieve that effect and how do you decide when you want to show more realistic scenes vs. the abstract?
A: Abstraction is just a tool I use. There is always something deeper that I'm after and simplifying everything else is a way to get there. It looks like I'm juggling but I'm not. I'm a realist trying to say something in my own way. I insist on it. I do happen to love abstraction and its history but when I try to do something purely non-objective, it's extremely uncomfortable and I flounder. Not always but most of the time.(Courtesy: Randall David Tipton)
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring young artists who are interested in painting natural landscapes? For example, when in the woods, what should a young artist look for?
A: I would suggest to any painter interested in painting the natural world to keep close attention to your emotions. They are often subtle and often aren't even visually provoked but more sensory. Why are you there? Are you in a place you want to be? Choose the landscapes that align with an inner significance. This won't be a 'reason' but a sensation.
Courtesy: Randall David Tipton
Q: When is your next exhibition? Where can people go to view your art in person?
A: My next exhibition is at the White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach, OR in Sept. 2019. I've shown in this gallery for 33 years. Anyone is also welcome to visit my studio in Lake Oswego, OR. Just call, text or email when you'd like to come. 503-380-4731 or email@example.com.
Courtesy: Mitch Burrell