Thursday, June 02, 2005
A conversation with . . .
The artist known as Perx talks razors, spatulas
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David Parks, who goes
What’s your process?
Perx: I paint on plywood mostly, not really on canvas much … Mostly laying down a lot of real thick paint in a similar fashion to the way people would use Gesso, which is a base for most paintings like acrylics or oils. And the Gesso, if you’re a realist, you try to put it down as smooth as you can. I do the opposite. I put it down real thick, and then I go for a texture that will allow me to bring out many layers later. … Sometimes I force it to dry quicker so I can make the textures stand up. If you try to work it when it’s too wet, it just lays back out. … So you have an initial texture that gives you some depth right off the bat.
What materials do you work with?
Perx: I tend to stick with paint. I’m starting to do some stuff with crushed glass — different colors of glass — which adds another dimension to it because of the light-reflecting capabilities of it.
Is there a place that you’re coming from aesthetically or philosophically?
Perx: I don’t know about philosophically. I don’t tend to put too much "art speak" into my art. … Sometimes my art initially starts from something in nature, and other times I just set down some paint and see where it goes.
How long have you been making art?
Perx: Ever since I can remember. Even as a small kid I always did something: pick up a stick, see some part of a face or something in it and carve it out, maybe put some paint on it. I played with mud pies like most kids do when they come across a good pile of mud, but I’d always try to make something out of it.
What was the point when it became a more refined process for you?
Perx: Shortly after I went to school for photography. I did a lot of photography for many years. I guess about the time I was working for Virginia Tech. When I was there, I started doing a lot of stone art — sandblasting images into rock — and some regular sculpting with rock and painting, a little bit later than the rocks.
When did you work at Tech?
Perx: I worked at Tech from ’79 until about 10 years ago. …I worked in the photo lab … a lot of technical in-house stuff, but I’d also go out and do shoots for this department or that department — mostly wildlife. … I guess I just burned out on it.
Do you paint drip-style?
Perx: I do a good bit of that. I tend not to use brushes hardly at all. Mostly I use long, skinny, narrow spatulas. Palette knives I use once in a while and a lot of blades — razor blades, long scraper blades. … And once in a while I use something in a drill, something that will spin and give me a certain set of patterns … usually something flexible … something that’s got a consistent pattern to it to begin with that you might be able to work into a painting or use as a base for a painting, like the initial texture.
Throughout the years, have there been high points — good and bad points — artistically, but also high points in being able to make a living as an artist?
Perx: Once I started doing rocks full-time, after I left Tech, I actually started making reasonable money doing that for a while. But the style of art I was doing then was something that other markets, like Chinese markets, have picked up, and they do basically the same sort of stuff I do but for a lot less money. The biggest thing about doing stone sculptures or sandblasting or photography or anything, whatever project I’m working on now usually leads me into the next thing. … Photography led me into the rocks — I don’t know how, but it did. The rocks led me into painting, and I imagine in another two or three years I’ll start doing some other form. Maybe more sculptures. I do sculptures once in a while, not too often. There’s always some point where something clicks with what I’m doing with one process, where I say, "Let’s try it in some other form, in metal or in stone or in wood."