FruitBox Painting, No. 1: Regardez

FruitBox Painting, No. 1

R Young. Regardez. Mixed mediums on gessoed fabric glued to primed cardboard fruit box. 31 cm x 23 cm, 2019. Front view.

Beginning a new series for the studio arago blog, The FruitBox Paintings. These are works done in 2019-2020, at a time when we had just relocated to our new home and studios and were economizing in every way until we finished some renovations and could get a fix on costs of utilities and so forth.

During that time, the painting studio was in the attic, which is a vast space with a skylight and an ancient sink. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, but at the time it was the only space available, so I made do. I worked on a table made of an old door on saw horses and used a rickety old wooden ladder for an easel. Rough as it all was, it enabled me to fiddle with paints & the like.

In the spirit of making do, I chose to limit myself to buying no new art supplies, which meant using old stocks of house paint and a varied assortment of nearly-empty tubes of acrylic, watercolor, and oil paint—along with india ink, charcoal pencils, pastel sticks, crayons, and dozens of sorts of pencils. For supports, I had a stack of old drawing paper, cotton fabric, and cardboard fruit boxes from the Carrefour grocery store on the road out of town toward Caudiès. I fashioned sketch books out of assorted papers bound by metal rings (see blog post).

The FruitBox paintings evolved from my determination to not buy commercially prepared canvases. I used old cotton fabric—even discarded (but laundered!) dish towels and curtains—and glued the fabric to the fruit boxes, which often had to be trimmed with a Stanley blade to even out the sides. The fabric-covered box would then be given several coats of gesso (my only purchase of “official” art supplies), sanded, and then painted on.

As I proceeded, I often treated the fabric-covered sides as part of the picture, making of the painting an object in itself, not just a “picture” as if seen through a framed window. The boxes had dimensions, depth as well as the top flat surface. Consequently, I have photographed these works from two angles, straight on and from one side, to show how the work wraps around the box.

As the months have gone by, I have been able to move most of the studio work space to a room with controlled light and temperature. I brought the door/saw horse table with me but sprang for a sure-enough easel. The attic space is still useful for priming paper and canvas and storing junk that may become new work later on.

Now that I am documenting the FruitBox series, I’m motivated to prepare some new boxes. Something about working “outside the box” seems to have affected how and what I painted and I miss it, whatever that “it” is.

The FruitBox paintings also fulfill an abiding motive in my approach to art, the beauty and meaning to be found in the quotidian, the everyday. Finding usefulness in what has been discarded or deemed useless by a wasteful consumerist society, this was how my experience of the Sixties/Seventies counterculture affected me, and I’ve never given in, not entirely.

Anyway, in due course, I’ll be posting the complete FruitBox series, not necessarily in the order produced since I keep several pieces going at the same time, so the best finish date I can usually come up with is the year. (Drawings and small paintings are easier to date, being finished pretty quickly.) So, in a sense, this project is my way of forcing myself to document the series.

I hope the project is of interest to visitors to the studio arago blog.

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