Leslie J Dulin’s abstract paintings are bold and brilliant and balanced
The brilliance of her work is undeniable. Leslie J Dulin’s newest works were flying off the walls this past week at the In-Town Gallery’s monthly opening. The compositions are all extremely tight and balanced, with an attention to visual detail balancing out a feeling of freedom and whimsy. The result is a provocative series of bold abstract paintings.
The Pulse: What are your earliest memories of making art?
Leslie J Dulin: My parents made sure I had art lessons from an early age. Then I went on to the great art department at GPS, and from there to the University of Georgia.
TP: Who are some of your influences?
LJD: Influences not mentioned on my website, lesliejdulinartist.com, include Ryan McGiness’s patterns, Robert Rauschenberg’s assemblages, and the work of contemporary stencil artists, including Shepard Fairey and Banksy.
My two most influential teachers have been local painters. The first was Sandra Painter Washburn, who taught me to look at my work critically. The second was Anne Bagby, from Winchester, TN, who taught me to work with large-format hand-carved rubber stamps and many forms of printing and collage.
Anne’s work has appeared in many national magazines and she is a signature member of both the National Watercolor Society and the American Watercolor Society. I was working with stamped patterns before I met Anne, but being able to work with her as a colleague for a period of over 10 years has really honed my ability to use patterns in my work.
TP: What materials and processes do you use?
LJD: I have been painting almost exclusively in acrylics for at least 20 years, first on paper and then later more on canvas. My newest discovery is fine art acrylic spray paints, which I use with and without stencils. Working very large for the first time has also freed me to use larger gestures in my work and to explore the use of unconventional painting tools.
TP: What makes a good composition?
LJD: It sounds pedantic, but the study of the elements of art and the principles of design are critical to my success as a painter. Most customers are not aware of the way the elements and principles contribute to make a good composition, but they intrinsically know what works for them.
There are reasons to disobey the “rules” of composition, but for the most part, it is the place to start when trying to figure out what may not be working in a painting. This is what I mean when I say I spend a lot of time analyzing my paintings. People believe that an abstract artist is not constrained by the same rules as a realist, but it simply is not so. We even break the same rules for the same reasons—and sometimes get away with it.
TP: How do you know when a piece is finished?
LJD: I know a painting is finished when the energy, composition, color and value work for me. I have overworked some paintings by seeking that last correction. Sometimes my husband has told me to stop…and he is usually right.
TP: What is the purpose of art?
LJD: The purposes of art are as varied as artists. I like to think my art is about good design and the skillful use of color. I want to produce art that people want to live with in their homes or businesses.
TP: What is beauty?
LJD: In the Chattanooga area, beauty in painting seems to be closely related to realism in the minds of the public. I appreciate good realistic art, but all good art is not realistic. I prefer the mental workout that is involved in creating a dynamic abstract painting.
TP: Any observations about Chattanooga’s fine art community?
LJD: We have had too many generations of kids in this area who have had no real art education, who have not been taught how and why they might enjoy a painting. Now they are adults who literally do not know the difference between an original painting and a cheap poster. I want them to have minds that are open to many kinds of art, to know what they like when they see it, and have an idea why.
TP: Any advice for aspiring artists?
LJD: If you want to learn to paint, study the elements of art and the principles of design. If you really study them and apply them in your work, you will produce good compositions.
Leslie’s show is viewable at In-Town Gallery 26A Frazier Ave. on the Northshore until the end of the month.