Friday, February 8, 2013

Knife and Sandpaper: A Talk with Bud Clayton

Virginia Billeaud Anderson

Bud Clayton reflects on the manner in which man made objects are modified by time--a fence becomes rusty for instance or a street curb is marked by black rubber--and attempts to pictorially capture this quality of time with “distressed fields of color.” I viewed his abstractions in the exhibition On Time at Gallery M Squared through February 24, and concluded Clayton is a courageous colorist. It’s not easy to mess around with lime green or pink, and succeed. Umbers and other dark neutrals can look like manure unless skillfully applied. The arts’ subtle gradations of dark and rust tones are faded and refined. I contacted the artist and learned a few things about his paint handling, and also the reason behind the art’s planar variations and fragmentation.

Bud Clayton, Like You’ve Been Here Before, 2012, Mixed media on canvas, 24” x 24”

Virginia Billeaud Anderson: Describe your use of sandpaper.

Bud Clayton: The sandpaper is a reductive tool. There is a slim window of opportunity when the paint is curing that allows me to employ the sandpaper in an aggressive and abrasive way. That’s one of the ways I distress the fields of color.

VBA: Many of your diagonal forms have a protruding line ridge of paint at their edges, as if you scraped forcefully with a strait-edge tool. Are you using a palette knife or a scraping or flattening implement?

BC: After I’m satisfied with the under painting, which acts as the basic composition, paint starts going on thick. A flat knife is one tool I use to manipulate it.

Bud Clayton, Schedule, 2012, Mixed media on canvas, 24” x 24”

VBA: Comment on the fragmented planes and fracturing in your forms. Are you inspired by innovations in early century Cubism, Picasso and Braque’s 1911-1912 works for example? Do you look to art historical precedents?

BC: A car hit me once, as a pedestrian. The windshield just exploded. The fragmentation in my compositions is intended to appear impactful, powerful, speedy and streamlined. My work may have more in common with the Futurist Giacomo Balla since he used color, shape and rhythm to transmit a sense of energy. The painting Abstract Speed + Sound (1913-1914) could be an example. However, I also enjoy conversation with my contemporaries.

VBA: I remember slide tests on the Futurists. Balla repurposed motion and light, fractured it so it seemed to explode all over the canvas. And his titles tended to tell you precisely what he was representing. Do your titles relate to the paintings? For instance, when you title a piece Can Opener, is the image based on a can opener?

Bud Clayton, Present Flex, 2012, Mixed media on canvas, 24” x 24”

BC: Can Opener has some very large shapes that encompass negative space in acute angles and, to me, seems forceful enough to shear metal like a can opener. So, the title of that piece represents a kind of mechanical concept. Some of the other titles could be more abstract or personal but they are not random.

VBA: There are repetitive dot and check patterns in some of the paintings. Were they “free hand” or do you employ a stencil or other design tool?

BC: The repetition there is meant to be analogous to advertisement murals that become weathered, so in the same way modern advertisements aren’t “by hand,” neither are those patterns in my work.

VBA: You used the word “substrate” in your artist statement. What is that?

BC: The word “substrate” comes from the Latin sub-stratum meaning “the level below.” In the context of the work in On Time, the substrate is miter cut, kiln dried cedar, 1” x 4,” the lumber lending rigidity to Masonite.

VBA: Your statement also said “We are time travelers creeping by at a second per second only able to experience what has already occurred.” Explain what you mean by time travelers and experiencing what has already occurred. Are you talking about relativity?

BC: George Carlin said it better than me. I would like to direct you to his monologue on the subject called “Time.” It’s available by fair use on YouTube, I believe.

George Carlin on time

VBA: Is there anything you want readers to know about you or your art?

BC: I can’t wait to start a new body of work, but I’m not ready to talk about it, yet. I would just like to thank the readers for their time.

Bud Clayton, Identified, 2012, Mixed media on canvas, 24” x 24”



  1. interesting article on the Bud Clayton's concept. His work is compelling.

  2. Great interview. Unexpected answers. Love the George Carlin bit.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Im inspired. Thanks Bud. Thanks George.