The What is Painting? Project: Featuring Jay Zerbe

What is Painting? Norbert Marszalek

I thought it would be intriguing to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.

This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.

What is Painting?
Featuring Jay Zerbe

I understand that question as “what is painting to me?”

Art has always been (from at least early high school onward) a place where I could go to enjoy myself, and to learn something I hadn’t expected. It was an alternate world in which I was “god” and could shape in paint or drawing my inner reality. Or I could depict some imagined place; again, from completely inside my head.

Originally, painting was how to accurately depict images from my imagination. At that time, paint was only a “surface treatment”. A “skin” through which i could render an image. In those days, I never thought of paint as a thing in and of itself.

After 20 years of doing small gouaches I went back to painting on canvas. I knew I needed to learn a new “paint vocabulary” to up-size my small gouache marks. I loved the stroke of the brush on those small gouache surfaces in a moleskin notebook so I spent a year painting “portraits” of collages I had constructed. My rule was to use the largest brush possible to make the shape I was going for. In addition, I mimicked Asian brush artists using the brush to create a calligraphy of paint to develop a vocabulary that felt right for me.

One year passed doing the collage “portraits”, and I could move onward. I had my vocabulary, so now I could pursue any interest that my work presented me with. The journey continues! I can’t imagine my life without paint.

Jay ZerbeJay Zerbe, bookOfKells, 30″ x 48″, 2014

Jay Zerbe completed a BA from the American University of Beirut, and an MFA in printmaking from Indiana University, Bloomington.

His professional art career began in 1968 in Beirut with several exhibitions.

His work was first shown in Chicago in the 1977 Chicago and Vicinity Exhibition at the Art Institute.

Jay Zerbe has worked as a graphic designer (PBS), web designer (IBM), and virtual world designer (IBM). He now works full time as an artist.

His work has been shown in Chicago, Santa Fe, New York, New Orleans, Atlanta, Omaha, Lincoln, Novato, and Nacogdoches. He has gallery representation in Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Detroit.

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