The What is Drawing? Project: Featuring Michael K. Paxton

What is Drawing?

To complement The What is Painting? Project and further the overall dialogue Neoteric Art introduces The What Is Drawing? Project. The guidelines are the same: I thought it would be intriguing to ask artists 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 Drawing?
Featuring Michael K. Paxton

I have always considered drawing to more of a place than a thing. As a young child growing up in a small coal camp in southern West Virginia in deepest Appalachia, my exposure to art was less than none. However at some point very early on and for some long forgotten reason I had a need to copy the Sunday comics. Finding a piece of paper and a pencil I began to consider Daffy Duck, Pluto, Pogo and while doing so the outside world seemed to fade away for a moment as I entered a private world of both extreme focus and odd pleasure. Never a good student and stuck in a three room cinderblock school house along the C&O Railroad right of way where three teacher taught six grades, two grades to room, my inability to read was replaced with an ability to copy exactly pictures in books. At some point my parents would buy a small pad of paper at the grocery store and later my father found a large roll of discarded blueprints that I used the backs of to make much larger drawings. All along through my wild years of growing up I was always pulled towards that secret quiet world of rendering on the backs of scrap paper that became a doorway to my own private escape.

Fast forward to now, as a sixty three year old Chicago artist with a forty-year career and whole sea of work behind me, this dedication to the act of drawing has been my ticket to adventure, travel and yes, survival. With each difficult step forward a few hard won principles have informed what, why and how I approach making marks on a surface. First is that drawing is an activity that happens from the eyebrows down, thinking is a sort of anti drawing because the conversation and constant debate is between my eyes and my hands. Second, the power of the simplest tools of drawing, charcoal, chalk, ink, etc. have the real ability to redefine space by making the very walls of a gallery or museum move. Third, drawing is an organic process that can only grow through endless repetition, nurturing and faith. Next is that there is nowhere to hide in a drawing, the first mark to the last mark are visible, flavoring and controlling the whole endeavor. Lastly, drawing is an act devoid of embarrassment, an honest and authentic folk song felt through the windows to our souls.

As a mature artist, a life’s work has pointed me towards a pretty entrenched outpost where my one companion is my constant and over riding need to draw, it is home. After reams of art theory read, numerous exhibitions seen and mounted and after years as an instructor of college drawing classes at all levels, what drawing is, is as much of a mystery as it was when I was a child on the floor in Logan County with the Sunday funnies copying away.

Michael Paxton

Michael K. Paxton, Cream and Coal, chalk, charcoal, gesso on prepared raw canvas, 72 x 96 inches, 2015

Michael K. Paxton is a sixth generation West Virginian and Chicago based artist with forty years of dedicated work. Recent highlights include the group exhibitions On Big Drawings at the Averill and Bernard Leviton A&D Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago that featured a forty-four page catalog supported in part by a grant from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the major group retrospective Between Rock and an Art Place, curator Robert Croker, presented at The University of Georgia Lamar School of Art Gallery, Athens, GA, along with Color Formed Space at Addington Gallery, Chicago, IL.

Other recent highlights include being awarded fellowships with Air le Parc, Project and Research Center, Pampelonne, France in 2012 and Jentel Artist Residency Program, Banner, Wyoming in 2013. Major one-person exhibitions include Miami University Museum of Art, Oxford, Ohio, the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL, Loyola University Crown Center, Chicago, IL, the Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL, Laura Mesaros Gallery, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, and Linda Warren Projects, Chicago, IL, among many others. He has received grants from the Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Inc., New York, three Illinois Arts Council Grants which include a Fellowship in Visual Art Award, three Part-Time Faculty Development Grants from the CITE, Columbia College, two CAAP grants from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and a Marshall University 2013 Alumni Award of Distinction presented by the Alumni Association and the College of Fine Arts, Huntington, WV.

Other notables include a wall-size drawing installed into the Kirkland and Ellis collection in San Francisco, being published in New American Paintings, Linework and Art and Soul that celebrated fifty of the most noted West Virginians in the arts. He was selected to be the sole juror for both Union Images Exhibition, Chicago Cultural Center and the Mid Atlantic Foundation & Delaware Division of the Arts for the Individual Artist Fellowships: Works on Paper. Major commissions of his work include the 7th District Federal Reserve Bank, Chicago, Christel De Haan Collection, Zionsville, IN, John and Lucia Hollister Collection, Chicago, IL and Jensen Metal, Inc. in Racine, WI.

Michael is an adjunct faculty member of Columbia College, Chicago since 2005 and has BA in Art from Marshall University, 1975 and an MFA in Drawing and Painting from The University of Georgia, 1979.

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