Sarah Baptist is digging deep, down through her layers of oil paint, down through the lessons she has learned from Diebenkorn’s work. The result?
“Across the Road,” by Sarah Baptist, 2014, oil on panel, 10 x 10 in.
“I love that there’s a history to a painting,” says Baptist. “If I make a mistake, I leave some of it, because it is part of the history of the painting.” The first thing that a viewer may notice in Baptist’s recent work is the pencil lines. At some point in the painting process, after much oil paint has been placed, Baptist will come in with a graphite pencil and draw lines. At first, this was her workaround for power lines, which she couldn’t depict with a brush to her satisfaction. A pencil provided a good balance of digging down and displacing oil paint, and leaving a new graphite mark. When it became too explicit or overpowering, Baptist would smudge the line a bit with her finger.
“Goodwill,” by Sarah Baptist, 2014, oil on panel, 10 x 10 in.
“Pizza,” by Sarah Baptist, 2014, oil on paper, 9 x 11 in.
Baptist had played around with the idea of drawing on her oil paintings for a bit, but the concept came to fruition last April, during a plein air event in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “I love the back alleys; I don’t know why that attracts me,” says Baptist. “But when I look up and see the design of all the wires going everywhere, it excites me. I say, ‘Cool, that’s what I want to paint.’ The piece in West Chester was the one where it really just sang for the first time. I realized that this is how I could incorporate my line in painting. It’s a nice marriage; one doesn’t overtake the other. The geometry and energy of the lines of the wires that the pencil can give me is what I want.”
“Shipley & 8th,” by Sarah Baptist, 2014, oil on panel, 8 x 10 in.
The Delaware artist is pushing her process further, and for her that means further into abstraction. Her guiding stars are Robert Motherwell, Euan Uglow, and especially Richard Diebenkorn. Baptist is looking forward to further abstracting her work. She has already started to treat the geometric shapes created by power lines as elements worthy of independent treatment, rather than as pieces of the same pie. “It’s almost like I am coloring in that part of the sky,” says Baptist. “I am abstracting those shapes and treating them like a block, as opposed to having the wire and lines go through and around the sky. I am trying to look at bigger, broader shapes, but you have to work at the pace in which you are working. I will get there.”
“Pole,” by Sarah Baptist, 2014, oil on cradled panel, 6 x 8 in.
Through it all, she is a devoted plein air painter. The places she will take abstraction will likely be interesting.