This month’s feature artist is Bruce Chandler, who is a founding member of the Washington Street Artists’ Cooperative. Bruce has been an artist since 1976. He worked with stained glass from 1976 until 1999. In 1993, Bruce took an interest in painting, working in oil, watercolor and acrylic. Today, he works primarily with oil paint.
When asked about his current project, he responded, “With a palette knife, I’m working on a painting of several large clay planting pots, grouped together outdoors, all the same color. Because they are in sunlight, there are several tones of the same color that I’m trying to capture, along with the multiple shadows, grouped upon one another, that these pots have created.” This painting is a challenge to improve his ability to see the complexities of tone that are created by just one color. To the average observer, dealing with one color might appear to be simple, but when you really look at a subject in order to paint it, you’ll find the tones to be quite intricate. “Just getting the one color I want can be a surprise, depending on how I’ve toned the canvas.”
Most of Bruce’s work is created from photographs he has taken, which he uses as templates as a point of departure for his compositions. He considers the photography to be part of his creative process. The photos inform his ongoing investigations into light and shadow.
How did Bruce get started? “It was a water color I did while in elementary school, of the Easter bunny. My teacher liked it very much and gave me a “gold star”. Of course, that felt great and I think, that I still have that painting among my belongings. I’ll have to look for it. I think on a very subtle level, that [encouragement] has always been an inspiration for me.”
The deciding moment to become an artist came later – from a challenge he received from his mother while they were looking at Impressionist paintings in the National Gallery. “There was a particular painting I liked and I said, ‘I wish I could paint like that.’ My mother replied, ‘Well, why don’t you?’ Her answer really resonated with me and I asked myself, ‘Well, why not?’ That was the beginning. A couple of months later, I enrolled in a drawing course.”
From 1992 – 1997 Bruce studied art at Montgomery College. He explored various media including watercolor and oil paint. He studied drawing and figure painting. Since March 2010, he has studied with Dianne Bugash in Rockville, Maryland, where he has become particularly interested in abstract art and the effects of light and shadow on faces.
He’s been working on a series of portraits studied from photographs taken at least 60, and in many cases, about 100 years ago. “I find these images interesting as they are different from contemporary portraiture, particularly in lighting, hair styles, clothing and demeanor of the subjects.” Bruce exhibited some of them last October at Artomatic at Jefferson, and showed more of the series last month in a group at the Cooperative, entitled “A Look Back.”
Bruce also produced a series of abstract paintings last year for a group show at the Cooperative last fall. The theme of the show dealt with the elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The decision to work in the abstract was an exciting challenge for him. Before the show, he described his paintings as “very different from his usual work” with a big smile on his face!
The abstracts were very different from his usual subject matter of seascape, landscape, still life, figure and portrait studies. When you look across the range of his work, you’ll see his interest in light and shadow and their effects on color, which are ongoing sources of investigation as he strives to improve his painting skills and artistic sensibilities. Bruce is a thoughtful painter, communicating these interests to his viewers.
Bruce has been active with several galleries over the years. He was a member of A Salon Ltd., Wilson Center Gallery, Washington, D.C. where he participated in two juried shows. He was a member of the Washington Street Gallery, a privately owned gallery that opened in 2010 and pre-cursor to the Washington Street Artists’ Cooperative, which was formed in 2011. Bruce’s paintings can be seen at the gallery every Wednesday – Sunday from 12:00 – 5:00 PM.