Mainly Goldenrod — Works by Joe Witzel

The opening reception of recent works by Joe Witzel is held at PANZA Gallery in Millvale yesterday. Joe, living in Troy hill of Pittsburgh, frequently drives up to Moraine State Park to draw the goldenrods in different seasons. When I stood in a full room of goldenrod paintings in vivid colors and eye-catching forms, the first question I asked is why I didn’t see the beauty of them before, which have filled the slopes of shopping malls around Pittsburgh with their untamed green and bright yellow.

All goldenrods are painted with pastels, but they look more like oil paintings from Van Gogh: short strokes wildly drawing in diagonal manner, the majority in green and yellow, and the visible thickness of bright yellow tints built up on other layers. All these indicate energetic creation processes in plein-air. Later, Joe told me most of the works were done within three hours range on-site, with possibly some final touch-ups in his studio.

Looking closely at those pastel paintings shows that Joe specifically has chosen grey green paper for most of his works because he did not physically blend colors. Thus a base color with the right tone and hue is cruicial. Without being covered fully with Unison pastel sticks, the papers , here and there, show the base color and give the depth and vibrance to the whole pictures.

In most cases, he places strokes of different color on top of others. Sometimes feathering or scumbling are used but kept at minimum. Therefore, each stroke preserves its pristine freshness, yearning to tell people how the whole image comes into being from hands with masterful drawing skills once you can step back to allow different strokes of colors blend into your eyes.

The Canson paper that he used for the majority of the pictures cannot hold many layers thus mistakes made can hardly be corrected without compromising the raw state of stroke work. He told me there are some failed pieces but these survived successful works look incredibly crispy and clear compared to Wolf Kahn’s haze color patches.

Other ink and pencil drawings show Joe is very efficient in his drawings. Each line has its meaning. There is no scribble or smudge. Shades and shadow are done by changes in intensity and density of short strokes. If Wolf Kahn’s pastel determines his oil work, then Joe’s economical stroke style in pastel can be fully appreciated in those ink and pencil drawings.

Mainly Goldenrod – Recent works by Joe Witzel can be seen until Sept 29, 2007 at PANZA Gallery.

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 - 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that "his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

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