Mashpee artist Richard Pawlak will be the featured artist at a wine-and-cheese reception Friday, September 15, from 5 to 7 PM at Creative Hands Gallery in Sandwich. The reception is free and open to the public.
Mr. Pawlak will have work on display from his “Bus Stop” series, a group of acrylic paintings made from sketches Mr. Pawlak made when he lived in Chelsea of people waiting for the bus. Mr. Pawlak made the drawings more than 30 years ago but has only recently taken them and created paintings from the gestural drawings.
“I just stumbled across the sketches and thought I could make a series out of it,” said Mr. Pawlak, who also paints landscapes and cityscapes.
There is not a lot of detail in the faces of his subjects: “I tried to capture the characteristics of a person, without a lot of detail,” Mr. Pawlak said.
The paintings include individual people, couples, men with hats and briefcases, women in head coverings, and even a lone dog.
There were no backgrounds to the sketches. In many cases the only other object besides the people is a bus stop sign, so Mr. Pawlak said he invented the palette for the background, in many cases warm ocher and peach tones. Even though they appear in warm colors, the drawings look as though they were made in winter. Mr. Pawlak said he doesn’t remember the time period, or over how many weeks or months he created the original sketches. By the looks of the people in their hats and long coats he estimates it was during a cold winter.
Mr. Pawlak tends to paint in series; some recent ones with Cape Cod themes include “Marshbirds” and “South Cape Escapes.” In addition to Creative Hands Gallery, his work can be seen at Sargent Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard and the Cataumet Arts Center.
While he will sketch in the field, his paintings are created in his studio, sometimes from sketches and sometimes from composite images collected mentally through years of observing people, nature and cityscapes.
One painting of a group of five birds might represent his family; he and his wife, Jan, live with their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter.
“Sometime I think these are all self-portraits” he said of the series “Blue Man,” which features a solitary upright man in lonely landscapes in varying degrees of abstraction.
“I’ve been interested in drawing as far back as I can remember,” said Mr. Pawlak, who studied painting at the New England School of Art in Boston and the Montserrat School of Art in Beverly.
“I had some excellent teachers,” he said, singling out Oliver Balf and Paul Scott—both students of abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann, who lived and taught in Provincetown—in particular. Mr. Pawlak credited his abstract style to the influence of his instructors and Hans Hofmann.
Mr. Pawlak uses a layered technique to create his paintings, which are both simple and complex. Subjects are usually confined to simple images: a bird, a repetition of triple-decker buildings or warehouses, a single person or two people. It’s the brush and knife or palette work layered on the canvas that’s complex. Up-close the painting is abstract; from farther off the texture can make it look as exacting as a photograph.
“I layer and scratch in different ways—sometimes a palette knife, sometimes a razor blade. I just build up textures.”
Mr. Pawlak said he used to work in oils but switched to acrylic because the medium is less harmful to the body.
“Most of my paintings have both chaos and structure,” said Mr. Pawlak, who demonstrated his technique by applying a third layer of paint to a canvas—a blue coat, applied with a Venetian plaster trowel. The effect was reductive, revealing scratches and markings Mr. Pawlak had applied in the previous layer; it was similar to a scratchboard, where instead of applying line or color, the artist scratches it away.
“Not only does it give you a nice layered look,” said Mr. Pawlak, who estimated that most of his paintings have between six and eight layers to them, but “it also strengthens the paper, so if I beat it up with a razor blade, it can take the punishment.”
Mr. Pawlak had several layered backgrounds completed in his studio waiting for subjects. “It’s probably going to be another series,” he said, adding, “I have some ideas but I don’t want to reveal it yet.”
Mr. Pawlak works doing historical restoration and mural repair in and around Boston, including restoration work at the Boston Opera House. The work is interesting and challenging and has even brought him to the top of the State House in Boston to re-gild the gold dome.
In addition to paintings, Mr. Pawlak will have smaller pieces such as greeting cards with images and details of his paintings at Creative Hands.
Creative Hands Gallery is at 550 Route 6A in East Sandwich.