Being a 40-year-old commercial artist and graphic designer, gallery work has always been an idea in the back of my mind. I haven’t dedicated much effort to painting and showing because most of my creative energies are spent in the day-to-day of a design and illustration studio in Buffalo, NY. The gallery seems to be an allusive place where I’m required to be extroverted and share my thoughts and experiences. It does, however, offer an opportunity to create something purely for my own, with materials that allow for exploration.
While in school at RIT, I began to develop a loose, painterly style because I liked to convey action or even emotion of the moment. I was leaning more towards candid portraiture since most of my interests laid in music and sports. In 2000 I attended The School of Visual Art (SVA) in New York City to further develop my visual storytelling. Here, I began to include collaged elements—paper, photos, notes—to help explain the storyline and add visual texture.
Many of my older paintings focused on personal life experiences or at least followed a surreal storytelling approach and almost always involved a figure. I was exploring concepts of home and family, along with the stresses of caring for an ill parent.
A few years ago, after taking some time off from painting, I began drawing the chickens we raising on our small farm. It started merely as an exercise in making art, but I rather enjoyed it because there wasn’t much thought involved. I just drew pictures that I wanted to draw. That experiment has since sparked a number of paintings and drawings, and a new excitement which has allowed me to focus on style. I also get to talk about my chickens.
The series I worked on for the Dream State show a came at a time when my wife had just experienced a guided meditation dream involving an owl. Even before the show I knew that I wanted to do some type of bird interaction so it was perfect timing. Owl dreams have so many interpretations, but I did the best I could to remain close to her experience. The focus, of course, was the majestic owl guide in a outer space-like atmosphere.
I’m most comfortable with acrylic paint because it’s fast drying, easy to control, and easy to clean up. It works well with collaged elements and layering of drawings. I typically work with washes of color to build the forms but quickly move to a dry brush technique to layer on the paint. I like to mix the color on the surface, so many times I’ll just use paint straight from the tube. For sometime I’ve used basically the same 6 colors: black, raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, pthalo blue, and gesso as my white. I only have 3–4 brushes that I’m comfortable using so I try to make it work with what little I have. Again, I would not classify myself as a fine artist.
Five paintings by Matt Duquette can be seen in Dream State, on display through February 16, 2018. The exhibition also features photographs by Bill Finger (Seattle, WA), sculpture by Carrianne Hendrickson (Rochester, NY), and paintings by Lin Price (Ithaca, NY). Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased online.