Paul Sattler: Remedy


Paul Sattler, “Remedy”, 66″ x 66″, oil on canvas, 2015

Artist Paul Sattler has a new exhibit opening at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, titled Remedy: About a Decade of Painting.  The show includes 20 paintings made over the last ten years, including 10 from a super-productive 2015.   You can read our 2009 interview with Sattler here.

Interview with Eric Sall

Full Phase

“Full Phase”, 2014, oil on canvas, 78″ x 96″

Eric Sall returns to Kansas City with an exhibit, Full Phase, at Haw Contemporary.  Sall is an artist we have followed for a long time.  We have discussed enthusiastically here on MWC; and we reprinted an interview he conducted with late Kansas City artist Lester Goldman, but we have never spoken to Sall himself.  With this new ambitious body of work, it seemed like time to reach out.  The paintings in Full Phase has a lot in common with the paintings he’s made in the past.  The Day Glo colors, stripes, gooey paint, more stripes are all there. He’s also absorbed some new forms.   The most exciting new twists evoke traditional blankets and patchwork quilts.  Key parts of the interview that follows discuss his process and the material parts of his paintings.  I want to thank Dennis Helsel for suggesting a question or two in this interview.

 Please give our readers a little bit of information about yourself.

I grew up in the small city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In high school I lived out in the Black Hills in the Lead-Deadwood area, where Western legends Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane used to reside. I then went to the Kansas City Art Institute for college and later on went to [Virginia Commonwealth University] for my Master’s in painting.

 Many of us don’t grow up with painting and art as part of our daily life, our routes into the fine arts are circuitous.  Was that your experience?  How and when did you say, ‘I’m going to do this’?

I always loved to draw as a child but I probably really got into art through skateboarding. I was pretty bad at traditional sports so it makes sense that I was so drawn to the culture of skateboarding which seemed to embrace all the “different” kids, especially back  in the late 80’s/early 90’s when skateboarding was more counterculture. Plus my older sister Emily was hanging out with all the punks and skaters and I desperately wanted to be cool like her and her friends. It turned out that I was actually pretty good at skateboarding, and like most teens I thought I could become pro and that was my dream. Skateboarding introduced me to new forms of music and different styles of visual art, and most importantly it gave me a sense of independence, focus and determination that I hadn’t had before. That is probably when I first started thinking like an artist without even knowing it. A big part of skateboarding is about learning your way through constant exposure, absorption, interpretation, trial and error, and lots of failure. In a way it is very similar to painting.

Coinciding with that, I attended a pretty small high school but I had a fantastic art teacher who gave me a lot of freedom in class to try knew things. I remember having huge amounts of Utrecht oil paint available to us, and I was one of the kids who liked to use a lot of it up, so I was experimenting with texture and surface and process all through my four years of high school. I knew about the Kansas City Art Institute after having spent a year living in KC during my early teen years, and I basically just assumed that I would go there after high school. Fortunately I got in because it was the only college I applied to.


“Frazada”, 2014, oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″

What is a day in the studio like for you?

 I don’t have a set routine as far as hours spent working or anything like that, but I do have a routine when I get in there.  I change into work clothes, put on my Crocs, put on some music and then just get busy. Sometimes I have to clean up a mess left behind from a previous session. Or sometimes I just want to spend some time looking at what I’m working on.  I don’t have a lot of leisure time in my studio so I try to make the most efficient use of any time I get. My wife [Rachel Hayes] is an artist too and we have two small kids at home still. We both work full time on our art, so we have to find a balance of being in the studio and being with the kids that is pretty organic. Sometimes I go for weeks not being in the studio if Rachel is working on a deadline and vice versa, but that is okay, because there is always plenty of work to do that doesn’t necessarily take place in the studio. Emailing, researching, working on applications, sourcing materials, running errands, etc, etc etc.

Tell us about one useful thing you were taught or told.

How to build a stretcher. Something we were taught as sophomore painters at the Kansas City Art Institute. I made my own stretchers for years, and then when I lived in Brooklyn I payed someone to make my stretchers out of pure convenience. Time is everything there and I never seemed to have enough. But there is something deeply satisfying about building your own great stretchers and I’m happy to have made several recently.

What is the hard part of painting for you?

Walking away from a painting and calling it finished.

What is the fun part?

The beginning of a painting, making the first moves on a new canvas.

What are you getting better at?

Walking away from a painting and calling it finished.

Are you an improviser?



“Hodgepodge”, 2014, oil, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 78″ x 96″

A friend suggested I ask what your thoughts are on the current state of abstract painting.  It’s a great question, but let’s put it a little less “wide angle.”  Thinking about larger contexts; about the ideas and forms being used or neglected by current abstract painters; about pressures to be allied with, or opposed to the work or motivations of one’s contemporaries– how useful is that to you?  Does that way of thinking have a role in your work?  

 I definitely like to be aware of what’s going on with contemporary painting and think it is important to know about, especially since I have been living in the middle of nowhere for a while. But honestly it has almost zero affect on me in the studio. I actually make better work when I’m not obsessing about other painters or comparing my work to other work. There is just so much work being made now, good and bad, abstract and not, painting or whatever. And we can see it all so easily online, on our phones, on Instagram. Sometimes I see work that I think of as being a similar type as mine, and then I see work that seems so different than mine. I think you kind of find the things that you’re drawn to and that move you regardless. I guess I’ve never really felt like I had to take a stance against a certain type of painting or had to align myself with a certain group. I just don’t think it is that important anymore.  

Your paintings overall have kind of a friendly, playful, maybe nostalgic vibe.  But there’s often a little gritty, grungy bit in there some where, in terms of color or texture, things that look wiped down or scraped out.  I am curious to know more about those bits.  Is this something that’s done totally intentionally, like you walk into the studio one day and say, “now I’m painting the messy part?”  Or is it more a part of the process, evidence of an earlier state that’s been interrupted or overridden?

It’s a little bit of both, but I might describe it a little differently. I  wouldn’t say that it is an attempt to paint the “messy” part per se, but there are times where I feel like things need to be agitated in a way…that could mean doing something like dragging thick paint over the top of a flatly-painted area, or scraping out a specific shape in order to obscure it somehow. These things also happen when I think something is failing in a painting and I just want to wipe things away or scrape off bad areas. It is just a gut reaction, and often those bits are just a real part of the process. Wet paint drips. Thick paint clumps. Colors bleed into each other and make new colors. Sometimes chunks fall down and land somewhere else on the canvas. But then I’ll do something intentional like painting a hard-edged geometric shape on top of an area of thick texture or heavy impasto. It is a constant dance between intention and accident, and that is one of the reasons why I am such an improviser.   


“Grey Painting”, 2013, oil on canvas, 66″ x 50″

Is there anything else we should be asking you about, that’s relevant to your work right now?  Do you ever see deer in your front yard, or where’s the best place for coffee around there, anything like that we should know about?

I’ve been living in Roswell, NM since last summer with my wife Rachel Hayes and our two kids while Rachel and I attended the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program. The compound is pretty rural, all of the houses and studios sit in the middle of 40 acres of desert brush landscape. So yes, we do see deer, fox, roadrunners, lots of lizards, scorpions, tarantulas and plenty of other exciting stuff! There is an incredible sense of open space here, which for me feels great. I feel very free in life and very focused in my studio. But that will inevitably change and who knows what the effect will be. We seem to move somewhere new every year or two, and from here we are moving to Tulsa, OK for another residency where we will live and work right downtown, and I know that will have a different influence on my work. Each place does.


Thank you, Eric!  Best luck on the show!


Read more MWC artist interviews here.








“The Accident”, oil on panel, 11″ x 14″


Julie Farstad is showing new paintings at Zg Gallery in Chicago.  The exhibit, titled Orange Skies, Pink Morning opens Friday, November 6.  MWC ran an interview with Farstad in April.  You can read that here.


Anne Harris has a solo exhibit at Cultivator Chicago, on view until December 13th.  Here’s a quote from the press materials: “I’ve been painting and drawing these malleable self-portraits for the last 25 years. Self-perception is so murky—we see through the lens of our expectations. It seems my life’s work is built around an anxious slippage of self-confidence that started about age 12, a combination of self-awareness and self-misunderstanding…. “

Read our terrific recent interview with Harris here.

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Heather Elizabeth Garland, “Narcissist/Mirror”, 40″ x 30″ oil and Prismacolor on panel, 2014

A second installment of our ongoing series, asking an artist how he or she decides to call.  This time I asked Heather Garland, a painter living and working in Brooklyn, NY to talk about her work.  Some of Garland’s works are open-ended, taking months or years to resolve and others involve distinct layers that she refers to here as “fairly step by step”.  She has different modes of finishing and different perspectives.  Here she also talks a little about the afterward of a painting.  At the point when the painting itself seems finished, she feels some time needs to be given to understanding it, and thinking about what to do next.  Visit her website to see more of her paintings and views of a recent installation, “The Wanderers”.


Are you a good closer?

I am a good closer. I work in a variety of modes from traditional oil painting approaches to repetitive drawing to mixed media installation. It all stems from painting, but with a hybridity of forms causing each “closing” to occur by different means. Continue Reading »

On Finishing: some thoughts

Football c-1

The second installment of “On Finishing” will be posted next week.  In the meantime, I wonder, are you listening to the Hidden Brain podcast from NPR’s Shankar Vedantam?  There’s an episode from last month, “Near Wins and Not Quites: How Almost Winning Can Be Motivating” that might be interesting to think about to as you read the artists’ responses in this series.   I can’t vouch for the interview with the country singer at the end…skipped it…but the rest of the podcast is good!

Q & A with Tim Tozer


“The Second Visit”, 2015, oil on canvas, 50″ x 54″

MW Capacity has published dozens of interviews with artists at this point.  There are a few that have a special resonance to me–the words of artists that act as a push or a spark or a stimulant.  This interview is one of those.  So much of what’s exciting and frustrating and funny about painting comes through in this interview.  The same is true for Tim Tozer’s paintings.  It’s clear this is an artist who finds it easy to love paint.  An artist who enjoys all that gloopy, colorful eventfulness that can be transformed into a meaningful encounter.  In the artist’s words: “It seems impossible to carry all that in every mark, but there seems no point to painting at all unless there’s an honest attempt to try something nearly impossible.”

Tim Tozer’s exhibit The Visit is on view at Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis until October 17, 2015.

Please give our readers a little bit of information about yourself (upbringing, education, location, news, etc.):

I grew up in Portsmouth, a city on the South coast of England. I did my undergraduate degree in Belfast, and my graduate degree at the New York Academy of Art. I’ve lived in the US ever since, although I’m still a British citizen. Currently, I live in Minneapolis and teach at the Univeristy of Wiscosin-Stout.

Many of us don’t grow up with painting and art as part of our daily life, our routes into the fine arts are circuitous.  Was that your experience?  How and when did you say, ‘I’m going to do this’?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that took the arts seriously, and in a town not too far from London. My mother (an art teacher and artist) took me there frequently to see shows, and it was her influence that led me to painting. In 1984, the Hayward Gallery held what I think was Lucian Freud’s first retrospective, and seeing that was a decisive moment. My culture in the UK also served me well; there were documentaries on artists frequently on British television, as well as challenging films and TV series. I feel as though many of my students in the Mid West are not as well served by their culture. Continue Reading »


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