WASTE NOT:  The Peripheral Art Philosophy

pe·riph·er·al – adjectiverelating to or situated on the edge or periphery of something.

If you Google the phrase “peripheral art”, you’ll find results for “Peripheral Artery Disease”. It’s not a term used in art classes or schools. However, contemporary abstract artist Jim Klein has come to use this phrase to describe an integral philosophy he lives by when creating his paintings. He took some time to describe what “peripheral art” is and how this philosophy affects his work.

What is peripheral art?
Jim: Peripheral art is the term I use to describe paintings produced from my personal conviction to not waste paint.

How did this philosophy start?
Jim: I can trace the origins of this back to my art mentor. He told me in no uncertain terms that throwing away art is an unforgivable sin; that if you dislike what you’re creating, that only means the art is not yet complete.

I recall this starting on the farm studio in Colorado. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t like to waste paint, but sometimes you squeeze too much onto the palette. Before employing the practice of peripheral art, I’d set up at a spot to paint and reach a spot in my painting where I felt the piece could be complete. Many times, I would still have paint on my palette and you can’t successfully return paint to its container. In order to prevent waste, I would keep painting. This led to overpainting my canvases, which was very frustrating. I would reach a good end spot but have plenty of paint that I refused to waste, and then I didn’t like the outcome.

How did you remedy the situation?
I ended up buying and bringing more canvases. Any time I set up to work, I bring multiple canvases and arrange them around me. While working on one canvas, I would clean my brushes and knives on these peripheral canvases. While this method evolved from my desire to be frugal, some amazing art has emerged from simply having more canvases around. It’s like staring at the clouds: you stand there, stare at it a while and then you begin to see something form. Thus the term “peripheral art”.

What are some examples of artwork that are the result of “peripheral art”?
I have many paintings that arose from this practice. A good example is Gatherers”,  a very popular piece from my Africa series which has since found a home.

Another is Curtsy and Bow”. I remember that that day very clearly… My granddaughter was in the Farm Studio painting with me. She had her own canvas and was working diligently on a piece with lots of blue-teal paint. I had been struggling with my own piece at the time and left it hanging into the Incubation Room. As the canvas was hanging in there, I liked how the art was forming, but I sensed it still needed something. I noticed my granddaughter had plenty of teal paint left over on her palette. Then it hit me. I grabbed her leftover palette and knife and it became “Curtsy and Bow”. I’ve been told it’s one of my best paintings. It’s since gone to a great home as well.

Since realizing this way of painting, I have not thrown any canvases away. Some canvases end up with many layers of paint and the finished piece will have a lot of texture, but they turn out well and I don’t miss out on the opportunity of another finished painting.

I am working on a canvas right now that has a lot of red. It kept me stuck for a good amount of time. I had to work on other pieces, use it as peripheral art, walk away from it… and once the different colors began to compliment the red, the painting began to shape. Sometimes a painting just needs some time.

I’ve also begun this practice in the Art Factory in Scottsdale. If you walk by and stop in to visit, you’ll see many canvases set up at different stages.

What should aspiring artists take away from your philosophy?
If you don’t like your art, sometimes the artwork just isn’t finished yet. Also, don’t waste good paint.

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