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Curtis Verdun, Art by Abstraction
Curtis Verdun, the eldest of the 3 artist brothers, is an abstract and portrait artist working out of his studio, deep in the bayou country of Southeast Louisiana. This area's rich culture and unique landscape has inspired the artist's work over the last 4 decades. One of the fondest memories during the artist's early life, Verdun recalls Christmas of '74. He was 12 years old then and one of the gifts his parents had given him was a Grumbacher oil painting starter set. Up to that point he had always been drawing and painting with whatever materials were available. This gift gave him more confidence and strengthened his desire to paint and he soon developed the ability to paint likenesses of people and at 13 he completed his first oil portrait commission. Oil portraits became his mainstay for many years. Commission clients since then have included universities, churches and other businesses as well as individual collectors of fine art.
Curtis is pretty much a self-taught artist, except for a portrait workshop with Daniel Green and a seminar with John Howard Sanden in the eighties. He feels that throughout his career he has learned much from reading about the great masters, both in technique and aesthetics. (Some of his favorite painters are among the Abstract Expressionists.) To accelerate his learning, he has also copied their works, experimented with their various painting techniques and methods and prepared painting mediums according to their recipes. He now even grinds some of his oil paints himself and has also built and stretched many of his own canvases.
When asked about where he learned to paint, his answer is, "My subjects teach me."
"Many will say that figure studies are the best subjects an artist can learn from. Maybe so, but when placed before an easel to create a portrait, an artist is faced with a unique challenge. Not only does he have to render form as he would for any other subject, now he does not have the unrestricted "artistic license" to reconstruct an image in any way he likes. Every portion of that form needs to be modeled within a rather narrow latitude in order to gain a convincing likeness. It's much less forgiving than figure studies."
This same requirement for precise execution also applies to the seemingless random strokes of many abstract paintings. You would think it didn't matter as much, but every nuance of each passage is vital to the feel, depth and character of the completed artwork. For this reason, Curtis realizes that much of his artistic talents can be attributed to the intensive training he has received while painting numerous portraits over the years.
His work is respected in his community and he has done several lectures and workshops in the area.
In 2002, Curtis began broadening his subject matter and genre and is now producing more abstract paintings and non-figurative works in addition to traditional portraits and landscapes. He has found himself at home in this new realm and was surprised to find substantial demand for his new abstract art, both locally and abroad.
Through abstract and non-figurative painting Curtis feels he has a newfound opportunity for greater creativity and artistic expression.
Curtis was born a Native American Indian of the Biloxi-Chitimachas. He feels that his heritage has had a strong influence on his work and his outlook on life. The South Louisiana area where he lives has such wonderfully diverse people, a rich culture and breathtaking landscapes - all very influential to his work as a Louisiana artist.
Without the power of artistic expression, we would just do and say things as plain as computers or "androids". Nothing colorful would ever be expressed. Without art there would be no jokes, no music. Dancing would make no sense and everything we do and everything we have would be for utility only. BUT, the ability to create, perform, comprehend and appreciate art - that makes everything different! Art heightens our life experience. It offers a spiritual insight to all that we are. With the gift of artistic and creative abilities, ideas and emotions can really be expressed. We can really communicate - not merely words and facts - but thoughts, ideas and feelings. In fact, "art is the only means by which one soul can truly touch another".
Art awakens the soul!
"Drama of tone" is what Verdun endeavors in his work, abstract and figurative. He feels that tone is the most basic component of an image and that everything else, including color, is dependent on it. With well-executed passages, he aims to move and awaken the viewer by his images. "It's not enough that the spectator simply sees my work, they should feel it. If they feel nothing, I have failed."
Over the past several years, Curtis has found himself using the painting knife more and more for his abstract paintings. Currently, for most of his recent works, he uses only painting knives and rarely a brush. This method provides the look he wants to achieve in his abstracts. The painting knife provides the crisp texture found in many areas of his work and yet it also allows for surprisingly smooth passages when desired. It is this "rhythm of texture" that has become his key signature.
Curtis longs to be able to reproduce the "full grandeur" of the images that his imagination conjures up. That's what draws him to more abstract and non-figurative art. It is not some "alternative to realism" as some might consider - as though it was a choice based on taste. It is rather a matter of what the artist wants to say and how he can say it best. The abstract genre affords the artist a greater freedom to more fully present his ideas without being tethered to what he visually sees.
"It is only by the complete detachment from visible reality that an artist can directly communicate to others the very essence of the message to be conveyed. It is a pure and unobstructed path from soul to soul." - Curtis Verdun