did he get his ideas for compositions?
Fontaine worked out his compositions first in black charcoal, conte or
oil crayons on tablet sized onion skin paper. He was a strong believer in Notan
theory. The composition should hold no matter how you turn the sheet of
paper. Many of his compositions were reused the entire span of his work.
Compositions he first derived in the 50's were still reappearing in
paintings the 80's and 90's.(see Series )On the other hand, many
paintings were scrapped and completely painted over; or a painting would
be worked on or lay dormant for 4 or 5 years, finally finishing it when he got an
idea he is looking for.
Another technique for discovering
compositions was to look for ideas in paintings already finished. He would move a
small frame of cardboard around a canvas and detect other compositions.
Paul explaining one of his methods for discovering new compositions.
Can you find the two
paintings that these squares became? and the painting he took them from?
(hint: they are from around 1995)
Why do so many paintings seem to be studies for larger works?
Fontaine did his paintings in stages. After his initial trial on
paper, he frequently tried out the composition in different media and
sizes to test if the ideas still held together. He often did a watercolor, a small
version of the painting in acrylic on canvas (14 x 16) and then a medium
sized work (36 x 40) and only finally a large (48 x 60) . If he really
liked the results then often he would do 2 or three of similar compositions in different
pallets. Or if one painting sold particularly well, an almost exact copy would come
along.Another more economic reason for studies, is they are more
affordable for buyers. A watercolor and small acrylic were sold for a tenth of the price
of a large painting. Also not everyone has a lot of wall space but still wanted to own a
Fontaine. This made it possible. See Series
|Sometimes I see natural
objects in the painting, but the title doesn't imply that the painting is
representational. What should I think?
Fontaine at times did derive his compositions from natural objects,(see Huichol (see the outline of a Mexican
Huichol Indian) or Herbsbild (German
for Fall Painting..the colors are fall colors and the shapes reminiscent of trees) but in
most cases if you see something you think you recognize that is the power of your imagination
working for you. That the painting's action and colors move you in some way, is all
Fontaine was hoping to achieve.
|How long did it take him to
paint a painting?
Well that depends. Fontaine worked his paintings in a wet technique, building on
top of transparencies to add depth. Some paintings were done in a week
and some he would rework for five years. The watercolors were
usually completed in one sitting because he worked wet and had to be
completed quickly to keep the effect he wanted. If he wanted to add some dry textures, the
painting might be over several sessions.
Did he use other kinds of painting tools besides brushes ?
Just like his paints, Fontaine used the hardware store for his tool ideas. He used
very wide painters brushes, but you will see some paintings have sponge patterns and
rolling painters brushes patterns as well. He used strait edges, but never any drip
techniques except by accident.
|Where did he get his supplies?
Fontaine was known for his frugality. That was the main reason he
switched to acrylic painting from oil. Oils were too expensive and controlled by a small
art supply market. He liked buying his paints at the hardware store.
Instead of gesso for the primer and sealant of his canvas, he used epoxy glue and white
house paint. He made all his own frames and stretchers. He bought the wood at the lumber
store and the least expensive "Joint" wood for the frames. He stained the frames
in kerosene and tar for the deep browns he liked. His most expensive supply he ever used
was metal tape that he at times used around his frames to give a gold, silver or copper
highlight. He bought those via mail-order catalogs.
Fontaine drilling the final screws into the frame he just finished in his
|What was his
schedule for painting? Everyday? morning or night? When he was inspired only?
Fontaine treated his painting like a job. When he worked at Stars & Stripes he
painted mostly during the weekends and some evenings, but when he finally retired in
Guadalajara, he painted everyday. Most days he went to play
tennis first thing in the morning and painted after lunch. Other days he started
early in the morning. After a breakfast of banana and granola he went right to the studio.
He always had his short-wave radio on at the same time listening to
American news channels about world events and economic conditions. He always said he had
no choice about being a painter. It was something "he had to do".
Fontaine always painted standing up with the painting flat on a low