Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Perfecting a Craft: Doug Braithwaite @ the Eccles

by Brandon Cook

The Eccles Community Art Center is just around the corner from my studio in Ogden, so this past
week I put down the brushes for an hour or so to stop in and take a look at the one-person exhibit of Doug Braithwaite. I’ve known Doug for over a decade, since my student days at the University of Utah. I recall then when going out to plein air paint, setting up behind Doug knowing that if we painted the same subject, I could watch how he handled it. He always knew where to get a grasp on the motif, how to start the painting and where to take it.

For the past decade I have watched Doug refine those skills and his working method to the point I have to ask myself, “Is there any subject matter this painter can’t handle”?

Examples of these skills are on exhibit during the month of June at the Eccles Art Center in Ogden. Those of you who have admired his smaller, more portable work, or have seen him at work in the field, will find some refreshingly larger canvases in this show. There are a couple of 24×32’s, which show his abilities to work a detailed larger canvas with the same freshness and accuracy as his smaller works.

The Eccles exhibition features a number of southwest scenes; of those, “Desert Textures,” with its solid composition and energizing rhythm, is my favorite. The show contains a few urbanscapes as well as his ever-popular winter scenes, which stand in stark seasonal contrast to a painting depicting a day at the beach. Also, as a bonus there are three little monotypes and a still life, all making for an interesting and diverse show.

The real reason to make a trip to the show is for Doug’s plein air work. Now, for many painters, plein air means out in the fields, painting the cliffs of the south, or the farm fields and trees of the north. Doug is a stand out amongst many such painters for his handling of the urban environment. In fact, for me, his urbanscapes may exceed his landscapes. Doug has such facility handling geometry and perspective — he knows how to see it and how to depict it. The buildings, vehicles, streetlamps, roads and sidewalks all give him plenty of material to show off his skill.

Looking about, you have to admire Doug’s ability to crop everyday scenes to create compositions that are both interesting and dynamic. In a depiction of a green light on 24th Street in Ogden he makes something out of nothing. A beach scene where he cuts off half the volleyball net I find both gutsy and successful. The painting “6:19 Downtown” demonstrates Doug at his best, taking such mundane subject matter as a bus signaling over and somehow making it, in my own mind, a worthwhile, memorable experience.

Doug thrills at the experience of painting in the open. For him, the importance of surviving the elements, the hot, the cold, the insects, lighting challenges and wind, spills over into the finished work. I think his winterscapes in the show demonstrate this best. You can feel the cold and see the crispness of the air. Doug mentioned once to me how in freezing temperatures oil paint becomes this delightful, creamy consistency that is a joy to work with. Perhaps it is for this reason I have always been drawn to his winter paintings.

The power of Doug’s brush work is that he somehow manages to make it look spontaneously loose and yet extremely tight. He approaches his canvases with surgical precision, employing a technique that convinces you he is in control of everything and yet leaves room for an energetic expressive experience. A great balance that I seldom see in painters these days.

Since meeting, Doug has remained mostly out in the field and I, mostly indoor. In the controlled environment of the studio, I am able to experiment with process and embrace spontaneity. Painting in an uncontrolled environment, Doug embraces chaos and through his process has found control. When viewing all of the paintings hanging at the Eccles exhibit, I find that he has perfected his process. I have to wonder, where does he go now for his next challenge?

If you have time, go and check out Doug’s one man show at the Eccles and you will see why over the past few years Doug has garnered prize after prize in both plein air and landscape competitions. Doug truly has a style of his own that would appeal to even the casual art lover and command the respect of fellow artists. If you are an art collector, snag one because at his very reasonable prices, there is no reason not to.||

Doug Braithwaite’s work will be on exhibit at the Eccles Community Art Center through June 30 in conjunction with an exhibition by Sue Valentine in the Carriage House Gallery. More of Braithwaite’s work can be seen at his website.

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.