Donald Baechler often works in layers: layers of fabric, followed by layers of paint, then placing images upon images on the built up surface. His paintings are playful and whimsical, which belies their very complex and thoughtful technique.
The images he uses come from the hundreds, probably thousands, of doodles, drawings, signs, photographs and objects that he collects. His admitted obsession about certain objects and images leads him to use them over and over again, in differing compositions and media.
Baechler is hard pressed to explain why certain images, like ice cream cones, tulips or beach balls resonate with him, but they do.
Cleaning Up the Mess
Donald Baechler says that, “he loves to throw paint around.” Many of his paintings are very large, some ten feet high, and he uses a lot of drop cloths in his studio. It was when he was cleaning up the studio that he got the idea of using the drop cloths themselves, which were covered in paint, as foundations for large paintings.
He began to use the drop cloths in much the same way as he used canvas – creating collage backgrounds, overlaid with paint. After building up the surface of the drop cloths, he began painting flowers over the background. The main images in his work often have nothing to do with the background images. Baechler says that he just likes the dichotomy the images bring to his work.
As Baechler’s work progressed, he said that he developed a sort of ‘fatigue’ about his paintings and wanted to “step back and gain a new perspective” about his work.
“I think a good artist in general is someone who doubts what he’s doing and looks for ways of doing it better and looks for ways of making it more interesting.” he said. “For me, if I know what the painting’s going to look like, there’s not really any reason to paint it. If I’m not learning something there’s no reason to do it. Or discovering something. And, looking back, often paintings that seem to me radically different start looking very similar.”
He began to create sculptures, woodcuts and prints, still using his favorite images, and the results were very satisfying, and even surprising, to Baechler. “If you’d asked me when I was a student in Baltimore,” he said, “I never would have, in a million years, thought would have turned into a sculptor, but, somehow, I did.”
He continued to paint, but often recreated his paintings into woodcuts, prints and sculptures.
Donald Baechler Woodcuts at VFA
Donald Baechler’s Days of the Week woodcut series is available for sale at VFA. Please contact us for more information about the works of Donald Baechler, available in our gallery.