Inside the Studio

Newel Hunter

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I don’t think I can categorize my work as thematic, though much of it is black and white.  And while my paintings are mostly abstract, many of them contain figurative and/or calligraphic aspects.  I spent a lot of my working life as a writer, so I tend to tell stories with my art (even in the most abstract forms).  Others have described my rather eclectic portfolio as mysterious, gritty, powerful, emotional, spiritual, playful, passionate, compelling, dramatic, unconventional, and soulful.

My objective is to create a body of work where the element of chance has been given free reign to help create unpredictable, moving, even surrealistic images.  I begin each painting with a journey into the unknown, where getting lost informs the direction I take.  The process is highly physical, applying lots of paint and texture with tools you might not associate with painting on canvas.  I embrace mistakes.  Disregard all rules.  Take risks.  Paint over what doesn’t work.  And frequently dig down through previous layers to expose “the story.”  I paint at full throttle.  I don’t know how to do it any other way.

Of the scores of artists who have inspired me, I have most often looked to the Abstract Expressionists as kindred souls — Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Pierre Soulages, Jean Miotte, Hans Hartung, Alberto Burri, Gerhard Richter, Clyfford Still and so many others.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul to make it fashionable. When you paint this way, there are no mistakes.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

With music, always.  Blues.  Rock and Roll.  Jazz.  New Age.  Classical.  Often all in a single session.  Music moves me — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  It contributes to the “dance.”  Motivates me when my energy flags.  And so often sets the mood and tempo.  It would be hard for me to imagine painting without music.

If you could have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

I hope this doesn’t sound self-serving, but honestly, it would be one of my own paintings.  And probably, “She.”  If I had to choose from those artists who inspire me, I’d pick something by Pierre Soulages. Perhaps one of his early stain paintings like Painting 23, May 1953.  I could get lost in it forever.

Who are your favorite writers?

Ah. I tend to the dark side, and find myself picking noir mysteries, thrillers and horror stories most of the time.  Writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Chris Irvin, Dean Koontz, Lee Child, John Sanford, C. J. Box, James Lee Burke and my son Bracken McLeod (who has published three wonderful novels), among many others. I read a lot in the summer when I’m visiting my wilderness cabin in Montana.