Painter Paul Scott Malone has only lived in Glen Rose for less than a year, but he's already found a home for his artistic talent.
Malone has landed a one-man show, entitled “Lace,” next month at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council gallery in Stephenville. The show runs Feb. 3 to 26, with a reception on Thursday, Feb. 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. The public is invited.
Malone's work stands out in a small town with few abstract artists. He calls his paintings “atmospheric abstraction.” The Lace series refers to the thin washes of white that gild the paintings in the series with a wispy, cloud-like effect.
A native Texan — Malone grew up north of Houston — he returned to his roots after living in Michigan, Illionois and Arizona and, previously, in the Texas Hill country town of Wimberley.
His mother was a painter as well and influenced him when he was growing up.
“My mother was a painter of roses,” Malone said from his patio at his home on Vine Street just off the square. “She painted lots of things, but mainly roses. She encouraged me and took me to classes.”
Instead of painting, though, Malone ended up as a writer. He worked as a reporter for newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma before becoming a writer of fiction. Texas Christian University published two volumes of short stories — one of which, In an Arid Land, won a Texas Institute of Letters award for fiction — and a novel, This House of Women.
While in Illinios, there came a point where writing “wasn’t quite doing it for me,” Malone recalled. “All of a sudden I started putting this stuff on paper and on canvas and people were saying, “I didn’t know you could do that.'” Neither did he.
It marked a turning point in his life. Malone's mother had just died and he found painting one of the most enjoyable things in his life. He started experimenting with pastels.
Then one day Malone went to a garage sale and spotted a big toolbox. It was marked $25 and it was heavy, so he opened it.
“It was full of brushes and tubes of paints,” Malone recalled. “It was like a starter kit. I took it home.”
He began painting…and painting…and painting. The works flowed out of him.
“I had painted before, but never like this,” Malone said. “It was just like a rebirth. It was completely enjoyable. And also, I’m a very big believer in the concept of play and we need that. That’s what it seemed like to me — play.”
Malone produced an extensive number of paintings in the next three years. Then he and his wife moved to Tucson, Ariz., and Malone began searching for a new direction with his art. When he and wife split, he moved to Benson, Ariz.
“I’ve never really worked in realism and I was looking for something really different and new,” he said. “And it took several terrible years to trying to figure this out — wandering in the desert, so to speak.”
Then a fortuitous accident occurred. It came when Malone was cleaning.
“One day I was cleaning underneath the refrigerator with a blow gun,” he recalled. “I had an air compressor and I had the tube coming in from the studio and through the sun room and then into the kitchen. When I was pulling it back out, I just happened to have a canvas that I had a bunch of soupy paint on and I was kind of disgusted with and I started playing with it.”
What happened next was unexpected — the paint blew around the canvas, creating all sorts of surprising effect. Malone got on the Internet to see if any other artists were using a similar technique. He couldn't find anyone who was.
“That was really a major turning point,” Malone sad. “Old paintings started going out the window, which I regret a great deal now because I still have photographs of them. I got some wonderful encouragement about some things that are gone now. I was mainly interested in that point in painting like this and felt like this was what I should do for the rest of my life.”
Malone's work impressed the curator of the Ico Art Gallery in New York's premium Chelsea art district. The gallery has since reverted to its orginal name, Icosahdron.
Lots of artists would have stayed in New York, but Malone had lived up north before and didn't care for it. The Southwest was his home. He had been to Glen Rose several times visiting friends and decided it was time to come back to Texas. So he packed up his two dogs, Chisos and Henry, and his paintings and he left Arizona.
“Oddly, everyone talks about the light in Arizona, how marvelous it is,” Malone said. “And it is, there’s something remarkable and weird about it. But look at this, this is gorgeous light. In a proper studio with enough opening, you can actually see what you’re doing. And that’s a big deal and very hard to get.”
Malone calls his painting technique “simple.” Others might not agree.
“Sometimes one wash of paint is enough and the white gesso underneath is bleeding through and it just glows and you hate to touch it again,” he said. “Knowing when it’s time to stop is the hardest part.
“I just make a mush of paint and I may have an idea of what I want to do,” he added. “Sometimes it might take 30 washes. Usually I can tell when something is going to work.”
He's looking for a larger studio so he work on bigger paintings — some of the ones he's done in the past have been seven or nine feet long.
Malone said he enjoys the unpredictability of the kind of art he does. He didn't know what kind of label to put on it, hence the term “atmospheric.”
“Atmospheric in that there is a certain voluptuous cloud-like nature to them,” Malone said. “I had to come up with something to descibe them. The best I could come up with is atsmospheric abstraction — some call it Abstract Expressionism. Which is fine. I don’t care what it’s called.”
People often ask Malone what his paintings mean.
“I don’t know what it means; it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s just a picture. If you like it, great. I hope you do. If you don’t, that’s okay too, I’ll just keep it. So this atmospheric thing just came about to describes all this junk in here.
“Traditional abstraction is really hard slashes, usually, and circles of primary-colored paint,” he added. “This is really different from that. It's much softer. It actually allows for pretty day — sunshine or the clouds or a friendly encounter with a woman. Traditonal abstraction is harsh and hard and necessarily depicts a hard world. While I agree the world is a hard place, there are also days like this.”
So when someone asks Malone what one of his pictures is, “it's whatever you want it to be,” he tells them. “ I have no idea what it means. It’s its own thing in the world.”
The gallery is located at 204 River North Blvd., Stephenville
. For more information, see "www.ctfac.com or call 254-965-6190.