Acrylic on masonite, 16″ x 22″; Private Collection
©1992 by Bill Hudson
I never really knew either of my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother died when I was very young. She used to wear glasses and was a slight woman, so this painting is probably not her.
I was also very young when my maternal grandmother had a big fight with my mom. I knew nothing about the fight, but I knew that my family wanted nothing to do with her. My mother made up with her, after a fashion, when I was about 12 years old. After that, we’d visit her about once a year, usually at Thanksgiving. She wore dresses like this, and I think she even had a big green arm chair, so this might be her.
At first, I thought that my grandmother would be holding a big black cat on her lap, but when I started painting, it turned out to be a polar bear. The polar bear also appears in a couple of the photos hanging on the wall behind her. He’s very old, too.
Acrylic on canvas; 22″x 24″
©2000 by Bill Hudson
Clarissa and I met an artist named Cecil Touchon when we moved from Alaska to Colorado in 1993. Cecil is a collage artist and painter, and his work excited both Clarissa and I. Many of Cecil’s ideas about painting and design has risen out of his study of the Russian avant garde artists of the 1920s, and we spent many an evening discussing art and philosophy with him.
Clarissa and I both sensed that the abstract concepts that Cecil and the Russians had developed, would combine wonderfully with the formline art of the Northwest Coast we’d been using in our artwork in Alaska for so many years.
This painting, “Copper Eagle”, was my first attempt at combining these two unique art styles, both from northern countries but culturally a world apart. A person familiar with Northwest Coast design may be able to discern the Eagle’s head and beak pointing upward toward the upper right corner… the Wing and Claw overlaid (or underlaid?) and tangled together with the Head.
This large, three-dimensional painted canvas was a collaborative project done with Alaskan artist Clarissa Rizal. My friend Stephen Tholberg was telling me one day about some three-dimensional canvas he’d built for a girlfriend many years ago. Clarissa and I started talking about making some of our own 3-D canvases, and she said, “How about one shaped like a totem pole?”
A week later I had the first pair of totem-pole-shaped canvases built, and had finished a pencil sketch of a very abstract “totem pole”. Clarissa added some coloring suggestions using Prismacolor pencils… then all that was left was to enlarge the design to six feet tall and break out the acrylic paints. Some of the image elements in the piece were derived from Clarissa’s button blanket designs, but the colors are from somewhere else… most likely the American Southwest.
The technique of overlaying the shapes and giving them a “three-dimensional, carved wood” appearance was inspired by our friend Cecil Touchon. Unfortunately this photo image doesn’t portray the actual three-dimensional shape of the totem pole… it doesn’t even show both sides of the totem…
Raven Series 010
Collage 7″ x 9″
©2000 by Bill Hudson
The Raven Series of collages was an on-going process. When I first moved to Alaska, even before I met Clarissa, I was shocked to discover an amazing art style which I had never been exposed to before — the Native art of the Northwest Coast. It was not just an art style, it was actually a written language masquerading as art, and it utilized wonderfully elegant “letter” forms.
As a graphic artist fascinated by lettering, I was sucked right in by these designs. My boss at work, Judy Cooper, noticed my interest and gave me a book to explore, An Analysis of Form, by Bill Holm, one of the first books to attempt to explain — in a very intellectual, academic manner — the “calligraphic” shapes that served as the foundations for this art form.
The first image in Holm’s book was of the famous “Raven Screens” from the village of Hoonah, which were literally saved from the woodcutter’s saw by an alert art lover. These screens were the inspiration for my collage series.