Best in show
Friday, October 18, 2013
Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a new series titled “Artist Spotlight.” If you would like your art or know of someone else’s work you would like featured, email Editor Erin Place at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merrimack artist Don Reed vied against scores of fine artists from across New England and won the Best in Show award for his painting, “Vermont Winter,” at the annual Art in the Park show at Central Park in Andover, Mass., on Sept. 21.
The painting, a 36-inch square, captures an evening during the winter holidays highlighted with glimmering headlights of passing cars and the reflection of snow on sidewalks along a main street in the town of Stowe. The scene is accented by garland-wrapped light poles topped with glass globes illuminated as if by candlelight. His canvas seems to shiver with color.
The Art in the Park show is produced by the Andovers Artist Guild – an assembly of artists from the Merrimack Valley – and also included photography and drew throngs of visitors from several states.
The guild, incorporated in 1970 with nine members, now has more than 90 men and women who specialize in oil painting, watercolors, pastel, photography, etching, woodblock printing and other media.
The guild has hosted the Art in the Park show for some 40 years. The pink-satin ribbon Reed won is embossed with metallic lettering. It joins a collection of dozens of other awards from prestigious shows throughout New England.
Reed is a member of the Manchester Art Association and the New Hampshire Art Association. He began studying art at the age of 12 while living in South Berwick, Maine.
His stepfather, Wilbur Bullock, was a cartoonist and unabashedly supportive of the boy’s interest in design, color, texture and the materials from which art is made.
Reed recently said his most influential instructor was Stan Moeller, a Maine artist. Moeller gave Reed advice on technique and a vivid lesson on knowing when to stop working on a painting.
“I was working on a small seascape that I’d worked and reworked,” Reed said. “I was adding paint here and adding paint there when Stan shouted, ‘Stop!’ ”
Reed laughs as he recalls the experience, one he said taught him a lot about recognizing when a painting is complete and needing nothing more, not one more dab of Cadmium orange, nor a flicker of Titanium white. Reed currently embraces a style called, “fragmentalism,” a style that draws upon the brain’s ability to take bits of information and put it together in a whole.
His paintings are executed while they are positioned upside down on Reed’s easel. He uses a reference photograph, also inverted, to give him a basic idea of the form he wants to render on canvas. As the work progresses, he steps back and holds a mirror overhead to look at the work as if it is right side up. The
topsy-turvy method enables brush strokes that appear as if they are drawn skyward when the painting is righted.
“The show winner from Andover took me about a month to do,” Reed said. “I’ll work with a painting and get to the point when I just live with it. You get to the point when you know enough is enough.”
The man is a professional artist, not a hobbyist. His works fetch substantial prices and are exhibited in collections throughout the country. Nevertheless, he has other diversions. He and his wife, Susan, an IT contractor with the Federal Aviation Administration, enjoy travelling, especially to the American Southwest. She travels to art shows with him and helps with the set-up and merchandising.
He said his wife, a congenial art aficionado, is an integral part of his art life. In fact, he said if he attends an art show by himself, people soon begin asking, “Where’s Susan?”
Reed, the father of a grown son and daughter, is the grandfather of two and has a stepson with Susan. He works part-time as a graphic artist, a sign designer, for a local company. He said he considers himself “semi-retired.”
He spends ample time with his grandson, Jesse James Reed II, a 10-year-old who Reed says is interested in everything. The boy tells friends his “grampy” is a “real artist” and also is a re-enactor who occasionally portrays a World War II transport pilot at events with others that honor the service of the men and women who populated the era.
An early riser, Reed paints in the morning when he says, “my brain is sharp, creatively speaking.” It is later in the day when he tends to his website and the administrative tasks of wrapping, crating and shipping works to his patrons.
His evolution through realistic painting and outright abstracts to the art of fragmentalism has brought him to a place where he said he can blend his love of landscape, his wonder at the natural world and his amazement at creating the illusion of light. It is one of his joys to see viewers enthralled at a work they see for the first time.
“When I retire, I’ll focus more on sending my work out into a bigger world,” Reed said. “My upside down style gives my paintings an airy quality. I just can’t define what it is that looks so good to me.”
For more information and to see selected landscapes, seascapes, portraits and other fine art by Reed, visit Don Reed Fine Art Oils & Acrylics online at www.fineartbydonreed.com.