Art: How T Garrett Eaton Took On An Unusual Line Painting Challenge


T GARRETT EATON Broken Stones

he online challenge was simple: paint a cemetery, outside, using a limited palette. Dozens of artists from Taiwan, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Europe, United States and Canada participated and the seven finalists painted cemeteries in Rome, Cornwall, Vermont, New Jersey, Bristol, California and Germany. The big winner, T Garrett Eaton – the “T” is for Thad – born a mile from Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, Calif., Painted his local resting place.

Eaton, who had never painted a cemetery scene, grew up in the Bay Area, attended Santa Cruz University, and received a master’s degree in fine arts from the New York Academy of Art. He returned to live in Oakland and frequently walked in Mountain View Cemetery.

Founded in 1863, the 226-acre rural cemetery – designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed San Francisco’s Central Park and Golden Gate Park – now contains 24,000 graves. Many local dignitaries are buried there. One section is called Millionaires’ Row.

“I don’t necessarily find cemeteries morbid. They hold power over visitors and for this reason they are often very peaceful places.

Eaton found the limited palette “both stimulating and liberating”. Using only lemon cadmium yellow, ultramarine light, burnt sienna and permanent white, he believes that “the constraint simplifies decision making and can also lead to a more harmonious overall effect. “.

Having chosen his location, he spent three hours painting this 14 x 6 inch piece. “Many tombstones are broken and lie randomly. The light has changed considerably during the painting and therefore my sketch is an amalgamation of multiple lighting conditions. I didn’t quite understand the depth of the shadow, ”he says, adding,“ it’s an artist’s curse to always be dissatisfied with their own work.

Although cemeteries were a common subject for 19th-century Romantic painters such as Caspar David Friedrich, Eaton knew that a painting of a cemetery is “a hard sell.” He didn’t expect to sell it. “I still have it.” He called his gouache “Broken stones”.

Oil painting is his first love, but he finds watercolor and gouache “quick and wearable” and his paintings of a bathroom sink, a pomegranate, a traffic cone, d ‘a cauliflower, an animal bone, a vacuum cleaner and a loaf of bread are technically brilliant. For his subject, Eaton prefers the world around him, “simple subjects, whether artificial or organic, because everyday objects and experiences deserve to be celebrated in art”. He admires Chardin, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Antonio López García, Euan Uglow and James Gurney.

He also painted landscapes. “Apparently my ancestors are mainly from Scotland and Ireland and emigrated in the 18th century.” During his travels in Europe, he painted the site of the Normandy landings and the great Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard near Nîmes.

Eaton moved to Vancouver with his Canadian wife two years ago for its “lifestyle benefits, excellent public health care and schools” and now paints the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. “Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is exciting to see how wilderness can thrive so close to civilization.”

Over 50 million people die each year. The dead continue before us – and when we join them, will it be by burial or cremation? Some cemeteries in the city are short of places. In 2007, Antwerp set out to sell 2,000 city graves, but in T Garrett Eaton’s painting of the Mountain View cemetery, the graves are old, the occupants remain in place. Gravestones on a gentle slope catch the sunlight. It is truly a place of rest in peace.

New work by T Garrett Eaton featured in ‘Delicious’ exhibition at the STUDIO Gallery, San Francisco, it’s also online: studiogallerysf.com; tgarretteaton.com; Insta @tgeaton

Perceive (Luan Gallery, Athlone)

Personal exhibition of the Irish artist based in Brussels Colm Mac Athlaoich Perceive draws inspiration from personal photographs, and the following oil on canvas works “tell an image” and “stand between figuration and abstraction, exploring the space between”. The central image of the exhibition, “Flavian Garden”, is based on a holiday photograph of the Colosseum in Rome. athletoneartsandtoruism.ie/luan-gallery

Home: Being and Belonging in Contemporary Ireland (Glucksman Gallery, Liège)

The Glucksman Gallery invited artists from the island of Ireland to submit works related to ‘ideas of residence, creation of place, identity and nationality’. Works in all media from 267 artists were submitted: 16 were shortlisted, including “Beacon” by Wexford-based Ciara Roche, an oil on paper featuring Ocean Food by Mortlake, Concord, NSW, Australia. gucksman.org


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