The process of painting is, for me, an attempt to integrate elements that reside in my mind into a sort of visual poem - a visual form of the written word. I feel a need to share these ideas in my mind, to make them visible.
From an early age, I was exposed to art. I started painting as a young boy, with much encouragement and support from my parents. As most homes have magazines strewn about, our home had art books strewn about. I resisted formal art education because I had images and ideas in my head that were mine Ė and I was repelled at the thought of someone telling me how to do something Ė as it felt limiting to me. Instead, I studied on my own. I spent hours looking at the work of the masters Ė and more hours experimenting to unlock the secrets of their techniques.
I begin a painting with only a general idea of the composition. It might be a bird piece Ė or a bowl piece Ė or one of a series done with a common theme Ė such as the Journey pieces. I donít set up a scene and paint it. I paint mostly from the images in my head although I have a few objects in my studio that I refer to, such as a feather or an old oar that I picked up one day on the beach. The journey to find the image really begins when I first approach the canvas. I donít know what the final result will be and itís sometimes the start of a fleshing-out process that can last for weeks. I have always painted with acrylics. The fact that they dry quickly allows me to make changes. I routinely change the way an object looks and itís not unusual for a painting to go through many color changes. Once the piece feels complete, I get deep satisfaction from absorbing it, thinking about it, finding its meaning for me - and hoping that it does the same for others.
Thereís a general theme to my work. I paint common objects Ė mostly found in nature Ė things that people routinely and unthinkingly pass by. Placing them in a painting creates an opportunity to look at them differently, perhaps more importantly, to see their vitality and presence. I generally show them in a state of movement to demonstrate the fleeting nature or impermanence of life around us. I want my work to cause people to pause and think. I may juxtapose objects in an interesting way, which results in viewers labeling the work surreal. I donít feel the need to have a label on my work, but I also donít object to the often-used term subtle surrealism to describe it. Itís also sometimes labeled trompe líoeil. Iím not trying to paint in this style, but realize that itís an unintentional result of my attempt at high realism.
I always find it interesting Ė and curious Ė that others want to know the meaning of a particular painting. I have two thoughts on that. First, I want the image to speak for itself. Second, what the image means to me isnít really relevant. I think itís presumptuous to believe that my meaning is important. Itís only important to me. The painting is there for others to pause, to think, to find meaning within the context of their own lives.
Nature as everyday objects
Bits and pieces of nature collected on walks as well as everyday objects characterize the subtle surrealism of Jeff Faust. His joy is seeing nature and his interpretation of the world in his paintings. Completely self-taught, Faust studied the art and lives of many artists, creating a visual education for himself. From years of study, experimentation and self-discovery, Faust's solo journey as an artist is reflected in the simplicity and balance of his unique style and vision.
He describes his works as visual forms of the written wordÖ with a natural sense of balance consisting of extraordinary circumstances. Some of his paintings are simple visual poems while others have the complexity of a short novel that requires contemplation - challenging the observer to consider creation through Faust's surreal perspective.
If one could view Faust's entire body of work, curious elements cycle through it and recur in new surroundings. Pristine spheres, eggs, weather beaten feathers, a taut line, appear and disappear only to emerge some years later. It is as though a thought or character had suddenly re-entered the visual novel he is revealing. Cloth, sticks and ceremonial altars find visual satisfaction with the underlying theme of re-arranging the normal.
I've always deeply loved the work of master realists in portraying the images we are used to, whether a landscape or still lifeÖ but I feel a real need to turn that a little bit and create a visual that doesn't actually exist - but one that I would like to see. I have a fairly active daydreaming mind. I can pick up a twig and it will trigger a thought of an image as I would like it to be. Images come to my mind that may not be conventional, but through self-exploration and daydreams they are transformed onto the canvas. I'm left with a deep satisfaction that something will be altered in the viewer.
Still Life with Kingfisher
The Subtle Realism of Jeff Faust
In the canvases of painter Jeff Faust, violins burst into flame, oars grow from tree roots, eddies of eucalyptus leaves swirl above delicate porcelain bowls, and cages confine clouds, not birds.
The artist's trademark is "subtle surrealism," the extraordinary juxtaposition of ordinary objects resulting in scenes of daydream-like intensity. These are not fantasy paintings, nor are they internal landscapes. Faust likes to term his works "visual poetry," because like poems, they are collections of painstakingly arranged images.
"I started painting when I was in grade school and I didn't pay any attention to what I was doing," My education was my own; it was a reading education and a visual education." He pored over art books, becoming absorbed in the works of Miro, Magritte, Picasso and the Flemish masters. Instead of following the circumscribed route to an art degree, he simply painted.
"I never wanted another human to tell me what to do," he explains. "I had no desire for some professor or some teacher to give me their views on paintings. I figured I could get my own views. I knew it would be a long, hard road, but I also knew it would be me."
The body of work that grew out of this solitary, passionate pursuit is at once strikingly unique and curiously familiar. His visual vocabulary borrows from nature: feathers, leaves, eggs, a cluster of grapes, a bird with a cherry in its beak. There are recurring objects and themes, as well: Spheres are common motifs, as are painted vases, bowls and other vessels. Scenes are glimpsed through portals and frames. The background is often a pastoral sky that gives the impression of infinite space. In several works are vivid echoes of - or nods to - Magritte: a violin, a bright green apple, a cloud-filled sky. And like the Belgian surrealist, Faust is a skilled workman, a meticulous technician whose work is often photographically vivid.
"My process is an unusual one," Faust admits. "I rarely start out with a specific idea in mind, they grow as the painting progresses. I change my mind an awful lot to reach the conclusion I want. You may leave one fate, only to arrive at another uncertainty."
"I grew up looking at the surrealist work and I truly was taken with it," he says, "but I am not out on a mission to shock people - as if there's not enough of it in the world at large. We get so numb to it that it really doesn't have any significance anymore. I've never felt the need to shock. I'd rather intrigue."
Henri Matisse once playfully claimed that he wanted his art to be like an armchair. Faust entertains similar hopes. "I like to think of a lot of my paintings as being a stopping place," he says, "like a bench where you can just sit and think."