A Passion for the Work

Craftsmanship marries improvisation in Granitz’s February show at TASI

David Granitz III talks about his work in his tenant space at The Art Studio.

David Granitz III talks about his work in his tenant space at The Art Studio.

Anyone driving past The Art Studio late at night for the past few months has probably noticed the lights on the second floor piercing the darkness. It is not the result of some slovenly tenant leaving the lights on, but David W. Granitz III literally burning the midnight oil.

Granitz is preparing for his first solo show in February, and working long hours is not the chore one might think — it’s a pleasure. In fact, Granitz has done little else since he made the decision to quit his home-building job to focus on making a living off his art.

“All I have to do right now is focus on my art, and that is a very rare thing for an artist,” he says. “I feel that a lot of things are working for me in my artwork. I feel more creative and I feel like it is culminating into a point and that the artwork for this show is going to be the evidence of this opportunity — I’m passionate about it.”

His first solo show, “Eulipion Constructs: The Recent Work by David W. Granitz III,” opens Feb. 6 at The Art Studio and runs through Feb. 27. An opening reception will be held 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Feb. 6.

Granitz is soft spoken and thoughtful. But the 37-year old has an intense passion for his art, and he becomes animated and excited the more he talks about the work.

“Art for me is a passion, and to act like it’s not within me would be to neglect the true roots of who I am,” he says. “For me to do anything else — I don’t have an option any more.

A pair of David Granitz's "trace monoprints," made by transfering ink from Mylar onto paper or canvas.

A pair of David Granitz’s “trace monoprints,” made by transfering ink from Mylar onto paper or canvas.

“If I did anything else and I gave up this, I would be throwing away all these years and what I have achieved, all the travel, all the decisions I’ve made to cultivate my life to enhance my artwork.”

The long hours actually fit into the Beaumont native’s philosophy of art. It’s about hard work, he says.

“That’s very important to me,” he says. “I think there’s a big misperception about artists and their art. Art really requires, at least the kind of art I like doing, requires the passion but it’s not a lot of fun. For me, it has to do with something that’s more ingrained in my soul.

“I don’t know why I need to do it, I just need to do it. And even though I might be uncomfortable doing it, I do it. It’s that satisfaction that I get.”

Granitz smiles as he talks about the “fear and anxiety” of facing a blank canvas.

“Making the first mark is one of the most stressful things and one of the most liberating things at the same time,” he says.

Granitz cites artist William Kentridge’s thought about the limitless expanse of potential in the mark.

“And it ends up a coffee pot — this reduction of all this potential down to a mark that as you start working on a piece kind of builds itself — it’s self-defining in a way,” Granitz says.

A sheet of Myalar that David Granitz uses to make his "trace monoprints."

A sheet of Myalar that David Granitz uses to make his “trace monoprints.”

Granitz is methodical and patient in his work, and that patience is the reason he is only now having his first solo exhibition, although he has exhibited in group shows many times over the years.

He earned a degree in studio art from Lamar University in 2007. When he graduated, he and another student worked on a project for Jefferson County to create a monument to the oil industry for Southeast Texas’ seven counties. Unfortunately, the project fell through because of funding issues.

“It was pretty much time wasted, but granted, it was a great experience,” he says.

So Granitz decided to take advantage of an opportunity to move to California. A patron told him they had a shack in the woods he was welcome to live in and make art.

“So as soon as I found out I wasn’t doing the monument, I saved up my money and bought my art supplies and moved out there to that little cabin — all I did was make art and read about art,” he says.

While in California, Granitz says he painted maybe 10 pieces, but spent a lot of time studying.

“I learned so much that all the extra stuff was worth it, not just the number of pieces I painted — it’s the art of living,” he says.

However, the California winter was hard and once he made it through that, Grantitz decided to was time to come home. He has been here ever since, working and finding time to make art where he could. A wide variety of jobs meant he learned a variety of skills.

“The physicality of the object is important to me,” he says. “If it’s sculpture, that’s great; if it’s painting, that’s great. All of it has to do with something physical. Even though these (paintings) are two-dimensional objects, well, they are three-dimensional objects the way I look at them. Anything I have to build, basically, I want to put all my effort into.”

In college, even though he was a painting major, Granitz says he resisted being forced into a category or a label.

“My professors really wanted to corner me to pick one thing, but I realized, as I let myself develop naturally, that doing a lot of things is my thing,” he says. “If you look at my works, there are a lot of differences — the common thread, obviously, is that I make them — so I pushed that thesis into sculpture.”

Granitz built wooden frames ­and painted on them, thereby deliberately blurring the boundary between painting and sculpture.

“I cheated my painting requirement,” he says.

The show’s title is inspired by jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Theme for the Eulipions.”

“It reflects the spirit of the artist doing something in the world,” Granitz said.

In the spoken word introduction of “Theme for the Eulipions,” poet Betty Neals defines the artist as a Eulipion — a “journey agent” — and that all artists’ works are a gift to the world.

Like the creative musicians whose sounds fill his studio space, Granitz incorporates improvisation as free-form images overlay “chiseled” geometric forms — the works reflect a carefully constructed foundation of skills acquired over years of study and practice.

Granitz points to a painting in progress that is made up of a series of straight lines that overlap to form a seemingly random diagonal pattern.

“These lines look rigid, but when you get up close, I used a ruler to draw the lines and then I paint up to the line, I feel like I’m chiseling lines sculpturally and embracing the imperfect edge,” he says.

It is the imperfection that draws Granitz to ink transfer drawings — or “trace monoprints.”

“There’s something about imperfection that I like embracing,” he says. “Even though it seems like it’s very straight lines and rigid — people will get that impression — when you get up close you realize, ‘Those aren’t perfect likes, why didn’t he use tape?’ I don’t want to use that man-made product, that turns me off. I like the work that goes into it.

“When I say chiseling, it’s like that, because it’s very hard work filling those lines in — I’m putting in the time and effort.”

Some of the recent works are landscapes, but they are not the typical trees and fields one might expect. He points at a work in progress that features a criss-cross pattern of lines.

“This was built by a couple of things,” he says. “A love of music, which inspires me, but also memories of places that I’ve been. That memory is abstract. I get a sense of objects and I make my lines using that basic abstraction technique.

“In my head, as I was doing this, I was thinking, ‘Let’s draw lines that signify contours of things in a landscape and the moonlight highlighting these contours.’ The reason I am filling it in with black is because it’s a night scene. The white lines are moonlight highlighting the loose forms around you in space.

“Some are far away, some are close. It’s really like the chiseling I was talking about. I was chiseling this physical landscape in my mind.”

Once the landscapes are drawn laid out, Granitz goes back over the pieces and works in free line drawings over the pieces to add depth and texture — building and constructing the three-dimensional.

“I will warm up for a few days intensely, then do my drawing transfers on top of it, along with free-line textures to complement this real rigid environment,” he says.”

Granitz says his key word is dialectic — the philosophical discussion of metaphysical contradictions and their solutions.

“It’s consistent with all things — good and evil, hot and cold. When you get down to it, all things have opposites,” he says. “That’s really at the heart of what I am interested in.”

David Granitz is reflected in the mirror as he works in his studio space.

David Granitz is reflected in the mirror as he works in his studio space.

Granitz said that this new commitment to be a full-time professional artist is a challenge, he is cultivating a positivity in his approach to art and life.

“I know the realism of the situation with my art, I know the odds, but I do feel like the challenge right now has lit something in me — the pressure — maybe it’s something I needed,” he says. “I feel like as soon as I knew I was going to (do it), I turned to face the canvas and things just settled for me. I found this process, this exciting and new type of art that I haven’t done yet, really moving inside me.”

There is a lot of precariousness to his situation, Granitz says, adding that he is drawing on his past experience living a minimal lifestyle in the California woods.

“I feel very prepared at this chance to make my art,” he says. “It’s almost like a wolf in the woods in winter. You know there’s food out there and you either hunt with all your life to get that food or you’re gonna die. There’s a real visceral feeling in my gut of, if things go wrong I could be on the street in a month.

“I know that, deep down, if I need to get a job I’m going to be able to do that — but it sounds terrible. The thought of having to do anything else after this just sounds horrible. So I think it has helped me.”

Granitz has traveled and lived in California, Arizona, places that have great natural beauty. He sees a bond with nature that connects through his paintings.

“It’s all about universals and nature is where you find happiness in modern life — that’s where I am at,” he says. “That’s why I’m doing these landscapes. Shit’s crazy right now — I’m just trying to find something universal that people can connect with that causes a deep breath. Life can be about simple things if we want it to. I think that will help us. That’s my Utopian vision. It’s definitely there in the art.”

The Art Studio is located at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont.

By Andy Coughlan, ISSUE editor.