Monday, March 29, 2010

Wayne Thiebaud

Wayne Thiebaud, whose paintings and teaching have influenced an untold number of painters; who began teaching at U.C. Davis in 1960, and continues to teach there once a year though he is nearing ninety; and whose thoughtfulness, wisdom, love of painting, and endearing modesty shine through in his interviews, is profiled in these three videos.

Thiebaud first became known for his paintings of pastries – of rows of cakes and pie slices, but he has also painted series of still lifes (such as lipsticks), portraits, San Francisco cityscapes, and Sacramento Delta landscapes.

Wayne Thiebaud - CBS Sunday Morning gives a good sense of how Thiebaud never felt his success was predestined – and how hard he worked to get people to look at his paintings – as well as a good overview of his life and work. He says in it, "If we don't have a sense of humor, we lack a sense of perspective." His good humor is clearly evident.

As the interviewer says, "His voluptuous oils look like buttercream on canvas. You don't just want to look at his pictures, one critic said, you want to lick them."

Artist Wayne Thiebaud at 87, a U.C. Davis video, presents interviews with Thiebaud, his colleagues, and his friends. Here, he says about painting, "It is pain and pleasure. Matisse says the best thing when he says, work is a paradise, but you have to know how to enter that paradise."

In KQED Spark – Wayne Thiebaud, the painter describes his process, saying, "So a lot of the work depends on problems. It can be a problem of color, a problem of light, a problem of space. Painting really can be a kind of miracle, 'cause it's a totally unnatural act. It ain't natural to make three dimensions on a two dimensional surface. It's strange – but wonderful."

"The movements in the picture needs to be there. The sequence of light needs to be considered. Have you included various kinds of light? Have you included, let's say, glints, gleam, glow, so that the light is like the life of light in its range. If it doesn't have a lot of this visual experience, then we run the risk of boring people."

"In a way, what keeps you going is the thrill of experimentation and expectation. That's what you do as a painter – you live on hope... that next picture."

Wayne Thiebaud's work can be seen until July 3rd, 2010, at the San Jose Museum of Art, in the show Wayne Thiebaud – Seventy Years of Painting. The talk he is scheduled to give April 1st has been sold out for over a month, but the museum plans to videotape it.


  1. Hey Karen Lynn, I happened to be googling Thiebaud images today and found this post on your blog! He is certainly a hero of mine, and I am so glad to read this post. I did not know about the video! Thank you!

  2. Thank you, Karen, and you are welcome! He is a hero of mine, too, and I'm glad you like the post!

    By the way, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the turns your art and artistic life are taking. I love the traveling presents, and I'm looking forward to seeing more. It's like broadcasting seeds, and not knowing what will sprout, or where... wonderful!