Teenage artist searches for voice
It might be the way someone is sitting. Or maybe a row of old fruit at the grocery store.
It’s whatever catches Greg Block’s eye.
“Every day, I’m just looking around and living, and I see something that strikes me as being unusual or really beautiful or intriguing,” Block said. “And I try to imprint that onto my mind a little bit and come back and see if I can render it on a canvas.”
When he gets back, he sketches the subject and decides on the overall mood of the painting so he can choose colors. A warm and cozy mood, for example, could use yellows, burnt siennas, browns and reds. He also figures out how to arrange objects in the painting to create harmony and balance.
Block, 17, is a self-taught artist at Soroco High School. He’s taking an independent study class in art this year, the first formal instruction he has received. The class has helped him move beyond painting and to projects such as an architectural model of a studio house he designed and a sculpture of Gandhi’s head.
He is still searching for his artistic “voice,” something he said he might be refining for the rest of his life.
“My style is still very much in development,” Block said. “I’m experimenting with all sorts of styles.”
Block’s first memory of creating art is painting an ocean scene with watercolors. The blue sky was finished, and he wanted a yellow sun. So he dipped his brush in the paint and ended up with a “nice, beautiful, bright green sun.”
He was 7 years old at the time. His interest in art was encouraged at a private school he attended in Fort Collins, and when his family moved to Stagecoach seven years ago, he tried to set more of his time aside to paint.
That can be tough for Block, as he also puts a lot of time into school work, sports such as skiing and biking, and music.
Art is important to him as a way to express his voice, and as a way to relax: four hours painting is better than four hours sleeping, he said.
His work has been displayed in downtown Steamboat Springs, and two of his pieces are on display at the Depot Art Center as part of the P.E.A.C.E. Project exhibit. One is a self-portrait made of torn newspaper that, at a few steps back, looks exactly like Block.
The self-portrait was a study in the brightness and darkness of colors. It let him experiment with shadows and reflected light, which gave the face depth. It was the first time he attempted such a collage, but likely will not be the last.
“I did a lot of gluing papers on and walking back to look at it,” Block said.
Art has come naturally to Block. He always has painted what he feels looks right, but now he is learning his pieces fit some of the longtime art rules, such as the rule of thirds, in which two imaginary lines are evenly spaced horizontally and vertically, and the subject of the painting is placed at one of the four intersections.
His inspiration comes from all around him. It comes first from other legendary artists, such as Monet, and from works in local galleries that he walks through whenever he has a chance.
When Block looks at a painting, he considers the undercoat the artist used, how much pigment and what types of brushes were used, how the colors were mixed, and then asks himself, “all of this to achieve what purpose?”
“But first,” he said, “I look to see if I like it.”
He is flexible on what art he likes. Art is not something that can be pinned down with weighty nouns or colorful adjectives. Rather, Block said, it is what it is.
In many things, people may consider him a “perfectionist,” Block said. But he definitely is not one in art.
“I don’t think art can be perfect, or I think it is perfect without being perfect,” Block said. “Perfection isn’t really a quality of art. Art is art.”
Block is applying to colleges throughout the country, including Yale and Berkeley, and does not want to devote his life to art just yet. Architecture might catch his interest, or another field.
But art, he said, will always be a part of what he does and who he is.
When the world faces war, hardships and other challenges, “It’s great to be able to have a little box, a little frame of something that is … just a gem in itself, with so much going on that is obviously in contrast to that. Kind of like a little heaven you can look at.”
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