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Lifestyle

When it comes to paint Don Grafer goes to town

4/1/12 | By Tony Russo

BERLIN — Having his own workspace isn’t exactly a new experience for Don Grafer, the newest artist in the Chamber Studios, but it is a fresh one. In fact, Grafer took several decades off from painting while he and his wife, Sue raised their family.

Grafer painted mostly for his own pleasure during the better part of his young adulthood. 

Even after his children were born, he would often find a couple hours here and there to work on his art. As they got older, though, the ability to get away just got too rare and Grafer eventually gave up on the endeavor. It just became something he used to do.

But upon his retirement, his children go together and gave him a gift certificate for an art supply store.

“They said, ‘Go do something, pop,’” Grafer said.

So he picked it up again. It came back gradually at first but by the time he was living in Ocean Pines full time he’d gotten his stroke back, as it were, and was a prolific producer. 

Mostly his work was done to give away as gifts but he eventually started getting shows and is still regularly featured in the Ocean Pines Library galleries.

Inspired primarily by Jackson Pollock and more subtly by Georgia O’Keefe, Grafer does big works mostly in acrylics. As with many artists of his generation, he moved to the medium after coming up primarily in oils.

But Grafer uses acrylics primarily as a way to access other styles, making his work doubly complex. 

Acrylic paint is by no means static. It can be used to affect a work in such a way as to make it appear to have been done in oil or in watercolor, which isn’t the way it is commonly conceived.

After deciding upon what look he will go after on a particular work, Grafer will often mix the acrylic down to make it behave as if it were watercolor or thicken it up to give a work the layered look generally associated with oils.

But planning a work’s texture is often the easiest part. Getting that texture to comply with the artists vision can be a little more complicated.

Grafer sometimes approaches the canvas with a clear picture of what he wants in his head and sometimes he is a little more ambivalent. 

Most times, he has a plan but is waylaid by opportunities that present themselves as he works.

But learning to submit to what the paint wants as opposed to trying to force something that just isn’t going to happen is a big part of producing work. 

Many artists understand that imposing one’s will is one of the surest ways to end up with a piece that appears precisely as not-intended.

After some significant 2nd Friday Art Stroll success — among the many compliments was a Pollock aficionado who praised Grafer’s homages as among the best he’d seen — the newest artist on the block is settling in to his workspace.

Although he’s been happy working at home, it is nice, he said, to get out a bit. Being able to speak with some of the other artists if they happen to be taking breaks at the same time is a real bonus.

“For years we said what Berlin could really use was a studio like this where artists could share a space,” Sue said. 

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