Journal of Michael Baum / Travels of an Artist

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An Interview with the Artist

     

...moist air hovering over a mountain creek...


"Morning Light"
12" x 16" oil on canvas

...parched, gritty air swirling up from a desert road...


"Juniper in Monument Valley"
6" x 8" oil on canvas

On the job


Photo by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

Cloud Chasing


Photo by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

..."I did a lot of sculpture, abstract construction using a lot of different materials...


"Tensegrity"
96" x 60" x 49" pvc and wire
1973

 

Rhonda Van Pelt of the Colorado Springs Examiner (an online news source) dropped by the studio recently for an interview. We had a nice conversation about how I got where I am and why I do what I do. I thought I would post the interview as a journal entry. Here it is:

Portrait: Michael Baum
By Rhonda Van Pelt
Published in the Colorado Springs edition of the Examiner.com
August 6, 2010
Copyright 2010 Rhonda S. Van Pelt

Somehow, Michael Baum captures air on canvas. Just don't ask him how he does it.

His oil paintings re-create the spirit and atmosphere of Colorado and other Southwestern locales so that when you really tune into one, you can feel the fresh, moist air hovering over a mountain creek or the parched, gritty air swirling up from a desert road.

The Manitou Springs resident is also adept at distilling silence in his art, much like his favorite artist, Edward Hopper.

"I like that kind of quiet and solitude. He'd pick a moment and just present a scene. I just love that, and I think I've done it to varying success in my paintings. Every painting, it's a challenge."

Baum's scenes include rock formations at Red Rock Canyon, aglow with the setting sun, and lonesome barns, churches and gas stations, found on the road trips he takes with his wife, Patrice.

She drives while he snaps photos out the window until he sees a place he wants to explore. "I take an establishing shot, where it's just wide open, and then shots of parts and pieces and come up with a painting out of that."

Of course, his paintings are not photographic, especially when he mixes in those molecules of air.

Baum moved here in 1977, but was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Ohio. While a student at Wright State University, he started studying computer programming. He then flirted with psychology and anthropology before focusing on art and earning his BFA.

"I did a lot of sculpture, abstract construction using a lot of different materials. Back in those days, conceptual art was big. I worked in that for a while, then I moved on. I've done a lot of different media."

Looking at his oil paintings, it's hard to believe that he didn't always know this was his destiny, but that kind of talk makes him squirm.

"I don't like to get real fanciful about my painting. When people do that, they say they're on this quest or something. For me, it's just what I do. I paint, and that's the unvarnished thing. No airs about it."

Baum estimates he spends more than half of his work time marketing his art. "I just try to learn as I go. I don't think I'm a natural at it. My mind doesn't work in that direction very well. I can do it, I do the marketing things I think of to do, and I try to do that well. I think I have some of that left brain. I really enjoy doing Web sites."

His user-friendly site includes portfolios of paintings, animations of work in progress and a journal of "shockingly true" stories of artistic adventures. But he'd really rather spend his time scouting new subjects or working in his basement studio, which overlooks Red Rock Canyon. When he's not painting, he admits he gets "cranky."

He's taking a break from the whimsical paintings that often depicted cartoonish pickups passing bright, cheerful gas stations, which were very popular with art lovers.

"Some subject matter is not necessarily going to be that commercial, but a lot of times I'll do things just because I want to. I have to make a living, but on the other hand I have to enjoy what I do."

Upcoming events include the Palmer Land Trust's annual "Art for Land's Sake" show on Sept. 17 and 18. He's excited about having two paintings accepted for the "Paint the Parks 100" touring exhibit.

Baum's work also can be seen at Commonwheel Artists Co-op and Garden of the Gods Trading Post or at his and Patrice's home.

"I love to have people visit my studio. If they want to come by, just check the site and get in touch. The house is a gallery."

A gallery full of air, light and silent moments; the home of someone doing what he loves.

 

 

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