|Neil Welliver is one of Patty Haller’s inspirational artists. See a resemblance?|
Neil Welliver in conversation with Edwin Denby
Q. Why do you staple the big charcoal drawing to the white canvas?
A. The charcoal drawing, when it is stapled to the white canvas, is ready to be transferred to the canvas and it’s been perforated with a little pouncing wheel so it is filled with tiny holes along the lines of the drawing. When it is stapled there, that puts it in position, so it is registered more or less with the canvas. That drawing is basically to work out problems of scale and size. It has very little to do with description. The description takes place when I’m painting. I mean the painting is in fact done when I paint. The drawing establishes size and to some extent, position, although that changes too. And when it is punctured with the pouncing wheel, it generalizes the drawing again so that all of the changes that you made on paper to find the right size and position and so on, disappear, and the drawing becomes quite general simply because the little wheel is not a drawing tool but rather a tracing tool. And then when it goes to the canvas it is transferred in these very tiny dots which give you a general placement. It tells you roughly where things are going to go on the canvas.
Q. The charcoal doesn’t mix with the paint?
A. I don’t like to mix it with the paint. After I put the charcoal on, I isolate it, with a spray, with a synthetic varnish. I was told by a fortune teller not to use charcoal with my paint.
Q. Yes, I remember that at the Union Fair.
A. At the Union Fair, yes, she said, don’t …
Q. She was very clever.
A. She asked me to ask her a specific question and I said, I use charcoal with my paint. I thought that was very specific. Should I continue that? She said to me, ‘Is it messy?’ And I said, ‘Yes’. She said, ‘Don’t do it’. Very affirmative and very funny. I’ve never done it since. That’s good advice for one dollar.