August 22, 2000
by Fred Marchman
Bob Zimlich is a native Mobilian who has returned from the Far Land of Atlanta, where he lived for 20 years. Recently he has returned to doing watercolors after pursuing a career in engineering and computer work.
You will see this artistís paintings on the guest artist wall at the rear of the gallery. There are four reasonably large canvases approximately 4íx4í and three or more smaller paintings in the space to the left of the larger works. These paintings are unique in that they are watercolor paintings done on canvas rather than paper. They have that loose, light, airy look that color washes yield.
There is a touch of poetry, literally, in several of these works which employ lettering and specifically the verses of Kahlil Gibran, the famous, popular, yet mystical poet/artist of Lebanon. Bob explained to me that he used the poetry and wisdom of Kahlil Gibranís books as a way of providing a spiritual education for his three children. This is current work. He is doing a series of paintings inspired by Gibran.
Zimlich has used an interesting build-up or embossing effect of the words on the canvas in gold paint. The canvases have a soft look because of the "gallery wrap" method he uses when he stretches the canvas so that there is no actual frame but a "soft rounded edge" instead, which he builds in his workshop.
"If it isnít growing, itís dying" -- this pithy, terse statement is lettered into the composition of one of the larger watercolor-canvases. These words derived from the florist industry of Bobís parents, Bob & Jewel Zimlich. These words are a philosophy to live by, to be applied to a dynamic and vital life. Perhaps, this particular painting is also a tribute to his mother who recently made her transition.
Zimlich shows only a smattering of his ability and interest in computer-generated imagery in the painting that is a tribute to the famous Jamaican Rastafarian musician, Bob Marley. I would like to see more of his exploration of computer imaging. It is effective as he uses it in a collage style application contrasting with the watercolor, and I can visualize him developing more work along these lines.
The artist presented me with a statement and some background of further interest in his own words, which I feel fills in the rest of his story and worth quoting here:
"I spent most of career in the engineering field, drafting and technical writing. When the company I was working for went under in the late 80ís, I fell back on my art. My contacts led to several commissions for renderings for new banks and to painting 6 murals in then new Underground Atlanta. I moved back to Mobile in 1990. I have done two commissioned paintings for Brown & Root, built two faux stainglass signs, and designed a restaurant logo."
"The murals were an interesting experience. My originals were in my usual watercolor style. Getting on a slick, vertical surface was something else. Through a process of experimentation, I did it by sponging watered-down acrylic washes, then sealing the surface. It was also my first experience working with someone else, my oldest daughter Rebekah, who was 12 at the time. After I transferred my originals by a slide projector to the wall, she did my fill work. My other children, Aaron and Jessica, helped as gofers."
"In terms of my art, not much happened until 1998, when I met my a big influence, Kay Daughdrill. The night we met, she mentioned her dream was to become a famous artist. What a coincidence. We talked about it for 6 months, then I tried getting back into it. I just couldnít visualize seriously making it in the art world with yet another watercolor, regardless of style. Of course, I didnít realize this until Kay pointed it out -- "lose the paper...you need to be painting on canvas. Thatís when it all changed. My first was all acrylic. With my second painting, Kay noticed I was thinning my acrylics to washes. Yes, I am a watercolorist and thatís where Iím most comfortable with washes."
"The biggest influences were to come, Jean-Michael Basquait and Jackson Pollock. Iíve always liked Pollockís paintings because, like Rothkoís, theyíre pleasing to look at. Then I read a book about him and saw some of his earlier work. Yes, he could do it but so much laboring. I can relate to that. I cannot draw naturally like a lot of artists. I really have to work at it. Sometimes it worked, often it didnít. That same pressure haunted Jackson Pollock , who being an acute alcoholic, didnít help either. Find what you really like to paint and just do that. I love washes. Like Rothkoís colors and Jacksonís drips, I love the colors and look of washes. I also picked up from Pollock -- flat painting on unstretched canvas. After all, Iím a watercolorist."
"Basquait (a Haitian artist) is the man. Over the years, Iíve always liked my sketches and test sheets better than the finished work. There was always life and vitality in the crude. The biggest thing Iíve learned from Jean-Michael has been how to work. His is art by appropriation rather than drafting. Also, he always worked three canvas at a time (flat, unstretched). This way, there is never any pressure on any one painting, and lack of pressure -equals maximum freedom and maximum creativity."
"Overall, I think Andy Warhol is the 20th centuryís single biggest influence on the art world. The numbers are there."
"My first art teacher when I was in the fourth grade was Rosemary Dexter, a local actress/artist/teacher. She gave me my love of pastels. She also gave me a set of Rembrandts I still have, though most have slowly been replaced over the years. Pastels are still my favorite medium for sketching, lay down mass, throw in highlights and shadows, youíve captured a sunset, moon rising or whatever. Mrs. Dexter also gave me my first influence. Louisa Bonheuer said, "Do not paint eyelashes on horses." She preferred leading the viewer to thinking they see eyeleashes. I suppose she could have said donít paint leaves on trees but she was an animal painter. Besides, the leaf thing is also an economy issue."
"My second art teacher when I was in fifth through seventh grade was Lilly Betty. Her other students included her daughter, Stephanie Betty Morris and neighbor Eugenia Cameron Foster. I learned all the basics from Mrs. Betty: composition, colors, values, distances, medium. Years later, she said her objective was to give us a love for art. Mission accomplished. "
"I did learn that oils werenít my thing. Taking a lesson once a week, oils didnít lend themselves to spontaneity. A week later, I forgot what I was doing. Thatís when I started pen and ink with watercolors, which was my mainstay for the next 30 years. In those days, I inked my scene then "colored" it with watercolor. That didnít always work, though... sketch didnít look like what I had in mind. So, I started painting with the watercolor first, decided what it looked most like and inked that in. The process was a lot less stressful. Somewhere over the years, my inking shifted to negative space, which I still use a lot, particularly in my computer generated art."
"I took several art courses from Jerry Roldan at Yancy State Junior College (now Faulkner). I learned about Winslow Homer and his use of complements for muted colors. Picked up a keeper from Jerry -- three points of color. We did some exercises of black and white drawings, adding a touch of red in three different locations. Iíve used that often, really helps pull things together. But nothing pulls a painting together quite like a primary color palette; I figured that out on my own."
"I studied at the Atlanta School of Art for one year. Studying IN an art museum is awesome. I discovered Edward Hopper and Mark Rothko during this period. Though I know something about lighting until Hopper, his "Night Hawkers" changed how I saw light. From Rothko, I learned how just colors could be so pleasing to look at. Only oils can do justice to Rothkoís style, but I learned that to be visually pleasing did not require subject matter."