The Artist’s Process
by: Kelly Skeen
From intimate works on paper to large-scale canvases, the bulk of Matthew Mullins’ work begins with layers upon layers of acrylic ink and watercolor that form a realistic under painting of a natural environment. The artist then begins to obscure the image with a human made pattern, maybe found from a folk tradition or a tiling manual, allowing the two elements to intersect and mingle on the paper or canvas in an intuitive way. A mystical grove of pine trees, a serene lake, or a majestic mountain landscape is imbued with a construct that has been filtered by mankind. The result doesn’t create clash or controversy; it realizes harmony as a visualization of the unified web to which we all belong.
“My work draws upon my fascination with visual perception and the forces of nature,” explains Mullins in his artist statement. “By integrating human made constructs with natural environments, I’m composing a relationship that is often deconstructed or forgotten in today’s society.”
This process allows for risk taking and ambiguous experimentation, an exciting prospect for the artist. The permanence of the medium stimulates Mullins as he progresses through a piece, obscuring parts that could have taken hours to complete. As the acrylic ink immediately stains the paper, Mullins is inspired by the sense of risk in that moment. The piece continues to build and shift with each layer of ink, and is finished with watercolor to soften the hard edges of the acrylic. See this process embodied in Chicoma, Aspen & Pine, Nebula, and Annie, among others.
Mullins dives deeper into the literal connection between humans and nature with a series of mandala pieces called The Creation of the Elements. These cosmic watercolors take us out of our typical earthly view and into an environment similar to the one in which we were created. The starry sky imagery recalls the origins of our universe and subsequent formation of stars through hydrogen gases and cosmic dust. Many of the elements in our own physical bodies were created in this process; as a testament to this, Mullins finishes each piece in the series with a resonating artifact such as a drop of blood, or a small piece of copper, paying homage to the original integration of natural forces and our physical selves.
Mullins also experiments with collage, drawing inspiration from crazy quilts, and has a traditional landscape watercolor series. He began these works on paper as a way to deepen his skillset for painting the natural scenes in his patterned work. To learn more about Mullins’ process and life in the studio, follow his Studio page and connect with him on Instagram and Facebook. You can also see his finished work on display at Form & Concept in Santa Fe, New Mexico.