To celebrate his 82nd birthday, Robert Pummill decided to paint 82 miniature works for a new show at Insight Gallery in Fredericksburg, Texas. “Eighty-two seemed like a good number,” he says, “at least at the time.” After quickly realizing how herculean of a task it was to do 82 new works, Pummill settled on a more manageable batch of 60 new works, which is still a tremendous amount of new paintings, even if they are small works.
“They may be small, but you still have to create a good composition and a good painting. You have all the same problems as a large piece, but now, less area to work in,” Pummill says. “It can be difficult, but also very rewarding. I get so many requests for small works that I decided to dedicate the year to small paintings.”
Pummill, who doesn’t paint from photographs, says he starts with a composition and then takes “scraps of material” from his visual memory and research to cobble together the scene. The resulting paintings don’t depict real-world places, but they have a lived-in feel to them; they are places that most Texans have walked through before. Scenes include dusty dirt roads through Texas Hill Country, cactus and tall grass filling meadows rich with color and life and a Texas staple, bluebonnets.
“Spring and April, even into June, that’s when most of the wildlflowers come out. And then we have the prickly pears that can bloom in June and July and yuccas in early summer. Even into fall things are coming up if you know where to look,” the painter says. “It’s the color, all of it is so wonderful.”
One of the hallmarks of Pummill’s works is certainly color, but another is atmosphere, particularly the haze and dust that can settle in the air, creating muted colors and diffusing light. “Years back when I first met Bob Lougheed, he told me he finally felt that he had met someone who could paint atmosphere,” he says. “Painting atmosphere is painting an illusion. If you understand what happens to light and edge and values under certain atmospheric conditions or times of day, then you can recreate that in a painting.”
Long known for his consistent work ethic, Pummill says the key to painting is to simply paint. “If you have to wait around for inspiration to do 60 paintings, you’ll never get it done,” he adds.
“His work ethic is unparalleled, painting from 7 a.m. until sundown seven days a week,” says Elizabeth Harris, owner and director at Insight. “He thoroughly enjoys his work and that shows in all of his paintings. When you ask him about his best work he always laughs and says it’s his next piece because he gets better with every painting.”
Pummill’s show opens February 6 and continues through February 23.
Fields of Blue, oil, 8 x 22”
Autumn Morning, oil, 12 x 16”
Along a Country Road, oil, 12 x 16”
Prickly Pear in Bloom, oil, 9 x 11”