“Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles…
And we, clay touched by God,
will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder:
How filled with Awe is this place and we did not know it!”
– Chaim Stern
In the lush world of Daniel Tucker’s pastels, we feast upon colors. It’s as if we find ourselves in the middle of an artist’s personal and idiosyncratic journey. Here, the viewer’s eye can skip over a richly ornamented kingdom, over hill and dale, to reassess a question vital to all of us: what is the game of life and how do we play it with our whole heart?
Daniel Tucker, an artist who has had medium in hand since the age of three, was noted by his iconic preschool teacher Miss Brooks as standing out: “Danny enjoys his artwork,” she wrote, “which is unusual in a very active boy, and he does exceptionally well in it.”
Unlike many of us, Tucker vividly remembers his preschool experience (continues to this day to nurture friendships initiated then), which is perhaps the time when visual stimulation saturates our memory most with deep color and profound mystery. These rich colors and textures and sense of play continue to pump through the heart of all his paintings.
Hand + Heart
For this artist, hands are the fundamental, literal, and metaphoric tools of creation. With them he has used pencils to create line drawing and text, exceptional and visionary illustrated books, both content and binding, and more and more and more paintings as the years accrue.
I had a teacher many years ago who taught: Everything we are is in our hands. Of course, one could take this to mean different things; but I took it, and continue to take it, literally. Using a brush, for example, is not the same as using one’s own hands and feeling the content of each mark and movement on the painting surface while holding the pigment. Oddly, when I think of using my hands to paint, I associate the feeling with the early fantastic sensations of finger painting.
“I love pastels because I can hold them in my hand; the colors are raw and saturated. They are fragile to the touch but will last thousands of years undisturbed. I’m an old cave painter. I use my hands to faithfully transmit what is in the heart. I can’t imagine expressing feelings on paper without using my hands”.
Hand + Heart + Process
At this point in his life, Tucker finds himself more and more drawn to the “effortless reality” of creating paintings, a place many artists dream of being linked with on a regular basis.“I mostly start a painting from exactly where I am. The last couple years, it generally feels like the painting is painting itself — that I’m not ‘doing’ painting. I am enchanted by the experience of it and find myself engaged in painting 24/7/365.”
“It is an extraordinary and precious and delicious and melodious and fragrant and ecstatic and deeply satisfying experience,” he says. “Time and Space unify: and I feel happy.”
When we look at these paintings, surely reminiscent of cave paintings but also of Marc Chagall and Paul Klee and Kandinsky and Gustave Klimt and Alice in Wonderland, we are welcomed by the velvety warmth of pure pigment, as well as by a sense that any one of us can and will interpret them differently. That all interpretations could be interesting and somehow true – even if Tucker’s narrative of them is as specific as it is grand. The best compliment he could imagine receiving about one of his paintings? That someone can’t stop looking at them.
A Maturing Process
“I only really got ‘serious’ about visual arts when I was 17,” Tucker says, “and inherited the editorship of the University of Colorado Creative Magazine, NISUS. In those days, the 1960s, digital didn’t exist. Almost all the production was done ‘by hand.’ Forty-five years later, I still paint ‘by hand.’ I think as a young artist I was ambitious and lacked the clarity of purpose and vision that comes with having made pictures for the intervening 52 years.
“As a more mature (and childlike) artist, the difference I notice between then and now is I that have something to say about what is important to me–and that I can paint it with greater transparency and clarity. Not only has the process changed from one of being a bulldozer scraping the surfaces, but also now I could say the process is ‘streaming.’
“I am able,” he says, “to face each blank piece of paper as I face and initiate each day of my life — with many more resources.” Here is Tucker’s list of resources, a list that any artist – or anyone at all – could hope for more of on a daily basis. A Daily Prayer for the Artist’s Resources, as it were:
“It is more fun and joyful and satisfying,” he says, given his expanding field, “being a maturing artist. I very much appreciate the appearance of the mysterious in each painting (and also in me! ) in a way I did not when I was younger.
Come along on a journey of indelible and deftly allotted color, lines finely drawn and then thickly smudged, a journey of flowers, and doors, pathways, or checkboards, and lovers, of metaphor, flora, fauna, the tiny and the gargantuan. Don’t forget to read the titles, from Self Portrait with Doors to Orangutans: How to Transform Your Problem People.
Standing back and staring hard at these mature and childlike and cave-worthy paintings, this can be said for certain: they resonate and fascinate and inspire. They do leave their mark.
Written by: Michelle Curry Wright