En Plein Air

ae openstudiosAndrew Purchin on capturing the moment, art as a language, and Open Studios

 Extreme painter, tenacious collaborator, and committed “citizen artist,” Andrew Purchin doesn’t just talk the talk. When he says “make art!” he means it. If Purchin had his way, you—yes you—would get up out of your chair, go to a canvas, pick up a paintbrush and begin to make art like the world depended on it. He makes art everywhere—the beach, the street, presidential inaugurations.

Purchin believes that everyone can make art, but few people are ever encouraged to get past what he calls the “ABCs of art-making.”

“Art-making is a language,” says the tireless painter. “It’s visual and kinesthetic, it’s all the senses, and I believe that as a society we’re relatively illiterate in the arts. Most people don’t get to find their own artistic language.” And he’s completely serious—so serious that he just got back from Pakistan earlier this summer, where he worked on a gallery collaboration with a Muslim collage artist. Currently, Purchin and his Pakistani collaborator are working digitally on a collection entitled Encounters on the Frontier—the frontiers being “the Internet and fear of intimacy.”

Purchin came to Santa Cruz, as did others, to escape Southern California and to attend UC Santa Cruz. At that time, “There were no grades, and you could make up your own major,” he says, grinning. When he smiles his eyes become the color of the water at Point Lobos, a favorite painting site. “So I got a degree in Arts and Social Action.” He then followed a Masters degree in Social Work, which led to Purchin’s day job of two decades as a psychotherapist. “I think I’m a good psychotherapist,” he says. “I specialize in helping anxious people. I’m great at the 50-minute hour. I do everything fast. I’m specific and focused.”

Growing up in Studio City, where his father was an educational filmmaker, Purchin learned to love “those moments in film editing where images change and dissolve into each other. It’s those transitional moments that I love.” Transitional moments fill his exuberantly gestural oil paintings; paintings made on the spot, in a moment which seems to come alive under his touch. Many involve water, waves, and birds. Trusting his “kinesthetic gut,” Purchin tries to stay with an intuitive feeling he has about his subject, while focusing on making something specific. His signature is a flurry of calligraphic brush marks that ripple insistently across the canvas, invoking Dufy by way of Monet. Yet all Purchin.

The same skills serve him in painting and in therapy. “I am sensitive, kind, I empathize—but the hard part is finding time for myself and my painting. I try to do things to maintain my energy.”

Purchin has built a following, in part, through Open Studios. “I have great conversations with people,” he says. “Plus the yearly ritual helps me to clean things up and go through what I’ve done that year. I get more clarity.” In addition to helping to pay for a chunk of his art expenses, he says, Open Studio conversations help build community. “The community is the career,” he insists. Paintings begun in the field often come back to his studio, where he studies them and figures out what they might need. He even paints over many of them, creating what he calls “layered” work. “I’m getting better at it,” he says. Purchin admits to being a serious person under all the upbeat flurry of plein air artwork. “I like dark environments,” he confesses with a gallows grin. “I like Anselm Kiefer.”

Considering a dozen of his large canvases, each bursting with bold brushwork dancing across layers of deep blue, green and red, he admits, “I like my work. I have confidence in it. When you have enough of a self,” Purchin pauses for emphasis, “you can give.”

Andrew Purchin participates in Open Studios on Oct. 11-12. For more about his paintings, see his website http://andrewpurchin.com/. PHOTO: Andrew Purchin in his studio, which he’ll open to the public during Open Studios in October. CHIP SCHEUER

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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