Jeffery Roth is an artist who lives and works in his native Northern California. Fusing his classic fine/studio arts training with the art director/ designer’s eye developed in his entertainment industry career, Jeffery has recently turned his focus to a long-held passion: watercolor.
“Growing up in Carmel had a profound effect on my aesthetic sensibilities. For one thing, it’s an area of stunning natural beauty and for that reason it drew some of the greatest visual artists in the country: Legends such as Brett Weston, Ansel Adams from the photography world, and also my personal mentors Alexander Wygers and Donald Teague. It was Teague who opened my eyes to the splendor of water color, the most difficult and yet undoubtedly most magical medium through which to celebrate nature, architecture and especially waterscapes bathed in the unique quality of light we have on this coastline.”
Roth spent seminal years of his youth enjoying Teague’s avuncular company when the painter was in his 70s and 80s, happy to tutor an eager young painter and share some warmth and insight.
“It sounds silly but it is true that he was like a Zen master who could illustrate and sum up his hard-won wisdoms in delightful, short observations and anecdotes. He told me that he would often “see” his future painting of a landscape when first gazing on it and would make a fast, small, sketchy watercolor of it on the spot to capture that vision. He would also take a photo for detail reference later, but that first sketch usually had all the key elements that went into his great works. It had all been there in his eye’s first glimpse. To me that sums up his mastery of the medium and it’s the ideal I work toward. And his words on economy in painting is my mantra: “Say just enough to catch them and let their minds fill in the rest.”
Roth has some of his own ideas on how to “say just enough.” His medium-small canvases depicting bridges, buildings, forests and coastal surf-scapes have earned praise from many quarters from where varied enthusiasms can be glimpsed by a selection of their adjectives: “haunting,” “melancholy,” “uplifting,” “dazzling,” and, perhaps most often, “luminescent.” But many have admitted to being caught off guard by Roth’s at times unusual framing of his subjects (the foot of one pier under the Golden Gate Bridge; a patch of foam surf with no horizon or foreground, only a lone bather off near one distant corner). These choices bring us fragments of a larger frame the viewer will probably construct for themself.
“Too often paintings have a kind of snapshot framing that presents views as we already know them, offering nothing new to consider. I try to show my visions, rather than the version we’ve all seen, I want you to see it again for the first time. But more importantly my framing choices are attempts to make my own sense of views, lines, compositions. Great paintings and photographs are more than the sum of their parts. They contain an invisible magic that raises them as art. By torquing my framing and focusing on smaller details in a bigger scene I believe I’m searching for that hidden subtext, maybe a sacred geometry that hints at the magic.”
London June, 2015