SPRINGVILLE — Chad Grohman started out working in gouache, a style and type of painting similar to opaque watercolor, and went digital, 10 or 12 years ago, returning to the tactile technique in 2008. The Buffalo-based illustrator, painter and designer said he prefers this medium because it’s more limiting, more physical and, ultimately, more natural than digital art.
His “Transition” exhibit, up until June 29 at VanOver Fine Arts, explores the natural realms of New York state, using a similarly natural technique.
The artist said that, in this computer-centric age, “you gotta be flexible” about exploring both traditional and digital media.
“Digital is the perfect illustrating medium,” he said. “It’s already in the computer. It’s fun to do all that, and it can look the same, with brush strokes and everything.”
Although he does use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop©, Grohman said he does not use the myriad effects that Photoshop makes available, but sticks with the same color palate he would, with a paint brush and hot press watercolor board.
After spending 15 years as a freelance illustrator, Grohman paints fast, completing 100 paintings in 100 days as his summer project, for a Cooperstown exhibit he did last year.
“The industry ruined me for painting slowly,” he said, with a laugh. “I don’t think speed is necessarily a good thing.”
As an illustrator, Grohman said he would often have to turn around an illustration in one or two days, which led to the speedy work style he called “conditioning more than desire.
“The world moves too fast, these days,” he said. “I use a hair drier [to dry the paint], because I’m too impatient.”
Grohman said that he created all of the work in “Transition” specifically for that show, focusing on the change of seasons and the way the sky looks, as it changes from day to evening, and at different hours. Since the 100 paintings project took place over three months, the seasons and subject matter did not change much.
“There wasn’t a lot of seasonal change, and I liked that. I made [those paintings] all pretty much the same, on purpose. That was the exercise. This one was different.”
The artist said he took much longer to undertake “Transition” and sought more variety, in his subject matter.
“I’m choosy about my subjects,” he said, adding that he likes that visitors can recognize the places in many of his paintings, which depict many parks and New York natural landmarks.
“I thought about putting GPS codes on the back of the paintings,” he said, with a smile. “New York state is uniquely beautiful, and I wanted to capture that.
“I’d never painted this season before, and I wanted to focus on time of day, time of year, the progression of time.”
He added that the viewer can tell when each work was created, by how sky-centric it is, since the artist worked in more of the sky, as he painted.
Richard VanOver, owner of VanOver Fine Arts and the curator of the show, said that he arranged the paintings to flow naturally.
“It’s a process. I lay them out on the floor and let the paintings speak to me. I live with it, look at it from different angles, shuffle them around. And then, when once it shows up, that’s it,” he said, snapping his fingers. “It always comes.”
Grohman, who spends time visiting parks with his children, Mia, 10 and Grey, 14, said he got back to gouache in an effort to get away from the screen and return to nature.
“The more I paint landscapes, the more I want to paint them. After years of being inside, working in front of a computer, I wanted to get outside.”
Grohman does some plein air painting, which involves painting outside, and said he considers gouache painting a return to the elements.
“I hate to say it’s more honest,” Grohman said, about gouache. “But you can touch it. It’s right there.”
Grohman lives in Buffalo and commutes to Rochester, four days a week, to teach illustration at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in illustration from RIT in 1994, before earning his Master of Fine Arts Degree in illustration from the University of Hartford in 2010. Grohman taught at RIT from 1998 – 99, until his freelance illustration work took over his schedule. He went back to teach, in 2005.
“I felt comfortable there, going back. I was familiar with some people there; knew the department. I think twice is it, though,” he added. “I think you can go back twice, and then that’s it. There’s no going back, a third time.”
“Transition” will remain up at VanOver Fine Arts, until June 29. The gallery is located at 49 East Main St. in Springville and is open Wednesday – Saturday, 1 – 6 p.m. The VanOver Fine Arts gallery can be reached by calling 592-8255 or by visiting www.vanoverfinearts.com