Robert Sutherland can't pinpoint where the idea came from. As sometimes happens with art, spin painting was one of those happy accidents, born from a thought to make use of paint left on his palette after finishing a commissioned piece, and the notion that a change of perspective could sprout creativity.
Sutherland is a commercially trained artist whose media include oils, casein, pastels, oil pastels, watercolor, pencil and pen and ink. He wasn't looking to paint anything in particular when he brushed fresh strokes of leftover paint on a blank canvas. On a whim, he turned the canvas on its side and to his delight, discovered the serendipitous image of a child looking at his foot.
"Then I just kept spinning the canvas and painting from there," Sutherland said. "I painted one portion with one color. Then I turned the painting and used another color. The first time I did it, it became more than a painting."
It was the start of something new, a way to paint free of any preconceived ideas and expectations; mind as empty as the fresh canvas that is painted on and then rotated to discover images that seem to emerge on their own to be elaborated on with the artist's brush. Sometimes those images become four separate paintings in one — what Sutherland calls a "quad" — depending on which way the painting sits on his easel.
Some of those paintings ended up telling a story.
A piece called The Wedding starts out with the depiction of two faces. Turn it once to the left and there is the face of a moose, representing the animalistic nature of new love. Turn it once more and there is the image of a bride and groom. And on the third turn the multiple faces of the wedding guests can be seen.
The idea to work all four aspects of the canvas in a free-flowing manner has served as fuel for Sutherland, who has created multiple pieces — some taking weeks or years to complete. After teaching his technique to students at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, he also founded a group called Spin D'Arte.
Their work will be on display throughout March at the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery. An opening reception Friday evening will feature "spinning" demonstrations, live music and refreshments.
"You can expect a good variety," Sutherland said. "Some (artists) work in watercolors, some in oils, some in acrylics. Everybody maintains their own style."
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]