Published: Aug 27, 2008 07:42 AM
Modified: Aug 27, 2008 07:42 AM
Michael Brown's best-known paintings aren't the kind you can hang on the wall.
They ARE the wall.
Brown is well known as the artist responsible for the nearly two dozen large murals scattered throughout downtown Chapel Hill -- the sea turtles, the moonlit cityscape, the amber necklace and the rest.
Many people may not realize he also does regular-sized paintings -- the kind you can put in a frame and hang in the living room.
Brown will show 30 of his smaller works in a one-night-only exhibition at the Hillsborough Artists Cooperative's Skylight Studios Friday night from 6 to 9 p.m.
The show, at 102 W. King Street, above Tupelo's Restaurant, will be in conjunction with the monthly Last Fridays celebration in downtown Hillsborough. It will feature small-scale "sketches," acrylic studies for larger paintings that he will show in a solo exhibition later this year at Somerhill Gallery, formerly of Eastgate Shopping Center and now in the Durham Tobacco Historic District.
"I hope they're little gems," he said. "They might be little doodles. You never know with art.
"I have another hundred or so in the attic. I picked 30 of the best and framed them up for the co-op gallery show in Hillsborough. It's nothing too grand, just a quick peek. It's a chance to see how they look on a white wall and all together in context."
Brown did small paintings before he started doing huge ones, and even as his career as a muralist grew he continued to do the smaller works.
"I've always done that," he said. "You can't really do the big ones unless you do the little ones. You have to stay in practice. The big ones are a big industrial process, and they don't look good unless you stay sharp by doing the little ones."
The studies in the Hillsborough show -- and the larger finished paintings that will be in the Somerhill exhibition -- are all landscapes, Brown said. Most of them are recent, and most are scenes in Orange County.
Subject matter is not hard to find, he said.
"Most of it is stuff I see just driving around during a normal day," he said. "My philosophy is that if you can't find something beautiful and interesting within a couple hundred yards of your house, you're not looking very carefully.
"I mean, look at a weed; it's got these wild colors at the tips of the leaves, it's got thistles and crazy shapes sprouting out of it. Look at the sky; the colors and clouds change every second. You want a subject? Just look up."
Creating a small painting is a dramatically different experience than making a mural.
"The small ones tend to be more personal, more artistically sophisticated, more sensitive in their use of color," Brown said. "With the big ones, you have to plan everything out ahead and run it all by a committee, and if you want to change something you've wasted hundreds of dollars' worth of paint and hundreds of man-hours of labor. With the little ones, if you want to change something, you just paint over it. No big deal. It's a whole different kettle of fish."
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.