Jack Youngerman and Barbara Rose
Interview from Artforum, January 1966
Q: How do you proceed in making a painting?
A: …I start out with lots of little ink drawings – when I say lots I mean literally hundreds. They’re like shorthand notes. I do them rapidly, save them, go back to them, modify them, perhaps use them in the future. I use lots of sources for provoking these drawings. Any number of diverse visual impressions or combinations might serve me as a point of departure for generating new shapes. In any event, the origin of the paintings is almost never directly in things seen. I’ve never abstracted anything in my life. I’ve nothing against it, but nature doesn’t furnish me with “subjects.” I can invent a much greater variety of shapes that I can use than I ever could ever get from observation. If sometimes people see “references” in my work, it is perhaps because the mind works to suggest some familiar image in any new shape.
Q: How do you determine your colors?
A: Values are usually the determining factor in my choice of colors. I think in terms of values first, which are then translated into colors; maximum contrast is a frequent occupation. Looking through “JAZZ,” by Matisse, I realized that even though every plate had black or white or both in them, you don’t think of black and white at all, but of the other colors. I almost always need black or white, often both, as components of 2 or 3-color paintings. My wish for maximum contrasts corresponds to the tension I want to create in the opposition of passive and active shapes. Shapes demand their own colors. You can’t put any color on any shape, particularly organic shapes. Some shapes will take more than one color, but none can take any color. But the emotional value of my shapes means that, for example, a dramatic menacing shape will often require black. You can’t paint it blue, yellow or green. I might try out different combinations in color studies until the right one imposes itself. White for me is really involved with space, a sense of breadth.
Q: How do you decide on scale?
A: If you’re excited about an image, the urge is always to make it mountain-size. Like the colors, however, there is a right scale corresponding to each image. Occasionally I’ve made paintings that don’t work on a certain scale, and I’ll change the scale until I find one that works.
Artforum, January 1966, p. 27 - 30