Working in two different mediums, pastel drawings on paper and acrylic paintings on aluminum, Val Rossman’s art is rich in color and form. From loose mark-making to densely gridded layers of color, she is not afraid to experiment. The results are full of spontaneity and excitement, energetic and lively.
“I start by scribbling with either the chalks or the paints,” Rossman says. “I never have a preconceived idea of where I’m going. I react to the moment, kind of like a jazz musician doing improv.” She then adds layers of color or removes them with a combination of spontaneous gestures and preconceived decisions in planned-out areas. “I love the back and forth of dancing with the piece and the excitement of staying in the moment without knowing where the end will be.” In her painting process, Rossman uses brushes, her hands, sponges, rags or anything else that is lying around her studio. At the end, she applies several layers of self-leveling gel, which makes the final surface shiny and smooth.
In her pastel, Where Can I Get That?, 10 x 10 inches, we see a wash of soft pink with dashes of white, blue and lilac. It takes courage to blend colors in this way, making for a compelling blend of colors in a similar hue. I Believe, another pastel, 7 x 7 inches, now blends a palette of cobalt blue with brief moments of ultramarine and red. Both these pieces are soft yet energetic. “One constant in my work is my interest in color, purely for color’s sake. All the work is an excuse to experiment and play with the properties of color,” Rossman said.
Her studio is in a commercial building that also houses a large woodworking studio and other businesses. She always paints to music; jazz, classical or folk. “I listen to music just to keep to myself and concentrate on my work. And no animals to keep me company. The studio is too dirty for that! A good or bad day is dependent on how the work goes.”
Rossman is clearly influenced by painters of the past. “I love Matisse - his colors, fluid brush and linear marks, and the way he flattens out space. Also Diebenkorn, how he went from more expressionistic abstractions to realism to very simple abstract. Also Kandinsky and De Kooning!” Rossman’s paintings, A Different Approach and These Things Happen, both created with acrylic on aluminum, demonstrate her careful study of these powerful painters. And yet they are uniquely her own in the way she lays out her colors, lines and space. “I try to capture the awe and excitement of experiencing something anew. The beauty of the natural world is a never-ending source of inspiration. My task is to do something different with what I am seeing around me.”
And how does Val Rossman know when one of her abstract paintings is finished, an ongoing question in any painter’s process? “I always know when a piece is finished. I can tell because when I look at it, it feels as if it just emerged or grew out of the surface. Nothing is out of place. The painting feels as if it always existed like that.”