Doug Flückiger's graphite paintings are created entirely by hand, using only graphite. Neither charcoal, ink, nor photography, graphite is a mineral closely related to carbon that resists fading and creates a beautiful, rich painting.
Although I enjoy drawing and have done a mite of commercial photography in my day, my paintings are different from both drawings and photography. I don't "draw;" pencils are just one of many tools I use, and some pieces were hardly touched with a pencil. Neither is my work photography, because it is executed by hand and because it transcends the ability of mere film or pixels on a screen to capture the majesty of natural landscapes.
As Ansel Adams taught us, black and white images have a unique strength, sophistication and subtlety. Black and white art stands on its own, making a powerful statement independent of decor. Black and white art is both rustic, contemporary, and timeless; and these extraordinary, large graphite paintings are unique in the world of art.
A paragraph about me follows at the end of the Q & A. But for now, how 'bout if you ask the questions and I answer them. If you have a question that hasn't been answered here, drop me a line.
Q. These are drawings??
A. They are graphite paintings. I manipulate graphite as other artists do with paint; I even use a brush. I don't really use pencils except for fine detail.
Q. Charcoal, right?
A. No ma'am (sir); I have no love for charcoal or conté crayon; I find them too mushy and hard to control. This is graphite, like what you find in an ordinary pencil.
Q. How did you get it so dark?
A. I use special grades of graphite in varying degrees of hardness. The softer the graphite, the darker the black. Using a special technique I've developed, I can get my tones down to about 95% black (excluding ambient light and reflections). Remember when you were a kid and you went to Mammoth Cave and they turned off the lights way in the back and it was so dark you couldn't see your hand in font of your face? That's 100% black. So at 95%, I can get pretty close.
Q. How do you create the snow / sunbeams / light parts?
A. Like black ink on a printed page, I only work in darks. The light areas are simply where the paper shows through.
Q. How long does it take you to do a painting?
A. That depends on the size of the painting. I did "September 28" in one day, but that's because it's small and I was able to concentrate on it all that day with minimal interruptions. "June 3" only took me two days for the same reasons. Bigger ones take longer.
Q. How do you go about creating a painting?
A. I enjoy spending time outdoors, and most of my work is based on scenes local to my Idaho home. I shoot lots of pictures and, when I find one I like, modify it until I think it'll work as a painting. (Some of my paintings have lots of artistic license, some very little.) I then transfer it to my medium of choice—currently Bristol board—and get to work. All I have to do is scribble in the right place.
Q. Do you go out and paint in the woods?
A. No sir (ma'am). For one thing, it's pretty hard to haul around a big sheet of Bristol board—a camera and backpack is enough. For another, I'm trying to capture light (not necessarily composition), and when you're outside, the light changes pretty fast. For another, I wouldn't want my work to get rained on.
Q. How do you keep it from smudging?
A. I just work from the upper left of the painting to the lower right. If I have to go back to work on a finished area, I'll put a piece of paper down so my hand doesn't smudge the painting.
Q. Can you paint me a picture of my dog/barn/grandmother?
A. Probably not. There are some terrific pencil artists out there who might do a better job at those subjects than I could. You see, I don't really draw.
Q. Why do you name your paintings after dates? Isn't that confusing?
A. Less confusing than actually naming each of them. I tried giving them descriptive names, and everything sounded tired. Then I recalled that when Beethoven wrote one of the most powerful passages of music ever heard, he simply named it "Allegro con Brio," which is a tempo marking. When you hear "ba ba ba BAAAAM!" then you know. Music is full of soul-stirring beauty with mundane names like "Etude No. 4" and "Lacrymosa" and "Concerto No. 1 for piano". Why not art? It's just music for the eyes.
Besides, naming by date gives me 365 names right off the bat before I have to start repeating myself. And some of the dates have special significance. For example, our wedding anniversary is April 8. I drew one of my wife's flowers and she liked it, but I called it "April 7" because it wasn't perfect enough to represent our marriage (which is pretty great).
Q. Any other personal stories about the art?
A. My kids have helped on a number of the paintings. They come in while I'm working and say "Can I help?" So I give them a branch or a rock or something to draw. That way they've helped with my art, and you'll never see it.
One of my paintings actually has a glop of white caulk in it. I was working on it beneath the skylight in my old studio and my wife was caulking the skylight, and a bit of caulk fell onto the art. But I worked it into the art and you'll never see it—and I ain't telling which painting.
Q. How do you say your name?
A. FLOO-key-grr. Glad you asked. It's Swiss.
Soooo, tell me about yourself.
Hmm. I've always loved taking pictures and have been using graphite since I could hold a pencil. I graduated with honors from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. My degrees are in graphic design and that was my bread and butter. It also influences my paintings in that I pay a lot of attention to the composition of my work. Photography is a huge help in my work; I'm not reproducing photographs here, but photography is just a tool—like a brush.
My wife and I are happily married with a passel o'kids. We designed and (helped) build our house, and work our homestead on a remote mountainside in Idaho. It's a great life, I'll tell you what.