Today we released two striking works by artist Paul Rutz, Calloused Recorder Rack and Pointer Finger Plates. Intrigued by these pieces, we asked Rutz to share some insights. He graciously gave us the backstory on Pointer Finger Plates and it's bound to surprise you.

Early on, when I was still a teenager, an older painter told me, “Always paint first the part that worries you most.” For him, that was faces. He said he needed to wrestle with a face on canvas and get the expression just so before he could finish the rest of the picture, pushing and pulling the composition around that focal point.

For a painter like me, who loves to indulge in details, painting faces usually gives me joy, the opposite of worry—the same with knuckles and veins and the little reflections in the skin that stretches over them. I save those for last like I save my favorite music album for the end of the studio day. I feel no concern for my ability to sing along with the whorls of hair and wrinkles and the tensions behind them.

The composition itself, though! That’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night.

That midnight struggle brought about Pointer Finger Plates. I popped awake for some reason and started drawing, imagining the problem of two circles contained in a square—or maybe not contained. Or maybe three circles. Or two circles with some interruption. What’s their relationship? How do I show something compelling about the simple circles in our lives? The answers to these questions aren’t verbal ones. They come in the trial and error of the studio. I tried drawing the best one in pencil on panel, gessoed over that, tried another...

I try and retry compositional ideas constantly, and while I used to see that low-boiling worry as a problem, I’ve come to understand that’s just how I get the best work out of myself. These days I actually look for failure in the studio. If I’m not abandoning about half of the paintings I start, I take that as a sign I’m sitting back too comfortably in my technique. So I court a few failures to see what happens.

See Pointer Finger Plates, Calloused Recorder Rack and other works by Rutz below.