Mr. Bixler's work shows a pronounced affinity with the past, in technique as well as in subject matter. The artist suggests a symbiotic relationship between his drawings and the paintings which follow from them. "Without the drawings the paintings might never appear, but the transposition from drawing to painting is, I feel, essential to fulfilling the imagery which emerges unbidden from the sketches. I draw spontaneously, at odd times and wherever I happen to be. I'm never very far from my sketchbook, but I rarely draw anything from life, at most a brief notation from something seen in a museum or gallery." Instead, the drawings are a means of allowing imagery to flow unguardedly from within, subjective, subconscious, giving free reign to impulse in what is portrayed. As a consequence, the artist maintains that the images and the compositions which result from them are largely devoid of 'program' and narrative content. "I won't suggest that nothing is ever purposely drawn, but I do strive to allow line and form to dominate content in the drawings, just as tonality and color are meant to dominate in the paintings." Once a drawing has been sufficiently developed, it may provide the basis for a painting.
The paintings are done in oil using either canvas or wooden panel supports. The picture dimensions vary considerably depending upon the scale that seems appropriate to each composition. The ground is always quite smooth, suitable for the fine detail typical of this painter. The basic composition is first sketched lightly onto the tinted ground in soft pencil. Mr. Bixler employs a modified version of the ancient 'bistre' method, in which the images are painted and modeled in monochrome before color is applied. In the initial stage, dominant tonal values and modeling are established using highly diluted oil paint. This under-painting is usually done in shades of sepia or gray, and the forms are more or less developed depending upon whether glazes are to be used. In glazing, successive layers of oil paint, rendered transparent by the use of a special varnish medium, are applied to a subject painted in monochrome. Depending upon which colors are used, the degree of transparency, and the number of layers applied, the image progressively assumes a deep, luminous and highly nuanced coloration. In other parts of the picture, opaque oil paint may be applied directly and modeling done either at once or in successive stages. Both methods are frequently used within the same painting. Many months after completion, when the paint is thoroughly dry, the picture is normally varnished to protect and unify the surface.
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