Artist of the month: On the canvas, Solomon Wechter creates his own world

STORY AND PHOTO BY DANA HUCH

Los Altos High School junior Solomon Wechter was awakened when he discovered his passion for painting — but it wasn’t until recently that he got in touch with his artistic creativity. 

Now, he says he doesn’t know what he would do without this form of expression.

“I don’t like being constricted at all as a person,” Wechter said. “A painting is kind of like my own world. I can do anything I want.”

Wechter primarily paints abstract portraits that don’t feature specific people, but are invented from his imagination. The untamed, gritty portraits are full of contrast and surprising choices in anatomical representation (faces evocative of industrial machinery, extraneous or absent limbs, exposed skeletal structures, etc.). He attributes one element of his unique visual style to his use of bold, “non-blended” colors layered directly onto the canvas.

Wechter’s painting “Crossfit King.” (courtesy Solomon Wechter)

“I had done doodles in class before, but I never really took it seriously [until] I watched a documentary about one of my favorite artists,” Wechter said. “At the time I didn’t know anything about him. I was intrigued.”

That documentary was “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” which examines the life and work of Basquiat, an American abstract painter. The coils seen in Wechter’s painting “Crossfit King” were inspired by a similar motif he noticed in many of Basquiat’s pieces.

Once the seed was planted, Wechter began to absorb art with a serious fascination, becoming inspired by artists like Frances Bacon, Pablo Picasso and Cy Twombly.

Observation has taught Wechter everything he knows about art. He never had formal instruction, and instead took to visiting art museums — something he said he found unbearably boring as a child. Along with his new appreciation for this activity has come the ability to interpret art more interrogatively, visualizing the decisions the artist made and reading into the why behind them.

“[I’ve gotten better at] understanding the language that art is written in,” Wechter said.

Wechter’s painting “Untitled.” (courtesy Solomon Wechter)

Wechter’s own creative process also involves purposeful decision-making. While he paints, he said he thinks much more about the color pallet and composition of a piece now than he used to. Originally, he said he committed his immediate instinct to the canvas, which kept the process organic, but not intellectual.

“I’m definitely more educated with making my decisions,” Wechter said. “I understand why I should do something versus when I started out, I was just doing [stuff] for no reason. I was going off of much less thought.”

However, Wechter has held onto his organic flow through making the process more conscious. He said he starts with only a vague concept and a blank page, and the idea emerges along the way. The fruition of this idea into a finished painting can take anywhere from four to 50 hours.

“I never really know where something’s going,” Wechter said. “It’s all just adding and taking away what I don’t like and keeping what I like.”

Wechter paints over parts of a piece that don’t feel right until he is satisfied. He said that the face in his painting “Crossfit King” likely has 100 layers under it.

“Something is complete when I have made all the decisions I can make [with] my knowledge,” Wechter said. “If I look back at an old painting there’s a lot of stuff I would change — if not everything — because at the time my knowledge didn’t stretch out as far.”

Wechter’s painting “Untitled.” (courtesy Solomon Wechter)

In the future, he wants to expand his media by exploring sculpture, and he even has a “very far out there idea” of creating a mechanical sculpture with moving parts.

Wechter said he does wonder why he didn’t find his way to art earlier, as he sees himself having the “temperaments” of an artist: visual creativity, imagination and appreciation for beauty.

“It’s not like anything else that I do, so I’m really glad it happened because it’s definitely something that I need to do,” Wechter said. “If I couldn’t make art I don’t know [what] I would fill that need with.”

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