ungapatchka: Yiddish word to describe something ridiculously overdecorated, excessively ornamented or kitsch.

This summer I learned a new word from one of my students. Ungapatchka caught my ear for two reasons: firstly, it is so much fun to say, and secondly, the word sounds like the thing it describes. Since I was a Literature major in college, I am a big fan of new vocabulary. Watch this space, because I have a few more vocabulary additions in store for the blog!

My student felt everything in her painting was too cluttered and loud, lacking unity. I’ve often felt this about work in progress, and the thing I do to remedy it is to simplify. Recently a friend mentioned that in general my work could use more emphasis on the focal areas and more mystery in the rest of the painting. Mystery is the opposite of Ungapatchka! So, I have been trying to simplify and unify areas of my work. I want to make sure that one area is strongest and the other areas are sublimated.

If an abstract painting is too cluttered, it draws the eye away from the focal area of the work. While some contemporary painting celebrates busy, all-over pattern, I don’t think my skill set supports that kind of style. I want much of my painting to feel soft, muted and quiet in support of the parts of the work that are most important in contrast, shape or movement.

Watch Me Simplify

Here are a couple of videos of me working on an oil & wax piece. You’ll notice that early on, I’m making pretty drastic changes in the layers, while toward the end of the process, the changes are much more subtle. The earlier work looks more ‘Ungapatchka’ to me. What do you think? The second video is longer. Watch as I make some stronger changes, then subdue them by taking off the paint I just put on. (If the videos are not displayed in your email, click here and here to view them on the web.)

What do you think?

Should we avoid clutter in our work at all costs, or do you agree with Mae West?

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”
-Mae West

Upcoming Exhibits:


Nature Perceived- Randall David Tipton, Don Gray and Ruth Armitage

Grants Pass Museum of Art, February 23 – March 30, 2018. Artist’s Reception: Friday, March 2, 5-9 pm.


Celebration of Creativity

March 1 – 4, 2018 – Southminster Presbyterian Church, 12250 SW Denney Rd., Beaverton, OR 97008

First Look Gala – Thursday, March 1, 7-9 pm, View other hours on their website here.


H2OMG – Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton, California

February 1 – April 8, 2018 – More information here.

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