As a child, Raleigh artist Pete Sack learned to paint by re-creating portraits of baseball players whose photos he pulled out of magazines. Today, his process of drawing, watercolor and oil is still grounded in those early roots.
An artist himself, Sack’s father taught him and his brother drawing and watercolor at an early age. Later in college, Sack would be pushed into acrylic and oil, the latter of which he would come to love. And since then, his style has changed and evolved to marry all of his favorite mediums.
One thing, however, has always remained the same: Each of his works begins with a reference photo that speaks to him. Today, Sack’s source material comes from old yearbooks, archival photos and even vintage baseball cards.
“I take the images out of their original context and use them to create a new narrative,” he explains. The foundation of his pieces begins with a tightly rendered watercolor painting of his source photo. He then seals it with a plastic coating and begins to layer acrylic paint and ink over the watercolor to create depth. “I then pull away, paint over or move objects around with layers of oil paint, until I feel that the work is complete.”
It’s this combination of layers and mediums that creates a style that is uniquely his own. Sack’s use of color and partial obstruction of his initial portrait draws you. Together, these additions create a feeling and emotion not originally present his source photo. This is where the story lives in Sack’s work.
He evokes passion, pain, contemplation and sadness from otherwise objective source material. And it’s this ability to bring new life and emotion to these photos that makes his work so special.
But Sack is always looking to continue his evolution. It’s an iterative process of experimentation and right now he is focused on trying to push the limits of his style.
He explained, “An artist, whose name I can’t think of right now, once said that ‘As artists, we are all trying to solve a mystery.” That mystery is the blank canvas in front of them. “Right now for instance, I’m working on a piece that has been fighting me for three days.”
Fortunately, Sack’s process allows him to produce works much more quickly than some other artists and his use of oil paint gives him the opportunity to experiment and pull colors back out if he doesn’t like the direction. “Currently, I’m looking for what that next step is for me. That’s why this piece has been particularly challenging the last few days.”
For Sack, that search has taken him as far as Marrakesh, Morocco, where earlier this year he completed an artist residency arranged by Mahler Fine Art. Fortunately, with local shows coming up, including The Pink Building, you won’t have to travel far to see Pete Sack’s latest work.