Circling Back to the Dream Deferred
Art nearly got away from Scott Trimble, but now it’s his #1 passion
by Bondo Wyszpolski
Each evening, at 7 or 7:15, Scott Trimble arrives home in Hermosa Beach from his office in Beverly Hills. He doesn’t turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper but goes straight to his garage where he paints until he’s hungry.
“Almost without exception I finish at least one painting,” he says, “and on weekends sometimes I’ll do maybe five paintings on a Saturday and three on a Sunday. I just really enjoy the energy.”
You don’t need to be a math whiz to know that’s a lot of pictures.
“In the last two years I’ve done about 900 paintings,” Trimble says. “But what I was forced to do, for lack of both money and space, is just paint over things.” He points to a heavily textured painting on his living room wall. Beneath it are its predecessors, about 30 of them, never again to see the light of day.
A gift put on hold
This Saturday, Nov. 14, “South Bay Focus 2015” opens at TAM, the Torrance Art Museum, with a shindig you don’t want to miss that goes on from 6 to 9 p.m. Curated by Maurizzio Hector Pineda, the show features work by artists throughout the Beach Cities and down through San Pedro and Long Beach. Among the works on view is Trimble’s “What’s All This I Hear About Smoke and Mirrors, or, While I Hold This Porcupine.”
As we stand in front of the picture, Trimble explains his modus operandi.
“All my paintings are just bottled up emotions that are laid down on the canvas. They deal with relationships in some manner, either relationships from one person to the next, relationships between a person and their self-image, or between a person and nature. It’s not about nature, it’s not about the person; it’s about that relationship.
“And this,” he continues, meaning the picture in front of us, “is about the relationship between focusing and needing to do something else urgently at the same time.” In short, there’s the question about smoke and mirrors that must be addressed and simultaneously a quick decision regarding the porcupine, bearer of painful quills.
But let’s rewind our story, all the way back to 1981, when Trimble has just graduated from USC. He’d gone there to study film, in hopes of one day becoming a movie director. Afterwards, he spent nine months and went through six interviews at MGM, but in the end didn’t get the job he wanted. In the meantime, to make ends meet, a friend suggested that he apply to a law firm where the friend’s girlfriend was working. “He went on to become a very successful producer,” Trimble says, “and I got stuck in law firms.” There’s a long pause. “Such is life.”
Back then, film wasn’t his only artistic pursuit. Trimble had earlier envisioned becoming a writer, and although he can muster up the patience to read Ulysses and Finnegans Wake and Gravity’s Rainbow, “I just didn’t have the patience to set [his own ideas] down on paper.”
He first took up painting, and even sculpture, because he found an element of surprise in these forms that he didn’t find when writing, in which he knew the beginning, the middle, and the end before he started. Be that as it may, the painting began to go well and he was even able to sell a few pictures to the lawyers in his office.
Trimble and his wife were living in West Hollywood at the time. One day he managed to place several paintings with an eyeglass store that had just opened and needed art for its walls. A week or so later the proprietor phoned and said that someone, a Japanese man, wanted to buy all of them, which eventually he did, and then a lot more when he came to meet Trimble in person.
“He sent them all to Japan,” Trimble says, “and he had big plans for launching a career for me. And then he disappeared for a while.” As it turned out, the man had been diagnosed with bone cancer, and it soon claimed his life. A door that had begun to open, suddenly closed.
“That was right around the time that we decided to start having kids,” Trimble says. “It just sort of stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn’t really know where to turn at that point. And my wife decided to stay home from work, initially for a year, and a year turned into many years, and I had to provide support for what became a family of four.
“So I was working long, long hours, and for a good 17 years I didn’t paint at all.”
The road less taken, of course
Seventeen years later, Trimble’s older son had just been accepted to college and the family had just bought a car.
“I was working a ton of overtime and we were used to that lifestyle,” Trimble says. “Then the economy took a dive, and at work they eliminated all overtime. At first I was upset because it meant a big drop in income, but then I realized that I had all this time back, and I started using it to paint.”
Initially, because he was irritated by the winds of fortune, Trimble let off steam by painting a series of portraits that he titled “People I don’t like.”
“It gave me a sense of both power and play,” he says. “I did that for a while and it was very effective as a catharsis for me; and I started to feel much better despite the fact that we had less income. I found ways to mitigate that.”
Eventually Trimble tired of depicting people he didn’t much care for, so he began reusing many of the canvases and this time made paintings that were strictly abstract in nature.
“And then I wanted to return to figurative work,” he says. “My problem had always been that I’d never really been able to draw well. I just couldn’t do it.” Well, he agonized over this, and it made him self-conscious, and it stifled the creative process. A little bit of self-questioning was in order. And the result?
“I was only able to paint when I completely stopped worrying about what anyone else thought of my paintings,” Trimble says. “That is the linchpin. Brancusi called beauty absolute equity. I think that in order to be aesthetically beautiful, something has to be true, and to be true it has to be pure; it has to be of a single voice. I can’t let anyone else enter my head when I paint.”
This is good advice for anyone in the arts. Be your own best counsel. Dick Dale once said to me that if ten people tell you that you can’t do something, but you believe in it and want to do it, then you do it. If we compromise, if we always look to others for approval or permission, then we’re holding ourselves back.
And into the public eye
A couple of years ago, when Ego Fine Arts was up and running, a friend suggested that Trimble show his work to the proprietors, Emiko Wake and John Cantu, and both were encouraging. Wake soon left for London and Cantu included Trimble in his frequent group shows, eventually giving him a solo exhibition as he did for other talented local artists like Michael Chomick and Iola Scott. The gallery has since closed, but its reputation lingers–a somewhat madcap and bohemian reputation, which in the art world isn’t necessarily bad.
Scott Trimble’s paintings have an electric energy that jumps off the canvas. They radiate the way a Keith Haring or a Jean-Michel Basquiat radiates, an expressionistic bonanza of color and texture and composition. If they seem a bit wild and imprecise, that’s because they are, because they’re alive and moving.
“The activity balances me,” he says. “I think it’s because I’m confined to a car and then an office, a desk, all day, that I just need some sort of physical action–and painting is a very physical thing for me. I paint quickly because it’s almost an act of athleticism.”
The pictures are rather spontaneous, as if they are waiting to explode into being.
“I never have a preconceived notion of what I’m going to paint,” Trimble says, and he adds that he always begins in the same exact spot, near the upper left of the canvas. “I just move the brush, and I try to leave my mind completely out of the process. I just use my eyes and my hand, and as it starts to take shape then I glide it along. Once I’m well into the process I start thinking about the title of what it is that I’m seeing.” And few artists come up with titles that are more inventive or whimsical.
Trimble refers to his work as pocket narratives, as very short stories. “What I try to accomplish with my painting is to give people a little break from whatever it is that’s going on in their lives, and hopefully they’ll feel good in the process.”
I believe he’s effectively doing just that.
South Bay Focus 2015 opens Saturday with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Torrance Art Museum, 3320 Civic Center Drive, Torrance. Through Dec. 11. Call (310) 618-6388 or go to TorranceArtMuseum.com.