This artist’s pieces are worth the wait

Jack Youngerman has a specific process that brings his paintings on smooth rocks to life, taking the time he needs. With over 60 years of success there’s no need for change.

When Jack Youngerman enrolled in art school at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he wasn’t really sure what art was. At the time, the 21-year-old Kentucky boy—he was in France on a GI Bill scholarship—had never set foot in a museum and never even seen a reproduction of a painting, much less a real one. Today, at 87 years old, Youngerman is a world-renowned artist celebrated for his bright, graphic abstract paintings and sculptures, which he creates in a converted Bridgehampton barn, the studio he has worked in since 1968.

Every piece Youngerman makes is planned long before a brush touches the canvas or a saw or shaping tool meets a block of wood. “I have hundreds of little rough sketches, but they don’t jump immediately from paper to canvas,” says the artist, who has had recent shows at the Drawing Room in East Hampton and the Washburn Gallery in Manhattan, and whose majestic fiberglass and resin sculptures are on view in the exhibition “Black and White,” at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, until October 15.

After Youngerman completes a rough drawing for a painting, he does a color sketch and plans his palette—usually a mix of bold, primary colors. Then he creates a small-scale version of the eventual larger, finished piece to see how the work will come together. “My process is planned, and I have no problem taking my time,” says Youngerman, who has also been painting his abstractions on smooth rocks that he finds on various East End beaches. “A lot of younger American artists let their minds out directly on a canvas, and the outcome has a freshness and looseness to it, but my work doesn’t have that.”  

When Youngerman works on sculptures, such as the fiberglass and resin examples on view at LongHouse, he painstakingly maps out each piece on paper before creating a mold for it. “I made 12 sculptures in four years,” says Youngerman, who prefers working with fiberglass because of its lightweight quality. “It was hard, messy, arduous, and expensive, and it took a lot out of me and my life. But it was completely worth the effort.”