For Roger Herman, building a house is like making a piece of art: first comes the vision, then the refinements. "When I make a woodblock I have an image in mind," says the painter, printmaker, ceramist and professor of painting at UCLA's Department of Art. "I paint on wood and then start cutting it out, [but] I still don't know how it's going to look. Then I print and, depending on the paper and inks, it takes on a different appearance.
"Then there are always the surprises," he adds.
Best known for his large expressionistic canvases that often depict shadowy buildings with balconies, Herman's most recent woodblocks include images of bright green and yellow flowers in vases and a military tank the color of bubble gum. A major source of inspiration lives a mere two blocks away from his home: his daughter, artist Jessika Wood. "She stopped in for her daily apple one day, looked at his latest artwork in ocher, brown and black and asked, 'Why are you working in all those middle-age colors?' " says Herman. "I started making changes right then and there."
When it came to building a home on an odd-shaped lot in Solano Canyon, a small enclave of prewar bungalows sandwiched between Dodger Stadium and the Golden State Freeway, Herman relied on his trial-and-error formula--and his new love of bright color. "I wanted a studio, three bedrooms and one large living area," he explains. After making an initial sketch, he called in friend and architect Frederick Fisher of Frederick Fisher & Partners in West Los Angeles to help him further refine the design. "He basically wanted a loft in the park," says the architect.
The 5,000-square-foot plywood-clad home recalls Herman's former downtown loft. The ground floor consists of the artist's spacious studio and office. Upstairs are two bedrooms and a large open space with a 12-foot ceiling that comprises living, dining and kitchen areas. A master bedroom makes up the third story. As Herman initially drew it, the house resembled a two-story pie. "Fred suggested taking out one big cube and putting it up on top--that became the third floor's master bedroom. That deletion created the open deck area between the kitchen and bedrooms," Herman explains. The surprise came in the resultant profile, which recalls a medieval tower. "It looked," says Herman, "like a plywood castle."
Herman continues to revise the house, alternately treating it as painting and sculpture. "I've stained it four times now. Initially it was natural with a clear stain. After two years I stained it avocado, then a forest green, then blue. Now it's back to green. Ideally I would like to have it painted every other year."
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What Inspires Roger Herman
Havana and Tijuana.
The filmmaker Imamura and gangster movies by Susuki.
Louis-Ferdinand D. Celine's 1932 "Journey to the End of the Night."
Shin-Sen-Gumi, the best ramen restaurant in Gardena.
Egypt and South Korea.