Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mappin Estate

Mappin Estate, 2009, oil/panel, 24 x 40 inches.  This painting is being used for my invitation cards for my Seattle exhibition at Foster/White Galleries (June 4, 2009).

The story about this painting is that a collector in Edmonton, Alberta missed out on the opportunity to purchase a similar piece at a show there in 2007. Frustrated that the painting he wanted was no longer available, the collector asked if I would do a variation on the subject.

Doing variations on existing works is an old and long established tradition for artists of all sorts.  I was happy to try, and looked forward to the sale.  As with all self respecting artists, I wasn't about to copy exactly the older painting.  Rather I would use it as a model, but introduce some changes in various aspects such as composition, color and light.  In this case, the first painting was rather dark, kind of "Dutch" in feel.  I used raw umber as the base color.  For my variation, I added more burnt sienna into the base tone.  Alas, this produced a "lighter" and airy feel.  I was not aware that the collector was drawn to the darker aspects of the first piece.  So the sale was not made and the work has ended up in Seattle; where hopefully someone will enjoy owning it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nearing Evansville

Nearing Evansville, 2009, oil/panel, 5.5x8 inches.
This little painting represents my approach to making works "sing" even on a small scale.  Paradoxically, the small paintings can take as long or longer to complete as a large panel.  

There is often a lot of overpainting of the work in order to get just the right "fresh" brush work to jell together into a whole.  

Because the paintings are small, viewers come in close to look at them.  This changes the visual encounter.  A more intimate relationship is established between the marks and the viewer.  Every tiny element, every minuscule mark needs to be "just right" or the thing doesn't work.  Larger paintings are more forgiving in this way.  But small paintings can't miss at any level.  Thus, there is a lot of "retry" attempts until I get the marks. colour, and composition to feel just the way I need them to.

Sun King

Sun King, 2009, oil/panel, 36x48 inches is another example of my riffing out variations on desert scrub brush.

I've explained in previous posts that my travels in dry arid regions inspires me to look at the bushy plants as great subjects for my art.  Recently, I've been simplifying the contrast between the object and sky.  The ground is reduced to a simple band and the clouds are replaced by empty air.

This simplification allows me to explore the shapes and textures of these hardy living things. 

The initial underpainting is pretty gestural and "enthusiastic".  Once I find the right movement and energy in the first layer I begin to carve out shapes and patterns that reflect my memories.  Each one of these pieces is unique, but they are sourced from a common pool of experience.

Click on the image to see the treatment of the feathery leaves and blossoms.