I paint landscapes and figurative works, both on location from nature, and in my studio from photos. My work is about the paint – oil or acrylic, thick and luscious or thin and subtle, but always with a mind towards color. Working with a palette knife, the subject is broken down into chips and strokes of color, obvious up close, but snapping into focus as a detailed and realistic landscape when viewed from a distance. I start with composition, looking for an intimate landscape where I am close enough to the elements to capture the parts of objects where they intersect. I strive for intensity and a sense of depth and space within the flat surface of the canvas. My subject matter includes traditional pastoral landscapes as well as urban forms, and responses to environmental crises or political events. This show contains the best of my landscape paintings from the past two years.
Plein air painting provides a passionate engagement with paint, capturing a moment by being in the moment, surrounded by nature, and shaping a composition from it. The smaller paintings in this collection are done outside, usually in one session. The palette knife enables me to paint with speed and energy, necessary because I must be done in only two or three hours. The light changes in that amount of time and creates a different scene.
When I find a scene that inspires me, I start to rough in the paint, moving around the canvas so that the image takes focus gradually in all parts. At first I work with my largest palette knife, so no detail is possible, and work very thinly, scraping the paint into the surface. I like to lay down at least a sample of my lightest and darkest tones and a bit of my most intense color in order to establish the range. When the canvas is covered the first time, I can evaluate the painting for composition and scale. Almost always some things need to be made bigger, and others eliminated.
This requires scraping off paint, and applying fresh. Sometimes the whole scene can be repositioned. Then I start supplying complexity of color in order to create volume, depth, and light. I might apply two or three layers of paint on top of each other, using a light touch and lots of paint controlling where it sticks and where it slides. The earliest painting in this show was “Winter’s End: Sapsucker Reflections,” painted in March of 2013 at Sapsucker woods. It was the first beautiful day of spring, with a chill still in the air, but brilliant sunshine.
The most recent is “Upper Buttermilk Stream,” painted on June 27 of this year, which was a hot mosquito slapping day.
The studio is important as a refuge to continue painting during the harsh winter months, and as a place of quiet reflection. The larger paintings on display here are done in the studio, either from photos, small oil sketches, or sometimes just from memory or feeling. As I work on those paintings I try to bring the same energy to them as in the smaller paintings, but these are more complex in their use of paint. I have to scrape them down at the end of each painting session, because texture at that point would interfere with making changes in composition or correcting proportion, scale, or perspective. When I get to the point where I know what I’m doing with the painting, in the final paint sessions, I build up the texture of the canvas as a whole. A painting could take one day or several months.
” Looking East” and “Woods in Pennsylvania” were both done in spurts of creativity and then weeks of observation and reflection. The first was inspired by the sunrise over my backyard in January. Snow was partially melted and I was intrigued
by the play of the cool colors of snow and warm colors of dried grasses of winter fields. After breakfast, I started it from memory and feeling. I later used photos to make sure the scale was correct. “Woods in Pennsylvania” was done as a commission using the client’s summer photograph of his favorite place. My task was to imagine the same place with fall foliage. I determined the species of the trees, and researched their fall colors. Both of these paintings were periodically hung in my living room where I could glance at them with detached interest. In this way it gradually became clear what needed to be added or changed.
Some of these paintings take years before they are resolved. “Plantations Patio” and “Mad River” are two paintings that I started two years ago. Putting a painting away and periodically looking at it with fresh eyes is important to getting a painting right. I continued to see potential in these two, but it took a while to be able to name and fix their flaws. The issue was scale. There were too many objects, and they were not the right size in proportion to each other. They could not fit within the space I was depicting. I removed extraneous elements making some larger, and the paintings came to life.
I live and paint full time in Ithaca, NY. I studied art at Syracuse University, Cortland College, TC3, and afterward under the mentorship of Gillian Pederson Craig and George Dugan. I continue to learn and grow through the collegial relationships and invaluable support of my critique group and my association with fellow artists at the State of the Art Gallery. Another selection of my work will be at the Moosewood Restaurant during September. You can see more of the paintings in this show by by clicking on 2013-2014 at the top of this page.