Sunday, February 28, 2010

House on a Hilltop (2010, oil on canvas)

(Private Collection)
I started working on this little painting last weekend while the weather was lousy. It's based on some drawings that I did back in September. This house sits all by itself on top of a steep hill on a dirt road about 2.5 miles from where I live. I had done a pastel of it that I liked except for the composition, which was a significantly taller rectangle, with a bit more sky and a lot more of the field in the foreground. It's been hanging on the wall in my studio since I did it back in September and from time to time, I would get out a sketch book and do pencil drawings, trying different compositional options, changing the shape of the rectangle, the position of the horizon and the scale of the house. Composition is very important to me, but I try to avoid the "tried-and-true" compositional cliches which, although they certainly do work (I suppose that's why they've become cliches...), tend to lack a certain spark of originality that I admire in many of my favorite artists (Rembrandt, of course, as well as Edward Hopper, Richard Diebenkorn and Andrew Wyeth always had surprisingly original compositions). Anyway, I tried this long horizontal with the size of the house diminished and it seemed to show some promise so I did this small painting.

I paint almost entirely with a palette knife, usually with the canvas lying flat on a table so that I can walk 360 degrees around it while I work, and for the past couple of years I have been consciously working on building up a very thick, painterly texture on the canvas. I have included the close up below (you should be able to enlarge it if you click on the image) to show the texture of the paint in this one, which isn't usually apparent in these small images.

I have never really liked paintings that have a slick, refined surface, where the artist almost wants the viewer to disbelieve that they are looking at paint. I've always preferred paintings where the process, the materials and the movement of the artist while they worked are very apparent.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Late Afternoon January Light (oil on canvas, 2010)

My painting process involves mixing up a palette of colors, from the three primaries and white, for each painting before I begin to actually paint. This can take anywhere from 2 to 16 hours, sometimes spread out over multiple days. I spent three days mixing colors for this painting and then my son got sick and I was confined to the house with him for four days, until I in turn got sick, a sinus infection and then bronchitis, which laid me up for almost a week (I'm still coughing, almost three weeks later...). By the time I got back out to the studio to work, all of my colors had dried up and I had to start over. The subject for this painting is the twin barns on the old Anderson farm, almost directly behind my house on the Canadian border. I painted these barns in the fall a few years ago, when the field in the foreground was filled with a bright gold canola, just about to be cut.