Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Wiser
(oil on canvas, 2014)


A student brought a notecard with a reproduction of a painting on it to class last week and wanted me to look at it and tell her why she found the image so appealing. It was a nice painting, of a New England farmhouse and some barns in winter, with a strong "rule of thirds" composition, painted in a loose, semi-impressionistic style with local colors (red barn, blue sky, etc.) accentuated with pretty, more subjective pastel colors. The drawing was accurate and the whole thing was executed with skill and aplomb. In the end, we concluded that all of these things contributed to the image's appeal, yet I found it ripe with clich├ęs and devoid of originality. This lead to a discussion about "expectations". The image that we were discussing was clearly painted in such a way so as to meet the expectations of a broad-based buying public. No harm there - we all want to make a living. However, I believe that art has a responsibility to not meet our expectations, but to challenge them. Not to make us feel intelligent, but to make us question what we know and believe. To broaden our horizons - intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. To surprise us. To stir us up. To grab us by the shirt collar and say "Look here! Here's something you've never seen before!" I know. I know. Most people don't care about such things. They just want a painting that matches their sofa or reminds them of the place that they visited on vacation or reminds them of a famous artist who's work they can't afford. But there are people who care about experiencing something new. I know, because I'm one of them.

Anyway, this is the old Henderson potato house once again, this time in warm reds, yellows and oranges, with some purples and teals and greys thrown in....for anyone who cares.

Something to Look Forward To... (oil on canvas, 2014)


I was out riding my bike three years ago in the midst of the summer and as I went by this field right on the Canadian border, I saw this old potato truck parked way off in the distance near the woods and I really liked the way the late afternoon sun was hitting the barn. I was only about 4 miles from my house, the very early stage of what was meant to be a 30 mile ride, but when the muse beckons, one must heed her call. And so I did. I turned around and went home, changed into painting clothes, loaded my pastels into the car and headed back over to do a drawing. Unfortunately, the resulting drawing was lackluster at best. To be honest, I was disappointed that I'd given up what promised to be a much needed, stress-relieving bike ride in exchange for a mediocre drawing. So I hung the drawing on my studio wall and, over the ensuing weeks (months, really) I pondered it and tried to figure out what it lacked. I assumed it was the composition (The original drawing was much closer to a square in shape, with a lot more sky at the top and more foreground at the bottom.) so I cut some strips of paper and would tape them to the wall, covering up different sections of the drawing and changing the shape of the image, in the hopes that I would find a better composition. I cropped the bottom, the top, the left side, the right side but to no avail. Eventually I settled on this long horizontal, but the image still lacked something, so I left it there on the wall.

For three years.

Lately I've been focusing on using much more subjective color in my paintings - trying to find unique color harmonies specific to each painting and to whatever mood I'm trying to convey. In the original drawing, the sky was blue, the grass was green and the truck was red. I've been holed up in the studio this winter, thanks to single digit or sub-zero temperatures almost every day since early December, so one evening I began experimenting with some small-scale color studies based on this composition and came up with something similar to this which I thought was worth pursuing as a painting. So, in the end, I'm glad I skipped the bike ride that evening as I rather like this image. And when someone asks me how long it took me to paint this (It's remarkable how often I get asked that question) my answer will be "three years".

My initial impulse was to title it "Green Truck"... but I already used that title a long time ago.