Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Light In August (oil on canvas, 2014)

Fred and Inez's sheep farm, which I've drawn and painted more times than I can count. When I return to subjects that I've drawn or painted before, I am always struck by how they've changed. A structure is missing or a new one has been added. Trees have grown or fallen. The colors have faded or, perhaps with a new coat of paint, have become more intense. But, more importantly, when I return to a familiar subject and begin work, I realize how I've changed. The things I see or don't see, the decisions I make with regard to color, composition, value, texture, etc. reveal how I have (hopefully) grown as an artist. The subject is familiar, but the image, which is more a manifestation of myself than of the subject matter, is wholly new.

As They Were Meant to Be (oil on canvas, 2014)

The thing I like about Edward Hopper is his use of geometry. The way he uses shapes, with themes and variations, and the way he creates so many interesting shapes by using the edge of the picture plane. One of my favorite Hopper paintings is called "Nighthawks" and I love it because it's filled with triangles. There are dozens of triangles and every time I look at that painting, I discover another one that I hadn't seen before. Hopper was a brilliant designer on a purely two-dimensional level and much more of an abstract artist than I think most people realize. When I was learning how to paint, I copied some Edward Hoppers and I soon found myself plagued with the comparison - to the point that I stopped looking at his work and made a conscious effort to avoid his influence. But, obviously, the influence is still there. The paint application and the color in this image are certainly, uniquely me, but the geometry reminds of Hopper as does, I suppose, the subject. Our heroes will always influence our work in some way, even if it's only through the subconscious. What matters most is that we take what we need from the masters and find a way to make it our own.

Open Doors (oil on canvas, 2014)

This was a painting from a few years ago - a small, plain air study that I'd done on a Monday in October. It hadn't aged well and as time has gone by, I've always had the nagging feeling that it could be better. I recently pulled it down from the wall in my gallery and put it on the painting table in the studio. I began by changing the color of the sky, making it a lighter value and less saturated with blue. Of course, this meant that the color of the roof had to change and then the trees in the distance and then the barn doors and then the foreground, etc., etc... Soon enough, I'd repainted almost the entire thing. I like it much better now.

The Stories We Don't Tell (oil on canvas, 2014)

We all have our stories - the ones we tell the people in our lives. The ones that define us, the ones that everyone we know has heard at least once, the ones that we can't wait to introduce to new people that come into our lives. (I have a great one that involves my dad's new Volkswagen and a brown paper bag...) These stories define us. They've shaped us, made us who we are and they help us to show others who we are. But there are other stories. The ones we don't tell. Things that we've done or that have been done to us that we don't want anyone to know about. The stories that have scarred us or that reveal our dark side. The stories that we'll take to our graves.

The subjects in my paintings all have stories. Some of these stories I know because neighbors tell them to me. Some are just nostalgia. "Ah, yes, I remember when my grandfather used to pick potatoes there by hand." Some are filled with mystery. "You know, there were three suicides in that house..." And all of them have stories that I will never know. But I can use my imagination.

One day last summer, whilst returning from a bike ride to Bridgewater, which is about 15 miles north from me on US Route 1, I found this group of buildings up on the West Road in Monticello when I turned onto it and then headed back toward Route 1. I like these buildings. They've been fruitful so far and I'm sure they will yield many more images over the coming months and years.