What makes me paint what I paint; how I paint it? Until recent years, I could only say “I paint to share what I find beautiful.” I thought I could capture those things in photos to paint later. Now I realize that no matter how well I painted them, some of those “paintings” are actually photos at heart, with all the advantages of realism but all the limitations too.
A photo is a window into the real world. A painting is a window into the heart.
That’s the core of the painter’s palette, and you might say of my philosophy. My heart’s memory is full of things I have loved over a lifetime rich with experiences and different from every other. These are what find their way into my paintings.
A painting can do much that a photo cannot. The trees, sails, waves and their lighting on this page owe nothing to the camera beyond what it taught me about light, shadow, nuance. The women pirates in “In Soundings” (right) may not be real enough to photograph, but they are certainly real enough to paint.
I used to say “I want to be a new Dutch master.” Only recently did I realize that they painted from memory, knowing how the subtly-tinted shadows and reflections should fall. That ability freed them to arrange things into pleasing compositions.
Great paintings have great design. My heart-created paintings have simple designs, based more on a lifetime of seeing and imitative composition than on calculation.
I also heard it said that a painting should be intriguing. It should ask “what’s happening here?” Since I heard that, ideas for paintings have come to mind every week.
For instance, in the painting at right (“Totally”), the girl in the boat is in no position to see the big wave coming. There’s only one oar. What will happen next?
You might say that’s my attitude about my next ten paintings.
I’m not throwing out the camera. In the painting I'm working on right now, photography must come to the aid of the heart’s memory. This love-object calls me to meticulous attention. Beyond that, I have an obsessive streak, and of course I’m still learning.
There will be other subjects that call for this. I will still use photo reference where appropriate, especially in commissioned work.