Monday, February 23, 2009

What's the Big Idea?

My canvas has been prepared. It's now ready for paint. But what to paint?

It is this part of the process that can often be the most frustrating and the most enjoyable — creating a concept.

I've occasionally been asked; From where do I obtain ideas for my paintings? There is no simple answer for this. As a generalization, most of my concepts are inspired by experiences in the field. They are often the end result of combining field studies, photographic reference and sketches to create romanticized versions of the experiences I've had while exploring the vast wilds of North America.

Unfortunately, the ideas sometimes don't come as easily as that explanation might lead one to believe. For me, good art must go beyond subject matter. It should also represent the artist. It must not only communicate the artist's conceptual intentions, but must also give the viewer a glimpse into the artist's personality. The subtleties of brush work, color usage, design, etc., are all important attributes of a painting that help to define the artist. It's for this reason that I'm not interested in creating photorealistic work. Although photorealism demonstrates a great capacity for draftsmanship, I feel it also often renders the artist right out of their own work — reducing the uniqueness of their paintings to literal (and frequently, generic) representations of the artist's photographic reference.

This is partly why the 'Big Ideas' can be hard to come by. I'm not personally interested in just reproducing photos I’ve taken. My process begins with rough sketches (thumbnail drawings) that flesh out the idea. I often complete dozens of these thumbnails, especially when my intention is to create a complex composition, and I then look to my reference to help me bring the concept to life. Even though it is an experience that may inspire a painting, there is much more work to be done to create a painting that might be considered art — and more importantly, art that is uniquely my own. That is what I hope to do with this first canvas in my new series of works.

So, what is going to be my 'Big Idea'? I don't yet have an answer. It may take me a while to create a concept I know will keep me motivated throughout the painting process, which is especially important when doing a piece this large. But once I have it, I'll certainly post it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Time for Action

As an artist, I’m seldom satisfied with a painting I've completed.

Let me correct that; I am never satisfied with a painting I've completed. There is always some aspect of the finished work that irritates my often too critical artist sensibilities — like a nagging itch in the center of my back that I can’t quite scratch. This lack of satisfaction is a major driving force in my compulsion to create. In a way, I am constantly chasing the dangling carrot in hopes I might someday catch it. I'm OK with this. I've learned to not let my mild disappoint with certain aspects of my paintings diminish the accomplishment of them. Every painting is a lesson learned. With every painting I feel I've grown as a painter and matured in some small way. And I believe I am a better artist because of my self-criticism of my work.

But (and there's often a 'but') being a professional artist means having to meet deadlines. These deadlines frequently leave me feeling rushed in my painting, unable to address problems I see in the work because I have to move on to the next. This pressure can exacerbate the problem of self-criticism and can rob me of my motivation to create.

So now it is time for action.

I recently completed 12 paintings over the last several months for my show in Charleston, SC and I certainly felt rushed. That isn’t to say I was disappointed in the work, but I did feel I could have produced better paintings had I been able to truely give each piece the attention it needed. Now that the show is over, I can focus.

Over the coming months I plan to produce a series of paintings I can really concentrate on. There are no deadlines for these works. I am creating them for the purposes of recharging my love of painting, creating the best works I am currently capable of, and if all goes well, I will present them to a gallery I have long admired in hopes they may decide to show them.

I will post 'in progress' images of these paintings, along with a few notes on how I feel about them, here on this blog. I invite all of you to comment on them. I would appreciate your feedback.


I wanted to thank all those that came out in support of the artists and the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Charleston, SC. I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed meeting the art lovers, seeing old friends, and selling a few paintings.

What the Blog?

You may be asking; why would you start a blog? I'm asking myself that very same question. In some ways it seems a bit cliché, and I certainly could find better uses for my time. But I realize that there are a number of you out there (how very small that number may be) who are, for whatever reason, actually interested in what I'm doing and what I have to say. This blog will give me an opportunity to keep those of you interested in my work and my career, better up-to-date.

I'll use this blog to post my thoughts on art, life and anything else I feel the need to vent about. It will also provide me a forum for showcasing paintings in progress and my latest works, cover recent events and connect with others.

I hope those of you who read my blog find it enjoyable and I look forward to any responses you feel compelled to post.