A Sense of Place

Most of my paintings are done from photograph.  I am not directly interested in the details of a specific place at a specific time.  The photograph gives me a sense of color and the composition of the photograph gives me a structure.  I work from my own photos.  I take them when I am driving to a class or a show.  I take them while I am on a hike or walking the dog.  Most of the pictures I take are quick shots (sometimes while in motion) taken with my iphone.  I am not a professional photographer.  The photograph simply helps me remember what I saw when I am am back in the studio.  Whether it’s the way light was bouncing off of a line or trees or the angles of rolling fields off in the distance, I am reminded of what I found visually interesting in that scene and that is what I paint from.  I translate that area of interest to color and texture contrasts in paint, letting other areas of the image abstract.  The ultimate goal is to create a visually interesting image that has a vague sense of place but has become something else.  It has become a painting, a unique work in and of itself.

Acrylic Knife Painting

Lately I have been doing my landscapes in acrylic, still using the knife.  The transition to acrylic began with a request from some of my students.  I also like the slightly more posterized look of acrylics for some of my concepts.  Knife painting in acrylic has to be done very differently than knife painting in oil.  In oil I can play with the surface for as long as I like.  I can put down paint, move it around, mix other things into it, pick it up again, put it back down, etc. until I am satisfied.  Acrylics however dry much too quickly for this, forcing me to make a decision and stick with it or pile on top of it.  also, as the acrylic dries it’s consistency changes under the knife which creates some textures that are different from oil.

I like to change it up a bit- trying to do something different with the media forces me to keep questioning what I do and why.  Its part of being an artist to seek out new ways of challenging one’s craft.  It’s a life long process.

“How to” Books

I have discovered the world of “how to” painting and drawing books.  In the past I had always dismissed them as being only for the beginner.  Recently I have been using them as teaching tools in my classes and I have found the information in them to be quite useful in my own studio as well.  I am reminded of the reality of art making: there is no one way to do anything.  Every book offers slightly different opinions on topics like the best way to start, when to use black, how to layer… etc.  Not only do these books hep me brush up on my technique, but they inspire me to try new ways of using a media or approaching a composition.

I have checked out Landscape, by Richard McDaniels, from the library a few times.  This book covered the subject of landscape in various media.  I love the artworks used as examples!  Also this book has a number of fun, playful tips and techniques for making interesting art beyond the traditional approaches.  When I am feeling stuck, this gets me back in the studio.