about > statement
While drawing or painting, I find that the background static, the mind’s busyness which we all share to some degree, recedes a little and opens a space for my work. In addition to my aim of documenting something significant to me, I find challenge in the use of materials, of making the final result look the way I imagine it should. But I also take advantage of the gifts the process offers, allowing the painting to take shape into something unexpected. Through focus and concentration, and the elimination of self-doubt, I find immense enjoyment in this fulfillment of aesthetic desire. After a few hours work, I feel rested, fresh and ready to make more.
And the more I paint, the more I understand the subjects I’m observing or thinking about. The more art I produce, the more other artists’ work appeals to and communicates to me. Thanks to them and my own work, my eye is sharpened, my spirit refreshed and I find myself on the threshold of new understandings in the immediate world. Watercolor is the product of an evanescent moment in time—fleeting and difficult to capture but fulfilling in its pursuit.
My choice of subjects is often determined by my expectations that I can channel the unique view, person, obsession or thing into form and light onto paper. Landscape is particularly enticing to me because in addition to offering the pleasure of being outdoors, it is where light can be at its fullest or most subtle. In watercolors, color is subsumed under the force of light, revealing a reality that is both concrete and luminous, holding an aura that draws the viewer into the world of the painting. There I hope the viewer will have a chance to “see” deeply into the texture of reality and aspects of nature.
Sharing a moment in time: why paint from life?
It’s the same as the difference between a studio recording and a live concert. For example, an opera is always better in real life – the emotions play across the singers' faces and the voices vibrate in the concert hall in a way a recording cannot duplicate.
I search for evidence of a live performance in a watercolor painting. John Singer Sargent painted his watercolors from life – there are photos of him uncomfortably seated in tall grasses battling too much sun, bugs, and humidity. The vantage point is often unusual, such as the view from a boat tucked under a bridge in Venice. The netting over the women’s faces as they recline amidst grasses (and probably spiders and ants) and the bright light beating down on the subject matter are indications of the lazy, hazy, hot summer day. The paintings had to be done quickly in order to capture the mood, atmosphere, and light.
His process is also on display for us: For example, he might note a strong horizontal line early on in the painting, because that was what he focused on in the initial composition, but then later, he realizes he omitted a tree that partially obscures that line, so he paints it in. Because watercolor is transparent, you can see the line behind the tree. This helps show a passage of time and the decisions that get made along the way. It’s enjoyable to the viewer. More substance is revealed in the painting, beyond the illusion of a landscape on a flat piece of paper. It’s not just a document of subject matter, it is a moment in time that was recorded by hand, in color, and on paper.