There is a term in theater called going off script, when an actor begins to add lib their character and goes where his or her creativity takes them. I liken that term to my use of photographs when I paint. I generally don’t paint on location (en plein air) so I rely on my library of photographs that I've built over the years. I’ve made it a point to always have my camera with me so I can snap a photo of the things that inspire me, no matter the time of day or where I might be in the world.
But the goal of the photograph for me is to have a reference from a moment in time that made me stop and stare for a bit, to wonder if I could possibly take what moved me at that moment, and create something visually interesting for others to enjoy. Along with the photograph, I keep copious notes on the subject so I can relate to both when working on my composition. So as I begin to paint, with my reference photo near by, I find myself going off script and letting my senses take me where I need to go with the painting. Perhaps it means exaggerating color to make something pop or adjusting the location of some rocks to draw your eye into the composition.
It's not always necessary to paint every blade of grass, or every tree leaf, and we can make a path turn left instead of right. Some artists refer to this as being in the zone...that place where creativity and concentration take over and the painting begins to come to life without the tedious details of the reference photo. It's a liberating feeling and one that demonstrates the limitless possibilities of ones own creativity. The end result is a composition that gives meaning to the artist’s interpretation, and moves away from simply being a recreation of a photograph.
Anyone who lives here in the northeast, knows how cold and sometimes unforgiving the winter months can be. As an artist, being cooped up inside can seem daunting at times because sketching and taking photo references outside are important aspects of my studio practice.
But before winters grip took hold, I had the pleasure of working on a commissioned house portrait in the fall, and was able to add some colorful foliage into the composition. A beautiful lake location, sunlight, and shadows were all present to capture the essence of this lovely home.
A short time later, the subject matter of my next commission was a bright, warm, and well lived in kitchen. With much of my work focusing on the outside, I was delighted with the opportunity to paint an interior composition.
This kitchen is home to "Gail's Cupboard" a local business owner with a passion for educating others on the benefits of healthy eating.
While only a snippet of a much larger area, I wanted to bring the viewer in for a closer look, not only at the focal point which is that magnificent AGA stove, but at the little things that make this a special place for the owner...including sunlight coming through those big open windows.
All weather complaining aside, I am fortunate to have plenty of projects to keep me busy as I look forward to warmer months ahead. As a matter of fact, I have a beach house portrait on my easel right now...so I'll be getting a glimpse of summer ahead of schedule!
I recently had the privilege of being included in a published article by Carolyn Edlund, founder of the online blog Artsy Shark. The topic focuses on how we acquire our commission work...and why we enjoy it. Read the entire article here.
I recently had the pleasure of painting a portrait of the club house at Glen Oak Country Club, which also features part of the front nine of the golf course. If you've spent any time looking at my recent artwork throughout my website, you'll see a common thread...architecture in the landscape. Be it a commissioned piece or something that catches my eye while on a bike ride in our beautiful region, I enjoy painting this subject matter.
When I remember to have my camera handy, I like taking progress shots of some of my work to have ready to share the process that takes place behind the scenes. Some will look with wonder and others may think, wow, that's pretty ugly...which it can be in the early stages. I do this standard for all of my commission customers so they can see their painting come to life. Below you'll see a few images that I took while painting this piece. You can see the pictures of the framed painting being installed on my House and Business Portraits page.
I am often asked the question, "is that really pastel?" by many people that admire my art. I enjoy going on to talk about the medium and why I love working with it so much.
For starters, it most definitely is NOT chalk. Pastel is pure powdered pigment, which is ground into a paste with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. It is the same pure pigment used in all fine art paints and is the most permanent of all media. It does not contain oil or liquid, and therefore won't darken, crack, fade or blister with time. Pastels from the 16th century exist today as fresh as the day they were painted.
An artwork is created by applying the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the color in the 'tooth' of the paper. If the ground is completely covered with pastel, the work is considered a pastel painting, where leaving much of the ground exposed, produces a pastel sketch.
I think my preference for the pastel medium stems from my love of drawing; I like the control I have with the pastel sticks...they're so versatile and I love the tactile nature of using my hands to draw fine lines or lay in large blocks of color. Not to mention the infinite color palette available is like eye candy!
They are also a favorite medium among many artists because it allows a spontaneous approach...there is no drying time. I can essentially leave everything I'm working on and return to it at a later time, picking up right where I left off. So for me, it's the perfect medium.
In Loving Memory of My Dad
This past February, I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s. He was a vibrant man with a gentle soul, full of life, and loved making others laugh. He fought a hard battle, but was just no match for the devastating effects of the disease. The last six months of his life were especially difficult and it was during this time that he experienced a rapid decline, and to those of us that loved him dearly, we felt a complete sense of helplessness.
Yet during that time, as my family and I spent time with him each day, it gave me time to reflect on the powerful impact he had on my life. We all had cause to celebrate the man he used to be before the disease took him away from us. He was a kind and compassionate man that above all else loved his family. My sisters and I were so fortunate to have him as a father because he truly made our house a loving and caring home…filled with the warmest of memories. He supported everything we ventured out to do and nurtured our creative spirits…at least that’s how I felt as a child growing up wanting to be an artist.
So, could it be that my passion for painting home portraits stems from my own experiences growing up? I’d like to think that because of my dad, I am pursing my passion and life long dream of painting while at the same time, helping others to cherish the memories being made in their own homes, where they gather with their families. It goes beyond just capturing the beauty of the facade...it’s about how you feel when you live your life in it. For this dad, I will always be grateful.
A recent house portrait commission, pastel, 11 x 14 on UART pastel board.
I was honored to have my work selected for the Pastel Society of America Annual Exhibition of work at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio this past winter. A press release for the show indicates that "the exhibition features works by some of the nation’s premier pastel painters. The works are drawn from the organization’s annual fall exhibition held at the National Arts club in New York City. The Pastel Society of America (PSA) is the oldest organization of its kind in the nation."
My pastel, "Weathered Spring Hills," hanging in the museum exhibit. The show was on exhibit from December 20, 2015 until February 21, 2016.
I've had quite a busy fall season painting house portraits and I'm so happy to report that my customers have been very happy! They especially like my process of sending progress updates along the way. I start off by getting the preliminary drawing approved and then, as I begin the painting process, I'll send snippets of progress along the way so they can see the painting come to life.
I was delighted to find my painting Main Street Nantucket on the front page of Attorney Lauren G. Klein's website. She had reached out to me several months ago asking permission to use the image of my painting on her new website that she was launching to introduce her practice on Nantucket Island. It's nice to see it out there!
I was honored to have received the Salmagundi Club Award at the PSA Annual Enduring Brilliance Show on Sunday, September 20th at the National Arts Club in New York City.