Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Peanut Butter and Jelly
20 x 30 Oil on Linen

The previous post prompted a reader to inquire how I define my painting style. This is a subject I amuse myself with from time to time. Among the terms currently available I find myself landing in a group called contemporary realists. It is, however, a most unsatisfying solution to the problem. I don't deny that I am a contemporary artist but that won't last forever. It seems rather silly to call Marcel Duchamp modern when he did his best work 80 years ago and died over 40 years ago. So contemporary seems to be of limited use. Realist suggests that one is in competition with trompe-l'œil painters and photo realists for the title of most exact rendition. That's not a good description of my work. I like the term classical when it means reaching for the ideals of truth and beauty, but less so when it requires adherence to rigid canons. My work is somewhat romantic, but not so much so that the classical ideals are buried by irrational exuberance. Traditional always sounds old and stale and unimaginative so I don't see that working for me. Representational has become popular over the last few decades. As far as I can tell it means not non-representational. I might well be a representational abstract expressionist. This is where my brain starts to shut down and I realize that my time might be better spent reading a book. When I don't overthink it and go with my heart instead of my head I refer to my style as visual poetry.....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yellow Variations
24 x 20 Oil on Linen

In the art world there is an implied power structure. Anything cutting edge, no matter how well or how badly done, is at the top. Next is anything that used to be cutting edge but is now dull edged. Then what never had an edge but was none the less considered to be a new idea within what is known as modernism. Finally there is anything that has a germ of an association with anything before the modern era. In the field of what is known as representational painting, or traditional, or classical, or to some people old fuddy duddy obsolete painting, there is also a hierarchy. Here those that do large figure compositions are at the top. Followed by those whose figures stand alone, then figures in landscapes, landscapes without figures, and the lowest of the low, still life. Which brings me to my current painting. Yellow Variations starts out with virtually no respect in the art world. Flowers? Please, give me a break. Well, at least they're well painted. And the title isn't so bad, it suggests the painting isn't really about the flowers. Maybe it incorporates some abstraction. And, hey wait a minute, the coffee pot is from a drip coffee maker and that vase is a milk carton. Those things are modern. This could be considered a modern painting. What if it's like a retro thing? Yeah, retro with a modern twist. That's kind of cool. Maybe retro is the new new. This might be the next big thing, it could be...cutting edge.....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Before I go to sleep at night I like to visualize what I'm going to be painting the next day. It's very relaxing, a kind of meditation, and I always see myself painting well. For this painting I knew the flowers would not last long so I focused on what I needed to do to finish them, as much as possible, in one sitting. I saw myself deciding which yellow or combination of yellows I would be using to paint the centers of the two daffodils facing me. Then deciding on how I wanted to approach the white petals, how high to go in the lights, how low in the shadows, how much reflected light I was seeing and how much transmitted light was coming through the petals. I visualized how I was going to apply the paint, big, rich opaque strokes in the lights and thinner, more transparent ones in the shadows. Next I would boldly lay in the milk carton and then decide how to use the background to set off my bouquet. With the flowers finished I could relax a bit and then go after the muffins. Rounded golden forms, they made a nice variation on the yellow theme of the daffodils and carton. On and on it went as if I were watching a How to paint a still life video with me doing the painting. I don't remember when I fell asleep but when I went to the studio the next day I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It all seemed so familiar somehow.....