My paintings are a product of, among other things, my belief that all living things are of the Creator, and have the Breath of the Spirit within them. Before painting, I thank the Great Spirit for my interest in the creative process, for the opportunity to live as an artist, for the skills, learning ability and curiosity I possess, and the willingness to pursue the arts in this life. Whatever spirits and angels necessary for today’s tasks, I ask they be sent, to remind me of something I knew before but have separated from, maybe in another life, or to show me something I have never known, in order that I am able to paint what I am lead to paint. I ask for the courage to be truly open to what I see and feel, and that I paint more from my instinct than my intellect.
When I am open and paint with courage and follow my instincts, wonderful events take place. Things happen at the end of my brush that I am certain I did not know how to do until the moment they happened. When I get caught up in my mind and begin to paint from my intellect, I may as well take a walk or take a nap.
I have been influenced by many artists of all media, and also by the pain and sorrow I have experienced first hand, as well as that I have witnessed and that I imagine. I want to create work that touches at least one other person in some visceral and deep place, whether it brings joy or communicates aesthetic mercy and compassion. I want to paint the beauty, mystery and wonder of It All. I have found wonderment in the simplest of things. I am drawn to texture, line, form and light in nature.
When I was a child, I was fascinated by peoples’ hands. I believe now that it was the texture and the subtle transparency of the skin, maybe even how the nails were joined to the finger, that attracted my attention more so than the hand itself. My work often exhibits human anatomical features blended with those of other living things in nature. I rarely know ahead of time that this is going to happen or certainly where it will appear. I ask that I be willing to follow it where it seems to want me to go and be grateful for the journey. This has many times resulted in long arduous and tiring struggles between my spirit and my intellect. At times a painting that “should have” taken a reasonable time to complete, is still causing me anguish a year after beginning it. Other times, a painting will almost paint itself. This is nothing new for an artist, of course. I have read of others having the same experience.
There are times that a painting is inspired by a sketch, and at times I begin with only a blank canvass and a large brush and stain. When I first began painting, every painting had a very detailed drawing. Every problem that can be resolved in the drawing was resolved before I began transferring it to canvass. I knew where everything was going and exactly what the painting looked like before I made the first stroke with a brush. I think I turned out some good paintings, but I did not enjoy the process of painting. It was as if I were technically implementing an idea that had already been completed.
I went through thirty years of not painting. It almost killed me, literally. When I returned to painting, I was determined to do it differently this time. I wanted to be more courageous and enjoy the making of the art, the painting process, itself. As time has gone on, I can see that when I begin with a sketch, the process of getting to a complete painting is often more short-lived, although not every time. The times that I just put a blank canvass on the easel and begin drawing with a large brush can result in a painting that paints itself, or it can become a labor intensive struggle in that I don’t know where I am heading. I don’t know when to stop, so to speak. I am more guided in this instance by the certainty of my dissatisfaction than by a vision of the completed piece. Eventually, I and it arrive where it was always headed.
I continue to paint, always seeking to grow spiritually and technically. I paint in oils because I first learned to paint with oils, and I am still fascinated with their qualities. The one technical rule I follow that I was taught in the beginning by my mentor Otis Lumpkin is the “fat over lean” rule. I may in fact use many other skills and techniques that I learned back then, but this is the one that is always with me. I begin with a stain (turpentine and oil paint) and add more oil (Liquin) and less turpentine as I build the layers, until in the end, I am painting with the paint and medium only. I blend paint in the direction of the edges. I use traArtistnsparent glazes and I scumble highlights. When a painting calls for it, I can develop voids of various depths and I understand reflected light. I try to paint what I “see” rather than what I “think.” Although I am constantly collecting interesting things from nature and I keep them around me in the studio, I rarely have a model in front of me for anything I paint, so I am only “seeing” in a limited sense. It is more like I am remembering what has made an impression upon me. For example, trees in my paintings are “treelike,” but not photographic, not a scientifically correct representation. I am more after the “spirit” of a tree. Human figures are more suggested rather than accurately drafted. I do this not because I think it is unimportant to know how to accurately represent the human figure. I am capable of accomplishing the task, and I have enjoyed it. I envy those who are masters of the art. However, at this time in my life, I am more interested in the environment created on the canvass and the intimacy with the Creator during the “process” than I am in the notion of being a technician. I must admit there are times when I would like to call on one or two I know to implement an idea that has come to me, but in the end it is I who must answer the call and be willing to leave my forest of comfort and go on the journey into the woods where there is no path. I am grateful for the desire to create art, and I pray that I will never not paint.