Why is it that so many things we love to do ultimately connect us to nature and tradition? Whether it is a quiet hike in the woods, cutting through water in a canoe, a day in the garden or an energized ride on horseback. These and countless other endeavors bring us closer to nature and many have a long and deep tradition in our country. We inherently know these things bring balance to our lives and keep us grounded.
Many times we are not even sure why we are drawn to our own special interest other than to know they bring calm to our lives. This calm sometimes comes from the sheer exhaustion of what we love to do or the satisfaction of its result.
I have long been a participant, but also an observer. As a participant in my own interests I revel in being drained from the effort and the satisfaction of something completed. However I am also an observer. This is almost instinctual after a lifetime of pursuing art. In fact it is a gratifying and relaxing process that always prompts me to ask; how would I draw or paint that? How does the light describe an object or a scene? How can I create a single image that captures the spirit and tradition of what I’m observing?
Ultimately I have been inspired to try and create an image and context that is a lasting moment. An image that many times can be a small but a powerful moment that can connect us to that place and that endeavor. Many times this important moment goes right past us, but when we see it again we know we have been there and have been a part of it and it has become a part of us.
As many artists have said, a blank surface is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. This has pushed me to compose multiple studies for almost any painting, building a foundation for what I hope will come. Sometimes it feels as though I create several small paintings to make just one. It almost always starts with pencil, in a sloppy quick sketch followed by drawings of critical details to work out finer points. Graphite takes the color out and lets me focus on tone and texture. Often I feel I cannot paint something unless I can draw it.
I have chosen dry brush watercolor as the best medium for my approach. Dry brush allows for the fine details that are important to me. This combined with broad washes of watercolor creates a balance and my desired result. I prefer to use cold press paper whose smooth surface is receptive to details using watercolor.
Composition is a very critical aspect of a painting to me. Several times I have either stopped a painting altogether or changed an ongoing painting if I feel the composition is not consistent with what I am trying to achieve. Despite the focus on details, overall composition sometimes is abstract and almost disassociated but must always come together to compliment the detail.
Restraint in a painting is always a challenge. There is an urge to add more or change things I have painted. Watercolor is unforgiving however, leaving little room for change. Ultimately I do stop. I know it’s complete and is time to embrace a new clean surface.