Friday, February 23, 2018

First Landscapes, Italy

I have been painting landscapes for almost twenty years now. The first landscape painting that I had done was over in Orvieto in 1999. Orvieto is a medieval town situated on the flat summit of a volcanic stone called Tufa. I was painting on the roof garden of the convent that we were standing in.  The roof had these wonderful views of the hillside and sky across the valley.  Watching the sky and the clouds move over the landscape below and bring to translate that into paint was endlessly interesting for me. I knew that day I could do “this self appointed task” for the rest of my life.  I observed the power of the sky and weather as we moved from winter, into to spring, back into winter, and then into summer .  The subtle beauty of colors that I found in nature would give me a strange felling when i thought that I got it right. I felt as though I could use the landscape to communicate certain emotions that I felt.  I even tried painting at night for the first time.  I came back into the studio to see the mess I had made.  I was a little sad to see that orange and yellow ocher that I had painted of the Tufa in the street lights,  looked so much richer under the electric street light at night than it did the next day in day light, but it didn’t matter.  I had seen it in that moment.  I had the joy of painting with friends and took the time to look around and notice the endless beauty of blue night covering us and vespas, little cars, streets, churches and homes.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

homesick; a series of dreams

     When my family moved from England with my family to America at first I was very excited .  After a year I became homesick and began having dreams that I was back  in England.  In the dream would be a passenger in a car driving through fields.  Hedge rows opening closing revealing the landscape as it stretched toward God I thought. The car would be driving at dusk and at night in these dreams.  Forms would appear and disappear in the warm, yellow eye of the car head lights.  There was a sadness that would come over me when I awoke and realized that I was not in England but only briefly transported and was now back across the sea.
   When I returned to England as an adult I walked from my house to my old primary school.  All the smells came back to me from the bushes that lined the walk.  A smell that was no where else on the planet it seemed. My body shrank to three feet tall again.  I could also hear for a moment the sound of children's voices echo through time on the courtyard of the school where we used to play, and our playing seemed important.  I remembered children dotting the old Colchester park like sheep on the hillside.  Where did we all go?  The forest that lined the walk to Matthew and Stefan's was now a housing development.  The little nook that I brought a pan to if I was going to run away from home was now no secret place but exposed to concrete and houses.
     I am realizing that painting is like a time machine.  We can travel to the past and future and connect to those memories and the feelings.

A look at Caspar David Friedrich

For me the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich put man in the landscape in an astonishing way.  The figure is often dwarfed by the surroundings.  We have the intellect to understand our surroundings but we are still no closer through each new discovery that science provides to understanding the universe.  Each discovery brings about a new question so we are left continually searching. The mystery of things is always infant of  us. We also can not deny its beauty and the pull that we have toward it.

In "Wanderer above the Sea Fog," I am reminded of those times that I have been hiking in a fog and the objects near you have a singularity. I felt as I was alone but being watched by another being.  Each shrub would reveal itself to me as I approached it. I could se it as a unique object apart from the rest.

Here I am at Acadia National Park in Maine doing my closest impression of his figure in the painting. 
In the painting below,"Monk by the Sea," the landscape dominates.  The figure is dwarfed by the elements.  Sea and sky overtake and I end up feeling for this little monk. We are dwarfed in size by the sky, by the universe extending beyond comprehension.  All we can do is try an take in that very small piece that comes to our little minds.  It is a wonder that we can even take it in and make any sense of it at all.  I try to celebrate that wonder in my work as did those artists that I admire who came before.  I love these paintings because they remind me that I am not the center.  I am a part of something that was written a long time ago.  Something written by a hand that I can not see and spoken by a voice that I can barely make out in music and quite moments.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The movement of water

       I have been looking at some of the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci to help understand how water moves.  I love the drawing in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, England.  The movement of the water is slowed down as we see the beautiful patterns that the swirling wind and water make as they fall on the landscape below.  The coils of rain look like hair that has been carefully rendered with the black chalk on paper.  They do resemble the Chinese paintings that tend to go beyond the physical realm, yet de Vinci is very much looking at Nature and studying closely.  Like Abrecht Altdorfer, he was responding emotionally to nature.  These pure landscape paintings with no figures at all make the landscape the sole subject of the painting.
     These studies turn the water into a sort of mathematical study, the geometry of the fluid water as it hits up against rocks and itself, falling and folding to make waves and curls again and again.  The effect is mesmerizing and puts us in somewhat of a trance like when we watch the ocean waves come in and hit the shore.  Each one a little bit different than the one that preceded it.
The drawing below of water pouring into a pool is also mesmerizing to look at.  The way the clear stream all of the sudden turns into a magical swirl of shapes is so playful yet close to the heart of what we experience when water moves.  Photography hardly describes the phoneme as well as paint does, or for that matter drawing. You can feel and see the water bubbling up as the source from above comedown on it.  The concentric circles get further apart as the water moves away from the source.  Leonardo took it upon himself to reveal natures mysteries yet still keep them as mysteries.  I feel after looking at one of his paintings or drawings that I understand what I saw better, yet I am so blown away that I am still no closer to understanding how it all works.  My curiosity is fueled to love what I see more.  The inner workings of the body, the endless questioning pulls me toward as source.  How does it work? Where does it come from? Why so beautiful? Why so ordered?