Category Archives: In the Studio

Anchoring Abstraction

Impressionistic realism has been the foundation of my art for many years, but that’s starting to change as I explore mixing identifiable forms that are relatable to abstract forms that work on a different level. Abstract art has merit, but I hadn’t pursued it until now because I struggled with how to communicate with it.

Recent Abstract Experiment: Mission Dolore Park, Oil on board, 11x14
Recent Abstract Experiment: Mission Dolore Park, Oil on board, 11×14

For me, the human figure is the most relevant symbolic subject in art.  People are complex: outwardly transparent, but inwardly hidden.  We respond to the Mona Lisa because while her body is drawn to perfection, her veiled thoughts through her smile intrigues us and draws us to this painting.  So how can a painting be both approachable and mysterious?

Fast forward 450 years from Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to the 1950’s Bay Area Figurative movement (lead by David Park), when an intriguing fusion of figurative art combined with Abstract Expressionism. Painters in this school ( David ParkRichard Diebenkorn, Elmer BischoffWayne Thiebaud…) had different reasons for mixing figurative representation and abstraction, but many found a dead end in Abstract Expressionism’s ability to communicate. They resisted being constrained by a formal “school”, but instead believed in taking freely from both figurative and abstract traditions.

I’m working on a series now that uses the figure as an anchor, like this movement.  In one of these paintings (“Green Shorts”, below), a solitary figure stares out at an abstracted plane, resembling the sea. (or, is it a clouded sky?).

"Green Shorts", oil on board, 16x12"
“Green Shorts”, oil on board, 16×12″

The figure is used as an entrance into this world of sunshine and contemplation.  He stands on the picture plane as if an observer himself to the alternating bands of blues, violets and grays.  It’s designed in such a way that his surroundings are open to interpretation: he could be in a museum (barefoot—probably not allowed!) surrounded by a large painting himself.

I had a lot of fun with this one.  While the reference photo I used is in fact of a man at the beach, the viewer can have fun with this and imagine other scenarios. For example, he could be standing on flat land, looking out at distant snow-capped hills, sky, and clouds above.  If you were not told this was the sea, could you see alternative realities like this for his view?

This ambiguity is what interests me, because I believe strongly that the best art requires participation by the viewer. Just as decoding the Mona Lisa’s thoughts are the viewer’s creation, I seek to give the viewer the opportunity to find their own meaning. This makes the painting theirs through co-creation between viewer and artist.

So that’s what I’m working on.  It is fun creating these worlds, but not easy—art never is!

Postscript: This series will probably be shown in San Francisco at Spark Arts, in April, but specifics TBD.

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico is a real gem. The centro’s architecture is Spanish Colonial, and the people there are  wonderful.  Love painting there, and finally got Mike to go on a visit recently.  Here are some paintings in watercolor and oil.  Enjoy!

Joyce's Pool #2 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor
Joyce’s Pool #2 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor
Joyce's Pool #1 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor
Joyce’s Pool #1 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor

 

San Miguel de Allende, Watercolor
San Miguel de Allende, Watercolor
San Miguel de Allende (from Casa Schuck), Oil on Linen, 11x14
San Miguel de Allende (from Casa Schuck), Oil on Linen, 11×14
San Miguel de Allende Sunset, Oil on Linen, 8x10
San Miguel de Allende Sunset, Oil on Linen, 8×10

 

 

 

 

Figurative Watercolors

Mike and I have planned a trip to Maui! It’s been a long time since we’ve enjoyed a vacation together, so I’m really looking forward to it. Since I don’t plan to travel with my full oil setup, I will paint watercolors plein air. I think there’s something about Hawaii and the tropics that lends itself well to watercolor–the lightness of it all.

To prepare my watercolor skills (which are minimal), I’ve started to paint the figure. It’s a great way to “kill two birds with one stone”: both learn the medium and continue to improve my drawing skills. Of course, painting the figure is the best way to improve drawing because it’s obvious when you make even the slightest error. The first two studies below were painted at a local gay bar (Moby Dick). An artist in the neighborhood thought it would be nice to have a drawing group there, and I have to say, it was really fun. It is a gay bar, so lots of pulsing music and local characters, but I ended up having a great time. It’s Monday nights (at least through the Summer )if you’re interested (7:30-10:30pm).

The last painting is just another tennis player study, in oil. I’ve been doing a seriers of these. The strong light on a tennis court makes for some very interesting color situations–especially reflected light. Enjoy!

Atelier Moby Dick 1, Watercolor, 6x6
Atelier Moby Dick 1, Watercolor, 6×6

Available on my website for purchase here.

 

Atelier Moby Dick 2, Watercolor, 6x6
Atelier Moby Dick 2, Watercolor, 6×6
Tennis Player 3, Oil on Linen, 10x5.5
Tennis Player 3, Oil on Linen, 10×5.5″

 

Montana de Oro (Last Light)

Just recovered from a 5 day illness.  It’s nice to have some energy to paint after being sick so long.  This is from a reference photo of Montana De Oro, in San Luis Obisipo County.  I paint this location for the annual plein air show at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.  For this painting, my focus was getting the light/shadow colors just right on the bluffs.  Trying to keep it simple. Everything else are supporting characters.  Enjoy!

 

Montana de Oro (Last Light), Oil on Linen, 9x12
Montana de Oro (Last Light), Oil on Linen, 9×12

Balboa Park (San Diego, CA)

Balboa Park in San Diego is a painter’s paradise.  According to Wikipedia, the park is “Named for the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the park hosted the 1915 Panama–California Exposition and 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, both of which left architectural landmarks.”  The architecture is great, and the park is surrounded by beautiful gardens.  I had some fun with this one.  Enjoy!

Balboa Park (golden light), oil on linen, 12x9
Balboa Park (golden light), oil on linen, 12×9

Sunrise or sunset?

Whether this is a sunrise or sunset depends upon your perspective, however, I think it’s a false choice.  It’s not one or the other–it’s both.  It’s sunset in San Miguel de Allende and sunrise in somewhere else. I find this same truth in life all the time, and I try to recognize it when it happens so I can see both sides of any situation.  Enjoy!

Sunset (San Miguel de Allende), Oil on canvas, 12x9"
Sunset (San Miguel de Allende), Oil on canvas, 12×9″

Catching up with new work

I have a couple of different recent paintings to share as I continue to explore new ideas and materials.

I painted this plein air work in San Miguel de Allende a few months ago, but it sat in my studio unfinished for a while. It needed just a few adjustments.

San Miguel de Allende Chapel, Oil on Linen, 12x9
San Miguel de Allende Chapel, Oil on Linen, 12x9

I love painting a dramatic sky!  This was painted from a reference photo I took while staying at Red Rocks for the 1st Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo.  I liked the counterbalance between the drama of the sky and the distant lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

Vegas vs Nature, Oil on Linen, 12x16
Vegas vs Nature, Oil on Linen, 12x16

And finally, I’ve been experimenting with new materials.  This oil on paper work was done with new Cobra water soluble oils.  I love the idea of painting with solvents!  So far I like the, although I don’t have enough colors to truly judge–and I haven’t painted on anything other than paper so far.   You may recognize this study, based on another done plein air in regular oil paint.

Desert Color Study, Oil on Paper, 8x10
Desert Color Study, Oil on Paper, 8x10

Tennis Player

I’m thinking of Summer, which is why I suppose I selected this reference photo to paint.  I wanted to depict a sun-filled day (just as we had in San Francisco, today). Speaking of sunny weather, I’m headed to San Miguel de Allende this Friday, where the forecast is low 80’s all week.  Although Mike can’t make this trip, I’m looking forward to a full week dedicated to painting with Frank Gardner.  I’ll try to post from Mexico, if I have decent WiFi at the hotel.  Cheers.

20120226-221405.jpg

 

Reminds me of Greg

I enjoy alternating between painting the figure and landscape.  Painting the figure hones my drawing skills, and landscapes allow me to play a bit more with form, color and brushwork.  I’d love to bring that same fluidity to my figure work (and I have achieved that occasionally), but I have trouble being too loose in the figure, because I loose form too quickly.  There are some artists that do this extraordinarily well, and they inspire me (eg, Dan McCaw).  I’m working on a series of figure paintings for a possible show in San Francisco this year.  Cheers!

Reminds me of Greg, Oil on Linen, 14x11"
Reminds me of Greg, Oil on Linen, 14x11"

Avila Cove

I think this is the longest period of time I’ve gone without blogging!  Feels weird.  I’ve a a busy couple months: started a remodel at home; and was hospitalized for kidney stones.  No fun!  Remember to drink lots of water…apparently, that’s how you can help avoid them.

This is my first painting after being out of commission for a couple weeks.  Feels great to get back.  I like this enough that I can see painting a larger studio work from it.  Hope you enjoy it.

Avila Cove, Oil on Linen, 6x8
Avila Cove, Oil on Linen, 6x8

Studying watercolor

Painting in watercolor is SO different from oil.  It’s a real challenge, but I’m enjoying it.  I decided to take a short break from oil painting to learn a new medium.  I’m sure I’ll return to oil soon, but enjoying the immediacy and delicacy required to paint watercolor.  Enjoy!

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