Oil paint has many unique qualities, including variations in texture, from light, watercolor-like washes, to impasto strokes of full body oil. Lately, I’ve been exploring the latter, painting with a fully loaded brush that creates bold strokes of color (called “impasto”, the technique of laying on paint thickly so that it stands out from a surface).
I’ve found this technique to have many benefits: it gives painting a sculptural “presence” that reminds the viewer this isn’t a photograph, it’s made by a hand with passion; it allows for richer color and interesting edges, as the loads of adjacent paint strokes combine at the edges, creating a marbleized co-mingling of color; using impasto for foreground elements makes them move forward in the picture plain, especially if you paint the distance in a thinner wash; and finally, there’s something more about it that’s difficult to describe….I think it’s perhaps the fact that the painting’s fluid surface gives it an organic quality.
Here are a few recent seascapes painted in this vein:
For Pride month in San Francisco, I’ll be showing at both Spark Arts in the Castro and this national exhibition at the Harvey Milk Photo Center. Join me at the reception June 22nd. The works below can be purchased online now, but understand they can’t be shipped until after the show closes on July 21.
Exhibition Dates: June 22-July 21, 2019 Opening Reception: June 22nd, 2019 from 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm Location: Harvey Milk Photo Center, 50 Scott St. San Francisco
In honoring the Stonewall riots 50 years ago, Harvey Milk Photo Center proudly present the Stonewall 50 Years Anniversary Art Exhibit. This exhibit is intended for artists to showcase their best contemporary artworks focusing on celebrating LGBTQ community.
I’m proud to exhibit the three pieces below. The first has a LGBT theme, while the others are just simply beautiful paintings the center wanted to show. I really appreciate it when exhibitions like these don’t get hung up on homoerotic images, but instead embrace all the art our community creates. Thank you Director David Christensen.
“Isn’t it intensity of thought rather than calmness of touch that we are seeking? And in impulsive working conditions such as these, out on site and of this nature, is a calm, well-ordered touch always possible? Dear Lord, it seems to me no more so than when on the attack in fencing.”
Vincent VanGogh in a letter to fell artist John Russell
VanGogh captures perfectly the essence of a struggle plein air painters face: balancing the heart and head in the battle to create art on the spot. When you’re painting, how do you balance the impulsiveness driven by the excitement of the moment, with a deliberative approach that substitutes intuitive painting for thoughtful—and some would say “tight”–painting? Or is this a false choice and do both?
Painting and studying with some of the best in our field inform my opinion. Of those teachers, the great Ken Auster comes to mind. In short, his approach was that you start with the head (deciding what to paint and why, designing the picture, drawing…), move to the heart (reacting, for creating the kind of expressive brush strokes and sophisticated grays he’s known for) and end with the head to thoughtfully consider the painting from an objective standpoint, and ask yourself, “is it done?” Judge it.
I agree with much of what Ken taught me about this question, but I have a slightly different although complementary take: Painting en plein air is possible through building a solid foundational of skills that make automatic as much of the process as possible in the moment.
Have you ever commuted home from work, realizing when you got there you were on complete auto-pilot, barely remembering the drive? That’s what building a skill means to me: having the most complete toolbox of artistic skills so that I can be intuitive and responsive to nature without thinking about it. I want to use my heart completely in a picture. This is my goal, but I’m not quite there yet. I’ve worked in the corporate world too many years to escape a structured, self-critical mind.
But like Ken, I do start and end deliberatively. Perhaps this is my failing, or an essential truth to live with.
This is a painting of mine that represents for me this principle. I started with a careful design—especially large shapes, light and shadow—and switched to a complete intuitive state (athletes call it “the zone”). I skipped the evaluation, self-judgment phase until the next day. I’m glad I did. I like it just as it is.
On the way to and back from my recent solo show in San Francisco I stopped at Pacific Grove (and other spots) to paint plein air, capturing natural light in what was a beautiful week. I hope you enjoy these new works. All available online unframed (reach out to me if you’d like a price quoted for framed works).
To be honest, solo shows are a bit stressful (and a lot of work), but everything went so well! Thank you to all who were able to attend in person, and the messages from many on social media commenting on my work. Perhaps I’ll do this again next year, but in the meantime, Spark Arts in San Francisco continues to represent me, as well as the Buenaventura Art Association gallery in Ventura. Also, a heads-up that I’ll be exhibiting portraits of local San Francisco Trans community members, opening May 11. I’ll post about that soon.
My solo show at Spark Arts San Francisco will include a mix of oil and watercolor across many themes, including local city scenes, sea/landscapes, figurative and some new abstracts. Join me for the reception, April 4th, 6-9PM. Here’s a slide show of some of the works that will be shown.
I will be showing the landscapel below at the Harvey Milk Photo Center January 8-February 7 with Art Saves Lives, curated by Thomasina DeMaio. The reception will be held January 18th, with live music featuring the incredible Tribal Baroque! It will be an amazing reception, hope to see you there.
What: Winter Exhibition
Where: Harvey Milk Photo Center, 50 Scott Street, San Francisco, CA