Saturday, August 20, 2016
Eternal Spring and the Search for Color and Meaning
I once joked to a friend by saying "It's always Spring in my works!" And for many years that lighthearted observation has been true. Despite whatever our general impression of the environment of the Sonoran Desert may be, the desert does present something of a monotonous face for much of the year. No, that is not to say that there isn't life and change big and small - but the most brilliant explosion of color occurs in the Spring.
I latched on to the theme of Spring and how it is all pervasive in my work. On the one hand, it was done with the idea to simply capture the Spring colors - when the yellows and blues and purples of the desert explode to life and the colors greet the arrival of warm days - leading into hot summer. On the other hand my embrace of Spring themes in my work had also to do with the realization of how happy I was painting nature in a state of maximum color. I began to realize that shadows weren't even shadows - they too had amazing color potential, and gradually all segments of the canvas brightened. Until a tension was reached that left many of the paintings bathed in yellows, draped in flowers, and moving with color.
This painting "The Symphony of Spring II" is a derivation from a scene in one of Paul Gill's photographs ( Which I use with permission - and I remind all artists to seek the permission of the photographer before working from someone else source materiel ) Paul Gill has long struck me as one of Arizona's finest artists working in any medium - his being that of the camera. His work has been featured in Arizona Highways Magazine, and he is one of the most respected Arizona photographers. I was so very fortunate to strike up a friendship with him that has been fueled by art - some from the camera, some from the brush. When I met Paul at a show opening in Scottsdale some time ago - he was so very happy to see artwork having been made from his photographs. Early in his career he wanted to be a painter - and then transitioned to photography. But he still sees scenes as a painter would, and I have no doubt that informs the excellence in his photography.
When I work from a photograph, as I did in this case, I take the most bare, basic outlines of the photo and use it primarily for the sketch of the painting. In this case, if you were to see the photograph you likely wouldn't identify the painting that came from it. I use the sketch and then I deviate completely using only basic details. As I have matured as an artist, I find strangely that I don't stick to the sketch as tightly as I used to. In fact, the early sketch and source photograph probably only informs 15 to 20 % of the total image. The rest is imagination. I feel often that I am imagining "against" the scene. I confront the image and make in interpretation that is part emotion, part structure. And in recent years, more emotion than anything else.
"The Symphony of Spring II " captures a wealth of sentiments that are my internal treasures. The deep blues that seem to speak of sky and ocean and shadow. The yellows that emerge with all life during the Springtime in the Sonoran Desert. All the renderings of contrast - the colors against an inky, ivory black. And the sense that a special time of year has arrived. When a brutal land of heat and spikes and stinging insects undergoes the change that ushers in the Summer. I have been many times into fields of poppies such as this - several of the trails of Catalina State Park have beautiful carpets of Mexican Gold Poppies during the Spring. I've seen my kids playing with these little flowers - and seen the excitement of hikers who have hit the trails to experience this special time of year.
This painting also reminds me of something said by my mentor and friend Jean-Claude Quilici. He said "A painting articulates itself by contrast." And the entire foreground speaks to this principle - as it was first a painting in a pitch dark, shiny ivory black. The entire lower half of the painting - and then one by one the flowers and details painted on top of this contrasting element. It might well be that all things arise out of the darkness. Something that informs our deepest primitive part of the brain - all light against darkness. All emerged, created against that deep black. Like the stars upon the deep black of space, or a candle in the dark. Life created against non life - created almost in spite of it.
Most all my paintings make me very happy - this one was a standout. It hummed with contrast and color as it emerged on canvas. And if you'd like to see it, I invite you to visit the Marshall Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ to see this and other works. It's a goal of mine to write more about my paintings going forward - because even I realize that there is a story behind every painting. And it is a healthy thing to pause and remember the life of a painting as it relates to the internal visions of the artist.
One of the great joys of my life has been the constant compliment of having had my work bought and collected for so many years. With amazing galleries to support me, fantastic collectors who buy my work regularly, as well as magazines and books who've written about it - I remain always deeply grateful to be able to be an artist, and to dream with abandon countless Spring scenes. Thank you!
Marshall Gallery, Scottsdale