Monthly Archives: May 2011

Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #7

This is the seventh  installment from the series of posts that will describe my thoughts and  technical insights from selected works included in our newly released book, “Not Far from Home”….Enjoy!

Inspiration and obedience…

Have you ever had the feeling that you needed to be painting a subject more grandiose than what lay presently before you in its simple, sensitive beauty.  I need to confess that I have and am amazed at my thick-headedness as I have ignored the profound, staggering elegance of the subject right before my eyes in hopes to find something “more important”.

I have found this hubris humbling as I have tried to deny the inspiration that has been given, picking and choosing, trying to squelch the “insignificant” ones to find a more profound “storyline”.  In the temptation to “tell a lofty story” in the literal sense with the subject, I have overlooked the grander message that the simple beauty is conveying.

The “Visit”, as Canadian composer Loreena McKennitt refers to the inspiration, should not be ignored.  I truly believe that it was given for a clear purpose and that my best works were completed when I have followed the initial spark.

I do not say this to advocate a lazy approach in looking for a subject that moves us deeply or to shirk the responsibility of developing more complex compositions, but too often I have let the temptation to paint something “profound and important” block the true inspiration God has given in the twist of a branch or the ever so subtle shift from red to green in the face of the model.

Certainly we should continue to strive toward greater heights as we develop our artistic abilities in whatever direction that leads us, but I for one, need to “obey”, for lack of a better word, and proceed as directed.  My greatest joy in painting has followed when I have.

In my opinion, no profounder message could have been told than that of which these cedar trees expressed.

My job was to absorb the beauty, convey the message and rejoice…

book cover new web

Not Far from Home” 

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Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #6

This is the sixth  installment from the series of posts that will describe my thoughts and  technical insights from selected works included in our newly released book, “Not Far from Home”….Enjoy!


Connected Masses and Design

Design at its simplest, in my opinion, should be an arrangement of shapes that have a dominance of either dark or light and should be woven together with a thread that lyrically carries the eye to the focal point and around the canvas.  This thread is often comprised of the least dominant value that is either literally connected to or leading to the next progression of shapes that follow the pattern.  In other words, if the painting has a dominance of dark values, then the thread should be the lights that carry your eye around, or vice versa.

Notice how the lights are connected in the painting “Amaryllis”, page 39, and inversely, how the darks are connected in “Hollyhock and Eden”, page 158. This was no accident, but was an intentional design choice from the outset to group the lights or darks to carry the viewer’s eye.  This massing of shapes helps to create a more dynamic design which will give a painting its visual impact, particularly at first glance.  Great movie directors pay close attention to this detail.  One can freeze frame Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” at almost any point and see a master designer’s work.

As I sought to understand this concept, I studied the work of the great illustrators Howard Pyle, N.C Wyeth, Dean Cornwell and others and found that doing little pencil sketches of their abstract designs was very beneficial in understanding the importance of this principal.

Other examples contained in “Not Far from Home” that help illustrate this point are, “Amethyst”, page 144… “Summer Table”, page 121… and “Backlit Peonies”, page 75, among others.

Rememberconnect your lights and darks if possible, your designs will have more unity and power if you do!

Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

Not Far from Home… click book for more info.  Thanks!


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