Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #10

This is the tenth 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!


As I assess the works of the artists that have had the greatest impact on my development, one common denominator they share is the noted variety in the surface quality of their canvases.  Their technique wasn’t just “variety for varieties sake” in brushwork, but rather a calculated means of creating dimension, providing balance, and achieving the greatest luminosity that the paint film can provide.

Early on in my studies, I was enamored by the thick rich brushstrokes of many of the broad brush painters.  The temptation was to apply those same qualities to my own work but without the knowledge of where those strokes belonged.  I was copying the technique without the understanding of what the dimension of their stroke was accomplishing.  Along the way, a good friend shared the familiar proverb, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise men of old. Seek what they sought.”  What this meant to me was that as I was studying the subject from life, I needed to look at the given visual textures and only employ the technique that would best represent what I was seeing.  Not the other way around, where I would impose the technique I saw in others work onto the subject, often violating the respective textural accuracy.  To say it again, the textural brushwork only belongs where you are seeing texture on the subject. THIS IS HUGE and seems so obvious, but it is a common stumbling block.

This principal holds true for many techniques, not just the broad brush enthusiasts.  Issac Levitan’s glassy skies offer a terrific foil to the impasto trees and foregrounds, Alma Tadema’s textural drapery is a beautiful contrast to the silken marble surfaces and Nicolai Fechin’s pearlescent skin texture and tone are an amazing contrast to the peripheral elements of hair and fabric, to name a few.

This painting, “Jennifer”, featured in great detail in “Not Far from Home”, proved successful as I began to see and understand the beauty of this concept.  Keep Squinting!!!

For more info on “Not Far from Home”, click book.  Thanks!

book cover new web


4 responses to “Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #10

  • Mike Neilson

    Dan, this is one my favorite paintings of yours, and a wonderful tribute to your beautiful wife, Jennifer. You really captured a look of peace and gentleness on her face.
    Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

  • Betty Smith

    Thanks so much Dan. I have never thought about this but I do try to paint what I see (while squinting). Congratulations on the adorable new addition to your family!!!!!!!!! Happy painting.

    Betty 🙂

  • susanpattonart

    I appreciate your blog, Dan, and wanted to say “thank you.” I would be honored for you to glance at my new blog and read my artist statement: I am beginning to dedicate more time and effort into learning and practicing art. Your book is one I keep open as I do. I not only appreciate your masterful art, but the fact that you give glory to God. Thanks again for your time to share your insights with us.

  • Chris

    Beautiful work. You are obviously very adept at your chosen medium.

    One question if you might address at some point in a future blogpost.

    What one characteristic do you feel distinguishes your paintings from becoming a slavish, photographic representation of your subject? In other words, why your painting and not a beautifully shot photograph?

    This is probably more of a philosophical question rather than a technical one. To my mind I think I know the answer. In fact I think it’s quite obvious looking at your work, but I’d like to hear it in your own words.

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