Tag Archives: art inspiration

Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #18

The Passage

As a visual artist, I am continually challenged with the idea of what I am to say with the language and medium I have been given.  Most often in my case, the simple and profound message of hope as it points to our Creator through “the beautiful” is more than sufficient and provides all I that I wish to say with most subjects. In other words, the fact that I am struck by the simple elegance of a line in nature, or the moving harmony of two or more colors dancing together are more than enough reasons to record them and provide ample material for a work of great meaning.  However, there have been instances when I have been inspired to include an overarching narrative to depict an emotion or tell a story.  This painting “The Passage”, page 123, was one of those for me.

The inspiration for this work came in a vision of the completed painting that flashed in my mind as I lay in bed ready to retire for the day.  Just weeks earlier, during a time of great sadness, I had the privilege of being with my father as he breathed his last breath and lost the battle from a relatively short illness.  This moment of profound loss was also one of the more sacred times in my life.  As I witnessed his passing, I could not help but wonder how we are transported to the next realm and what his journey may have looked like.  I, in no way mean to conclude that this image has any historical accuracy, is substantiated by scripture, or is what our experience will look like.  I was simply following the inspiration and seeing it through.  What I am certain of is the great hope of eternal life we have through our Lord and I stand on that as I move ahead.

These following passages have always given me great comfort and offer such assurance.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.

Job 19:25

As to the execution of this work, various studies were completed on location of the model in twilight light on the shores of a river.  As you can see in the study, not much attention was paid to detail or proper drawing as the light was fleeting fast.  In this case, it was only important to capture accurate values and color relationships to translate the effect of light in the finished piece.  Later in the studio, I then transposed the key to create the desired lighting to better depict the mood.  Finally, a sketch was created one quarter size to work out the harmonies and final design before the finished canvas was begun.

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Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #15

“Bring on the Wonder,”

Over the years many have asked, “Where do you get all of your ideas for paintings”, or, “Is it hard to constantly come up with fresh concepts”.  I have found that if I simply live and soak in the world around me, there is ample visual stimulus to spark what I need for a composition. The problem more often is how to distill all of the input into something I can wrap my mind around to utilize.

One example of how a painting began with the simplest of inspiration is found in the work, “A Light in the Darkness”, page 156 in “Not Far from Home”.

As I was walking to the studio one day, the branch of a cottonwood tree had fallen on the path that I trod.  As anybody would, I picked it up to toss it aside but then noticed the amazing harmony of the muted violets and ochres interplaying on the leaves.  This stopped me long enough to further observe the spellbinding rhythm of line created by the leaf stems that wove my eye in and around the branch. It was then that my mind made the connection that this may be useful in a painting or may serve as a foil to set a model against.  So instead of tossing it aside, it made its way to the model stand and I began to assemble the composition around this element.

It was important to build the design with elements that worked with and not against the aspects of the original inspiration. For instance, it was the subtle dance of color between violet and yellow that first caught my eye, so why would I add all kinds of other color influences that would dilute or distract from this subtle harmony.  In terms of rhythm of line, it was important to choose lines that echoed the branch and did not fight against the swing of line.

Having mentioned how this work came about with some ease and seeming happenstance, I am fully aware of how it is not always easy to see the world with the wonder of a child to pick up on the nuances of line, harmony, design, etc…  For a period of time after my father passed away, I was numbed to the beauty and couldn’t find joy in the simplest of things. Thankfully prayer and time has brought back that sense wonder. I found that asking God to open my eyes anew helped to see again as a child. I do not share this to be sanctimonious, but simply to tell my story and share the struggle.  The lyrics of Sarah McLachlan’s “Bring on the Wonder” so poignantly illustrate my heart’s cry during this time.  “Bring on the wonder, bring on the song, I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long…”  How refreshing to break through.

I wish you great joy as you find the inspiration that will lead to your next great work!

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Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #13


The work of the great pioneers in the art of photography have long been a true source of inspiration for me and have been a driving force in my design sensibilities.  Studying the simplicity and solidity of their compositions has had a profound impact on the way in which I view my subjects and played significant role in the composition of this painting,“Coffee”, (page 30) .

As I was surveying the subject while deeply squinting to prepare my approach to this work , I could almost see the veiled effect of light that the early photographers so keenly captured.  This “veil” softened the forms while pulling together the values, simplifying the shapes and created strength in the design that would have been lost had the shapes been broken up by more value transitions.

The challenge at hand was  to continue to see the elements in their simplest essence, so as not to disrupt the simple masses and to create a connected design with the lights as they weaved through the dark background.

While modeling the detail within the larger shapes, the photographs of Clarence White and Edward Steichen whose bold graphic shapes and simplified value patterns flashed through my mind as I continued the work to completion.

While ” Coffee” was the first of many works that had this influence, many more of the works within “Not Far from Home” were created in a similar fashion.  Some include, “Leica” (page 112) , “Scarlet” (page 99) and “A Simple Gift” (page 95).


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Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #12

Inspiration and “Goodnight Moon”

Inspiration comes in many ways, through different sensory stimuli, and often when I least expect it . The first inkling of inspiration for “Goodnight Moon”, (page 72 from Not Far from Home),  came while reading a children’s book with the same title to our oldest son Nicolai.

What struck me in particular about the illustration on the last page of the book was that the night sky glowed more luminous than the room interior. This effect of light obviously happens in real life as well, but  it wasn’t until I saw it rendered this way that my interest was piqued. My painting in no way resembled the illustration that birthed this composition, but simply was the catalyst to get me started on a direction. With the singular goal of having the night sky brighter than the interior, I worked with the model and existing studio accessories to develop this idea.  Also, to achieve the nocturnal aspect I desired, several studies were made of the night sky.  I was careful to maintain a very simple palette and was also intentional about repeating the color of the night sky throughout the painting.
I am often surprised where the thread of inspiration takes me, particularly when the initial spark has such obscure beginnings. Clearly, that is one part of the process of painting that keeps the excitement alive and so fresh.
So live life and don’t be afraid to follow a lead of inspiration, no matter how unlikely its source.

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