Tag Archives: painting subject matter

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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