Painting is my passion. Whether it’s watching colors swirl around the water as my brush touches wet paper, feeling strokes of pastel scrape along the sandpaper surface depositing tiny flakes of color, or scraping panels rich with oil color to reveal the layers below, I am totally immersed in the process. I also delight in the mechanics of painting, whether it’s laying out the palette, lining up the different types of brushes and determining which to use and when, atomizing paper or fingerprinting wooden panels or canvases to create various textures.
When I begin a piece, I envision the completed painting on the bright white surface before I even touch pencil to paper. I prefer to work in my studio, not only for the quiet, but also because this allows me to give myself entirely to the environment of the painting.
I paint primarily with watercolor and am constantly aware of retaining transparency while adding numerous thin glazes of colors. I employ high contrast and a full value range to achieve a realistic look. Complimentary colors are my favorite choices, especially the yellow/purple combination, because I love the glowing, warm shades achieved by mixtures of both in shadows and highlights. Using complementary colors simplify and helps unite a painting, and when juxtaposed, provide a vibrant focal point.
When I finish a painting, I look at it in a mirror 12 feet away. If it still looks strong and solid, I move in to examine the detail. Even though my work is highly detailed, it must past the distance test. Only then is it truly completed. At that point, as Jeff Melvoin, the filmmaker said, “It is not your painting anymore. It stopped being your painting the moment you finished it.” For me, the completion means the challenge of the moment is over, and when the challenge is complete, I’m off to the next painting.
Many things pique my interest as a painter. I’m excited to capture the bursting colors of fresh sunflowers placed in an old vase, perhaps at a stand in a local flea market. I’m drawn to patterns and colors of hand-made quilts at an old country store whose staircase has been invaded by the MasterCard and Visa logos. I delight in preserving the beauty of dahlias fully in bloom with their rich reds and greens against the bright blue sunlit September morning.
More importantly, I think of my paintings as documentaries of vanishing locations, life styles, and traditions. I preserve moments in time though my work. For example, I am drawn to painting the simple life of the Amish whose style of dress provides a visual shorthand in identifying them as a distinctive group, committed to a set of principles different from the rest of society. I grew up near the Amish country and always find interesting subjects there.
Currently, I am focusing on various ethnic communities in cities that manage to hold onto a piece of their own culture -- like my Chinatown series. I envision this expanding to a larger body of work focusing on vanishing careers such as elevator operators and sign painters, as well as proprietors of small businesses being replaced by large, chain, retail vendors.