My current work is rooted in that fertile area between representation and abstraction. The figure is both my grounding agent and my jumping off place. The challenge is to see beyond obvious descriptive elements to express instead the “story beneath” a figure’s body language and gesture. Recurring themes in my work are vulnerability, solitude, contemplation, joy, personal memories, and life experiences. Color, light, abstract forms, mark-making, pattern, and painterly brushstrokes are used with the goal of making a painting come alive with feeling. When my painting is almost finished I often discover that the “story beneath” is a story from my life, and I hope that the viewers of my paintings will see their own stories in my paintings as well.
OPAQUE WATERCOLOR AND GOUACHE PAINTING
Early on I experimented with many different painting mediums. But when I discovered watercolor, I instantly knew it was for me. Over the past two decades, my use of watercolor has evolved from a traditional transparent approach to an unconventional approach where I add white and/or colored gouache to my watercolors and paint in a thick, opaque, and layered method that’s similar to what an oil painter might use. Gouache is a water soluble painting medium containing the same basic ingredients and characteristics as watercolor with one major difference – gouache also contains opaque white pigment. Used alone or mixed with watercolor, gouache creates an opaque, muted, velvety, matte picture surface that I love. With opaque painting I can easily make corrections, paint light colors over dark colors, wash off passages, change my mind, and experiment with ideas that show up while I’m working on my painting. And if things go awry, I can easily wash everything off and start over again without being concerned that I’ll ruin my painting. Another advantage of the watercolor and gouache opaque approach is that wiping off paint, re-painting, adding and removing forms, colors, lines, and mark-making all contribute to creating a picture surface that’s layered with mystery and magic.
I love the idea of creating a personal world on a beautiful picture surface that feels alive with emotion and enchantment. I work from personal photos I’ve taken on trips or of family members. I begin each new work by making drawings, often many drawings; simple, rough, unpolished, unfinished shape-oriented drawings that focus on gesture and body language, searching for that magical moment of recognition where I feel the connection between my subject and myself. I also do numerous shape-oriented drawings of the face and features with the goal of gaining a simplified abstract understanding of them so that I can more easily let go and paint with the kind of freedom and spontaneity that I’m after in my work. The drawings are often followed by small color studies where I experiment with color palette, color key, and composition. I usually begin a painting with an arbitrary allover underpainting that’s transparent, bright, and multicolored. While preliminary drawings, studies, and an underpainting provide me with a starting point, they give me no information on where a painting should go from there. For me, finding that answer is really what the painting process is all about. When the underpainting is dry, I begin building up the picture surface with thick opaque brushstrokes of color, abstract forms, lines, textures, patterns, and mark making, all the while trying to stay out of the way and let the painting unfold in a spontaneous and improvisational manner. Basically, it’s a process of inventing creative ways to give the painting what it needs – looking, responding, building up, tearing down, imagining, and being open to unexpected happenings and events that show up along the way.