In the past two months I have snapped more than four thousand photographs. One would think that I paint from photographs… but I don’t. At least, I haven’t up until now. My aversion to working from photographs began in my late teens. I questioned my reason for being an artist. Was it that I truly loved to draw and paint? Or did I want an excuse for standing in an open field hour after hour listening to the birds sing, inhaling the scent of honeysuckle and feeling the sun and wind caress my body?
When I attended commercial art school in my early twenties I was forced to work only from what was referred to as The Morgue, a supply of photographs kept in a three-drawer file cabinet next to the “enlarging” apparatus in a room hardly bigger than a a closet. This was not the life for me. I returned to plein air painting and vowed never to work from a photograph again. I was forced into submission when commissioned to execute a portrait of a deceased pet, person or childhood home that had long since been replaced by more modern architecture.
I have learned that I work more from the senses than I do from the reality of physical form. I am inspired by movement, smells, sounds and energy levels. The physical reality around me is something that I glance at occasionally to anchor myself as I work. Realistic drawings and paintings are studies to hone my skills so that when I work intuitively my flow is interrupted as infrequently as possible by the limits of my skills. This way of working creates a split personality of work.
I began teaching in Santa Rosa, CA two years ago. The landscape of steep, barren hills reawakened a bond I formed with the land when I traveled there at the age of fourteen. How could I have forgotten? I decided I wanted to merge the two bodies of work, the realism and the intuitive work, bringing together the strengths of both. I’m curious as to what such a marriage will look like. The landscape of Provence is similar to the landscape of Santa Rosa and the Bay Area of San Francisco. I felt the same connection. I need to explore what it is that sings so loudly to my spirit, that makes every cell of my body smile and dance.
It’s not just rolling hills and botanicals that make me tingle. Rock, rusty pipes, tangles of wire, rows of trucks, interweaving of roads also excite me. I took as many photos of utilities covers as I did buildings and landscapes while in Provence. A series of paintings inspired by these covers is just around the corner.
Thanks to technology, to large monitors and Ipads, my snapshots look similar to slides. They appear luminous and detailed in both the lights and darks with a greater range of colors and values. It’s time to stop being so stubborn and learn how to use photographs to bring realistic and intuitive work closer together.