I never have had to look for scenes that motivate me enough to invest the work and logistics time of painting them, I just find them, more than I’d ever have time to do all of. I single out ones that have a good proportion of shapes and sizes in their elements, and have a lot going on in them, a variety in buildings and secondary structures like streetlamps and signs, ideally some plants or geology mixed in, and either a contrasting backround or a dramatic sky. If a waterfall is the subject, my approach is a similar balance of water, rocks, and vegetation. Having a memory attached to an already inspiring scene, which many do, is a big bonus. Street intersections are a cross section of everyday life in the neighborhoods that I enjoy going to, with plenty of activity in front of me, just like that mechanical egg sorting machine I remembered as a child.
I have found much spiritual similarity in of the flow of rivers to the flow of time, and waterfalls are a peaceful opposite subject to work with when I have done enough street scenes for a while. From my very beginning, while as a student at Umass Amherst, I have done all my paintings plein-aire. But, sometimes elements in a scene change fast, so I take a photo anyway, just in case I need help rendering it to how I first remembered it. I get out a sheet of standard 140# hot press paper and make sure I pencil in my reference point parts small enough so I have enough space for everything I want to put in, then ink the scene, and the watercolor is added last. This method allows me to get the kind of detail I want and the rooty, fairy tale look that I like, much like my favorite album covers that were done by artists like Rodney Mattiews and Dan Seagrave.
Over time though, I have given my requirements for realism slightly less importance the overall essence more. Finally my paper is all colored in, I am glad to get up and stretch, and hear people say “hey, that’s my street” or “I know right where that is”. But I know I have created a masterpiece when I hear “you make our town look better than it does”.
See me in action on site in Silverton Oregon here:
Ultimately I will have bodies of work from the places I have lived put into at least four coffee table style picture books, two of Oregon, one of my Connecticut River valley favorite places, and another of Vermont’s waterfalls.
I also do stained and fused glass art, which includes 3-D insects and flowers, octopus chandeliers, and more, which you can see at its own website…