And so I believe in building my paintings on a sound surface, whether it’s a nicely stretched canvas or archivally produced panel. Double primed linen is my surface of choice, usually stretched on wood stretchers and secured with copper tacks (I’m not a fan of staples on larger canvases). While I always prefer to stretch my own canvases, the panels I use for much of my painting en plein air are bought from suppliers. The panels are still made with double-primed linen, but instead of being stretched, the linen is then secured with archival glue to a backing of either birch or masonite or foam board (very lightweight for travel). For me, the important thing is to have a high-quality surface that gives me the texture and feel I want while preserving the painting on an enduring and well-crafted canvas.
I’ve been very lucky to have the chance to travel to Italy for a week of painting and exhibiting in June, then to France for the whole month of September, and that’s where I had a chance to write a bit about the experience.
I was selected by Les Amis de La Vignette at the Musee de Yvonne Jean-Haffen to be the artist in residence for September, and in return donated two of my paintings to the museum’s collection. The residency was in the picturesque medieval town of Dinan, on the banks of the Rance River in Brittany, France.
Madame Haffen (1895-1993) was an accomplished painter and a visionary who donated her home (La Grande Vigne) and collection to the town of Dinan, and established this wonderful residency. It offers artists from all over the world the opportunity to live and paint in an incredibly inspiring place, just as she did. I was lucky enough to catch the end of an exhibition of her paintings (and a few by her teacher Mathurin Meheut) at the cultural center in town, which gave me a great overview of her work. More of her work is displayed at the museum, which sits just up the hill from the cottage (La Vignette), all part of the property that was her home.
The cottage had all the comforts of home, a studio equipped with easel and utility sink, and a bicycle in the closet. With my painting kit strapped to the back of the bicycle, I pedaled up and down the Rance River to paint the trees, bridges and marshes of this endlessly inspiring place. I also packed my gear in my car and wandered along the spectacular coastline of Brittany, setting up my easel in fishing ports, sheep pastures, and even on Omaha Beach in Normandy.
I did a couple dozen paintings while in France, some of which are studies for larger canvases I’m starting in the studio, and some are finished paintings I will now exhibit. All of them are part of the experience, the joy of being there and taking it all in. For me, it’s all about exploring, understanding and creating, and as long as I’m doing that I know I’m alive!
Many thanks to Les Amis de La Vignette for a wonderful residency.
I’m often asked about why some of my paintings look very loose and brushy and some look much tighter, more detailed. The short answer is that some paintings I do en plein air and some in the studio.
En plein air simply means “outdoors”, and is generally understood to mean painted on location, from life. Because of the immediate nature of the work, and the time constraints (think changing light, rising tide, clouds moving in, etc.), it has a quick and impressionistic feel. Some of these paintings will serve as vital studies for other larger pieces and never be signed or framed. But some of them will be complete and stand as finished paintings worthy of a signature and a frame. They will have a freshness to them and often some sand or bugs or other location souvenirs, which help to tell the story of a particular place and time.
Paintings I complete in my studio benefit from hours of planning and pondering and carefully working to bring a scene and its moods to life. All that is observed, seen, heard, smelled and studied gets funneled into the painting. I use the studies painted on location along with photographs and all I remember to bring the canvas to life. Usually these paintings are much larger and have a more contemplative feel.
Plein air paintings relate to studio paintings much as short stories relate to novels. Both tell stories in different ways, but if successful, both can be moving and effective works of art.
Travel has always been a vital part of my life as an artist. The exploration, the discovery, the inspiration that comes from a change in location, all appeal to me. Usually I alternate between the urge to paint familiar surroundings and the urge to immerse myself in someplace completely foreign.
I’m a big believer in letting paintings speak for themselves, I don’t think one should need to read a thesis to be moved by the work. But, there are times when a little of the story behind a painting is interesting, and here is where I’ll share some of those stories.
At the moment I’m between travels. I had wonderful painting trips this summer and fall to Maine, Cape Cod, Maryland’s Eastern Shore, New Jersey, and Virginia. This winter I’ll be painting the Everglades and other parts of South Florida, then in 2012 there are many trips in the works, to be updated later.
My first website went online in 1995, and since then it’s been redesigned and updated many times. Posting images of my paintings along with brief descriptions has made it possible for those interested to see my latest work, even when they couldn’t see it in person. Since the very early days of my career I’ve done mailings to update my collectors and supporters on news and future plans, and now this too is going digital.
In recent years I’ve been considering a way to communicate some of the behind-the-scenes information that doesn’t quite fit into an image with caption, event description, or newsletter. A blog seems to be the perfect venue.
My goal is to share, with my collectors and those who support my work, a little bit more of the story behind my paintings. Perhaps some notes on travels, stories behind paintings, and other items that I get asked about.
I don’t expect to be a prolific blogger (there are many good ones out there), so please don’t check back daily for new posts. Please subscribe if you want to know when I post something, and thank you for your interest!
I am a professional artist and avid global traveler who paints landscapes and portraits both on location and in the studio. I’ve had the great privilege and pleasure of working with many interesting people and traveling to spectacular places around the world during my more than two-decade long career.
For most of the year I live by the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and during the winter I live and work in south Florida. A more detailed biography can be found on my website.