New York, USA
Style: Contemporary Realism
Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses said: “If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Nothing grand or lofty about it and it’s one of my favorite quotes. I like to think it was her wise way of saying, “get real!”
I am a contemporary realist painter and I believe in appreciating the beauty of the ordinary, everyday things in our lives. I paint objects with visual interest and hope they feed the senses: a serving of color and shapes with a full helping of realism… seasoned with a sprinkling of nostalgia and a smidge of humor.
For most of my artistic life I was a graphic artist and my job meant adding interest and aesthetics by creatively designing printed materials that basically serve a functional purpose. There is something very satisfying about making relatively routine communications visually appealing.
The transition to representational, still life oil painting was a natural one – I enjoy appreciating and celebrating the beauty of everyday objects. Recreating the gorgeous light and translucency of glassware and the abstraction of a reflection is what makes me smile! Still life provides a never-ending array of textures and luminosity that are wonderful challenges for a painter and I believe it’s one of the best training grounds for learning to paint with oils.
There is nostalgic warmth to the everyday objects that I paint. Spending time with 1940s kitchenware can bring back fond memories. The same holds true when rendering carpenter’s tools on humble hunks of wood. I can almost smell my Dad’s workroom. It’s all part of who we are and where we come from and I like spending time there. This painting is called Oilcan Gothic. Obviously.
My first experience with color was with a decorative painting business: painting on wooden boxes and trays in a stylized way. I didn’t blend color since crafter’s acrylics come in pre-mixed bottles. But I wanted to add some realistic details so I took a trompe l’oeil class and I began to learn how to paint realistically We were taught the importance of creating a strong light source and how cast shadows can define the form – information that was invaluable for still life painting. I painted wooden jewelry boxes and treasure chests with trompe l’oeil strands of pearls and gold spilling out of them! I truly enjoyed the trompe l’oeil aspect but going to outdoor craft shows, was drugery. I’d spend days on a realistically painted box but in the end it was a “box” not a “painting” and not so highly valued.
I left crafts to focus on graphic design but kept on drawing. When I was ready to try oil painting, my drawing practice definitely gave me a head start since careful observation, accurate measuring and rendering are critical to realistic painting. The graphic artist in me sometimes leans toward color-based abstraction there is a dose of abstraction on a small scale rendering reflected shapes – like the stripes of a tea towel reflected in a pewter saltshaker! The patterns are amazing!
Although I’m happy to paint daily on my own, I also believe in learning from highly qualified instructors and am fortunate to have access to accomplished artists in the New York area. From Karen O’Neil at the Art Students League I learned about using clear color and connecting elements of the composition with color. From Leah Lopez at New York Academy of Art I learned about formal composition, the importance of darkest values and how to render surface motifs across a form. From Todd Casey, of Water Street Atelier and Grand Central Academy… I am still learning so much about careful rendering, grisaille and the classical, atelier method of oil painting. From Julian Merrow Smith I learned how to seize the moment in a challenging plein air environment on blustery fields in France! All have been amazingly generous mentors, resources and friends.
While my work is my own, it’s clear to me that each of my instructors has left an indelible mark and I cherish the time spent absorbing their knowledge. I certainly take my studies seriously but also enjoy inserting moments of humor in my paintings. For example, this painting started out as a challenge of stripes reflected in silver… then the chick came on the scene admiring his own reflection.
“How YOU Doin’?”
I rest my case: beauty, warmth and humor – whose life doesn’t need more of these!