Painting Now: On Getting Unstuck Through A New Series

August 07, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

"Wedding Car," oil on canvas, 45x30", April 2014."Wedding Car," oil on canvas, 45x30", April 2014.The bright colors, deep shadows, peacefulness, and nostalgic atmosphere of this piece make it stand out. Part of my "Looking Back" series of paintings "Wedding Car" is based on a family photo. The original image is labelled "Wedding Saturday." It is the car my grandmother took to her wedding in 1947. As with many things I like to do, I go through phases of obsession followed by long spells of apathy. I was a runner in high school, but stopped in college, picked it up again years later, and I've been training on and off for various races and relays ever since. So it is with art, but my desire to keep creating great things never goes away. I just get stuck and can't make anything work or move forward when the work is going nowhere. Thus I have years when I produce many paintings with which I am highly satisfied. This was the case in 2004 when I made several watercolor and gouache works that eventually formed my Feline Fatale series. I went on with this body of work and made other paintings for the next few years, but then 2012 came along, and I produced almost no finished pieces. 

"Deer," oil on canvas, 34x42", May 2013."Deer," oil on canvas, 34x42", May 2013.This piece is based on an old family photograph. I've found it's a real conversation starter. I hoped to romanticize the 1950s, when the family man ventured fourth to bag a ten-point buck. The deer was shot by my grandfather - clearly a proud moment for the family, as demonstrated by my mother showing off the prize. Now in 2013 and into this year I am finding the magic of the series once again. I thought about the kinds of things I really wanted to paint and the techniques I wanted to work on. Oil painting has never been my forte, but now I'm working to change that. I love history and I have lots of old family photos at my disposal. Why not try to figure out what the lives of my parents and grandparents were like through those?

"Horse," oil on canvas, 40x54", July 2013."Horse," oil on canvas, 40x54", July 2013.This painting is based on a collection of old family slides. My mother grew up in Vermont in the 1950s and 1960s. She had a horse named 'Donut,' featured here.

So I've been building these little stories of nostalgia around New England scenes, back when my grandparents owned a motel in Vermont, and calling it the "Looking Back" series. I am trying to show a hazy summer day when the grass is almost neon in the sunlight. There is something about a shiny (now classic) car on a gravel drive that just has so much potential. It could mean an arrival, an escape, a too-long journey, or the promise of an open road. It is just like a blank canvas with the potential to soar and express just that exact summer's day, or to blow a tire and end up in the ditch. But since inspiration has struck, there's nothing to do but floor it and speed toward the sunset.


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