Swimming to Dutch Island

Because of my Paint the Bay project, 21 Months-147 Miles-Painting the Bay, I have had the opportunity to dovetail two of my favorite pursuits into a single event, Think, Triathlon or the Nordic Biathlon. I decided to call it Swainting! Continue reading

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Celebration to Conservation

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A painting of mine called “Perched” is currently showing at MEAM, the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona Spain. The show hosts winners of two international competitions for realistic fine art. I am thrilled to be included in a show representing contemporary realism at its best. Perched is a 36” x 48” oil painting of a pear, quite different from the many gouache and oil sketches I have been doing recently along the Rhode Island waterfront.

Perched,48 x 30, Oil-2Artists may become known for a particular subject matter at which they are adept, or they may have a unique and exquisite approach to their medium. Once an artist has achieved a certain level of mastery, it makes a lot of sense to continuing doing what works so well. What interests me, however, is discovering what I can take from that past success and use in a new area.

At one time I was known as an animal portrait artist. I mostly painted dogs and had a business selling limited prints of my paintings through my company, Purebred Editions.
rapturousI received a number of national and international awards for the paintings and prints and at the time, to some, I was considered one of the top artists in the field. I could have kept painting dogs, but I didn’t.

flameInstead, I became interested in organic form and translucency. For years now, the pear in a produce wrapper has been my muse. Like my dog paintings, these are essentially portraits. I find the pears to be a lovely way to paint sensuality and explore light. Happily, I have enjoyed a positive response to these works, as the recent show in Barcelona attests.

This year however, Narragansett Bay is teaching me to be a landscape painter. It feels so freeing to simply paint what is there in front of me, designed by the sun, wind and water.

I love our bay, and I love exploring and discovering ways to share my experience of this RI treasure.

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As wonderful as it is for me to show my work internationally, I feel it is just as important, perhaps more important, to have my paintings leverage some amount of appreciation and conservation for Narragansett Bay.

To reach that goal I hope to fill the Grand Gallery at Dryden Gallery in Providence with works that range from 4 inches long to 24 feet long. Part of the proceeds from sales will go to Save the Bay to help them continue the fantastic job they have been doing for decades.

Is your brain tricking you?

What we see and what we perceive are two different things.

According to Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist, our brains filter out everything unnecessary for our survival. The things we think we see are more like icons on your computer screen; representatives of things we have encoded in our brains. There is an interesting Ted Talk about this: Do we see reality as it is?

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I have been aware of this phenomena to a certain extent for years. As someone who paints realistically, I know that once my brain has labeled what I see, I can no longer see it without bias. If I know a chair, which is in shadow, has four legs for support, I might paint what I know to be true and not what I am actually seeing, which is part of only three legs that reflect some of the light. There is the need to identify  individual objects with clear delineation of form, even  when they are grouped in such a way that in reality, you can not distinguish them from their surrounding. Equally true are issues around perspective. We just want to paint that desk as a rectangle even though to our eyes it’s a trapezoid.

Artists use tricks to see more accurately what is in front of them. We blur our vision to see the values better. We look at our paintings in a mirror or turn the canvas upside down to see it fresh and new.  But I have found that the best way to render something correctly is to have no idea what it is that you are painting!  Simply observe the color shapes and the changes in the edges and the values of those shapes. If you record that accurately,  voila! a perfect painting!, or at least a painting that mirrors what your eyes are seeing.

You can try this without painting. Look at something near you or look at the whole room. If you can, pretend you were just beamed here from another planet. You have never seen it before. You have no idea what it is. Look at the colors, the values, the edges and let what you see just be, without any explanation or identification.

Were you able to do this? Did you see something new or something that had been unnoticed before? I’d love to hear back from you!

Maybe not knowing can get us closer to the truth.