Wednesday, December 17, 2014


“Light” Often I am asked, “How do you paint light in your work?” Well, the answer is almost frustratingly simple. “I don’t.” "The light is already there: waiting for me on the blank sheet of paper . All I have to do is paint the relative darkness of shades and shadows to allow that light to have expression - to let it really shine through.” I like to think of painting in watercolor as a “subtractive” process. By that I mean, we start off with the maximum amount of light available and already “painted” for us by the untouched white sheet of the paper itself. We then set about subtracting some of it by the addition of shapes and areas of darker value . So it is the juxtaposition, the dialogue between these values in the final painting, that give the work it’s expression and identity. In almost all my work, it is easy to spot some area that has been left completely untouched - a bit of the pure white of the paper shining through. Often this area is offset by the proximity of the darkest dark in the same work, There is a tension and a dramatic expression to be had there. Also, I tend to break down my work into three basic shapes of value : “light”, “dark”, and “mid-tones”. These abstract shapes of value can be arranged in countless ways, but if clearly and simply articulated, will almost always result in a work that is more dynamic and expressive than one in which only one or two values are seen. Like most artists , I love color. I often say I can’t go into an art supply store without “adult supervision” because I will want every tube of paint on every shelf!! But I urge my classes and myself to keep our palettes as simple as possible - and to work more in value than in color. No amount of beautiful color can save a work if the values are too consistent and unvaried - or worse - when the light is lost. For this reason, I also encourage the completion of small, quick "value composition” studies before the final painting begins. These are not always necessary, but sometimes help remind us of the dominant importance of a dynamic composition of values. And more importantly, they remind us of where the light must be saved. For once the light in a watercolor painting is gone, the work begins to die , and it is all but impossible to get it back. In music - it is the space between the notes that set the rhythm and identity of the final piece. The silences are as important to musical expression as are the actual sounds of the instruments. It is just the same in painting. It is the “negative” shapes that give voice and expression to the “positive". Without the dark, the light has no voice. And so, the areas of a work that are left unpainted are at least as important and powerful as those areas that are. In my painting “Interior - Cathedral of Girona ;Spain” - as in most all my others - I am exploring the “stories of light”. I try to provide a compelling “path of light” to draw viewers in and allow them to imagine themselves inside my paintings. There, they can begin to tell their own stories - whatever those may be.

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