My paintings range in subject matter and style. They include paintings from nature, abstract and cartoons. All follow the understanding of painting I have gained over the years and my aspiration to make pictures are realistic. I am a realist mostly.
I know that if you want to make a picture as good as a photograph, all you need to do is take a photograph. Photos are just one way that humans recognize reality in an image. Photos are actually symbols and people know immediately that any photo is not actually the real thing.
The human brain responds to dozens of picture making styles. A simple line drawing of a circle, two dots and an arc becomes a face. Dependent on the arrangement of the dots and arc that same line drawing can express emotions. With just a few more lines, some extraordinary artists (not I) are able to create likeness. When likeness is achieved we can recognize a specific person.
My college art teachers emphasized simplification of color and line as essential to good painting. For instance, I see simplification as important in bringing impact to a realistic nature painting. Simplification allows room for the human brain to perceive the high contrasts found in nature. Those high contrasts are impossible to depict in any photo (with the exception of projected photos). Simplification comes naturally to a quickly- painted watercolor. My best paintings still come from the forced simplification that comes with the watercolor medium itself and the quick decisions that come with painting outdoors. It still surprises me how a rushed painting, done in bad weather or biting mosquitos, can turn out so much better than a more careful copy I do later in the studio. Further, large brushes lend themselves to simplification. My teachers encouraged us to use large brushes even for small pictures. I have discovered lately that the only really good use for a very small brush is to carefully remove excess detail from a nearly finished painting.
Simplification coupled with an understanding of how to compose a painting so that the elements contrast adequately with one another is key to what I am doing now. I think all my paintings fit this formula/strategy. This is my route to fooling the human brain into perceiving reality. That said I think the experience is different for different individuals. For some folks a painting will “read.” For others, the same painting is weird.
My paintings are mostly not brightly colored. I use primarily two paint colors either singly or mixing with others: Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. These two paints make up 90% of all the watercolor paint I purchase. Burnt Umber is a high chroma, low- value version of the hue called orange. It is a perfect complementary color to Ultramarine Blue. It mixes with that blue to make all manner of warm or cool grays and browns. The greens, reds, and purples found in my paintings are usually combined with burnt umber and ultramarine to form the low chroma (not white nor brilliant) colors found in nature.
This does not mean I don't have bright high chroma paints: I have a lot of very bright tubes of paint. Some are even florescent. I have learned to use these colors to boost the apparent (perceived) contrast in a picture. They are part of the simplification and composition balance. These bright colors are important to assist the viewer’s brain recognize sharp contrasts in lighting. Sharp contrasts in lighting are something I’m always trying to achieve in a painting. If I succeed, a painting has impact not seen in a photo. It’s all about what the brain will accept as real.
All my paintings start with a pencil line drawing. I normally leave that line in the finished painting, and often make it darker. Sometimes I try to remove it. Application of the paint can result in hard or soft lines. I try to include line in my paintings at a level that is just below obvious.