Painting Philosophy

I’m (mostly?) a self taught artist, and over the last ten years I’ve worked consistently to try to follow out some of the odd things I like best about art. To keep myself honest, I want to be explicit so that when I plan something, I can actually say “I planned it that way” instead of hiding behind the blanket of people not knowing when my experiments succeed or fail.

Textured Painting: From very early on, I’ve worked in textured surfaces on flat paintings. This has involved a lot of wood, paper, caulking, painted fabric, glass, and at one unfortunate time: multi colored bandannas. There’s a lot of reason I do this. First, I think one of the big relevant spaces for the meaning of paintings comes in it’s physical object presence.

How many of us have instagram? I follow incredible painters online, shuffling through their hundreds of hours a work when I’m eating my cereal in the morning.  The digital nature of art online makes it easy to treat it like it’s essentially consumable and disposable. Looking at physical art, just by design, forces the practice of paying attention.

To be honest, I think that a lot of people in our society is sort of exhausted by ephemeral internet addiction. It’s centering to feel moved by a painting in your physical world.  That’s one of the big reason I texture my paintings. I believe that texture allows a painting to have a presence and power that is engaging and restorative for the people who experience it.

Discernible Subjects:  Over the last few years, reading novels by Percival Everett and color theory by Kandinsky, I’ve thought about whether I should try to do abstract art. Thinking that through, though, has helped clarify to me how much a value it is for me to paint discernible subjects.

From 2012-2016 (ish) I felt like it was really important to paint things that people would see in their regular life. I mean- look! It’s a bus!

2015-02-12 18.02.24

And this works! This painting was bought by a public transportation activist group. Making cool paintings of boring things helps people reimagine their daily life.

This has changed recently. For instance: Trains:Dragons

It’s sort of faux-cubist trains. I did this because I want to do more than help people re-imagine the mundane- I want to create works that helps people think through the concepts of the stuff they are looking at. For instance, Trains/Dragons above is little about feeling the toddler fear/amazement of trains again as well as thinking through the anonymity and connectedness of the process of watching trains. It still helps people see their life in a new way, but it’s also a little more visually conceptual.

Expression over Realism: Even though I want my paintings to be about stuff people see in their lives, I also want them to be painted in a way that prioritizes energy over realism. I’m not interested in photo-realism- I want the sort of wham/bam/pow of comic books with the movement of impressionist brushstrokes. While I’m not really working too hard to follow either of those processes or their principles, I’ve been working to arrive at a sort of fusion outside of both those disciplines. I know a painting is good when I find it visually arresting, not when I feel like it’s super accurate.

This gets me into trouble, because I think at times that energy I’m talking about comes from accurate lines and closer verisimilitudes then I usually get to. What’s important to me, though, while I work at getting a more disciplined, internally consistent style is for me to protect the vision that’s kept me consistent over the last ten years. If you see my work since high school, it’s been an organic evolution into what I’m doing now. I see my role as an agent in my artistic style to nurture and patiently prune as my style grows up. I have faith that doing that I’ll be stewarding something really beautiful at sixty.

Faith/Lack of 1 to 1 Metaphors: I remember a very specific prayer I had deep inside myself in early high school that I feel was answered by painting. I’m not always sure if my faith is coming through to my audiences when I display my paintings, but I’m feel as thought I’m painting from a specifically Christian spiritual ethic. As part of that, I work hard not to pigeon hole sensibility into obvious or simple symbolic dead ends.

I think that God is making the world new- that God sees both the thing now and the thing transformed. I hope to find pieces of that as I paint.

So that’s my philosophy as far as I’ve articulated it. I don’t want to go too long, or get into the nitty gritty of my colors or strokes- in the future I hope to dissect my paintings in my blog posts. I just want to have a place for people to come and understand what I’m trying to do.