a tract on my aesthetic.

I paint landscapes that I have remembered in photographs. I use the photographs to 'build' my painting, first by scanning the print, and then making changes in chroma, position and other features that suit me on the computer using Adobe software. When I have what I want, I print the composition and take it to my waiting stack of photos.

I usually work on more than one canvas at a time. That means I may have up to three or four paintings going and I switch back and forth during drying times. I use the prepared photos to design the painting, and I draw in paint, not pencil.

My theory of landscape painting centers on the interpretation, not the duplication.

The history of painting has two parts: The first before the invention of the camera, and the last part after the camera. With the advent of photography, the necessity of painting a scene or an object as the artist sees it became moot. The camera liberated the artist to seek a higher purpose in his or her art.

I teach courses in acrylic painting. What I have observed is that the 'students,'many of whom have painted for decades, apply their every efforts to recreate a photograph or scene exactly as it appears on their paper or in front of their eyes. Many times I have asked them to remember that they are creating a painting, an artwork, and that I want it to look like a painting and not a photograph.

I am usually ignored.

I watch them try to blend the colors into shades and hues that they practiced in oil painting, smoothing and scraping until the brush strokes try to imitate natural chiaroscuro, something they can never do in the manner or with the skill of Raphael or Tintoretto. Their objective is to duplicate instead of to create.

Create is the keyword here. I paint to create not what I see in the photograph, but what I want to see in the composition. I call the attempt to duplicate a photo "Paint-By-Number." Remember those?

A critical ingredient in observing a scene or an object such as a photo - with the intent of painting it - is "effect." Effect is what I desire to achieve in paint. It is drama, not copy. For instance, when I observe a vineyard I try to imagine it with all intensities of light, shade, angle and even time of year. I may pass on painting a scene because I can't see one of those effects applied to it. The photo may be a fine one, but something is missing. At a later time I may mess with it in Photoshop and remake the color chroma or saturation and rediscover the effect that I want to see.

I have a friend who does some of the best watercolor painting I have ever appreciated. She paints from photographs that she takes in the countryside, of old barns, windows in flaking paint frames surrounded by distressed wood, overgrown fields in front of falling-down sheds, and dilapidated fences near overgrown thickets. Her work is not the result of duplication. It exudes drama, and it has 'effect.' When I look at her paintings I feel the scene rather than 'see' it as it was in the photo. I feel the abandonment, the captive moment, the desperation of neglect and the timelessness of the piece. She achieves this effect in almost all of her creative efforts.

When I begin a painting I never know what the final signed canvas will look like. The process of painting - and it IS a process - either gets me to the effect I want or I will set it aside and probably gesso it over and begin another work. I do this with about one out of every four paintings. I am after the drama that I feel and want to see come from the finished canvas to greet the viewer. I am the initial and the primary viewer of my own art, so it is myself I must please with my painting.

-April 28, 2011