I’ve painted my whole life… even when I didn’t have a brush in my hand. Its a way of seeing and thinking.
My water series began as an idea really, to marry the tradition of figuration with this other worldly place: underwater. The visual complexity there is astounding. And my fascination with the human figure is endless.
And at times when I’m painting these, it seems impossible. I’m frustrated most of the time and end many days in despair. Always falling short of what I wanted, what I remember the sensation to be, always more vivid. But I keep trying.
I love realism because… its so unclear… if you look closely, the visual phenomenon of the world as you observe it, is stranger than fiction. Our brain glosses over the detail but can instantly recognize a line askew. It can’t be faked but can’t readily be described either.
And these visions are as fleeting as they are mesmerizing. The chards of light, the crackle of prismatic effects thru the surface of the water, that perfect moment when a human body flexes weightlessly, archetypal in that light. Its like an electric shock. So sudden its hard to recall. But what takes a split second to behold, takes significantly longer to interpret and render.
GETTING IT RIGHT
I use a camera to help me remember and to help me see into the world what I see in my head. I don’t paint from a single photograph. But I use the photos to formulate my recollections, shape my impression of a moment and then to paint it. I could render it in some other medium or digital world. But I’m an old man in love with the tradition of oil painting. In fact, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder at the great masters as if they were sitting behind me at the easel.
I’ve spent countless hours underwater, just looking. And countless more taking pictures. I have an archive of about 50,000 images I’ve taken underwater and I reference hundreds of them for every painting. And I add about 5 to 10 thousand more every year.
After nearly 50 years of learning to paint, I’ve gotten a bit faster. Each painting now takes me around 200 hours just in the application of paint to panel. And I would estimate about the same amount of time again in the design or development of each idea, spent before I even begin to paint. That’s why I work so many hours each week and virtually every day. It just takes a lot of time to…get it right.
For decades, I resisted reproductions of my paintings. If for no other reason, I thought I didn’t have the time. But it began to gnaw at me that my original paintings--partly because they’re so rare, I can only generate a very few in a given year-- have become increasingly expensive, unaffordable for a large part of my audience, who are increasingly only able to experience my work on a small computer screen. That’s not how all this is meant to be seen.
But, somewhat recently, I was approached by a group—that i came to realize—was as devoted to printing as I was to painting. They’re even entrusted by museums to reproduce paintings by some of my heroes. The technology alone is astounding—archival inks on german handmade papers— and in the hands of experts, each print is really a work of art on its own. A team of professionals controls the quality of every print. And I personally inspect each one before I finally sign and number it.
Our shipping and framing professionals then carefully handle each uniquely piece and ensure it reaches the collector in pristine condition.
Collectors are gracious and creative people by definition: elevating my artistic contribution while ignoring his or her own. You can’t take the collector out of the art making process any more than you can take the paper out of the printing, or the canvas out of the painting. Work must be supported. Collecting art is itself a creative act. Buying a piece of art is a statement. The collector becomes complicit in that creative process per se.
And that makes each print as unique as each person who collects it. And I’m so grateful for the collaboration…I just get to hold the paintbrush.