Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Painting: Grey Building, Blue Sky

Grey Building, Blue Sky, oil on canvas, 2010, 30 x 40 inches

Living in Southern California, one quickly becomes acclimated to the agreeable climate. We do have weather, and our fair share of air quality issues, but some days are so gorgeous that it literally stuns me when I walk outside. There are often no clouds, the sun is shining, and the sky is blue, so blue that it is hard to describe.

My paintings are inspired by what is around me every day, and this image is no exception. I walk by this building on my way home from work, and I am often struck at how beautiful the grey building looks against the blue, blue sky.

Describing that sky became one of the major problems with this painting. While the composition is admittedly simple, painting this image wasn’t easy – the colors had to be perfect. In the early stages, the colors I mixed were solid, opaque, flat. While this is a common way for me to deal with architecture and solid areas of color, it wasn’t working in this painting. I soon realized that a more complex color palette was necessary to balance the simple composition.

The final colors are built up of thin, transparent layers, using a technique called glazing, which is nearly as old as oil paint itself. Through optical blending, thin transparent layers merge to create a solid color, but a color that has more depth and richness than a flat mixed color. The blue sky was created with several different shades of blue layered over each other until the right brightness and color was reached. The grey building was built up using several colors of grey, and finished with a thin wash of orange, to give the building warmth and to bring it forward from the receding, cool sky.

I am happy with the end result. This painting is my most recent exploration into the "Natural Beauty" of Los Angeles. While more abstract than most of my work, I love the image and hope it has the same freshness that I feel when I see this building on my way home from work.

Monday, November 1, 2010

WeHo@25 Exhibition

I am pleased to announce that I have a painting in "WeHo@25," an art exhibition celebrating creativity in the city of West Hollywood, juried by Howard N. Fox. Please join us for the opening reception:

Thursday, November 4, 6-8pm
8270 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Painting: Fading To Pink

Fading To Pink, oil on canvas, 2010, 19 x 21 inches

Sometimes I question why we paint what we do. I have often thought that if I truly wanted to be happy as an artist, I would be a color field painter, because that is what it is really about for me – color.

Those that know me well artistically know that drawing isn’t my favorite of things. I don’t get the same satisfaction from drawing that I do from painting. While I recognize the importance of drawing, as it is the most fundamental aspect of art, it has always been more of an arduous process for me. Painting, especially large fields of color, is a more joyful experience.

So why am I not a color field painter? I love color field paintings, and Rothko has been a major influence in my work. But I think that to be a painter is to create problems for yourself that need to be resolved. Before a painting is begun, the canvas is white and perfect. Along with the first brush stroke comes the first problems to be worked out – is the color right? the shapes? the composition?

The silhouettes in this painting were the most difficult problems for me to solve, as it was largely drawing. When I was very young, I taught myself different styles of calligraphy, and that was what I was thinking of when I was painting the trees and vegetation. While I am fluent in Western styles of calligraphy, I was also considering Chinese calligraphy, of which I am not well versed but I appreciate. I am hoping that the similar elegant qualities of line show through with this work.

The inspiration for this painting was a sunset I saw from Mulholland Drive, and this work continues my exploration of the natural beauty in the Los Angeles area. This painting is also reminiscent of works I completed in Costa Rica in 2009, which is when I began to explore silhouettes of vegetation, as a way to make sense of the layers of shapes in the rain forest. While Los Angeles and Costa Rica couldn’t be more different, there is a similar quality of light, and beautiful sunsets abound in both places.

Monday, September 13, 2010

David Hockney at LACMA


Yesterday we saw a brief film at LACMA that chronicled David Hockney’s work in recent years. While Hockney is famously associated with Los Angeles, he is from England, and felt the need to return home. The film was about this journey home, and the work that came out of this period.

The film was a fascinating look at arguably one of the most famous living artists, and one of my personal all-time favorite artists. When he returned to England, and left the warm weather and blue skies of Los Angeles behind, he was inspired by the nuances of weather and landscape that we don’t experience in Los Angeles – foggy, misty mornings, grey skies, and the rolling hills of the countryside. He began a series of landscape paintings, and this turned out to be one of the most prolific times of his career.

It was fascinating to see Hockney go through periods of rejecting technology, and then embracing it. He has, throughout his career, used photography as a medium in various forms, but when he began this series of landscapes, he had rejected photography, stating that he was tired of looking through a hole at the world – that painting captures something that photography cannot.

While I agree with these sentiments, photography soon became important to him once again, as he embarked on the largest painting of his career, to be installed at the Royal Academy in London. This massive landscape painting was composed of fifty individual canvases, the total composition measuring 15 x 40 feet, and the only way he could see this large painting during various stages of completion was through the use of photography and technology on his computer.

After the film, we had the rare experience of being addressed by Mr. Hockney himself, which was a welcome surprise. Hockney received a standing ovation from the crowd, and proceeded to tell us what he was working on since the film, which documented the period of 2004-2007. Interestingly, technology has once again come to the forefront of his art, as he is enjoying drawing with a new medium – his iPad. We had the unique experience of seeing what Hockney was working on today, via his iPad, presented by him and in his own words. He has recently become fascinated by the process of drawing on his iPad, as the drawing can be documented, and then played back, so one can see the process from beginning to end.

It was inspiring to see that Hockney, who is 70+ years old, remains curious. His process is continually evolving, and he is continually making work. It was wonderful to see that he is embracing new technologies, in ways that I have been hesitant to do, as I am an oil painter, and oil painting largely predates current technology by hundreds of years. I learned from him that one can embrace new technology and remain true to self and one’s art. And one can always stay curious.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Downtown Los Angeles

It is almost as if an apocalyptic event happened in downtown, not so long ago, but it’s over now, and people are finally coming out of hiding to greet the sun. The street population is thin, but the infrastructure is there--wide sidewalks, stately buildings, and a steep one-block trolley ride--all signs of a once-bustling downtown. One can imagine the Los Angeles of the ‘20s and ‘30s, like many American cities of the time, as a vibrant place filled with energy.

But Los Angeles is not any American city. In fact, I have never been to another city like Los Angeles. With the arrival of the automobile, and the expansive spider-web of freeways that followed, the region has become a vast metropolis built on the low-density model. Skyscrapers do dot the landscape, but they share it with single-family homes with yards and pools, shopping malls and strip malls. Even the Santa Monica Mountains bisect Los Angeles. This construction of freeways and tract housing left downtown nearly abandoned.

Downtown is being reborn, and it is once again a vital and growing part of the city. Downtown is now one of the most important cultural centers in Los Angeles, home to the MOCA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and a booming gallery district. In 2004, Galley Row was born.

Art Walk, an event in downtown that happens every month, brings thousands of Los Angelenos to Downtown, so many people that the pedestrian scene almost feels like New York. It is an exciting event, and the artistic energy is almost palpable. As the low-density model becomes less popular, and more people and artists move into the newly converted loft spaces, downtown may once again be the beating heart of this vast landscape.