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Clear Sailing

Clear Sailing 9x15 oil on wood panel

Clear Sailing 9x15 oil on wood panel This painting is SOLD

This painting was a breakthrough for me. I have had many ideas floating in my head about paint application and this painting was kind of a culmination of a lot of these ideas. Let me explain,

1. The painting's ground was applied in a way to allow me to scratch back into the first paint layers. A lot of the dark lines you see were created by scratching. I actually made many samples on different surfaces with many different products to come up with the perfect ground that is flexible but still allows me to scratch. It is a combination of acrylic exterior flat house paint, gesso, and drywall quickset mudding compound (comes in powder form). The gesso and flat paint help with adhesion, flexibility and gives the oil paint a perfect porous surface to bond to. I use the best quality exterior grade house paint because I figure if this stuff is guaranteed to last 50 years in the extreme environments of sunny California it should last thousands of years inside a comfy home. The mixture is applied in multiple layers instead of one thick layer.

2. The first layers of paint are relatively flat. I applied the paint with a roller and a pallet knife. This allowed a lot of the surface imperfection (the thicker ground and scratch marks) to show through. See the dark blotches in the upper left-hand corner? The roller couldn’t get into these recessed areas so no blue paint was applied. I’m looking for a weathered surface. In the past, applying paint to a background with a brush, I would have brush marks and constantly mix and remix the paint while I apply it.

3. I wanted to push the graphic feel and then manipulate it by painting some areas with form. Applying paint with a roller and having physically scratched in the drawing of the airplane leaves me with a surface much like a coloring book. Imagine a blue surface with only black marks, like a coloring book, that depict a plane. With this a starting point for the painting I can try and add lights and darks and build form but it will never truly have a 3-D look because of the lines. I wanted to mix abstraction, raw childlike drawing and my regular painting practices. I could see it in my head but getting it down on a surface was harder than it looked.

I think this was a great start and I will be incorporating these techniques into future work. Things to work on and/or try as I progress:

1. Maybe the scratching was a little too deep. I probably need to vary my thickness and depth based on what the painting is about. Perhaps I don’t scratch everything.

2. In this painting the scratch marks are all black. I’m going to color the lines next time before I roll paint. For example – what would this plane have looked like if I had painted the scratches in the front portion of the plane with pink? Pink is a random color but it would have completely changed the look. Lots of possibilities here.

3. The ground can be colored as well. Going back to the upper left-hand corner, what if the ground up here would have been - pink (again)? How would that have affected the blue with bits of pink showing through? Again, a random color pick but can you imagine the possibilities?

Overall, I am looking for a worn look. I want the painting to look like it has a history. But I don’t want this history to be the focal point of the work. I want my work to grab you from across the room, then as you get closer you start to see the surface detail. Then as you get even closer you start to see surface details that may not even pertain to the painting (or do they add another layer of depth or meaning?). This idea isn’t completely new for me. I can point to many painting in my past, even ones prior to art school, where surface texture and hidden things are present. But this is the first time I consciously take what could have been a clean looking painting and steer it in this direction just for the hell of it. In the past the surface details, relief carvings, and old looking things have been incorporated as a design element that was purposeful and controlled. With this plane painting the process was a bit out of control then brought under control. It’s hard to express in words, hard to express in a painting so I guess I just need to keep on trying until it becomes easy. Then, I’ll evolve again and probably head down another path.

Another first was the painting of an aircraft. I have been waiting sooo long to paint an old airplane. I literally have a multitude of sketches of plane paintings but I have never actually followed through with a single one. I guess I was just waiting for the right time. As a child, I would build models of these planes and hang them all over the ceiling in my bedroom. It's good to have at least one of these planes back.



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