Simplifying

sketches2

Sketch for “Aspen and Shadows on Bright Snow”

My paintings begin with pencil sketches. These sketches are just enough to cement an idea in my mind so that I can finalize my composition and feel confident about the concept that I want the image to convey. The sketches are scrawled, like my handwriting, and usually illegible to anyone besides myself. I first draw a rectangle, then inside the rectangle I arrange and rearrange the main elements of my composition until I feel my idea is visually interesting. Usually I break down a scene into three to five elements, and when I arrange these elements I play a game with myself…the rules of this game are that no spaces should be the same, no shapes should have the same volume, and each value should be distinct. This process helps me be more objective about what I am composing; many times after sketching for a while I decide that whatever struck me initially about the scene does not translate well into a composition. Then I move on until I hopefully find something else that does translate well.

 

Aspen and Shadows on Bright Snow, 7x12 inches, Oil on Linen Panel, small

“Aspen and Shadows on Bright Snow,” 7×12 inches

I think of my paintings as visual poems, and much of that has to do with simplifying, pairing down an image to its essence so as to best convey emotion and to allow viewers to step into it with their imaginations unfurled. A beautifully, thoughtfully composed poem carries depth and life in ways that abundantly descriptive prose cannot; we are built to love elements of mystery that draw us beyond what we can see or describe. Brevity often allows the space that our imaginations need in order to step in and engage.