A young woman from England found my artwork and asked me some questions as part of an assignment she has for her school. Here is my reply:
1) What inspires you?
My first goal is whether it's visually interesting to me. I look for balance, movement, emotion... I don't worry much about colors. Anything can be any color, but I find that I haven't yet grasped temperature - cool colors vs. warm colors. So I also look for something that challenges my understanding of painting.
2) What materials do you work in?
Acrylics and watercolors. They don't stink up the house, as I don't have a studio. I did a test on many different brands of paint and found that Golden has the best consistency and body for acrylics. Paperwise, I like smooth surfaces, and I haven't found a gesso that really smooths out canvas, so I try to avoid canvas. Typically a board of some sort for surface, or a heavy vellum paper.
For watercolors, I steer toward Grumbacher.
3) My favorite piece... the only original still in my possession is Holiday Glow, as my wife won't let me sell it.
When I look at my paintings, I remember doing each one. I recall the moments of excitement with each one. And I have to tell you that at the start of each I'm convinced that I have an even shot at either screwing it up or getting it right. So once I jump off the cliff and get into it, I adjust as I go. The adjustments bring a-ha moments, and those are the moments I most enjoy. It might be a color combination, an edge, a texture - something that surprises me for how it works. So I don't know that I have a favorite painting, but rather favorite moments during each painting.
So I'll share with you my favorite story about a painting...
Two Candles was a very conscious effort. I went to the store and bought two candles, set them side by side, lit them, and walked away to let them melt a bit. When I returned in an hour, the heat of the shorter candle had melted the side of the taller candle and completely dissolved its side and the wax of the taller was mingling deeply with that of the shorter candle. I was horrified. But as I looked at it, I thought I would let them melt a bit more to see how it went.
In another hour, I returned to find the scene you find in the painting. The mingle of wax between the two felt very intimate to me. So I shut off all of the lights and took many pictures.
I've attached the photo on which the painting is based. As I was painting it, it was the first time I had painted flame, and I was struck by the purple / yellow elements of the heat and light. To this day, using purple, red, and yellow really connects with me and you can see that in sections of Holiday Glow in the lighted areas of the stone wall of the building.
What I learned from painting the candles is to trust my instincts and the process. Things often won't turn out as I anticipated, but I can trust my ability to go with the flow. When I do, the results can pleasantly surprise me. Which gets into why I paint - it helps make me a better person.
Writing that reply to her reminds me of how desperately I miss painting.