Most of my inspiration for new work comes from simply taking the time to look a little more closely at the landscape. I look at how light and shadows work to identify space, and how the natural forms present in the environment can be manipulated and intensified to work with my painting style.
My earlier paintings rarely made use of photography, or even field sketches. My preference was to rely on a process called cognitive mapping to recall places, views, and colors that might make an interesting and powerful composition. Cognitive maps are defined as mental representations of physical locations. Humans and animals use them to find their way and to help recall important features of their environment. My theory at the time was that by using this method I could be looser with my interpretation of subject matter and not get caught up in the details, like how many trees are on that rocky outcrop or the exact shape of peaks on the horizon. Examples of paintings from this period are Alpine Cirque, Beartooth Crest, and Story Hills Autumn.
As the idea of ‘place’ has become a more important influence in my work I’ve transitioned to using photography more and more to construct sketches for new paintings. I feel this reinforces my own connection with the landscapes I paint, and hope it does the same for people familiar with my subject matter.
The next step in the process has always remained the same; once I’m happy with a sketch and feel it’s worth the time to turn into a painting I transfer it onto the painting surface, which in my case is a completely smooth panel prepared with a couple coats of bright white gesso. I prefer panel over canvas because I could never apply enough coats of gesso to make the canvas completely smooth.
Only prominent line work from the sketch is transferred onto the panel, the majority of the secondary line work and detail is done with the brush while I’m painting. Colors and forms may change several times while I’m painting as I explore new ideas or think of a better way to represent the subject matter.After the color has all been painted the final step in the process is to the paint the outlines. This is all done with brushwork and can become the most time consuming part of the painting depending on how much detail is needed before I consider a piece “finished”.