14 March 2018

Sometimes You Win

Glide, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 12x24".

I was honored to be counted among the eight creative workers awarded a Montana Arts Council Innovation Award in December 2017. Like many artists, I apply for more grants and opportunities than I receive. I am always curious what makes a successful portfolio. Sometimes it's clear what the juror was looking for, but not always. I thought I would share my Artist's Statement, Innovation Essay and a selection of images. And with this sharing I want to express my deep gratitude to the Montana Arts Council and everyone working for cultural vitality in our state.

Taking Flight, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20".
Solitaire, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20".
Artist's Statement

Endlessly inspired by both nature and culture, my art ranges from observations of flora and fauna to intricate compositions depicting human endeavor. I work enthusiastically with both fact and fiction, delighting in myth and metaphor as much as the vital world around me.
Overseen, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x16".
In narrative painting my objective is to present the essential elements of a story: a character or two, a sense of time and place, a moment of connection, tension or reflection. I seek figures and scenarios that are both personally compelling and socially relevant. I frequently work in cycles, series and sequential images. Repeating characters, settings and other elements gives greater cohesion to my visual inquiry. With careful measures of clarity and ambiguity, I hope to create imaginative space for viewers to bring their own perspectives into the tale. In this way I do not so much tell stories, but evoke them.
Follower, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 12x24".
Representation is both an authentic and challenging aesthetic language for me. I have embraced a naturalistic style with populist ardor, trusting in it’s far-reaching communicative potential. A degree of anachronism signals my interest in enduring traditions and conventions, while also indicating the fictional nature of my images. Recent developments in my methods and materials make evident the contemporary concerns and creation of my art.
Rest on the Flight, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x30".
Rural life is among my long-standing artistic interests. Such scenarios reflect my own heritage, while also providing opportunities to examine the broader relevance of agrarian life. All of our lives unfold within the cycle of the seasons, but perhaps nowhere is this more deeply felt than in the rural landscape. There humans enter an ancient and essential collaboration with nature. Wilderness and civilization meet and intermingle. In such places human beings strive with other creatures, both wild and domestic. They live in exquisite intimacy with the blessings and vagaries of each season. In rural places people are literally at work with the elements: earth, air, fire, water. In these natural circumstances I find fertile ground for allegories about the unnatural circumstances affecting our lives, wherever we live, whatever our labors. 
Plank, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20".
Another perennial source of inspiration for my art is water. Wading, crossing over, plunging through.. the mythic allusions and allegorical possibilities abound, while the visual effects of transparency, reflection and motion in and through water fascinate me. Riparian settings are rich with the splendors and dangers of this fluid element, essential to all life.
Shoving Off, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 18x12" (18x24" overall).
I am perpetually intrigued by the beauty and drama of the natural world and human life as a part of it. My artistic endeavor is an expression of wonder, exploration of personal questions and effort to create meaning with others through the connective power of image.
Poise, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x20".
Innovation Essay

I have destroyed over half my work of the past two years. I have not destroyed these paintings in fits of temper, but in an effort to rid myself of old patterns and strategies for image-making that have grown tedious or stale. Yet nothing is forsaken. Indeed as I mature artistically, my skills and resources increase with my empathy and understanding. Season by season, I have more to place in the service of art.
Dreaming a Kindred Spirit, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 8x10".
The scope of my imagery expands too with a desire to more vividly address both the lights and shadows of life today. I strive to give these visions substance, revealing the energy of inspiration throughout manifestation. Recent innovations in my process demonstrate this search for more vigor and immediacy in a process that still includes subtlety and refinement. A dedication to strong compositions and reverent naturalism remain in a new form of layering and inscribing that synthesizes drawing and painting.
Dreaming a Full Pantry, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 8x10".
In order to open my process and vision of resolution, I have experimented with various dry and wet media, sometimes making a single image multiple times to discover the treatments and materials that best suit it. I have also changed supports, replacing the spring of canvas for the rigidity of wood and art board panels. Whatever materials I combine, I ensure the artwork is stable and archivally sound. Through this mix of media I am devising ways to present more images without framing under glass -another way the work appears more present, accessible.
Dreaming Safe Passage, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, 7x11 & 14x11"
In recent efforts, the directness and delicacy of graphite blends with the opulence of oil paint. Simplified palettes have been essential to bringing these media together in a coherent fusion of line and form. Still interested in local color as an element of naturalism, I have often limited hues to earthy warms and cools through most of an image’s development, and sometimes coming to nearly monochromatic conclusions. In the way of traditional drawing, value most powerfully illuminates form and space. Color enriches the illusion and serves symbolic purposes too. Different textures result from the flow and massing of lines integrated with the substance of paint, beckoning further exploration.
Dreaming a Nest, 2016. Graphite & oil on  wood panels, each 14x11".
I have always employed both additive and subtractive techniques in image-making. Formerly, sanding was used to eliminate textures, especially with major revisions in a painting. Now I am using abrasion to create textures, curious about the aleatory effects of such a step. Inviting the unexpected into my process positively alters my creative decision-making, helping to clarify priorities within the imagery.

Sickle I, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 14x11".
Studies of flora and fauna with simpler figure/ground relationships have been instrumental to the development of new techniques. Four recent mural projects have also enhanced my sensibilities and fostered innovation in my personal work. The Montana Natural History Center Radiant mural brings the qualities of fresh observation in a field journal to monumental composition. In the collaborative mural projects (Flourishing 200 square feet, Seasons 310 square feet, Twilight 280 square feet)with students of Willard Alternative High School, I was prompted to combine line and color in new ways and on a grand scale.
Sickle II, 2017. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 14x11".
No longer seamless and smooth, my paintings now contain more traces of the process of building and integrating imagery with less predictable resolutions. I am excited to discover not just a new synthesis of drawing and painting, but a continuum of image-making that spans from the simplest line drawing to the most elaborate layering of colors and textures. In this new range, the potentials for both spontaneous and meditative image-making expand to hold what I have mastered and all I hope to learn.