Fire at the Lake House

Lately, I cannot really state an exact time, but lately, my paintings seem to go off in any given direction of style, technique or discipline. I may start in one direction in my mind, come before my canvas, almost directed to another approach that begins familiar and ends in uncharted waters. I do not even know how I got there and wonder if I could reproduce this approach again.

Fire at the Lake House




The painting is the exploration ground. It is not boring. It is not a formula, it is entirely me. I wonder how I may organize them in a show, though that does seem to work itself out. Like in my most recent showing, “Renaissance Man”, so many different painting directions covered in a ten-year life span. Now my paintings are becoming even more different from one another like many different painters painted each one. Like wondering who will I be today. Very liberating painting approach and at the same time intimidating in a very good way.

This painting is from a regular scene photo I shot almost 15 years ago. From my hometown of Avon Lake, Ohio, I had a lot of good memories growing up. This was home for me for many years. I liked this view and remember swimming here many times growing up, it was a cool place to hang out.

So this painting continues as I notice a glowing yellow light on the front of the house. Liking what I saw, the yellow glowing light of morning I decide to keep it. Moving to trees, rocks, some good, some things that will need more work, then the flat perfect colored winter sky. Keeping with those winter colors I see in my mind.  Then flat colored water that stated a quiet stillness and calm, much nicer than the busy photo. Made me think of one of my favorite painters, Andrew Wyeth, and also a friend I went to art school with, Dean Mitchell.

Visuals are strong in my mind. Sometimes I need to close my eyes so I am not studying every form, color, light, shadow, texture or pattern. I am always a painter. Even when I am helping clients in financial services, my other occupation that does provide me a momentary visual break. Then I come back even stronger visually, like a lion deprived of its’ prey. More clear to distinguish and see things stronger.

Hmmm, where is this painting taking me? So I mute the house and trees even more to emphasize the glowing yellow light, I want to play upon the grass in front of the house. I will use my painting knife, just to scratch in some highlights on the peaks of the thick paint at this location. Oh, s_ _ _,  that is too much paint. Wait, look, that looks like the perfect flames of a growing fire. That is at home with everything around it, even the muted area behind it looked like smoke. Oops, burn baby burn, I am feeling better, even laughing, and therapy has emerged from my painting experience. When I was growing up Lake Erie did catch on fire, wonder if that is it?

Now I am playing with the rocks. Faces begin to emerge from them like my Pareidolia series of paintings. I love rocks and painting them. I do not need faces here. Or do I? Playing with texture and color of the rock, glazing, then I scumble in color into the glaze. Later scratching in lines with steel wool so other rocks match the texture created with my rough brushwork, spatters of color from a toothbrush. What the heck am I doing? This is not how I paint. I know there is still more to come. I am okay to rest, let the painting settle and dry some as I lay it flat so the walnut oil glaze does not run.

M. Graham oil paint is so versatile. The more I paint with it, the more I learn what it may yield. I like the Walnut Oil they are made with. No turps for me. Hated their odor, even odorless turpentine gave me a headache. Healthy paints made with Walnut Oil is for me. I wash out my brush in Walnut Oil, then Murphy’s Oil Soap, then Essential Oil soap my wife gave me. My brushes seem to last longer this way.

Each time I come back to my panel different things happen. Like returning to a book that you have no idea how the plot will end. There are so many different possibilities.

A commitment as a painter to paint, diligently for a lifetime before the canvas is starting to yield its subtle truth. You cannot get this by someone telling you to do this or that. It is only from the experience of self-exploration and lots of mistakes. Plenty of failed paintings.

I never wanted to copy a painter. I would allow my self to be inspired by different painters, but never a copycat. My thought is; I should accomplish something that is mine. To add to the greater legacy of art that is handed down to each generation. Like life, there is no end to the possibilities we can accomplish if given the commitment and focus of attention.

Returning to paint the rocks, wanting to add some detail while maintaining the large dark mass with a highlighted soft transition on top.

I could not hide the ravenous beast faces of Pareidolia emerging from the rock structure. The man laid rocks where used to protect the shoreline from erosion. When they raised the level of the lakes years ago, many lost land along the lake. Rocks and stone became a poor shield against the very cold, even brutal beating waves of Lake Erie. Each rock took on a face devouring the next with one main leader out front.

This break walls fought the violent waves we experienced in Avon Lake, Ohio. Protecting the shoreline some from erosion. One day the waves could pull you under with the undertow and another day the water could be perfectly calm. In winter the water was a smooth glass of ice close to shore. Another day it could look entirely different.

You could say I had a tremendous healthy respect for the water, its’ dangers and joys it provided. Maybe this is what has emerged from this particular painting experience.

The rocks needed more work. The drawing of the rock shapes needed to lead the eye in with a believable perspective. The light and darks were not working as strongly as they could, so this was reworked also. The water in shadow cried out for me to make it a cleanly drawn shape.

I was determined to not give up on this painting, quit too early or leave unresolved areas. I had to make this work as a whole. Then I signed my name on the bottom of this cold realism painting. Finished.