My Painting Styles

There are two mains streams running throughout all of my painting, a naturalistic stream and a subjective stream.  My subjective paintings are based more on my imagination and personal vision.  My naturalistic paintings look a lot like how things appear. In either style, I look to inhabit all the parts of my painting surfaces with a luminosity arising from light and color.

My paintings “Islands” and “Over the Fields” are what I would refer to as subjective paintings.  They’re not literal.  They have generalizations of forms that arose from my drawing process where I can imagine places and allow them to evolve through the process.


“Over the Fields”

I sometimes draw parts of landscapes like fields, roads, hay bales, trees and clouds.  When I have a few parts drawn in a way I like, I began to reassemble them into a picture, moving their positions and changing their scale on paper like a director sets prop positions for a film scene.  These subjective paintings evolved with a certain emphasis, exaggeration and feeling based on these movable parts coming to rest as the finished piece.

“Eastern Seaside”

I especially like to use this subjective way of working in my coastal paintings (eg.“Eastern Seaside”) by using vertical compositions for these, starting with a portrait or door-like orientation of the canvas. Paintings can be a window to another world, or a doorway.  Some paintings are walls, but I’m not going there.  There’s a lot of politics when you start to talk about space in paintings. Among the many traditional ways used to create the illusion of space, the main one is one-point perspective. You can see what I mean on YouTube.  Here’s the thing.  Once you’ve learned one-point mechanical drawing, it’s a lot more fun to use that knowledge as an inventive vocabulary of spatial illusion than to repeat it verbatim.  Experience in drawing leads to a more personal and idiosyncratic, inventive and subjective expression.  In my case, I love the flattened space of Japanese and Chinese scroll paintings where there are few (if any) western perspective devices used.  It may seem like a stretch, but I compose my vertical subjective work with a clear sense of that Asian art space, by way of Nova Scotia with a little folk art flavor thrown in.

There are other times when I feel really moved, really connected to a motif I see in direct everyday experience. When I see an image that speaks to me in a definitive way, and it looks like a painting already, well…what can I do but act on that. This is what I refer to as naturalism, the depiction of things as they are.  These next two images, “Road to the Water” and “Jubilee Road” are examples of motifs I experienced directly.  Both of the locations appeared to look like paintings when I first saw them and were compelling images just as they were.  These didn’t seem like they were parts of another painting, but more that their natural appearance had enough strength and connection for me to commit them to canvas.

“Road to the Water”

“Jubilee Road”

There are some interesting and satisfying aspects of working in a naturalistic manner.  I can really investigate what makes up this connection between me and the motif.  I can study and depict each detail of the image and pull together my own feelings in response.  Sometimes that connection can get a little thin, especially if the painting work is challenging, but as the final stretch of the process unfolds, I always gather momentum and glaze large areas of the canvas in the final sessions.  The luminosity I am looking to present really comes from this glazing. Translucent layers of paint reveal a depth of color and an illusion of form in a physical way with oil paint.  When I varnish the finished piece, the depth of color really pops.

Some of my paintings seem to drift in a grey area between subjectivism and naturalism and in truth most of my naturalistic paintings have a fair amount of editing, simplification and enhancement, however I feel this is the natural bent of any artist where one attempts to organize the visual field into pictoral terms.   My naturalistic paintings sometimes evolve from multiple drawings and photographs and I try to blend these seamlessly into the final painting.  In that sense, my naturalistic (or representational) paintings are not photo-realist, but rely on a hefty dose of personal interpretation within the ground of naturally depiction.

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1 Response to My Painting Styles

  1. Paula Breymeier says:

    Hi Paul

    Thanks for sending out your announcement. I especially like your cityscape. The subject matter seems to fit your painting style.

    Congratulations on having such a nice show.


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