Though I work in various media, I have considered transparent watercolor my primary medium since the early 1970s. I am interested in the tradition of watercolor most associated with drawing, though I take varied approaches to materials and process. I build up thin layers of transparent watercolor over a neutral “map” or underpainting, gradually rendering depth and atmosphere into the flat initial shapes. The underpainting is usually a neutral color wash, but I sometimes build up the paint over a tonal graphite drawing. I pay special attention to edges, and strive for bold values, strong colors. It is the slow process of drawing and coaxing real and imagined forms into being that provides my satisfaction in painting.
My work is strongly representational, if not always particularly dedicated to the visual facts of a place. For the Industry series I have explored factories and industrial sites in America. These visits stimulate all my senses and feed my never ending fascination for painting complex patterns, textural surfaces, and a dramatic play of light and color. Once ubiquitous in the American landscape and central to our economy, many “smokestack” factories are now relics of another time. There is in these paintings evidence of a physical and grinding way of work, and perhaps some nostalgia for an American era which has largely slipped away.
The landscape paintings began as paintings of the dramatic skies typical in the flatlands. Over time, I became more interested in the land itself, and specifically the landscape in and around the Flint Hills of Kansas. In the course of painting there I have gradually begun to record its season as well – a result of my visits being required to fit around the academic year. The textures and linear character of the barren trees and grasses have gradually called forth a more linear brush drawing in my paintings.
Since most of my work is built up slowly in the studio, I find I need to exercise another impulse in my paintings more associated with the traditional on the spot watercolor. These on-location works are undertaken in the various far-flung places where I travel or have gone specifically to paint. I enjoy the high-risk, high-reward aspect of working outdoors directly from the subject. The paintings reflect that immediacy. These travels have also prompted in turn some studio works that reflect experiences abroad.