Showing June 7-July 3, 2014
Opening reception Saturday June 7, 3-5pm
Opening reception Saturday June 7, 3-5pm
|Third St. Bridge|
1. What made you paint rather than another expression? Could you have chosen sculpture too?
I began to paint pictures as a young boy and teenager, mostly pictures of barns, houses, trees and landscapes. They were simple paintings and even then in watercolor. I guess it was my way of communicating "look what I see out there, it's pretty interesting".
When I moved on to college to begin my degree in architecture, a number of my courses were focused on learning to draw realistically. It was an essential skill for an architect to learn. Some of those classes involved other media including watercolor, pastel, pencil and even oil. The technique of watercolor grabbed my interest deeply, because of the simplicity of the medium, and, I felt, a natural way to illustrate realism in architectural illustration: shadows, textures, light and dark, perspective and materials. I can see in my work how those very basic skills still influence and are very much part of my work as a painter today.
I did also have classes in sculpture in architecture school, mostly to learn massing, shapes and forms related to model building. While it was interesting, my real love and passion and evolving skills naturally kept coming back to painting what I see.
|Mare Island Tank|
2. Your subjects are mundane objects and everyday landscapes. Do you think of the public when you paint?
I don’t really “think” about the public when I paint, but I perhaps wonder about their reaction to my work. Every artist does that, right? Certainly an artist cannot control or foresee what the viewer may feel toward the art, but I certainly am very interested as to their reaction. Some viewers may see my work as quite boring and of little interest, while others become fascinated with the richness that can come out of painting the ordinary. I suppose both are valid points of view.
A realist painter generally is very interested in the appearance of things, and then working out a way to express that observation, in a clear, identifiable way. The subjects of my work are very important. They form the very basis for why I put water and pigment to paper with my brush. Then it becomes the process of how to translate what I see and how to make it into a painting. I think the core of that process is traditional drawing, in my case, pencil on paper. I also don’t think of myself as a strict “photo-realist”; my work makes no attempt to hide brush strokes and marks on the paper while working to paint images often based on my own photography.
3. Your watercolor skills are amazing. Does your subject matter evolve from when you start painting? Or is your work more about improving your technique?
I continue to learn and evolve using watercolor as my medium of chose, but I am constantly amazed at how simple it is, yet allowing me to achieve the complexities and nuances, deep color saturation, and detail in my work. I tend to combine large areas of a color wash with detailed dry-brush technique, to build up the layering of the image on the paper. However, there is invariably always a point when my painting is in the early stages of layout, the colors are light, and detail has yet to be formed, and I look at the piece and it’s all wrong. Nothing seems to be working. I want to throw the piece out. Then I back up, take a break, stare at the piece for a while and jump back in. That’s the learning process, that’s how my technique improves. To quote the artist Chuck Close;
“Get yourself in trouble. If you get yourself in trouble, you don't have the answers. And if you don't have the answers, your solution will more likely be personal because no one else's solutions will seem appropriate. You'll have to come up with your own.”
Obviously, like many realist painters I use my camera as a major tool in the initial process. The camera is not as important as my brush and paper, but it does allow me to observe and retain many images that form the basis for my work. I don’t spend a lot of time composing a “perfect” image, but rather shoot somewhat randomly at subjects that appeal to me, those with strong forms, rich textures and colors, and of course, a strong aspect of sunlight and shadow.
4. Tell us how it feels to paint swimming pools or other water elements with watercolor. Is that a subject where the “architect” in you could disappear a little more?
I don’t think my work in painting pools is that different from a painting of a wall grazed with sunlight and deep shadows. The essence of my work is about organizing forms and shapes, as well as the placement of colors against other colors, or underneath other colors. A great deal of my work involves underpainting, beginning with the lightest colors first and gradually building up layer with richer and darker tones. I suppose learning to be an architect is all about organizing the design, layout and completion of a complex object into a final piece of art. For me, watercolor painting is much the same thought process.
Additionally, my swimming pool series always involve elements of architecture or furniture in the background, forming the basis for reflections in the actual water. Even with my pool work where the elements of the water can be seen as free forming, loose and casual, there is still the organizational process in my technique to achieve that image.
5. Can you share with us a few painters who have had an influence on your work?
The work of Robert Bechtle has had an importance influence on my work, in that his work mainly deals with “ordinary” subject matter and he has worked a great deal in watercolor. For example, his watercolor “Albany Pinto”, 1973 has a wonderful, relaxed, contemplative mood about it as we see sunlight crossing a driveway with a rather simple suburban tract house in the background. My own watercolor “Desert Morning” attempts to capture those similar elements, attached:
|Robert Bechtle Albany Pinto Doug Shoemaker Desert Morning|
The work of Edward Hopper has also taught me a great deal about realist painting, the quality of sunlight on a surface, and the strength we can see in ordinary architecture. His work often has a feel of melancholy and silence to the scene, at the same time (I feel) the presence of sunlight elates us. His work “Anderson’s House”, 1926 captures that feeling for me, and influenced my work entitled “Rear Window”, attached:
|Edward Hopper Anderson's House Doug Shoemaker Backyard Morning|
Other influences and great teachers of painting whom I admire and learn from include John Register, for his stillness and rooms of empty chairs; Andrew Wyeth for his rich textural gestures in watercolor capturing darkness and mood. In a certain way, these two artists were on my mind when I painted “Maui Shadows”, attached:
|Andrew Wyeth Frozen Mill Race John Register Green Chair Doug Shoemaker Maui Shadows|
6. What do you think of these quotes?
“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures”. Vincent Van Gogh
It’s an interesting quote, in that I largely subscribe to that idea. Before I even lay paint to paper, I am out observing the environment around me, looking closely at urban objects, surfaces and places that I deem worthy of a more intense focus. Again, it goes back to my basic belief that these “ordinary and mundane” objects and places, can, in fact, become extraordinary and artful. I think by redefining them in painting, in my case, watercolor on paper, they become a focus, a composition of detail, texture, color and form. Maybe the viewer will come away from the work with a realization that art really begins by observing the environment all around us.
“It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted”. Mark Rothko
Well, for some painters that may be true, but not for me. The subject matter I choose is the essential beginning element to why I paint. My goal is then to paint these objects, places and things in a way that captures the ‘reality’ of them, the authenticity, while being clear that what the viewer is seeing is a watercolor on paper.