photos by dkellyphotography.com
I grew up in Manhattan with summers at my family’s 18th century barn house on the eastern end of Long Island. Both environments are richly embedded in my being, affecting all my artwork for the past 25 years.
Having a natural & innate propensity for art, I inevitably gravitated towards it. I drew my entire life finding my subject matter in the faces of friends and relatives or the corners of my home practicing and perfecting the rendering of whatever I saw. Then when I was in my late 20’s I decided to treat myself to what seemed almost exotic; oil painting lessons. I immediately discovered color and art buyers immediately discovered me as an expressive, passionate colorist.
At first, while naive and new to painting, in order to be “painterly” I distorted the images I painted. Although I was actually exploring color, my subject matter was definitely rough and not refined.
I painted like this for about 10 years until my teacher from an advanced oil painting class encouraged me to go back to my drawings, refine them and keep my images genuine. I soon realized that the more defined my images were, the freer I was able to be with my backgrounds. I realized that the fundamental aspect of art, drawing, was essential to the open ended freedom of expression I seemed to be bursting to explore with my art.
It also was becoming apparent that formal structure and refinement in all things was what I needed to express myself with complete freedom. Studying art history through my advanced oil painting class and books on art as well as regular museum and gallery visits were satiating my soul. My grammar and high school education at the elite Chapin School in New York presented me with a formality of culture that became ingrained in me; became truly a part of me. And my college, Trinity College in Hartford, CT with its excellence in education, its caliber in the world of small liberal arts colleges, its genuine beauty as an architecturally exquisite campus with pristine landscaping and the presence of history everywhere – all of that became a part of me, deep down.
“I carry these things with me as I paint every single painting from beginning to end. I carry these things with me as I draw each drawing seeking the line or the gesture or the shape or the mood that will inspire me to do a painting.”
With the shift to attention on my actual drawings, I started painting paintings of a solitary object in an abstract background. I did this for quite some time with my figures becoming more and more refined while my backgrounds were becoming more abstract. Several series followed, each allowing my artwork to evolve to a more thoughtful, educated and masterful level.
I went from “Trees” to the abstraction of trees or “Abstract Landscapes.” In doing this, I started to take away what I had originally put down and then add to it over and over until I had successfully arrived at the expression of the emotion behind it all.
It seemed then that my life truly changed. I thought and lived as I painted. I started to let the world happen and guided it gently and creatively rather than trying to control it all. And, I was willing to let things go that I fiercely held onto before, even if I thought I needed them because now I knew that the big picture was possible to work even better with all new things in it. And, it was at this point that I really felt, “there is no turning back. I could only be an artist from here on in.” My work and my life had completely come together.
Following these “Abstract Landscapes,” I have painted several different series that naturally evolved one into another. I then went to “Abstract Still Life paintings” where the flat picture plane and varying perspectives as in Cubism were explored. Following this, I simplified these “Abstract Still Life paintings” and focused on a series of “Tools” as my subject matter, with color as always my true subject and a focus on the essence of those tools as revealed through the paint application, color and form.
From “Tools” I then went to “Tools with Fruit” which led me to a series of just “Fruit.” In painting the fruit, as with the tools, I used the paint application, color and form to express the essence of fruit to me; its lusciousness, roundness, dripping, sweet nature.
And then, I was at a point where I had to think of what would be even more round, more luscious, more sensuous, and deeper than fruit and the expression of fruit. I realized then that the perfect candidate to explore with all this new knowledge was the Human Form.
Throughout all these series, both my drawings and painting have been evolving, getting more and more refined and expressive of me. So with this new and constantly growing level of drawing ability and color language fluency, I am embarking now on yet another series, “The Process of Drawing and Painting.” Now as I work through what I know about both drawing and painting, the viewer is brought in to this raw, exploratory state. Color still is my true subject and my subject matter still provides the emotion to each painting but now my process for expressing these elements is the ultimate end, my goal. I am challenged to hold onto the integrity of my very basic process of both drawing and painting all while creating Expressionist paintings where color dictates as the subject and the spirit of my subject matter is felt.