How and Why I Paint

I have been influenced mostly by the English watercolorists of the 19th and 20th century. Initially, I was interested in the moody and gray atmospheres they created by tinting the paper with a warm or cool tone. Later, I became intrigued with the possibility of under-painting a painting’s values, in neutrals or blues over the tinted paper. I thought I could follow by layering my chosen colors over the tinted paper, sometimes using ink for accents and white gouache for highlights. This would allow me to quickly set the tone and values of the painting without relying on the values of the colors themselves to achieve the mood.

I’d never seen anyone use the method before. The most challenging hurdle was to keep the colors from turning muddy; I discovered adding black or blue paint to the tinted paper made it difficult to keep the subsequent colors transparent. I spent many years experimenting, without much success.

Eventually, my diligence came to fruition after discovering the importance of the quality of the watercolors and the balance of the water/paint ratio. Sometimes it took 15 or more dry on dry layers to achieve the desired effect, for example, on my skies.

In 1991, I moved back to New Mexico to paint full time. I wanted to see if the method I was using would work in expressing the primitive and haunting landscapes of my native state. In retrospect, I feel my time and effort have been well spent. This style makes my work unique and I now use the method wherever I choose to paint. When I encounter a new subject, I first decide upon the appropriate medium for expression; after that, the mood will dictate the technique. I do not limit myself to the technique I’ve described and sometimes use others, such as the popular “wet on wet” method.

The most difficult thing for me to express is why I paint. I only know that when I do, I am transported emotionally to a place that is peaceful and sometimes surreal. My hope is that my work transcends technique and captures the viewer’s attention, first on an emotional and visceral level. Ultimately, I paint for the sheer joy and learning of it. I know my vision may never be fully realized, however, but the pleasure the process brings to me is beyond measure.

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