Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

The Conundrum of Detail

Growing up, my idol was Andrew Wyeth. How he used the loose medium of watercolor to create amazing detail became my young-artist obsession. My drawings were highly detailed. Every clapboard and blade of grass was accurately (as best I could) rendered. With a drawing or watercolor completed, I’d return to my Wyeth books to compare his work to mine (or vice versa). His detail was different. It was there, you could see it and identify it, but somehow it looked a little less fussy than mine. His success as a realist–critics often wrote–was all the more significant in that his early career came in contrast with the huge abstract expressionistic and non-representational movements of the time.

As my own work has evolved, I’ve continuously strived to avoid detail and find the essence of a subject. But recently, I’ve begun to explore bringing back little bits of detail here and there, not to create a more literal representation of  a place or thing, but to give that place or thing a little bit more of what makes it uniquely “it,” rather than entirely ambiguous.

In this recently completed piece, titled “Three Windows,” there is more detail in the windows, a hint at the shadows beneath the clapboards. This old, abandoned house on Cape Cod has a history. You can tell just walking around it. Remnants of an old clothes line. The bird house nailed to one of it’s peaks, the old warped-glass of the windows, and the emerald sky and dry-grass gold reflection they display when the sun is just right. Though I started painting this house for its own sake, it became clear the painting was less about the house, and more about these three windows…and the mystery and history of the life that took place on both sides of them.

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