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Painting on the Allegheny River

Travel is the distance we need from ourselves to see the world anew. Sometimes this requires a plane ticket, sometimes just a changed point of view. My paintings are the result of both these journeys, far and near, to other continents or upon the canvas just a foot in front of me. My paintings are talismans I gather from new horizons, like dear stones from a special beach or peak.
For portability I work small when traveling or out in the field. Despite this, virtually all my paintings, including the tiny gouaches, are later reworked in the studio - often several times and over the course of years. Setting the arbitrary goal of finishing a painting in one sitting - perhaps to capture a shadow where it lies just then - is beside the point for me. In fact the adventure just begins in the field in front of the subject. The world unfolds and begins anew every time I return to the canvas.
When I return
to my studio, the open-ended observations or studies from the field are reshaped into new possibilities, perhaps with new layers of paint applied, perhaps with a new drawing that reconfigures the whole composition. Larger canvases, too, begin at this stage. Paint is a vehicle of exploration and discovery, and in this sense, I spend time traveling within my paintings as well as from location to location. And though it can be as frustrating as a trip with no reservations or itinerary, I tend to go just about wherever the paint takes me. Without this willingness to wander and discover - this curiosity and willingness to move beyond strengths - there would only be the pleasing safety of craft, the limited result of a honed habit. Leonardo said, "Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art."
A habit
can be a great ally. Mundane tasks are best done when left to habit, where subtle awareness and critical thinking would only hinder. But habits are also the highest wall between us and a wide world of possibility.
Because I revisit (and revise) my paintings so often and over years' time - like Henry David Thoreau's joking understatement that he is well-traveled in his hometown of Concord - I find that I am well-traveled in my canvases.

February, 2006
Warren, Pennsylvania


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