One thing I think about a lot is how I started doing the things that I love. What are the crucial moments where I said, "I want to do that". I think about these moments as windows of inspiration; they are basically times in my life, people and other experience that have really influenced me.
For instance, I started drawing as a kid and really felt my first burst of excitement for drawing when I watched Dragon Ball Z. I vividly remember being 9/10 years old and desperately wanting to draw like Akira Toriyama (the creator of Dragon Ball Z). I was really influenced by some early drawing books that I had and that I got at the elementary school library. I remember having one drawing book that showed you how to draw Yoda from Star Wars and I drew it and felt completely addicted. I'm not really into Star Wars, but that drawing book changed my life. A few years later I remember watching a PBS documentary about John Singer Sargent and they showed a portrait that Sargent painted of John D. Rockefeller; I was blown away by this also--I can't even really explain the feeling of intense fascination.
Flash forward to when I was at the Pennsylvania Academy and I met my friend, Asem Ahmed, and he introduced me to the work of William Bouguereau. I was subsequently obsessed with Bouguereau for the next 5 years. I still love Bouguereau, but I've become more interested in other painting styles.
Later, I worked at Sotheby's auction house in 2013. They had an exhibition space on their upper level floor so I went upstairs and was looking at an exhibition of works for sale and they had one painting by an artist that I had never heard of: Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. This is the painting that was in the exhibition sale. The photo doesn't do it justice, but I was completely blown away by it. The light and color hit me so hard and I still haven't shaken the feeling. I later visited the Museo Sorolla in 2018 and came back with an urge to paint en plein air in bright sunlight. Those plein air paintings became the basis for my application portfolio to apply for the Munn Fellowship Award. I think a part of my interest in impressionist painters is also because of my colorblindness. Maybe I should have been more of a tonalist painter, but I can't help but having a love affair with the impressionist palette of colors.
My art is also influenced by the work of Hayao Miyazaki. While I was in college, I had a writing teacher at PENN who introduced me to Miyazaki. I've become a complete Studio Ghibli fanboy since then. The narratives, artwork and style of Miyazaki films have left a deep impression on me.
Another thing I love to do is skateboarding. I was interested in skateboarding at a young age and one memory that is burned into my mind is seeing a guy who lived down the street skateboarding, I saw him skating and was enamored. All I know is his name was Bill and he had really long hair, but I want to thank him for that brief window of inspiration.
A larger window of inspiration was from my Opa. I'm continually inspired by him because he loved Motorcycles, engines and he also was good at drawing; my Mom says I have the same sense of humor and I look like him also. (He was colorblind too). I still remember the smell of his motorcycles in his garage.
I also feel thankful that I grew up in the early internet and pre-cellphone days because you often had to get inspiration first hand or hear things through the grapevine instead of seeing them on youtube or wherever; it has more power and impact when you get the first hand experience. I could go on and on, but I just want to keep my eyes and ears open and try to keep cool people around me, read good books and most importantly to just keep doing what I love.
I've been working on a series of florals from this group of fresh flowers that I picked up last week. The flowers are absolutely beautiful and have been really inspiring me a lot. I've painted 5 paintings so far and just did one today that I'm very proud of. I painted it very quickly because I saw some rain clouds gathering and I finished it right before it started raining.
I was telling my students this past week that there's really nothing more important than inspiration. If you want to paint something that inspires you then you will enjoy it more and it will turn out better. I encourage everyone to seek your own inspiration, whatever that might be.
I'm almost done with this one and I'm quite pleased with the way it's coming out. I'm currently reading a book about Monet and I think it's influencing my work. The way Monet built up the colors and texture of his paintings is something that I really like. I might work one more day on this one, just finishing detail stuff.
Late Summer Flower Pots - Day 2 + Thoughts on Alla Prima Vs. Multiple Layers + Adding Specific Palette Colors
I've been thinking a lot recently about alla prima painting and its benefits, but also the benefits of working with multiple layers of paint. I know that there's a huge advantage in being able to paint quickly; to be able to render a scene with speed is an absolute necessity when painting en plein air. But this doesn't mean that I always finish a painting in one session. Sometimes this is the case and I can finish a painting in one shot, but that is usually a function of the size of the canvas; I can usually complete a smaller painting in one or two sessions. I can also usually get a nice sense of light in one session, but the level of detail and finish will be limited. I think of it like how a writer can write a short work (like a poem or a short story) or a novel; there's a certain beauty with a poem, but there's a sense of power and the passage of time that comes with a novel.
The other factor in this is if I have the opportunity to return to a spot. If I have one opportunity in a location and know that I won't return to a spot then I usually work more quickly and on a smaller scale canvas.
So alla prima has a certain function, but there's a nice feeling that I find when I return to work on a painting. If I can return to a painting and work more on it then that usually means the piece will have a higher level of detail and refinement. Larger paintings simply need more time to complete and a certain level of finish can only be attained with multiple layers of paint. There can also be confusion about if the paint gets dry and sunken in, but you can oil out the painting if it's totally dry. Usually I don't even bother and I just start painting.
If I'm going to return to work on a painting, I've found it helpful to make a note of my starting time and make sure the weather conditions are close so that I don't have to change too much. Of course, there's always changes and you have to adjust, but that's part of the challenge and magic of working on plein air.
A further note about color palettes: I like working with a fairly standard palette of 10 - 12 colors, but sometimes I find that I need to use a color to match something that I see in nature. In this case, one of the flower pots has a specific green that I know I could get with a color called Veronese green (also sometimes called Emerald green); the color is a variation of Viridian and comes in handy once in a while. I don't have this color on my standard palette, but I'm going to add it to my palette during my next session.
Color palettes can be confusing and an area for navel gazing, but if you see that you need a color then USE IT. Don't get locked into a specific palette or technique. I recommend that all my students start off with a standard palette, but also experiment and gain a wide knowledge of as many colors as you can. Knowledge is power.