Cutting to the chase a painting that is flat is more like a cereal box than like a Rembrandt. What makes painting interesting is transforming forms, depth, and light from the real world to a canvas. It is a very complex visual language that conceptualizes how we see, and it triggers suspension of disbelief, rewarding us with the perception of movement and light. A painter cannot just cut and paste reality to the canvas, the transition deals with how we perceive, how light bounces off forms and textures, painting techniques, and oddly, even how well our studios are calibrated for light.
Some years ago I was having trouble painting. I would stand back and see a mistake and try to paint a correction, but when I got up close to the painting I just couldn’t capture the nuance I was hoping for. I was getting near 60 years old and I decided to totally re-educate myself about painting (even though I already had four decades of painting behind me). The project was to paint a sandstone orb that has personal significance to me. My studio has the greatest daylight from 11 am to noon, and I like to paint into the night, so figuring out the artificial light was essential. I painted each orb under different artificial lighting conditions. I also used every painting technique I knew, from thin liquid applications to scumbling to super thick blobs of paint. This series of nine alla prima paintings, all in private collections, were the result of these explorations.
Grateful, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches.
Michael Newberry is Artist-in-Residence at The Atlas Society. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Athens, and Rome. Follow him on Instagram at @artnewberry.
Idyllwild is a mythic place, if I were religious, I would say it one of God’s gardens. Indeed, if you were to wander the remote paths, you might actually come across a forest nymph interacting with nature. This year I made friends with Katie Bolin and her mate Ivan Ellirand, starting with a life-size painting of her pregnant and nude. This painting, Winter, is the follow-up and Ivan kindly granted me use one of his photos as a reference.
While painting it, I imagined it being one in a series of the four seasons. What do you think? Can you see it?
Throughout the day I see rabbits and squirrels scurrying and birds bounding and flying about. For fun, I embedded two birds and one rabbit in this painting, they are pretty well camouflaged — I doubt you find all three. Let me know if you do!
Earlier today I signed off on the third tattoo painting. The series was a fascinating excursion in which I contemplated how we sometimes become the artwork. I have always thought that was true in a metaphorical way, in the sense that when we are young, we often form our characters, unwittingly, by the influence of movies, literature, songs, paintings, or by sculptures. With tattoos it is the reverse, it is the person that becomes the canvas. They literally become the artwork.
The process of painting them was difficult and fun. It is like working a jigsaw puzzle in 3d, with each piece curved to fit the human form, and each piece occupying its unique spot in space.
The Tats Series is part of an ongoing project of abstract, realistic paintings destined for The White Cloud Gallery in Washington D.C. this fall.