An artist’s evolution never takes place in a vacuum. This is a brief outline of what I paint, why, and the artists, illustrators, places, music, and mysticism that have influenced me.
More often than not my creativity finds expression in painting scenes from unwritten stories. Within any one painting you might find wonderment, magic, whimsy, or perhaps even that which I call the mystical. You might even find them all.
The driving passion
My passion is light, my obsession color and form. I see the universe as intrinsically multidimensional and know that, at its core, it remains eternally joyous. And therein lies the inspiration for all I create.
Where it begins
To begin a new work I either turn to nature and just look and look, or I retreat within and allow a certain quietness to seep into my bones.
In time that looking or quietness transforms into something else entirely, something that carries me far and deep, something that evokes images that ache for expression.
The wonder of it all is this creative energy endlessly renews itself.
Where it leads
Might certain images, especially paintings born in a state of joyous stillness, emanate subtle energies? And might those energies murmur gentle songs that uplift and nurture the spirit?
I believe so.
One hardly needs reasons to paint. Nevertheless, here are mine:
The greater reality
The less obvious aspects of reality have always fascinated me. In one form or another, I've spent my whole life exploring the nature of reality through personal sensitivities, meditation, and creative endeavors.
My imagination has been on overdrive and dishing up a constant stream of internal images for as long as I can remember. And while it is one of my very best friends, it remains so only as long as it serves a power born in the heart. To this day it has held constant and true.
Storytelling and beyond
I delight in telling visual stories, and my paintings are obviously built on strong narrative content. The birth of each image, however, is actually inspired by perceptions, feelings, and intuitions that arise from places far beyond storytelling.
Making paintings is simply a joyous thing to do. Despite often contradictory superficial impressions, I've found that joy can be found nestled in the nooks and crannies of even the most mundane parts of life. Without a willingness to let this hidden joy flow, and let it flow freely, my creative work would probably never happen.
To my eyes life is so gloriously multidimensional and rich in meaning that to do less than engage with it fully is unthinkable. Life sings her songs, images arise unbidden, and I do my best to move in time to the music.
The heart of it all
Simply put, love must always be. This is the heart of it all and the greatest reason why I paint what I paint.
A Dutch painter whose exquisite interior scenes captured my heart the very first time I saw them. Some say his paintings can't help but evoke detailed stories about the characters he depicted. But when I look at his work there are no stories that clamor to be told. Instead I find my mind quieting down and, if it's a lucky day, most of my thoughts just subside into the looking.
Evelyn de Morgan
Such deliciously other-worldly paintings by a woman who painted within the potentially stultifying constraints of Victorian society.
John William Waterhouse
A romantic classicist painting at the time of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His sensitive and sensually evocative way of painting women in his depictions of myths and legends continues to leave me slack-jawed in wonder. He set the artistic bar very high indeed.
A Pre-Raphaelite, this artist's mythic work has quietly inspired me for decades. I can go for months without looking at his paintings, but then when I do, I'm overwhelmed all over again by his vision.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
The light and shade, the drama, the depth of observation of the human form. Inspirational to say the very least.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Another Pre-Raphaelite, his paintings are moodier and earthier than other brotherhood artists' work. Perhaps it's in that quality that I find so much inspiration.
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
I am mesmerized by his work. The delicate, refined majesty of his observations rendered in pencil and in oils continues to take my breath away.
Jan van Eyck
This is the man responsible for elevating oil painting into the mainstream. His meticulous, gem-like works remain a wonder to behold. One looks and looks, and looks some more. There is no end to it.
Japanese woodblock artists
What a shock when I first beheld these artists' works. What a revelation when I allowed my guard to drop and let their sensibilities wash over me. Will I ever see anything the same again?
Rackham was the premier English illustrator of the Victorian and Edwardian periods. I was introduced to his work while still at art school and, in the space of a year, devoured every publication he had illustrated.
Dulac is another illustrator I discovered while at art school. He was a contemporary of Rackham, but lived and illustrated on the other side of the English Channel. His rich, sensual watercolors depicting fanciful beings coaxed me beyond what I thought possible.
Ida Rentoul Othwaithe
Othwaithe was an Australian illustrator of the late nineteenth century. I discovered her work shortly after college and was immediately drawn to the delicacy of her touch. Although it was apparent that her work was uneven in quality, when she was "on" her watercolor fairies were breathtaking. I once had the opportunity to examine at length a framed original, and as I held it in my hands, I almost lost myself in those gloriously rich colors.
The Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens
Melbourne, Australia is a sprawling city of over 3 million souls. Although there are numerous pockets of urban beauty to be found, vast stretches of the city have degraded into mind-numbing suburban wastelands. Somewhere in its history, however, a snippet of transcendental inspiration visited the city fathers, and one of the city's greatest glories was born: the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Boasting rolling lawns, extensive water lily ponds, exquisite flower beds, exotic trees, old-world gardener's cottages, and long, meandering paths, the gardens provided this budding artist with a world of richly textured inspiration.
Because the gardens were situated across the city and far from where I grew up, I didn't discover them till my late teens. But what a revelation that late discovery was! During art school days I split my creative time between the art school campus, the National Gallery, and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The Oregon Coast
Three years living in Portland, Oregon gave me plenty of opportunities to visit the coast. And I never could seem to get enough of it.
Delicious, timeless walks along sand that never seemed to end were mine to be had at any time. With tall woods and cliffs on one side and the brooding Pacific on the other, here was Gaia endlessly revealing the extraordinary mystery of movement in harmony with stillness.
The Adirondack State Park
Northern New York's Adirondacks were so different from anything in my Australian experience that for my first 12 months of residency I literally wandered around slack-jawed in wonder. Awesome, so totally awesome...and, for an Australian, so unbelievably cold during winter.
And now, a couple of decades later, the mountains, waterways, flora, fauna, and even the extreme seasons have worked their way deep into my psyche. I will never see the world quite the same again.
I fell in love with guitar music at age sixteen. After a frustrating year of messing about with a mail order study course, I decided to get serious and teach myself classical guitar.
I bought some intense books, began listening to the masters, and diligently set about teaching myself to read music. For the extreme introvert that I was at that age, music served as a major solace for a life riddled with perplexities.
I continued to play guitar until my early thirties. The guitar was finally packed away when, after studying the Daoist internal arts in earnest for several years, I realized where my greater passions lay.
While in my final year of art school, I discovered Renaissance lute music and was completely smitten. What followed was the purchase of a hand-built East European, fifteen string lute, and the beginning of a whole new musical love affair.
Eventually, like the guitar, the lute was packed away when qigong, neigong, and meditation eclipsed everything else in my life except painting.
Years later the sale of the lute helped finance my immigration to the USA.
The Daoist Tradition
I owe so much here. Although in it's original, pure form it is not a religion, to dismiss it as a mere philosophy does it a great injustice. Amongst many things, it points to a doorway through which one can touch mysteries beyond imagining. I found my way into its company via qigong, then fell headlong into its embrace as the meditations deepened.
I've been blessed to be touched by the words and writings of some extraordinary visionaries, and been transformed in the process.
The delicious stillness that arises unbidden
How does one describe true stillness? Why even try? One need only rejoice in its visitations and delight in its liberating wonders. Here, truly, is the wellspring of all creativity and wisdom.
All the fey creatures of this world and others
Without a doubt they are, no matter how loudly many declare that they are not. And knowing beyond a doubt that they exist endows one with a most outrageous gift, the freedom to embark on explorations well outside the limitations of normal conventions. Oh my goodness!
Mother Earth: my nurturer, my inspiration, my life. How effortlessly the smiles arise in her presence, how joyfully the heart sings in her embrace.