Like many artists, I’ve gone through phases. One of my earliest watercolors was done at age 5, and came back to me via my grandmother. It’s pretty good for a 5 year old but by then I’d been painting and drawing for 3 years. My mother was a semi-professional painter and I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon. As a teenager I gravitated toward pencil and charcoal portraits. In high school and college I did a few commissioned murals, but started in oil portraits. I returned to watercolor in medical school at the Samuel Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia. My mother’s grandfather was one of the original members of this art institution when it was called the Philadelphia Graphic Sketch Club. I have some photos of him and his (all male) class painting and drawing along the Schuykill River. My mother and aunt also studied at Samuel Fleisher. When I moved to Massachusetts, I went back to oil portraits under Joe Costello at the Decordova Museum school. After he stopped teaching I returned to watercolor. The problem with oil is that in one sense it’s too easy. Any mistake can be painted over and as long as you continue to work at it, any painting can become good, at least in a technical sense. There is little spontaneity so that, for me anyway, oils are less alive and convey less movement unless they are abstracted in some way.
Watercolor is completely different. Yes it’s difficult. The water and paint run all over. The pigments do different and weird things under various conditions, especially if you are painting outdoors where the humidity and temperature vary. You need to paint quickly which naturally leads to a less planned and more unconscious approach. All this creates effects which, in some sense, can never be duplicated because they are a product of a certain movement in a changing environment by an artist in a transitory frame of mind.
Studying with artist Marjorie Glick for many years, I moved from figures to landscape because I love the outdoors and all kinds of weather. There’s nothing like watercolor for capturing certain kinds of light and weather. Most of my smaller works are painted directly (no undersketch or pencil marks) entirely en plein air (outside on site with little to no studio work.) Some of the larger works have pencil indicator marks but never a drawing. This is because I don’t like my work to be planned in advance; I like to go with the flow. If something unexpected happens, like a bloom or run of paint or a strange mix, I try to work with it. If it doesn’t work, I throw it out.
I prefer more abstract and atmospheric works but understand that many people simply find these confusing. I was lucky enough to have my mother and aunt explain the mysteries of abstractionism to me at an early age and although I didn’t see most of what they saw at the time, there’s no doubt in my mind that their lessons had a profound impression on my development. The ability to appreciate abstract work is acquired over time, like the appreciation of jazz, wine, Proust, smelly cheeses and other complex sense-ations. Some people, maybe even most people, need to master the basics well in order to move into the right-brained territory of non-representational art.If you have questions, please contact me