Category Archives: painting

Context

In the mid-sixties of the last century, Gerhard Richter did photo-paintings using photographs of family. Now, half a century later, I felt the same urge to paint my family. In contrast to  Richter’s “hallmark blurred photographs”, with my science background, I still enjoy putting my motifs into focus. To add a context to a given photograph, a time or emotional context, I overlaid it with another image, a technique I learned doing scientific illustrations.

Woods Hole, 1969; 12-years-later, 2006 & 2018;  and Borkum, 1946; are oils on ACM covered with Belgian Linen, 8 x 10 inches. Banter Sea, 2007 and High Line 2019 are oils on wooden panels, 16 x 16 and 16 x 12, respectively.

 

Challenge of the foreground

Empire bluff (2010): How to depict the intricate foreground on top of the Empire bluff at Lake Michigan with its multitude of greenery – wildflowers, grasses, grape leaves – still in the early morning shadow? Looking at Cézanne’s early morning shadowed foregrounds inspired me to abstract the complexity of the foliage covering the sandy dune.

Divide( 2018): An Empire bluff view from below the top. The distant Lake Michigan and South Bar Lake, divided by the Empire village beach, are viewed across a foreground of trees illuminated by the early morning sun. Again, at first I failed attempting to paint the complexity in the foreground, the sun-lit leaves. This time, I found inspiration in the paintings of Emily Carr, the great Canadian painter of the first half of the 20th century.

Footsteps in the Sand(2018): This painting was done rapidly within one month after arriving in Michigan from New York City because of the early June deadline of the Grand Rapids artprize.com. No time to spare asking for advice from the living or the dead. I soldiered on by myself to paint ‘Footsteps in the Sand’ and it was fun!

Why was painting the foreground of the ‘Footsteps’ easier for me? Maybe it has to do with my childhood visual experience. Nearly every day, I left the gray concrete of my apartment building to walk my dog on a dyke that protects my German hometown Wilhelmshaven (below sea level at high tide) from the North Sea. One could walk on a gravel path on top of the dyke or below its grassy slope on a brick path framed by granite boulders descending to the ocean water. The low tide exposed the mudflat ranging from Denmark to the Netherlands.

While in the granite boulders in the foreground were visually stimulating, most of my viewing extended into the distance, across a large bay of the North Sea, the Jadebusen. Thus, I grew up viewing vast distances rather than lovely flowers in front of me.

What comes to my mind is a decade-old experiment with kittens that, raised in an environment of vertical bars, were oblivious to a horizontal bar and ran up against it rather leaping across it. In contrast, walking my dog at the North Sea attuned me to horizontal rather than vertical lines present in mountains and city-scapes.

The sparse, sandy foreground of ‘Footsteps in the Sand’ was well within my visual comprehension.

Diverse opinions

My painting ‘Beach Play” was exhibited at the Glen Arbor Art Association in Michigan.

Viewed at that place, it evoked the following range of comments:

“sweet”

“looks like a cartoon”

“surrealistic”

“it reminds me of Dali’s floppy watches”.

Salvatore Dali’s painting (9.5 in × 13 in) of floppy watches entitled ‘Persistence of Memory’ can be viewed at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

Thinking about a possible relationship, I can modestly say that many of Dalí’s paintings were inspired by his Catalonia landscapes, similarly, many of my paintings are inspired where I spent much of my year – the Sleeping Bear Dune, a National Seashore on Lake Michigan. My oil painting is small too, just 12 x 12 inches on a wooden panel.

Viewing my painting here, which of the comment above, if any, do you relate to?