A spot tucked within the Myakka River State Park not far from my home. It has been my intention to do something like what Fredrick Remington and N.C. Wyeth did as they visited areas of the Old West to gain accurate information to produce western art. Several modern artists have gone a step further, James Bama and Howard Terpning, gave up their illustration careers in the New York area to be closer to Old West locations. While I am not wishing to give up a career painting fantastic art images, I am embracing my environment to produce pirate / sea rover art that rings with an authenticity of place. Howard Pyle a renowned painter of pirates traveled to Jamaica. Much of my art school training came from still life and figure observation, so recording the outdoors with paints and brushes rounds out my experience. Wild Palms is a 12″ x 9″ oil painting which took me four hours to complete. Painting quickly to capture the essence of a scene before the sun travels a great distance across the sky is a challenging skill to hone. The lighting I observed when I started and what I saw at the end was very different.
The Golden Age of Illustration artist and teacher, Howard Pyle, recommended his students put themselves into the context of their painting to make their artwork more believable and true to the observer. Perhaps I go a bit “overboard” placing myself in such paintings, but Pyle’s reasoning is very sound. There is no better way to represent something than by first experiencing it. “On the Account” is a small 10″ x 8″ oil on panel intended as a preliminary sketch to a larger painting. I kept pursuing the problems and solutions of the work between long lapses, adding new ideas to work out a difficulty, until the the sketch became a small work in itself. It is challenging to take odd bits of research material from a multitude of sources in order to integrate them until a natural and cohesive image evolves. The work originated with a photo taken of me aboard a modern topsail schooner. As I maintained my balance as the ship heeled, rose, and fell in the stiff breeze, the propulsion gave me a rush of emotions I wanted to capture as I imagined the sense of freedom sea rovers felt as they pursued their dreams.
“Duel with the White Knight” a small 10″ x 8″ oil on panel from a scene in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series originally commissioned for Fantasy Flight Publishing’s “The Art of A Song of Fire and Ice” to feature the sword master’s defense of Arya. Has just been made into a print available in the WebStore: < www.paravia.com/catalog >
This cover art was completed last year and has been released as a paperback recently. I made a model of the spacecraft from descriptions in the manuscript. I glued foam board and cardboard with gesso and paint added, then suspended it with nylon line and photographed it using the same lighting direction as placed on the models.
Two dragon doodles in watercolor created in the comfort of my living room. My wife and I have his and her rolling laptop tables we employ as little watercolor stations. We drag them into action on our off hours as the artistic spirit moves us, like when we are barely watching a film that proves to be less than we hoped, or during moments when we find ourselves out of our studio but willing to fiddle with something. These two watercolor studies are about 10″ x 8″ and were painted on bristol board ( a smooth paper surface) using a small water color kit. These keep idle hands occupied, can be offered for sale, and used as preliminary ideas toward other works.
I have been taking to the road occasionally with a Half-Julian outdoor easel trying my hand at oil painting in the open air, commonly referred to as “plein air” painting. Artists have sketched outdoors for generations using their field work as source material for larger works. Plein air painting has become an art form in itself. This process became much more accessible with the development of pigments in tubes which allowed artists to take their materials conveniently out of the studio. I believe tubes of paint and the outset of photography provided the motivation for the Impressionist movement to depart from traditional, representational studio painting in the 1800’s. For painters like myself, trained in still life and indoor figure painting, it is an experimental adventure to be “ out there” with paints and brushes trying to capture what I see. I admire those who do this regularly. Photographs cannot record the outdoors as can an observant eye, a controlled brush, and dedicated perseverance.
When I introduce sea rovers (or other figures) into the tropical environments I paint, as I did with “Drawn to the Sea”, an authenticity of place combines with my figure research to achieve a more truthful result, provided I successfully integrate light source information and perspective issues.
The location where I worked on “Tree Huggers” is a spot next to one of the hiking trails nearby which is left to grow wild. I was attracted to the dappled light seen through the foliage at sunset also repeated by the lichens on the trunk of the oak. I revisited this spot with my painting kit several times with this small 10” x 8” gesso panel as the light is so transient at that time of day. And because mosquitoes get so hungry when the sun is setting!
I suppose I am a true tree hugger at heart. We do all we can in our household to support the environment and lower our ecological footprint. This past year we had 42 solar panels installed on our studio roof that supply our home with solar electricity during daylight hours. Now, no matter the colors I employ in my work, every painting I do is “green”.
Lashie Come Home
When I find myself in situations where I am relatively idle, I produce small watercolor paintings. These two are about 10″ x 8″. The subject matter ranges from serious to fun and maritime to fantastic subjects like dragons and wizards. I have a very compact travel kit and utilize small papers and boards that allow me to work in airports, airplanes, hotel rooms, in front of TV, at conventions, events or, paint from direct observation on location. I gather a bit of research, bring some extra brushes and use available napkins. My kit comes with one small brush, a water container and tub, and has a selection of half pans of color. I have been experimenting with different paper surfaces. “Ace in the Hole” is from photos I took of a friend’s parrot who was mangling a business card and “Lashie Come Home” originated from photos taken of our one eyed cat in his younger days.
Many of these elaborate doodles have become spot illustrations for such things as my calendars of a few years back, and can be found reproduced on each face of a complete deck of playing cards sold in the initial Raiding Parties Card game: http://www.raidingparties.com Depending how well the resulting paintings resolve, I sell these in galleries, online, and at events I attend. To see a selection of maritime watercolor vignettes go to http://www.paravia.com/DonMaitz/website/MaritimeHeritage/Gallery/Watercolors.html
Also, these travel doodles have given me confidence to attempt such things as an edition of watercolor remarques in Stephen King’s “Desperation” illustrated first edition. The book’s paper stock was not intended to receive pigments and it was a challenge to not destroy the paper as I worked. To see these visit-