I did not go to Art School. I went into the Navy.
I served aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln as a photographer, where I learned to capture the awesome reality of an aircraft carrier’s operations. Though my time doing so was brief, as I was flown off ship on my first deployment to the Gulf, and was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure, and was medically retired from service.
After the Navy, I decided to go back to school. I earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Philosophy, asking the big questions of life, and developing a more capable mind. Aesthetics, or the Philosophy of Beauty, was deeply intriguing to me.
After college, I was weary and uncertain about what to do with my time, as plans to become a college professor of philosophy did not pan out. I was now on dialysis for my kidney disease, and living comfortably on my military retirement, raising an ever growing family with my devoted wife, and in need of a constructive activity to keep me busy. That’s when I turned my attention and energy to the study of art, in particular landscape painting in oil.
Like I’ve said, I did not attend Art School. But that doesn’t mean I am strictly self taught. I have been taught by many great artists.
Thomas Kinkade was probably my first inspiration to the beauty and joy of art. Kinkade’s charming little seascapes and light houses, or his heartbreakingly happy “Home Town” suite, opened up to me the possibility of communicating happiness with my art.
Bob Ross, the beloved television personality who taught America to paint was another inspiration to me, and more. Bob Ross actually started to lay the basic foundations on how to put paint to canvas and create the illusion of depth and distance. What Ross did was inspire me with the idea that painting was magic, and the paint brush a magical wand I could enchant with. In Mirkwood below, one of my earliest paintings, I followed along with Bob Ross in an instruction book. Though the tree forms and grasses are simple, I love how the creepy atmospheric light in the distance pervades the scene and sets an emotional mood reminiscent of the dark and gloomy Mirkwood from The Hobbit.
Erik Koeppel, a very successful and brilliant artist on the east coast, paints in the tradition of the Hudson River School, prioritizing atmospheric perspective and tonal nuances through glazing. Watching both of Mr. Koeppel’s painting tutorials, and making studies of his work, I have learned a great deal, and my painting skills were propelled from my Bob Ross days. Apple-Picking on an Autumn Morn was created following closely the general sweep of space and morning light of Erik Koeppel’s instructional video Techniques of the Hudson River School Masters. Though an embellishment of the original design and vision of Mr. Koeppel’s, I learned a great deal about the Hudson River School style and painting technique.
Asher Durand and Birge Harrison also helped to inform my art, through reading and rereading the little book entitled Landscape Painting. From observation, sketching, and being true to Nature, to composition, vibration, and refraction, this little book is a treasure of knowledge for the budding landscape artist. In The Road Goes Ever On, I was intrigued by the thought of representing the charming little landscape of Hobbiton and home of Mr. Bilbo Baggins. The atmospheric perspective achieved in this painting was a direct result of my studying the words and paintings of Durand and Harrison.
Perhaps my favorite teacher, and by whose art I am truly inspired is Andrew Tischler, a contemporary artist out of New Zealand. Tischler is not only a Master Painter, he is also a Master Pedagogue. I have watched, and re-watched, his painting tutorials, and can truly say I would not be where I am today as a painter were it not for his invaluable instruction. Again, taking up the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit painting themes, Rivendell was inspired by the blockbuster hit of my childhood, The Lord of the Rings, by Peter Jackson. I thank Andrew Tischler, and credit him for this painting, for he taught me, more than anyone else, that persistence, and “getting stuck into” the painting process is what makes for great artwork. This 30×40 painting was mostly rendered with a Number Zero, super-small liner brush, and about 100 studio hours to complete. That’s a great exercise in patience, if one considers I started out thinking I could paint a masterpiece in a half hour like Bob Ross.
Today, I work out of a home studio, nestled down here amidst the Southern Illinois’s Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, where I endeavor every day to learn more about my craft, to represent with my paintings the Beauty and Glory of God and of His Creation. To that end, I have invested in yet another painting tutorial from a master painter, Joseph McGurl. His masterful approach to the canvas and technical brilliance in painting living light is an inspiration to me, and I hope to learn everything I can from his instruction.