Refining an Idea

June 8th, 2015 / No Comments »

Many artists would say that the creative process is rather unfathomable.  We may know what it feels like to create, but it is a difficult thing to describe in words or explain precisely what is taking place.  As for me, all I know is that it can be a very gratifying experience, and I feel so fortunate when I get to make art.

One of the most rewarding aspects about the creative process for me is that it allows for a constant state of discovery.  Every painting begins as a mystery.  I may have an idea for a composition, or the mood I am after, but I have no idea what the final result will look like.  This is because I allow things to evolve as a painting comes to life.  The image will begin to reveal itself to me and I respond to what I see taking place.  In other words, I let the painting inform my subsequent actions as a painter.  It’s an exciting process.  It can be frustrating sometimes, but it can also lead to a pleasant surprises, such as when a painting turns out better than initially conceived.  And I often find this method of working inspires ideas for yet more paintings.

Last year I began working on a painting of an immense structure resembling an oil refinery.  My idea was for the image to have a dense maze of scaffolding, holding tanks, overlapping pipes, and smokestacks.  I wanted the overall composition to resemble a view down a deep canyon gorge that receded into the distance.  I had no clear idea what this image would look like but I was intrigued to find out.


I started by blocking in my composition with a light wash of paint.   I chose to make my color palette grey in order to give a cold, steely feeling to my painting.

work in progress

I then began adding darker tones to define shapes and carve out space.  I decided to introduce a series of walkways spanning the two sides of the canyon-like space.  I thought this would help create a sense of scale to the scene.  I continued to add more visual elements until things became satisfactorily dense. Even though I had painted the details rather loosely, I liked how from a distance everything felt very tight and intricately rendered.


I call the resulting painting “A New Religion”.  My idea behind this title is how so much of modern society seems to be based upon our reliance on fossil fuels. It permeates our world.  I consider its influence and impact on our civilization as being akin to that of a major religion. And therefore oil refineries function as the cathedrals of our age.

A New Religion

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