The Shape of Things

April 2nd, 2016 / No Comments »

As do many artists, I have certain stylistic preferences when I create art.  For example, I frequently have symmetrically balanced compositions.  I tend to favor making objects appear centered in my image.   I also like piling things  into mounds.  I’ve never understood why I do this, but I’ve come to accept it as genuine to my vision.


A few years ago I started working on a painting consisting of a massive pile of cars.  I think I must have been reminiscing about my childhood passion for Matchbox toys.  My “five-year-old” self would probably have considered a stash of these toy cars to be the ultimate treasure trove.


My painting portrayed a vibrant mass of vehicles piled into an insanely towering shape.  I was rather obsessed to paint all these cars.  Even though it became rather tiresome to create, the image intrigued me.  I actually found it quite funny.

acrylic on canvas, 54"x36"

I continued working on the painting until the overall shape resolved into a symmetrical column of automobiles clinging together.  I was surprised to discover my image felt more “alive” when I turned the painting upside down.  What had previously seemed a towering pile of cars now looked like a enormous hanging beehive.  I decided to call my painting Hive.

acrylic on canvas, 54"x36" SOLD $2600 April 2012 to Paul Gibson

Hive marked the beginning of a new direction in my work.  For years I had been seeking ways to address important issues like climate change and environmental degradation in my art.  I now saw the automobile as an apt metaphor to talk about these issues, as cars are indicative of our society and its dependence on oil.

Even after completing Hive, the idea of portraying a towering pile of cars remained in my head.  It was a compulsive image.  I soon had an idea to paint a pile of cars as a reef or island in the middle of the ocean.  I would show the car pile from both above and below the waterline, in sort of a split-level view.

My concept for this image was that, at some point in the future, climate change had melted the polar ice to form partially submerged islands of automobiles.  The cars, which were responsible for this transformation, were now in turn bearing the brunt of the consequences.  In other words, my painting would be about cause and effect, or the repercussions from our poor choices.


My initial composition was problematic.  It wasn’t immediately obvious this was a submerged pile of cars.  So I adjusted the vantage point slightly to reveal more of the water surface.  I then decreased the height of the pile above the waterline and introduced more color to the cars.  I also added clouds to the sky which helped to clarify the scale of the scene.

24" x 18", oil on canvas

Even though I had considered this painting to be a study, it was quickly purchased by a collector.  Therefore I decided to paint a new version for a show I was preparing for.  The new painting happened to be larger which allowed me to show more details.  But as I was working from imagination, I wrestled with how the cars would reflect in the water.

oil on canvas, 40"x30"

I call this painting Castaways.  The image is humorous, and yet somewhat poignant to me.  I like that it has lots of room for interpretation.  It’s interesting to note how similar this image looks to the initial stages for my painting Hive.  Obviously there was an image in my head that needed to be expressed.

oil on canvas, 40"x30"

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