The Dark Side

Despite the best clean-up efforts of groups like the St. Croix Environmental Association, the shorelines here on St. Croix are sometimes littered with debris – mostly plastic. Some is left behind by careless beachgoers, but far more is deposited from the ocean itself.

Shield - 2009

Shield - 2009

That beautiful blue Caribbean Sea, an apparently limitless resource, is in fact full of garbage that drifts ashore. I think that sad fact was on my mind as I began this image.

This rocky shore had interest, but needed a spark to bring it to life. After some work, the rusty metal parts in another photo became the green shield tucked under the most interesting of the rocks.

As the image developed, it became darker and almost macabre — not something I had intended in the beginning. In fact, looking at it now, the feelings evoked are almost a surprise. Strange.

Blog? Why a blog?

It's a what?  -  2009

It's a what? - 2009


Maintaining an art blog requires some work. So why do it?

Two somewhat unexpected benefits I’ve already learned:
• Developing a post forces me to think about my work and articulate those thoughts.
• Posting a new image encourages me to make sure it is the best it can be.

And two that I’ve read about:
• A blog is a way to expand the audience for new work, and helps create a web presence.
• A blog can create opportunities to receive advice, praise and criticism from other artists, and just enjoy the interaction with others who have similar interests.

We’ll see about those…

So just what is that little creature?

Buck Island View

One of the visually stunning aspects of living on St. Croix is the nearly constant view of the ocean and the shoreline. The colors and textures of the transition from land to water inspired this image.

Buck Island View - 2008

Buck Island View - 2008


This was sold at a benefit show for Haiti Community Support, a local non-profit dedicated to helping a small Haitian community. It has also led to the beginning of a “shoreline” series.

It would be easy, working with the color fields of ocean and beach, to venture off into purely decorative abstraction. I like to think “Buck Island View” is enhanced by the natural elements in it that help ground the image and evoke some of the wonder that the sea is due.

I enjoy producing images that are a pleasure to look at. But it is also important to me for a piece to have some meaning beyond pure decoration. Balancing these elements is one of the things that makes the artistic endeavor endlessly challenging and exciting.

The Irresistible Egg Fruit

There was this pile of bright yellow-orange egg fruit on a red table at St. Croix’s St. George Village Botanical Garden last summer. The jumble of shapes lit with an intense swath of sunlight across the front was irresistible. So I took it home with me.

Occasionally I will go to work immediately on a photograph to produce a final image. However, just as common is the months-long gestation that this one required. Several times I worked on it, was dissatisfied and put it away — only to bring it out later, delete a layer or two (a little like scraping the paint off?) and move forward. That start and stop process sometimes produces an image that is over-worked. But in other cases, it is the only way.

Egg fruit - 2009

Egg fruit - 2009


The painting-a-day discipline of carrying a painting forward to completion each day is different from the luxury of allowing an idea to gestate, going back days later, and reconsidering the strokes of the brush (or in my case, the stylus). Not better or worse, but different. So does that different process lead to different results?

On Developing a “Signature Style”

There has been an interesting debate recently on Sue Favinger Smith’s “Ancient Artist” blog about the importance of developing a signature style. Martin Stankewitz has weighed in with his own contrasting opinion in his Squidoo Lens on the subject.

"Rechargeable Sponge" 2008

Rechargeable Sponge - 2008


This has been an issue for me. I often venture off in different directions. While I could force myself to stay within a certain “box” for commercial purposes, I know that box could also become a prison (as Martin suggests).

On the other hand, an identifiable “style” is a likely outcome of the daily discipline of working on one’s art. In time, a style should develop and become apparent on its own. It will not need to be forced. Having a recognizable style may be a mark of maturity and accomplishment as an artist — assuming the artist allows that style to gradually evolve over time.

Style as a mark of maturity and accomplishment may also be one reason the galleries and marketing gurus encourage anyone who wants to advance commercially in the art world to find a style and stick with it. A “signature style” provides the appearance (although not necessarily the reality) of maturity and accomplishment. As a result, some may feel pressured to lock into a style for commercial purposes, perhaps before a genuine personal style has emerged on its own.

In the end, this is one more facet of the age-old tension between art for art’s sake, and monetary and public success. I know few people who have no need for the money or the sense of approval and respect for our work that an occasional sale can provide. Each must resolve the tension between commercial success and artistic freedom in their own way. I will be interested to see how I resolve it for myself.

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