How My Paintings Become Sopwith Camels or the High-Flying Thrills of En Plein-Air.
I pilot a painting. Rev it up. Get it off the ground, something--not Inspiration in the traditional mystic, religious, fantastic or legendary sense, but something real in our environment or our humanity that I find inherently splendid to my eye giving it lift. Then I set it on autopilot for a while…in the direction I hope it will go. I do check the instruments—draftsmanship, painterliness, color (paying special attention to grays and values), communication and visual balance—rather diligently. If nothing bad happens, I relax and enjoy the flight.
There are dangers in the process. Those clichés of habit and art school and patron taste often disguise themselves as that cheap inspiration I mentioned in the first paragraph and try to take over the flight. My job is to prevent that from happening. And I must recognize when the painting has run into a problem that it cannot pilot through by itself. Then, my job is to interfere. A little. Prevent the mutiny. Then hope that my ability, such as it is, has not been insulted, will not sulk, does not sputter and quit the business. The sudden drop in artistic altitude can put my bowels, along with a clog of caustic, sometimes creative, epithets, in my throat. It is a ticklish situation. It gives a precarious thrill.
So, I get a rush. So what? What does anyone else get out of it? Hopefully, a visual thrill. An intellectual buzz provocative enough to tingle away at a few deep-seated understandings. Although, you do not see the flight itself (the actual creation of the art in my studio), when you see a Sopwith Camel or a Fokker Dr. I Triplane sitting on the tarmac, something in their inherent visual character connects you to tens of thousands of thrilling flights, to over 15,000 shoot-downs, to exhilarating air shows, to exotic movies and heroic personalities, to victories and tragedies and romance and history and dedication and duty and courage and fundamental value and wise proportion, and more; you can just feel it. So it is with art.