Who were the watercolor artists who inspired you most?
It would be easy to name Sargent, but there are many whose work I like for different reasons. I have always appreciated the many ways artists use the medium to achieve their results. Technique alone seems secondary to the expressiveness of the individual artist.
Your Bethlehem Steel series is extensive. How did you become interested in Bethlehem Steel?
When you grow up as close to an operation as that there’s no escaping it and there’s no explaining it unless you’ve lived it. It was ever present. It is just a part of you. One generation of men after another in my family lost their lives to it if they worked in the plant rather than in an office. The noise from the foundries never ceased, nor did the odors and the dirt. The black grit would be on your feet when you took off your socks; it crept into the house daily. After college, I thought I couldn’t get away fast enough. However, when a Boston Globe front page article announced its closing in 1995, it struck me emotionally. I was suddenly very aware of its importance historically to me, to my family and to the country. I went through the plant four times after that, painting a place gone quiet, but reflective of its former might.
Are you usually working with several photos?
I often print out a number of photos before beginning my drawing.
You have been teaching for some time. Have you found this a help in your own work?
Yes and no. I like to be alone a lot, so being with my classes is a really nice break from myself! I like their enthusiasm and sometimes their own work ethic pushes me out of my feeling lazy space. In other ways, because I have to break everything down to answer their questions, it holds me back a little. I enjoy the spontaneity of watercolor (yes, even with detailed work), but I start thinking too technically at times because my mind is still caught in question and answer mode.
I just read a quote attributed to Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician who played a key role in sending Apollo 11 to the moon and back. She said, “In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong.” It struck me because in art there is NO right or wrong. Just keep painting and don’t try to emulate another painter’s work. Eventually your work will look like your work and you will have learned many things along way to make your work unique. Technique will naturally start to fall into place. As I tell my students, watercolor is a lot of negative learning. Just remember to have fun doing it. It’s just paper.