the Dream Dance and Contemporary Animal Paintings
The Dream Dance and contemporary animal paintings are a synthesis of my Disney experience, my experience in East Africa and everything in between. The surreal contrast of beauty and the beast provides a playful setting for the celebration of life and the joy that life brings. And what better way to express the joy of life than a dance? My Disney experience has taught me about storytelling, both linearly and experientially. It taught me about the ‘suspension of disbelief’, fantasy and the whimsical. Humor can certainly play a role in painting and that there is a place for ‘cliché’. Each individual painting should be thought of as a passage from a larger story.
My experience in Kenya, East Africa placed me in the middle of the animal kingdom, the wonderful exchange and interdependence of all animal forms, large to small and wild, really wild. And then there were the indigenous peoples, not always living in harmony with nature and themselves. The experience as a whole certainly gave me a new appreciation for creation and my position in it; it’s where the rubber of life meets the road. There is wealth of subject matter for an artist to draw upon.
In the conception of these paintings, the saturated color palette is intentional as well as an active, painterly surface. I like the interplay of local and fugitive color, color contrast and value contrast. I want these pieces to be visually exciting to look at.
I began using technology to produce artwork while working for Walt Disney Imagineering in 2003, I developed new skill sets. Using primarily PhotoShop on a Mac platform, I started a new approach to assembling and composing artwork. Once satisfied with a composition produced in a digital format, I would then project it on to canvas and interpret my digital piece into oil. CGI is a wonderful tool for the artist!
The pig paintings were produced while living in Memphis, Tennessee. While there, I was struck by how iconic pigs were to the local culture. Barbeque whether wet or dry is a featured part of the culinary experience in Memphis. I made a trip down to the stockyards at Presidents Island and took a lot of photos of hogs. These photos formed the references for the paintings. These pieces are painted on contoured ¾” MDO board, a plywood product with a laminate of a coated craft paper for use by sign painters. Isolating the figures or pigs in this case, gives emphasis and visual drama to the subject while maintaining a bit of humor. The paintings are at life scale.
Field Oil Sketches
Most of the oil sketches presented here are produced around World Showcase at EPCOT. Early on Friday mornings, a group of us from Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) would meet at one of the pavilions at World Showcase to produce field sketches typically in oil. The other paintings are produced around central Florida with fellow artists.
The impetus to paint before work on Friday mornings began with a program started by WDI in the mid 90’s. Every summer, WDI would sponsor Imagineering artists and designers to attend weeklong painting workshops in Montana. Peggy Van Pelt started the program and our teacher-mentor was a talented Disney artist and illustrator by the name of Tom Gilleon. Away from the distractions of the work environment, the object of field painting was to focus on skill building and one’s own personal craft. During the run of this program, Peggy asked me to start a weekly paint-away at EPCOT and that’s how the Friday morning tradition started. I regard the years of attending workshops in Montana as the golden years of my career with Disney. The practice of plein air painting has certainly helped me develop skills and build confidence. I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow artists as well.