The idea for this exhibit was born when I discovered an abandoned roadside market outside a dwindling town. Once this had been a thriving business, someone’s livelihood and dream. What happened? A new road had been built, bypassing the small town. Bypassed, I thought. So much of the history of the West is about being bypassed. Changes in climate, economic conditions, and transit routes mean that once thriving places can be left behind. Homesteads sit empty when the family moves on (or moves up to a bigger house). Ghost towns sink into ruin when the mines play out. Small country grain elevators are no longer needed once trucks replace original rail lines. Whole communities that once thrived are worn down by wind and weather, to be reclaimed by the earth. For years, I have been painting “A Disappearing West,” the relics of our earliest settlement and the places slipping away all around us. This exhibit shows paintings that are especially poignant to me because they tell the stories of who we were, what we endured and achieved, and how our values of hard work, community, and courage shaped what the West was, and in many ways still is.
I love the land, history, and people of America, especially the West, and my goal is to capture the fading traces of an old way of life.
I’m a rambler, always exploring the back roads and byways, looking for iconic places and objects to paint. I go to places few artists would ever find or venture to explore, and that gives me subject matter that is often unique.
My style is also unique, focused on rich color and “you can feel it” texture. Seeing my work, many people are surprised to learn it is watercolor because of its strong composition, vividness, and detail.
A camera is always with me, and when something catches my eye, I’ll take dozens of photographs. And then—I file those photographs away. It may be weeks, months, or years before I come back to them. Some ideas fade with time, but others grow stronger. Often it is when I am just waking up, drifting out of a dream, that an image comes back to me, and I know it’s time to paint it.
I start by sketching, then drawing, the image, focusing not on what was actually there but what I thought or felt when experiencing it. What story is it is trying to tell me?
In truth, I’m a portrait painter. To me, everything has a face, and I’m painting that face not just “as it looks” but as it wants to be seen. My role is to show its power, its poignancy, its beauty.
I stand when I paint, which is unusual for watercolor, but that allows me to move back and forth, looking at the work from different distances and angles. A successful painting should catch your attention, from across the room as well as from close in, and should interest you more each time you see it.
Above all, I hope my work brings an emotional connection to our disappearing West, and a deeper appreciation for the value the old or ordinary thing we might otherwise overlook. There is beauty, joy, and inspiration all around us.