Kidwell Farm #1, Influence of Hopper

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I have been thinking again about Hopper and his appeal toe. Looking over his watercolors two things are apparent–the light and the materiality. On the latter point this materiality is achieved through the roughness of his painting, even within the geometric layouts. He’s not focused on the jewel-like qualities of watercolor. When he paints a house, it’s weathered. Even where things appear clean at first glance there is still texture and complexity in flat surfaces. You can see the life that’s happened, see how that life has weathered the environment, in his buildings. Though a master of watercolor, his approach, at least based on instructional videos and YouTube searches, seems not to be common today. I wonder if that’s true, and if so why?

The challenge that interests me, I think, is to use the transparency and luminosity of the medium to the advantage of the roughness and materiality of the world. Having a background in history, change over time is a big question for me. In painting that would mean seeing the motif not just for what is is today or how we might hope it would be, but also how it became what it is, seeing that change over time, that life, in the facade of a building or in a landscape. I think that’s why Hopper, Homer, and Sargent appeal to me, why buildings appeal to me–after all what we build is a representation of ourselves–and why I have been focused on roughness and materiality in my painting.

Here’s the finished work from Kidwell Farm where we went over the weekend. Very much informed by Hopper obviously, but it was nice to deal with simple structures and lines after the last few loose and less structured California paintings. I will return to those again soon, but for now I am enjoying a short break working out other aspects of my emerging style.

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