I had the good fortune of meeting Paul Strisik and his wife, Nancy, in 1984. I had been invited to accompany a group of artists to Spain and Portugal for two weeks of painting. There were 19 of us, many of them now deceased. Along with Paul, the group included: Ken Riley, Paul Calle, Glenna Goodacre, James Boren, Ray Swanson, John Asaro, Nancy Boren, Dalhart Windberg, Dave Halbach, Dwayne Bryers, Roy Grinnell, Mimi Jungbluth, Mike Desatnick, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, Tom Hill, Gerald Fitzler, and Joe Bohler…a very talented group to say the least. I still believe I was blessed to be a part of such an esteemed group of artists. (Click images to enlarge)
I feel that God’s sunlight on a single blade of grass is such a miracle and so difficult to capture in paint, it is worth a lifetime of trying.
Paul Strisik was a very prominent artist in America at the time., a signature member of the American Watercolor Society, and an Academician of the National Academy of Design. He was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1918 and studied under Frank DuMond at the Art Students League. A longtime resident of Rockport, MA, Strisik died in 1998. He not only was a great artist but also a wonderful teacher; in fact his book “The Art of Landscape Painting”, published in 1980, was very important to my growth as a fine artist. In 1995, he followed up his first book with another, “Capturing Light in Oils”.
While reflecting on that 1984 painting trip, I remember the special time of conversation I had with Paul and his kind encouragement to me, as I was just beginning my fine art career. To my mind he was a straight shooter, shunned all the politics of the art world and was just interested in doing good work and told me to concentrate on doing the same.
When you paint things exactly as they are, you don’t show people anything that they couldn’t see for themselves; you’re telling them what they already know.
These cherished memories of him and our conversations prompted me to reread his book “Capturing Light in Oils”. It is basically a rewrite of his first book, but both are packed with helpful advice for the artist, so I’d like to share a few of his comments.
The chapter that captured my attention is titled, “Conception and Composition”.
If you have been reading my blogs at all, you know that a theme I regularly go back to is the “painting’s concept”. Paul Strisik identifies it as “your conception of the subject”. He considers that a most important consideration…and the real measure of a painter.
The question then that must be asked is, “What do I want to communicate?” The answer to that one will most likely be found in answering this question, “What made me stop and look?”
If you’re not excited about the subject, the viewer won’t be either.
Whenever something grabs you and you feel you must take a photo, or capture it with paint, Strisik believes it is not the details of the scene you’re responding to but instead your emotional reaction to it. You’re responding to the mood…an affect of light falling upon the subject, thereby creating an irresistible combination of light, halftone, and shadow.
The job of the artist is not to create a blueprint of the subject but rather to capture your reaction to it. If facts alone are enough, just take a photo. The camera does that pretty well, with a lot less effort. “Your eyes don’t tell you what to paint, your mind and feelings do”, says Strisik. He believes it is beneficial to create smaller paintings en plein air because it forces the artist to capture the very essence of the scene without all that “additional entertainment”…detail.
So if you’re an artist about to create a painting, or for you non-artists who are just looking and enjoying…ask yourself this question, “What is there in this scene that interests me?” You’ll both be the better for it.
To view more of Paul Strisik’s work, click HERE
To purchase “The Art of the Landscape” HERE
To purchase “Capturing Light in Oils” HERE
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