A Ride Through the Forest: Past Work, 1981-1983
by Waitsel Smith
In 1980, I graduated from college with a major in painting and moved to Charlotte, NC where I spent the next three years trying to launch a career in fine art; but I ended up, three years later, living in the Midwest and illustrating articles for a Christian publisher. Those three years in Charlotte were difficult but formative. Besides painting, I worked as a bartender and a construction worker building houses. As far as painting style, I call this my "Cutout Period" because I ended up cutting out (as with sissors) a lot of the images - sometimes to create a 3D effect, but other times just to change a background. I hope you enjoy these pictures, some of which have never been shown before.
About half these pictures are for sale. For information on how to purchase, go to the bottom of the page.
For the most part, I didn't draw or paint from photographs in college because I wanted to develop the discipline not to be dependent on them. I believe this is the first painting I ever did that was based solely on a photo. Before that, I just worked from life or drawings I had done. I'm glad I waited because I think I retained a liveliness that you usually don't find in paintings done from photos, unless the artist is very good.
This is a detail. The painting is done in watercolor with touches of pastels and is entitled "A Ride Through the Forest." I call it that because I can imagine a rider on horseback coming through that opening on the left on his way to fulfill some urgent business. You will probably imagine something totally different. That's part of the fun of paintings. The image is 29" x 19" and is signed in the lower right corner and dated 1982.
This is a still life done from life using pastels. I haven't worked much in this medium before or since; but during this period, I probably did about a dozen pastel drawings. This one is called "Frontier Fruit," partly because of the colors, partly because of the types of fruit, and partly because of the lighting. They just remind me of the American frontier; so I added a "suggestion" of a forest in the upper right.
This is a detail. The image is 24" x 18.5" and is signed in the lower right corner and dated 1982. This drawing is for sale.
Anyone that knows me knows I love trees, and especially oak trees. Oaks are Biblical. In Old Testament times, when people struck a deal or made a covenant, often they did it under an oak tree. In addition, they would place a huge stone under the oak as a "witness" to what each party had agreed to. It would remain there until the agreement was fulfilled. I don't know why the oak was chosen for such service. Maybe the longevity of oak trees and the association of age with wisdom made them appropriate candidates. Whatever the reason, they have witnessed much, and therefore deserve respect. And so, appropriately, this drawing is called "Under the Oak."
This is a detail. I don't know at what point I decided that rough watercolor paper was the best ground for charcoal, but that is what I used for this drawing, and I have done many, many such drawings since. I think I like it because the tooth in the paper makes possible a broader range of tones, with rich blacks on one end, and creamy whites on the other. This drawing was done from life. The image is 19.5" x 19.5" and is signed on the left side and dated 1982. This drawing is for sale.
I was so into oak trees at the time that I used an oak in the logo for my art business. Since then, I've kept the "Flying W" as one of my marks, along with my signature. My slogan "Artist Representing Truth" was somewhat pretentious.
I said earlier that this was my "Cutout Period." This is one of the first paintings that I ever cut out. It is a watercolor of tall ships in a peaceful harbor in the South Seas at sunset. I cut the painting out and backed it with gold foil to give it a 3D effect, and to create different lighting effects in the sky area when the viewer moves around. (Notice the difference in the sky area between the two views of the painting above.) This painting is double-matted and in a cherry frame. The overall size is 35" x 25"; image size is 25" x 15". It's signed in the lower right corner and dated 1982. This painting is for sale.
This is another cutout from this period. It's called "Golden Eagle in a Coconut Palm" and is from a black and white drawing someone commissioned me to do. Again, notice the lighting effects, this time in the sand. "Golden Eagle" is quadruple matted and framed as shown. The overall size is 35" x 27"; image size is 27" x 19". It is signed in the lower right corner and dated 1982. This painting is for sale.
Another charcoal on rough watercolor paper, this one called "John and Magnum." It's a portrait of my cousin John, sitting beneath a giant oak in a friend's yard and holding his bull terrier, Magnum. It's dated 1983.
The oak tree in that previous drawing was in the yard of the owner of this house. This is "The Mullis House," a former landmark in the town of Lenoir, NC. It is done in pen & ink and is dated 1983. In 1989, when Hurricane Hugo passed through, the oak was destroyed. Not long after that, the house itself was destroyed by the bank.
Detail of drawing. This house was a fine example of cottage style Tudor Revival architecture, far better than most of the modern versions you see today.
This is a pen & ink drawing that has been cut out. It's called "Pumpkins Out Front." You see these types of pumpkin "sales lots" around Halloween. This one was in eastern North Carolina. I just thought the house with the pumkins made this extremely interesting. The two men on either side of the house are modelled after my dad when he was a teenager. This picture is dated 1983 and was sold to an art dealer.
I thought I'd finish up with a self-portrait. This was done in 1983, from life, in watercolor, and is called "Man in a Jogging Suit." People don't usually realize that when you draw from life, you have to close one eye in order to destroy the 3D effect caused by having two eyes. To get a scene from life to paper or canvas, it has to be flattened, obviously, and that's how you do it. This was shot under glass, so it has a few reflections. I apologize for that.
Four of these pictures are for sale. If you'd like to buy one, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I also do commissions. If you'd like to see more of my work, go to www.creativeillustrator.net
Waitsel Smith, August 8, 2011
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Text & artwork © 2011 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.