When looking at one of my Pointillist paintings, you are likely looking at ‘hundreds-of-thousands’ of individual dots of pigment placed on a surface. That estimate is at the very least. When creating art using this technique, I apply dots of pigment on the surface until there is only room left to layering dots on top of one-another.
There is, in some works, hundreds of hours of working time in a single project. The size of the dot and overall size of the piece are determining factors. The physical size of the canvas can impact everything from the degree the painting appears to be impressionistic, to the length of time for completion, from how you visually read the surface, and from what distance that is viewing is optimized.
My foremost inspiration is the natural environment – landscapes and lifeforms. Not just the big lifeforms like plants or animals, fish, and insects. I am fascinated by the minute forms of life that surround us and inhabit our bodies. And I think about how these forms of life interact, react and are impacted by non-living parts of the environment such as soil, minerals, water, air.
I conceptualize the dot to be analogist to the molecule or atom. Both are the individual sub-units and building blocks to something larger. Like atoms, molecules or even cells, dots of pigment join into a collective and form a whole. I also explore theoretical, or conceptual similarities in these units of individual color as representative of people and things in societies and systems. We are all part of a larger collective. It has become cliche, but nothing exists in a vacuum or is independent of anything else.
Close observation will reveal surface texture. The numerous dots of color impart a beaded texture and invite tactile exploration. I have frequently been told, by those seeing my work for the first time, that they want to touch it. That fascinates me. Pointillism is one of those techniques that really invite the fine arts connoisseur to step both close and afar in visually analyzing the artwork. I reflect on how the same is true of the world in which we exist when I examine Pointillist or Divisionist works of art.
I find the technique analogous to looking at something through a telescope or microscope and then stepping back to take in the 30,000-foot view of the thing you are looking at. Some things will disappear, others form relationships that weren’t seen just a second ago. There is a lot to be learned from adopting this kind of perspective and philosophy on understanding the world and our individual role in it. My work is just a small slice of that reality, an inviting beacon, the path of my following that mental trail.
Every work contains within it a struggle. It takes effort to complete a painting. I find they can be relatively easy to start. The choices of color and form seem endless in the beginning, but as the surface fills the options narrow and the work itself becomes more demanding in what it wants or needs to feel completed. This is when listening closely to the work, really seeing it, becomes crucial to successfully completing it. A very few dots of color can define an area in a finished painting.
I liken it to running up a hill. You can be full of breath and energy when starting out, but as the journey continues your energy starts to be sapped, you begin to flag, your heart starts beating harder. But the view from the top is always worth the effort. The concept is the same when creating a work of art.
Any work is begun, by application of layers of acrylic gesso to a chosen surface. I use photos, drawings, drawings of photos and composites. After deciding on a composition or subject, I project the image onto the canvas to ensure exact position. The image and outlines then rework with pencil. Adding or subtracting as the composition evolves. In short, I like to get as much of the details in place as possible. I might change my mind on details during the painting process, but this initial layout forms a solid roadmap.
From here on, I apply color washes, blocking in and further defining areas of the painting. At this stage I might use Fleur Paint. Fleur has a great gouache-like, matte finish. It dries fast and is easily thinned with water. I may use a glaze on top of the washes to add depth and further refine the color field, but not every time.
Next, I decide on a range of colors in acrylics. I use both Nova Color and Golden Paints Heavy Body Acrylics in my Pointillist painting. These are mixed to the desired consistency using Golden Super Matte medium and Golden GAC. I aim for a paint consistency that will hold the shape of the dot and leave the amount of texture that I want
Lastly, I begin to apply dots of color over the entire surface of the painting surface. This done in a loose, open manner. Until all areas have, a least, a few dots. The goal in this step is not to solidly define form, only to further activate the surface. I use a rubber tipped clay shaper tool, stencil brush or some other tool type instrument in doing this. I continue to apply dots until I am, in effect, filling in the spaces found in-between dots of paint, with more paint. From here, I begin to layer dots of color over the existing ones. This happens throughout the process of using an acrylic pointillist painting technique, but at this stage, is central to the final development of the painting.
At times, I leave background space revealed between the individual dots. They clearly remain some distance from one another. This was particularly true when I was using oils. I was much more concerned with the integrity of the dot. I moved from inks to oils, to watercolor and inks, to acrylics. As I did so, the manner in which I felt I needed to approach each work changed. I became more flexible. This has been an evolving process.
My representational works are clearly inspired by the natural world. Flowers, landscapes, insects, fish and visible lifeforms. My abstract works are more inspired by microscopic tissues. Cells, viruses, microbes – things unseen by the unaided eye. Each informs the other. I enjoy using a dot to interpret something that exists on a very small scale. One in which things tend to go unnoticed. And then in painting, to present it in a larger than life format.
Ultimately, there is a right-or-wrong, do-or-don’t, in how an artist can use an acrylic pointillist painting technique. Allowed space to exist in-between the dots of applied paint. Let the background color field open to play against the dots of color. Leave large areas free of dots of color with the background commanding its space. Fill the surface densely with dots. Work in paint, color, ink, or black and white. I find inspiration in the work of the Aboriginal Painters of Australia. They are an amazing group of painters who use a Pointillist technique, considerably.
I read, hike and travel. My artwork is informed by what is currently on my reading table. It is inspired by places that I have recently visited. I enjoy and find writing about my work to be important. In the process of writing, I can look at paintings and artworks I have made from positions of both ‘before I begin’, to ‘after completion’. I journal about that process and examine it in detail.
My library is full of books. I take copious notes when I read authors who write books on the subject’s I find interesting. These include the natural sciences, science, history, the human mind, the universe in which we exist and art of all passions. I look at the making of art, as an indispensable method and tool, in the thinking about life and my place in the cosmos.
After relocating to Hawaii, I began to build create a body of works that were inspired by the natural scenic beauty of the islands and their flora and fauna. These species may be endemic to the islands, but that is not always the primary consideration. These subjects fell easily into many of the Series of works I had begun before moving to the islands. They are an extension of my ongoing studies and inquiries.