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Breath on Glass - April 2021

Washington Post Review

The title for my show is inspired by a quote attributed to James Whistler who said that, “Paint should not be applied thick. It should be like breath on the surface of a pane of glass.” Once I heard this I immediately felt a connection to the words, a connection to how I paint, so much so that “Breath on Glass” was born.  As a Tonalist painter, I’ve channeled this philosophy and have focused on atmosphere in my landscapes as both a physical and emotional means to find a timeless result.  ‘Breath on Glass’ is my love letter to Whistler and the many other Tonalist painters from his and from my era.


My process is nearly 100% organic and from the gut.  I very rarely start out with anything inside my head resembling a finished idea, or composition.  I will take photos and use them more as inspiration at the very outset, but quickly abandon them as the piece takes on a life of its own.  As the paint is applied the work will start to dictate to me what it needs and I learned that it’s best to just let the painting be what it wants to be instead of forcing my preconceived idea upon the panel.


I apply the paint in thin layers over a toned panel usually working dark to light. Then, using a completely dry, ordinary hardware store paint brush I expand upon the thinness of the paint layer by pushing the paint to its limits to cover the surface. Doing this reveals the underlying layers which creates depth and subtle changes in value, tone, and mood.  I might do this a few times and the variance in paint layers also creates some unique vibration as light penetrates the paint at the surface as well as underlying layers, bouncing back to the viewer at different speeds.  This optic effect will again be enhanced at the end stage when I typically use opaque paint as the light source, or what I call the “causeway to the eternal”.


And here’s where I need to explain, in a bit of a plot twist, that I do not paint landscapes.  At least I do not think of them as traditional, academic depictions of an actual place.  I paint compromise between the temporal and eternal; very much a product from studying the American Tonalist school painters.  It’s a way of traversing the human experience across time and space and it’s my hope that the viewer will be moved by the imagery and by their own experiences in a way that produces a unique emotional or spiritual reaction.


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