Painting Landscapes on Wood
I attended the University of Cincinnati back in 1982-83. I was a Fine Arts Major. One of the requirement among many was taking a class in oil painting. I had never worked with oils before. I was excited about trying a new medium.I have always love the landscapes and genres from the impressionist period. My first attempt would be creating landscapes similar to that period. I took on a big challenge however I have been painting on canvas since I was 13 years old. I desired then to work towards becoming a master painter one day. It a journey that has already lasted 32 years.( First oil painting of ship)
Many of the artists from the French Impressionist school have inspired the style of art I attempt to create. The use of color, light, and form with thick brush stokes provoked so much emotions in their paintings. From Edgar Degas to Cezanne I admired the voice that is convey through so many textures. While attending UC I also took courses in Black Studies. I visited the Taft Museum in downtown Cincinnati to look at the landscapes by Robert S.Duncanson. He was a black artist that came out of the Hudson River School of art in the mid 19 century. This school was a collection of landscape artists in the White Mountain, Adirondack, and Catskills area. They were inspired by the European masters also. It as rare to find a black artist with that level of training at that time in history. He painted large murals and fresco in the Taft Mansion which is now a Museum. The landscapes are truly breath-taking. He exiled himself during the Civil war to Canada. He was a passionate landscape artist that really inspired a love for painting nature.
“I have no color on the brain; all I have on the brain is paint” Robert S Duncanson
My professor Robert Cox exposed me to many new black artist. Duncanson was one of many I began to admire. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio however I had the privilege of working and exhibiting with many world-class artists . Including my brother Charles Dillard, Kojo, Aminah, Queenie, Smokey, and Larry Collins. My brother trained me as painter. In the following weeks I will post on my blog many of the artists that are world renown I have been mentored with and exhibit with in the last 32 years.
Before returning to the Army fulltime in the summer of 1983 I worked with my professor Robert Cox at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum . She wrote most of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the house. We worked in the basement of the mansion that was built for her by her father. The basement was full of closed off tunnels that lead out of the city. It was part of the underground railroad in Cincinnati. There were trap doors in the ceiling that allowed food and clothes to be dropped down to the escaped slaves. I worked in the basement creating 4’ x 6’ mosaic for 10 weeks that summer. It was an amazing experience. I studies the history of slavery and abolitionist at the Ohio Historical society to better depict the history. I created a similar piece in watercolor many years ago from those mosaics. It was life changing for me to have that experience. It propelled me even further in my love for history, landscapes, and genre. I will always be indebted to Robert Cox for that experience. I arrived to my new Army post in Colorado that fall. The first moth there I was assigned a mural to paint that was a landscape/war scene depicting Medics helping others on the battles field. I was medic in the army and an artist.
The Preaching Tree
Since then I create black art from old photos and researched black history. I recently self published my first art book this year. It was small attempt to put 32 years of art into a small books. I hope to self published my of art in more books this next year. The idea of The Preaching Tree came from researching the life of slaves on plantations. Some of the white churches did not allow slaves to worship with them. So the slaves would gather around a tree to hear the word of God preached by some of their elders. The trees were redeemed in the purpose on the plantation in my eyes. The tree was used for lynching slaves. The slaves used the trees to hear the word preached to get through a very hard life of trials and abuse. This painting of the preaching tree is one of many to come( at the left). I like working in series to develop my style in a subject. My book The Preaching Tree is a collection of artwork that depict the history of Black in America up to the 1950’s. In the future I plan to add more books with specific collection of art highlighted.
I paint on wood panel because I enjoy the response from the paint I get from the wood’s texture. It allow the surface to have a slightly rough earthly feel. Diego Rivera has had a strong impact on my use of wood panel and Art deco style painting of the 30’s. I first saw his murals in Cincinnati in the train station. I was in love with his freedom of political and genre art. Many years later I experiment with cracking gel mixed in acrylic paint to create black 19th century landscapes and murals on wood . The first three pieces I completed looked aged and historical. I was able to create antique cracked texture on the art. ( Black Village painting below is example of the texture I created). The wood is very forgiving when it come to applying mixed media. Many other surfaces I have tried to paint on with mixed media can create unwanted effects. I am still experimenting with different mixed media to create fresco like texture on landscapes. The painting at the top titles “ Chocolate Kisses, Butterfly Braids” was painted on a 3’ x5’ wood panel. I use recycle wood when I can. MDF boards is has a great surface for painting. I prime the surface with white paint before painting with acrylics. I use 1/4 – 1/2 wood. Painting landscapes is a rewarding experienced. I hope to explore different technic and mediums over the next few year to develop a distinct style in my efforts. My love for the French impressionist, African-American artist, and the Dutch painter will continue to produce artwork that reflects a depth of emotions, history, technic, and color . I am truly addicted to the surface of wood as medium. I am inspired by the work of God in nature that provoke thousands of paintings in my soul! Still Away – 1999 Watercolor of Ohio River Slaves Escaping