I, like many artists, like to paint often in series. That is, to paint a subject repeatedly in a series of paintings. The repetition of the form makes it a natural motion for the painter and allows the mind to focus on brushwork and paint-handling. The repetition takes away a lot of decisions that clutter the mind and slow the brush, allowing the painter to probe for and gain a greater understanding of his subject.
For me, perhaps the best example of this is Dave Higgins and his Yellow Houses.
This is a house that Dave could see from his bedroom as a child in Binghamton. He has painted it over a hundred times and paints it solely from memory now, although the early version at the bottom is from life. Doing this particular painting over and over has allowed Dave to work with color and composition variance without having to struggle with trying to define the forms. They are already engrained in his painter’s muscle memory.
I’ve always thought of doing a painting in a series in much the same way as a musician performing one of their songs. Each performance is the same chords, notes and lyrics. To do this song in the same way each night would be pure repetition but for the true artist, each performance is an opportunity to experiment with nuance and subtleties in tone and texture that make each performance unique.
For those of you who have seen this series of paintings over the years, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the repetition of these pieces does not diminish the beauty and variety of each individual piece. If anything, they are strengthened by their inclusion in this continuing examination of place. Each is a new and different slice from Dave’s vivid memory and his unique mind.
Each stands alone as a distinct piece. Great stuff from a great painter…