I have always had a connection with realistic paintings in a way that I’ve not felt with most abstracts. This is not to say that some abstract paintings haven’t stopped me in my tracks, but not to the same extent that realism has. Growing up outside of St. Louis, I still remember seeing my first Chuck Close painting at the St. Louis Art Museum. A part of me didn’t believe that it was really a painting. How can anyone do anything that perfect?
Only recently have I appreciated the deconstruction of realism. I have been following an artist that I saw in Denver in 2006 named Jenny Morgan. She went to graduate school in New York and was told that if she kept doing straight realism, no one would notice her paintings. She is a very bright and hardworking artist, and one look at her paintings will reveal that she has found brilliant ways to deconstruct her realistic hand.
Of course, doing something well always looks easy to the onlooker, and so I decided to try my luck with deconstruction. It turns out that it takes quite a vision to figure out a successful way to deconstruct a painting while still giving the viewer the same amount of information – and perhaps even more – about the subject (no big surprise). It certainly requires an artist to pin down what they want to say about a portrait.
Gunner (oil on canvas, 24 x 48), shown here at the top right, was my first attempt at this. He is a German Shorthaired Pointer that I used as my model in Bird Dogs. I had the vision of sanding down his entire head to the red base layer, keeping his chest hair and whiskers in realism while pairing him with a pattern of a similar color palette.
In Flemishness, (oil on canvas, 30 x 40) I sanded parts of the subject and the background down to the red-colored base coat. In doing so, I was hoping to relate the two – a traditional, old European background with a modernly-posed, American subject.
In truth, I have always believed that I would never be able to paint abstractly until going to the extremes of realism. Essentially taking the process one step further. This is why I love painting – it is a life-long journey of learning.
— Dana Hawk, October 2012