I have been fascinated by the relationship of people and animals for many years. The Naturalists series of drawings and encaustic paintings was prompted by a confluence of events, ideas and longstanding interest.
I was commissioned to paint a mural in the new chess park in DeLand, Florida. Research for the commission caused me to think about the symbols of authority and spirituality expressed in chess pieces, particularly for the royalty. While working out of doors, a bug became entangled in my hair and led eventually to my thinking of other ways of crowning, subtler and livelier than with constructions of gold and precious stones. This and my interest in the expressiveness of the human face, in this case of women, and the real and symbolic possibilities of combining them with animals in paintings all converged.
Women who are crowned suggest heroic women. Not interested in portraying historic figures, I began to create my own mythic women, expressing qualities that might not be apparent from the outside. None of these paintings are portraits, although some were posed and resemble the sitter quite accurately. Some of the women are complete fabrications, assembled from faces I see anywhere and from my experience of more than thirty years of figurative painting. All are actors in dramas of my composition.
Just as dramatic parts are written with specific actors in mind, some of my paintings are actuated by qualities I perceive in specific women I have met. This perceived quality will likely not be portrayed by me in an obvious, linear fashion. It will probably take a convoluted route to the surface in a kind of metaphoric free association. A strong, activist, dedicated woman will not motivate me to paint her in silver armor leading an army, although I might think of her that way. She is more apt to be portrayed bonding with an armored creature from the natural world.
Regardless of my sources, instigations or intentions, in the end the painting is the thing, just as the play is the thing. I strive always to make the most effective image possible without regard to message, popularity or anything else.