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“Realistic Non-Objective Painting”


larger and original painting

original and larger painting

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  It’s sort of like saying “jumbo shrimp”.  However, I found myself painting this way a short while ago.  I had just finished painting a small abstract (12″ x 12″) that I called “Breakthrough”.  It was a very important piece to me because it was a total departure from my recent work of the last 5 years.  I felt I had discovered a new “road” to explore for the next several years.  I’m really quite excited about it.  After finishing the painting, my only regret was that i wished I had painted “Breakthrough” larger.  So I did exactly that.  I painted the  smaller piece larger and this time I used a 36″ x 36″ canvas.                                                                                                                                                                                I found the two painting processes to be so different, it was amazing.  Hence “Realistic Non-Objective Painting”.  The process of painting the original (important word here) piece was my normal method.  Take a blank canvas, start putting paint on it, discover interesting shapes, build the work through layering and overpainting (what I call “erasing”).  Half of the time I spend sitting in a chair 10′ away, just looking at the work, trying to figure out where to go next.  The process is intuitive, deep within the unconscious, fraught with doubt, fear, sometimes self-loathing.  It’s all about making decisions regarding composition, color choices, etc, etc.   Hopefully, in the end, I have a valid, original work of art that pleases me  (and my muse, of course).
The process of painting the larger piece was so different, it startled me.  There was none of the previous process at all, no uncertainty at all.  Thank goodness, the self-loathing (“I can’t paint”) was gone.  I didn’t sit in a chair for hours looking at the work trying to decide what to do next.  I used the grid method of enlargement to copy a line drawing of the smaller piece to the larger canvas.  I then set about to reproduce the images, colors, tonal values (this was not easy in itself).  The painting took me about a quarter of the time to do, and when it was done it was virtually a replica of the smaller “Breakthrough”.
I have painted realistically early in my career and I abandoned it because I found it tedious and lacked the adventure that abstraction provided.  Once I had the picture in my mind (either with a photograph that I took, or a posing subject),  I knew what I wanted the final work to look like,  and the painting process was one of reproducing what was in front of me.                                          To me, it’s all about the act of painting.   Abstraction, with all it’s uncertainty, engages me totally.  It allows me to satisfy my need to create.  It allows me to satisfy my muse,  and she’s a very demanding lady.



  1. Greg

    Hi Joe,

    I've loved following the evolution of your work over the last years and the title of this post caught my eye such that I feel compelled to explore further and ask the question, what exactly do you mean by 'realistic non-objective'?

    As you know, I too have been exploring non-representational form languages (albeit mostly pinned closer to the suggestively recognizable), and have spent some time considering the differences between representational and non-representational, abstract and non-objective.

    So, if you would expand on the jumbo shrimp oxymoron, I would love to hear your thoughts! -Greg

  2. Lana

    Hi Joe,

    I like the 36 x 36". I found your comments very interesting.

    It is a discovery process. It's quite a lot of fun and quite enlightening.

    I paint on a blank canvas. The painting takes on a life as long as I remained focused and true to my inner self.

    Working small is controlled in a different way.

    Keep me informed. Nice work.



  3. JOMAC

    thanks for your thoughts, lana. we should have a studio visit when i get back home in october. id love to hear more about your process and discuss art ideas. your paintings have a weightless, timeless quality that i find appealing. thanks, joe


    Joe –so are you saying you liked in the end painting the larger one–Did it feel or carry the same potency as the smaller one?

    It is nice NOT to struggle , I know . But do you feel the work is as i

    ntersting? Can you or anyone else tell?

  5. JOMAC

    nicholas. it was sooo much easier that i was amazed. All the struggle, the pain, the uncertainty that encompassed the smaller piece wasn't there, because all i was doing was copying the original image larger. it was similar to painting using a photograph as your source.
    I made so many wrong turns, mistakes, etc in the creation of the original "breakthrough". None of that in the larger copy, and yet in the end, it's the same painting.

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