Where I begin

At age 17 I was astonished to see a painting that looked like the real object, it was a painting on raw brown canvas of water drops. Each drop of water had its own liquid quality, painted with delicacy, a technical wizardry of gray and white paint. I was fascinated that someone thought to paint a common object…water on raw canvas, and to such a degree it fooled me. I liked this kind of painting immediately. The sign at the Denver Art Museum called this work, Reality of Illusion or trompe l’oeil.

I would see illusion painting again while studying art history; murals portraying a hole in the ceiling with angel faces, peering down at spectators, looking up at a heavenly scene of blue skies, white clouds and seemingly angels on protruding ledges casting shadows on the wall, was my second example of trompe l’ oeil painting. Somewhere I saw a piece of paper painted to look real, it was at this time I thought I could paint paper to look real. As an undergraduate student in 1979 – 80, in my senior year, I gave it a try. My attempt to paint a piece of brown paper, looked like a painting of the paper…I needed to practice.

During my graduate work at the University of Wyoming (UW), I was very interested in fool the eye painting. I found a book on trompe l’oeil artists. Paul Sarkisian had an image in this book, newspapers cut into circles with a hole cut out of the middle, like a doughnut. These images floated, casting shadows of the paper on the canvas in a doughnut shape. This was 1985, since then I have been pursuing a painting career founded on trompe l’oeil imagery.                                                                                         

In the spring semester of 1985 at U W, I entered a painting, illustrating found objects I picked up off the floor and counters in the classroom I was working in. I called it “Winter Sampler.” It was an oil painting of used tea bags, chips of wood, string, pencils and paper. This painting won best of show in the oil painting category at the Colorado State University Art Symposium.   I knew when I painted it, I liked what I saw. Wow, to win first in a good competition…I felt I was on to something.

I love this kind of painting; it sets me free to paint mundane objects, like notebook paper, pencils, paint brushes and string with other common materials, forming a display looking like a collage. When people try to grab the paper or tape and pull it from the canvas…I have succeeded on one level. It’s not the plain, almost valueless entities people see, but the irony of painting items like these to have a visual value.

30 years later, I am still at it, painting and drawing reality of illusion imagery. It is still fun and challenging. Like any discipline, my work has evolved and grown into my own style of painting. Today I have posted a couple of pieces for you. Let me know what you think about my first blog!  

All the best,

Ron McIntosh