How amazing is this world we live in? Sometimes I feel as though I am dreaming, it is so colorful and alive. To travel and to paint this life, well… that is my dream.
The style in which I paint is inspired by my first experience of freedom as a painter. Before that, painting for me was exciting, but it was also suffocating in a way. I felt that the work I produced had to emulate the work of others before me, of those whom were deemed “good” by myself and society. Imagine squeezing your passion, your inspiration, into a box with its walls made of conditions, restrictions, limitations. Limitations that I set and the whole time I didn’t know that I set them. I felt squeezed.
I was taking a painting class at the local college. We were given an assignment to find a picture that we wanted to paint and purposely abstract it. Up to that point I had only worked minimally in abstract art, focusing on creating realistic paintings which were so exact that it was difficult to determine whether they were a painting or a photograph. But I had never combined the two: abstract and realism. Excited for this “grand experiment” I searched my archives. I chose a photograph from within a book my father had given me from one of his travels to the mysterious country of Turkey. It was a photo of a Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul. It had all the qualities I was looking for: a tight composition, the round lines of the dome of the cathedral complementing the linear lines of the trees in the foreground, and it was a place that I knew nothing about. That I had no pre-conceived ideas already in place to hold me down to represent it accurately was perfect!
I was very much into color at that time, for me, color represents the joy of life, the character of this world we live in, life itself expressed through art. As I painted the scene I remember saying to myself, “Can I really make the trees this orange/yellow color? Trees aren’t orange/yellow. They are green, or different shades of green, or maybe sometimes they are orange like in the fall, but this isn’t the fall, this is spring! Can I really skip the amount of detail that is actually there in the doorway to this magnificent church?” And with one stroke I did just that. All the detail erased with one stroke and one color. What about the people? Can I nix them from the scene all together? At this point, all I was feeling was, “Why not?” I made the green trees orange and the detail in the doorway one stroke of color, painting the scene with no people in it. I was doing exactly what I wanted. I was overwhelmed with freedom and creativity. The box I had been painting in didn’t just expand. It vanished! I could literally see myself painting anything I wanted in complete freedom. What a realization this was! My elation carried me through the painting, from the deep ultramarine blue sky and the intense purple/blue outlines throughout.
With my new found freedom, I began taking my oils outside. I would set up my easel at different points of interest around San Diego, California, where I was living. There was the Self Realization Fellowship, Balboa Park, Point Loma Lighthouse, Hotel del Coronado, OIivenhain Town Meeting Hall, Tom Giblin’s Irish Pub, and all the beautiful landscapes just outside my front door. The sun would bake me for hours, the wind would try to take my easel, cars would whizz past (sometimes cheering me on with an occasional honk), people would pause to chat, and life would happen around me as I stood painting with freedom. And at the end of the day, I would return home to my one bedroom apartment with a painting filled with the sights, sounds, and essence of the places I painted.
I was so inspired by this new found love and freedom for painting, that I decided that there was no time like the present to live out one of my other dreams – to travel to Europe, visiting the places which inspired the Masters. To visit the places I had read about in books, seen in movies, and imagined over and over again in my imagination. Two weeks wasn’t going to be enough time to visit all the places I wanted to go. I needed three months. Three long months to really immerse myself in the European mindset, three months to relax and feel like I had nothing to come back to. Three months to express the essence of Europe in colorfully alive paint. I realized that I had to get the funds for this expedition and knew that my part-time job at the frame shop wouldn’t be enough. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to share my grand adventure with my community and in doing so, maybe I would inspire others in their lives. After all, who isn’t inspired by color and travel?
Stay tuned for more of my adventures in paint. You can meet Grant Pecoff at the ArtFest™ of Scottsdale, November 18-19, 2006. You can reach him at Ristalsi Gallery in Scottsdale at 480-699-7210, or online at www.pecoff.com