Painting the Southern Coast
276 pages
English

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276 pages
English

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Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser is a stunning collection of the works of West Fraser, one of the nation's most respected painters of representational art. A mastery of his medium and the scope of work ensure his place in southern art history. A true son of the lowcountry, Fraser has dedicated much of his career to capturing the lush, primordial beauty of the Southeast's coastal regions that have been altered by man and time. The 260 works in this book are representative of the sketches, studies, and finished paintings he has generated over his nearly forty-year career, works that depict coastal locales from Winyah Bay, South Carolina, to St. Augustine, Florida, and include Charleston, Hilton Head, Savannah, and the islands of the lowcountry through the Golden Isles of Georgia.

Fraser's goal with each of his paintings is to create a portrait of what he calls "my country." He captures on canvas not only the visual beauty of the landscape, but the spirit and soul of each place. From the sultry streets of Savannah to the winding waterways and unique environs of the region's sea islands, the works included offer a view of the land he loves. Fraser augments his visual tour of the coast with original maps of the region and location coordinates of each painting, enhancing the viewer's knowledge and appreciation of the region as well as Fraser's artistic gift.

Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser includes essays by Jean Stern, executive director of the Irvine Museum, and Martha R. Severens, Greenville County Museum of Art curator (1992-2010) and authority on southern art. Fraser has also written an autobiographical essay in which he discusses the experiences and influences that have shaped his work and his life as one of America's noted landscape artists.


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Publié par
Date de parution 30 juin 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611176964
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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P AINTING THE S OUTHERN C OAST
Painting the Southern Coast
T HE A RT OF W EST F RASER
With Introductory Essays by Jean Stern and Martha R. Severens
© 2016 West Fraser
Published by the University of South Carolina Press Columbia, South Carolina 29208
www.sc.edu/uscpress
25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/
ISBN : 978-1-61117-694-0 (cloth) ISBN : 978-1-61117-695-7 (paperback) ISBN : 978-1-61117-696-4 (ebook)
TITLE PAGE IMAGE: PLATE A
Tidal Pool
2007 | 11" × 14" OIL | DAWS ISLAND , S.C . LATITUDE 32°18'29.37" N : LONGITUDE 80°45'28.37" W COLLECTION OF BILLYO AND PEGGY O ’ DONNELL
FRONT COVER ILLUSTRATION : Sunlight , 2014, Ossabaw Island, Ga., latitude 31°44'6.07"N : longitude 81°7'14.70"W, collection of Darrel and Carol Johnson
I dedicate this book to the three men who influenced and molded my interests and character. My father’s best friend, Olin S. Fraser, shared his passion for making things with his hands. My uncle, Charles E. Fraser, shared his intellectual curiosity and showed me how to “think outside the box.” My father, Joseph Bacon Fraser Jr., shared his passion for the outdoors and taught me about a good work ethic, humility, and strength of resolve. From his example, I finally learned how to be a loving husband, father, and gentleman. Most important, he helped me believe in myself. All three shared their passion for history and instilled in me the need for ethical stewardship of the land. All three are greatly missed.
CONTENTS
The Marshes of Glynn
Sidney Lanier
Acknowledgments

The Light of the South
Jean Stern
MAP A: THE SOUTHEAST COAST NORTH AMERICA : Winyah Bay, South Carolina, to St. Augustine, Florida
My Story
West Fraser
Sunset Point of Pines
Marjory Wentworth
The Artist in Perspective: West Fraser’s Love Affair with the Southeastern Coast
Martha R. Severens
The Paintings
MAP #1/ PLATES 1–18: Winyah Bay and Santee River Delta, Including McClellanville, South Carolina
MAP #2/ PLATES 19–65: Charleston Region, Including Rockville and Edisto Island, South Carolina
MAP #3/ PLATES 66–146: Port Royal Sound Basin, Including Edisto Beach, Spring Island, and Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina
MAP #4/ PLATES 147–179: Savannah to St. Catherines Island, Georgia
MAP #5/ PLATES 180–189: Sapelo Island to Brunswick, Georgia, Including Darien, Sea Island, and St. Simons Island
MAP #6/ PLATES 190–218: Cumberland Island, Georgia, Including Fernandina Beach, Florida
MAP #7/ PLATES 219–225: Little Talbot Island to St. Augustine, Florida

Index

Plate B
Spanish Roots
2008 | 30" × 36" OIL | DARIEN , GA . LATITUDE 31°22'15.54" N : LONGITUDE 81°26'18.05" W COLLECTION OF MR. AND MRS. GEORGE DEAN JOHNSON JR .
THE MARSHES OF GLYNN
Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)
GLOOMS of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven
With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven
Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs,—
Emerald twilights,—
Virginal shy lights,
Wrought of the leaves to allure to the whisper of vows,
When lovers pace timidly down through the green colonnades
Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
Of the heavenly woods and glades,
That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
The wide sea-marshes of Glynn;—
Beautiful glooms, soft dusks in the noon-day fire,—
Wildwood privacies, closets of lone desire,
Chamber from chamber parted with wavering arras of leaves,—
Cells for the passionate pleasure of prayer to the soul that grieves,
Pure with a sense of the passing of saints through the wood,
Cool for the dutiful weighing of ill with good;—
O braided dusks of the oak and woven shades of the vine,
While the riotous noon-day sun of the June-day long did shine
Ye held me fast in your heart and I held you fast in mine;
But now when the noon is no more, and riot is rest,
And the sun is a-wait at the ponderous gate of the West,
And the slant yellow beam down the wood-aisle doth seem
Like a lane into heaven that leads from a dream,—
Ay, now, when my soul all day hath drunken the soul of the oak,
And my heart is at ease from men, and the wearisome sound of the stroke
Of the scythe of time and the trowel of trade is low,
And belief overmasters doubt, and I know that I know,
And my spirit is grown to a lordly great compass within,
That the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn
Will work me no fear like the fear they have wrought me of yore
When length was fatigue, and when breadth was but bitterness sore,
And when terror and shrinking and dreary unnamable pain
Drew over me out of the merciless miles of the plain,—
Oh, now, unafraid, I am fain to face
The vast sweet visage of space.
To the edge of the wood I am drawn, I am drawn,
Where the gray beach glimmering runs, as a belt of the dawn,
For a mete and a mark
To the forest-dark:—
So:
Affable live-oak, leaning low,—
Thus—with your favor—soft, with a reverent hand,
(Not lightly touching your person, Lord of the land!)
Bending your beauty aside, with a step I stand
On the firm-packed sand,
Free
By a world of marsh that borders a world of sea.
Sinuous southward and sinuous northward the shimmering band
Of the sand-beach fastens the fringe of the marsh to the folds of the land.
Inward and outward to northward and southward the beach-lines linger and curl
As a silver-wrought garment that clings to and follows
the firm sweet limbs of a girl.
Vanishing, swerving, evermore curving again into sight,
Softly the sand-beach wavers away to a dim gray looping of light.
And what if behind me to westward the wall of the woods stands high?
The world lies east: how ample, the marsh and the sea and the sky!
A league and a league of marsh-grass, waist-high, broad in the blade,
Green, and all of a height, and unflecked with a light or a shade,
Stretch leisurely off, in a pleasant plain,
To the terminal blue of the main.
Oh, what is abroad in the marsh and the terminal sea?
Somehow my soul seems suddenly free
From the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin,
By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.
Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing-withholding and free
Ye publish yourselves to the sky and offer yourselves to the sea!
Tolerant plains, that suffer the sea and the rains and the sun,
Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won
God out of knowledge and good out of infinite pain
And sight out of blindness and purity out of a stain.
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space ’twixt the marsh and the skies:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:
Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within
The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.
And the sea lends large, as the marsh: lo, out of his plenty the sea
Pours fast: full soon the time of the flood-tide must be:
Look how the grace of the sea doth go
About and about through the intricate channels that flow
Here and there,
Everywhere,
Till his waters have flooded the uttermost creeks and the low-lying lanes,
And the marsh is meshed with a million veins,
That like as with rosy and silvery essences flow
In the rose-and-silver evening glow.
Farewell, my lord Sun!
The creeks overflow: a thousand rivulets run
’Twixt the roots of the sod; the blades of the marsh-grass stir;
Passeth a hurrying sound of wings that westward whirr;
Passeth, and all is still; and the currents cease to run;
And the sea and the marsh are one.
How still the plains of the waters be!
The tide is in his ecstasy.
The tide is at his highest height:
And it is night.
And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep
Roll in on the souls of men,
But who will reveal to our waking ken
The forms that swim and the shapes that creep
Under the waters of sleep?
And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in
On the length and the breadth of the marvellous marshes of Glynn.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The following individuals and organizations have kindly donated funds to make this publication possible:
Tommy and Cindy Baysden
James W. Lea III
Dean Moss and Wendy Zara
Larry L. Peery
Tom and Ann Ramee
Scott and Margaret Richardson
and
Charles H. Morris Center at Trustees’ Garden,
Savannah, Georgia
www.trusteesgarden.com
Friends of Spring Island, South Carolina
www.springisland.com
Greyfield Inn, Cumberland Island, Georgia
www.greyfieldinn.com
Heritage Classic Foundation, Hilton Head Island,
South Carolina
www.heritageclassicfoundation.com
Helena Fox Fine Art, Charleston, South Carolina
www.helenafoxfineart.com
Lowcountry Open Land Trust, Charleston, South Carolina
www.lolt.org
Montage Palmetto Bluff
www.montagehotels.com
Wells Fargo Bank
I want to thank the many people who have been instrumental in helping me make painting my career and particularly those who helped with this publication. I especially want to thank everyone who has ever bought one of my paintings. I seriously could not have made a career in the arts without your patronage and encouragement.
The staff at the University of South Carolina Press, especially Linda Fogle and Alex Moore, have nurtured the process, and I thank them all. I also thank Martha Severens for her scholarly interpretation of what I do and where I fit into this world of art and my friend Jean Stern, who has been supportive of so many artists and has encouraged me when I needed it. I thank Don Demers for steadfast friendship and setting the bar high. I also want to acknowledge the following for their help with the tasks involved with getting things done for this book: Alexandra Bankston, Sarah and Rebecca Fraser, Layton Fraser, Rebecca Fox, Stephanie Harth, Amber Rody, Jay Satter-field, Libby Smith, and especially Robert Fox and Colleen Diehl.
Tommy Baysden encouraged me to pursue this book project and has been my sounding board. He and others—Jim and Betsy Chaffin, Carlos Evans, Bert Ellis, Alan Fuerstman, Pamela Hughes, Bill Jones III, Kyle Lott, Jim Mozley, Kim Richards, and Scott Richardson—have all believed in what I do, which has made a big difference. Jeffrey and Kimberly Bisger, Mary Jo and Midi Ferguson, Bill and Lucille Hays, Jim Lea, Tom and Ann Ramee, Larry Peery, Charles Morris, Steve and Lark Smith, and David and Ann Westerlund participated in a big way to help me produce this book. I also thank these individuals because they have helped me present my work to the public: Mark Chepp, Ms. Keith Clausen, Duncan Connelly, the late Joe DeMers, Jim Cox, Stan and Jenny Eschner, John Evans, Paul Figueroa, Claudia Heath, Rob Hicklin, Russell Jinishian, Angela Mack, Janet Marsh, Holly McCullough, Irene Morrah, Billy Morris, my late friend Ted Phillips, Chris and Betsy Rector, the late Rick Simmons, Irene Simmons, Cathy Solomons, John Stobart, Tom Styron, Joe Sylvan, and Julian Weitz. I also thank Glenna Mussante, my publicist, for her ideas and help with editing.
Larry and Tina Toomer at the Bluffton Seafood Company, Micah LaRoche at Cherry Point Seafood, Frank Blum with the SC Seafood Alliance, and Chris Marsh at Spring Island helped me find the vision for an important message. I recognize Elizabeth Hagood and the Lowcountry Open Land Trust for what they do to preserve my landscape and for help in determining how to make the maps. And I am grateful to my dear and talented friend Jessie Peterson for her beautiful map creations.
Producing a book such as this is a daunting task. I am perfectly capable of making paintings and drawings and even writing a few words, but I could not have finished this project without my sister, Carolyn B. Fraser, stepping in at a time of need to make sure I got this book done and my friend and production manager, Lark Smith, who has gone beyond expectations and worked tirelessly to make sure I fulfilled my goal.
In my journey there have been many hurdles, detours, and peaks to navigate. Some paths have been manifested by the creative mind and are typical of my vocation, yet providence and fate have created others. Today, though, I find myself extremely fortunate. I have been blessed with great colleagues, friends, and family, and I am thankful for you all. Lastly, I want to thank my wife, Helena, with whom I lovingly share three daughters and a son. She has believed in me, encouraged me, and kept a smile throughout the ups and downs of this “life in the arts” we share. I am fortunate to have you as my partner and I love you completely.
The Light of the South
Jean Stern
West Fraser is among the best of the best artists in America. His paintings are founded on observation and reality. They are truthful and undeviating, and every work is a document of the artist’s obsession with natural light. He is an artist who shamelessly seeks beauty in his beloved city of Charleston and in the natural settings of the southeastern coast.
More than any artist I know, West is comfortable being himself. There is no elaborate theory in his work, no hidden message, and no vapid self-examination of the artist’s profound soul. Simply put, his paintings are beautiful and sincere and, most of all, universally appealing. In keeping with Sir Kenneth Clark’s perceptive definition of art, they do indeed “enrich the viewer’s life.” Today, representational artists such as West are virtually ignored by chic contemporary art writers, and yet the public loves their paintings and wants to see them.
I first met West in 1996, when the Irvine Museum toured an exhibition in the Cultural Olympiad, in conjunction with the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. As part of the tour, our exhibition was shown at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. On opening night, I was chatting with Paul Figueroa, at the time the executive director of the Gibbes, when I asked him if there were many plein air painters in the city. He replied, “There are just a few, and West Fraser is the best of all of them.” He introduced me to West, and I made an appointment to visit his studio at nine o’clock the next morning.
I was a bit early for our meeting, but at nine sharp I saw West walking toward me with two wet oil sketches in his hands. I was impressed not only by the quality of his work but, more so, by the fact that he had been up early enough to paint two plein air sketches! I decided right there that I had to get to know this wonderful artist and obtain his work for my collection.
Since that day my wife, Linda, and I have gotten to know West and his beautiful wife, Helena. We have visited them in Charleston, and they have visited us in Irvine. Moreover, we have been together at numerous museums and art exhibitions in locales as diverse as Bakersfield, Catalina Island, Charleston, San Juan Capistrano, Lake Tahoe, and Stockton. In October 2003, at the Plein Air Painters of America annual in Catalina, I watched for about two hours while West painted a dramatic 20" × 16" painting of the iconic Holly Hill House, overlooking Avalon Harbor. That painting now hangs in our home. I look at it every day, and it reminds me of my friends in Charleston.
West has a remarkable sense of tradition and of place. He has made it his life’s work to record the people, culture, and land of the South. A student of history and a keen observer of light and color, he has applied his extensive talents to produce several series of works that document the people and city of Charleston, the vanishing traditions of the southern coast, and the primitive and enduring landscape of the lowcountry and sea islands.
His depictions of Charleston are masterpieces of contemporary impressionism. They are everyday scenes of ordinary people, painted in situ, as they appear on the streets of Charleston. His style is bold, elegant, and filled with light and color. A true master of design, West looks, observes, and takes in what the city reveals and, with a deft sense of movement and verve, qualifies the scene and distills the visual essence. It is much like what Camille Pissarro did in Paris in the 1880s, except that West paints cars and trucks, stoplights and crosswalks, and storefronts and gardens. The viewer feels the immediacy and contemporaneous appeal of the scene. There is movement everywhere, and it is expressed in active forms and brilliant light. It is a delicate stasis of observation and intuition brought forth as elegant works of art.
West’s urban paintings are like no one else’s. They have their own unmistakable feel, and that only comes when artists have developed a style unique to themselves. By the word “style,” I mean the way an artist uses the two basic tools of all painters—color and form. West’s colors are gentle and soft, bred in the sultry atmosphere of the South. He does not abuse color for shock value; he coaxes it to do his bidding and spreads its brilliance throughout the painting.
He knows what he paints and he paints what he knows. The light of his region of the South has a defined quality that is different from that of any other part of the country. There is a consistent humidity and warmth in the air that makes its presence felt in the light, and West has mastered the visual nature of those characteristic tones of southern light.
Moreover, his inventive sense of composition is a quintessential aspect of his style. A street scene is a myriad of perspective lines, and the placement of forms and objects needs to be perfect or else the scene appears skewed or flat. His works have palpable depth, and the structure of his space guides viewers to what West wants them to see. Most of all, his drawing ingenuity comes off as easy and natural, a testament to his great skill in rendering people, buildings, and objects.
His landscapes are glorious documents of the beauty of nature. In my mind, landscape painting is the most noble of the pictorial arts and plein air painting is its most virtuous expression. West’s views of the southern coast are spiritual masterpieces. A devotee of nature, he treats the coast and its islands as objects of reverence, showing us an instant where time and place merge and become inseparable. Here, everything is as it has always been: ancient and natural. There are no people, no polluted sounds, no specious movements, just the intimate bonding between artist and nature. Through his painting, he celebrates the essential visage of nature, the unending transition between time and seasons, and as such, the meaning of existence itself.
As a distinguished American painter, West is part of the long tradition of American art. Landscape painting is a time-honored tradition that is inseparable from the spirit of American art. From colonial times, American art had been governed by special circumstances unique to this land. Unlike the art of Europe, American art was nurtured in the absence of empowered patronage. Institutions such as the monarchy or the church had been powerful determinants in the progress of European art. In turn, America’s democratic tendencies were powerful factors that led to the popularization of landscape painting as the ideal vehicle for expressing the American spirit, as it afforded an avenue to express God and nature as one, an understanding of spirituality that disavowed religious patronage, and it created a metaphor of the American landscape as the fountainhead from which sprang the bounty and opportunity of rustic American life.
Today there are many landscape painters, some of whom confront the landscape head-on, or en plein air. Perhaps like no other artists, plein air painters are mesmerized by natural light. The passion for light drives them to seek the genuine subject and paint it regardless of climate, weather, and natural impediments.
This is especially true for West Fraser, because more than anything else he captures the nuances of light. His art is an exquisitely proclaimed testament to nature, and the language is light. To him the expression of natural beauty is found in the radiance of nature.
Natural light does not stand still, and outdoors West faces the constant struggle to hasten his technique, the better to catch those few elusive moments of specific natural light so characteristic of his work. It is a daunting test, for with just a brief glance at any plein air painting, the viewer can determine whether or not the light is accurate and “feels right.”
There are numerous tales of artists battling extreme situations to capture the correct light. On one of his first trips to the Grand Canyon, William R. Leigh (1866–1955) misjudged the oppressive heat when he went out to paint. He was forced to stop working when his paints melted from the heat and rolled down the canvas. By contrast, on a visit to Quebec in the middle of winter in 1906, Alson S. Clark (1876–1949) put on three layers of clothing to go out and paint in Quebec Harbor, which proved impossible as it was so cold that his paints froze on the palette. While another artist would have packed up and returned home, Clark located a blacksmith who made a small iron box to hold a glowing piece of hot coal affixed to the underside of the palette. Unquestionably, Clark must have been freezing, but his paints stayed warm enough to allow him to continue working.
To devoted artists like West Fraser, good natural light is an irresistible lure. Edgar Payne (1883–1947), the distinguished painter of the Sierra Nevada, was set to marry artist Elsie Palmer (1884–1971) on the morning of November 9, 1912. Early that morning, Edgar asked Elsie to contact all their guests and reschedule the wedding for later that afternoon because “the light was perfect.” Elsie understood the artistic value of perfect light and readily complied.
The most important point of plein air painting is that it is not the end product; it is, in fact, the beginning. The technique of plein air painting is a vehicle, not a destination. It is how one starts the process of creating a successful landscape painting.
On location, West rarely encounters a subject that is initially all there, that will, so to speak, paint itself. He works hard at finding his subject and considers numerous options. He finds a likely subject and looks at the setting both objectively and in nonobjective ways, with the composition being primary in his mind. He visualizes the scene but it is rarely complete. He respects the original thought and idea for his painting, but very soon, as he works, the scene takes off on its own.
The only way to be sure a likely subject will really work is to paint a small oil sketch, and this he does, over and over, until he finds the scene he wants. Even if he settles on a composed scene, he needs to be sure the color works, and for that he must be there at the proper time of day. It may be at sunrise, or at various times of day, or perhaps at sunset. Each concept requires a plein air sketch. Sometimes, none of the sketches work and the idea is abandoned. He will keep looking, and eventually he settles on just the right depiction. Only then does he go into the studio, where the real magic occurs. The plein air sketch by itself is but a fragment and a study. The final work, painted in the studio, is what counts and what the artist is all about.
As a traditional landscape painter, West works in the studio from one or more plein air sketches. Here, the intricate task of enlarging the sketch into a large-format painting occurs. This is the most difficult part of creating a painting and truly the test of a great painter. Most artists cannot master the transition to studio work and are content to call themselves “plein air” painters, constructing entire careers just producing small paintings. Unfortunately, museums and major art exhibitions require major works, and if one does not paint large paintings, one does not get any exposure. In the end, these painters will have earned their irrelevance and anonymity.
West Fraser is equally adroit in the field and in the studio. He has earned his distinction in numerous museum exhibitions with his large, majestic paintings. After all, nature is expansive and one cannot portray its grandeur and majesty with small sketches.

Atlantic Moonrise Plein Air Study
2006 | 14" × 16" OIL | DAWS ISLAND, S.C . | PRIVATE COLLECTION
I love to compare the plein air sketch with the final, studio work. They are similar yet different works of art. The plein air painting will have less detail but will display a more immediate sense of the scene, while the final work will be more deliberate and cerebral and have more attention to detail. This is evident in the comparison of the sketch to the studio work of Atlantic Moonrise , which I rank as one of West’s defining masterpieces. The sketch is brilliant and quick, seemingly painted with great ease and fluidity.
The final work ( plate 90 ) is equally brilliant and is a fully developed testament to the beauty of Daws Island, a rugged and pristine locale that West often paints. The power and climax of the large, final work marks the culmination of the long process that began with the sketch. While the sketch has its own beauty and quality, it cannot approach the grandeur and magnificence of the final painting, and that is the whole point of portraying nature.
The long and noble tradition of American landscape painting has continued to our own time, and West Fraser is very much part of that tradition. The unbridled passion for light and place shows clearly in his superb paintings. At all times, his work captures the awe and reverence of the setting as well as the true, natural feel of the light of the places he paints. As it has been with painters of the past, West works hard and surpasses the numerous challenges and difficulties in his determination to create his art. The result is for us the viewers to enjoy, and that is simply the monumental beauty of his paintings. So, let’s look at these paintings, and enjoy.
My Story
West Fraser
I am a son of the lowcountry, a land along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina defined by history and geography. Since childhood my passion has been to capture, in paint, a portrait of this place I call “my country.” It is a place where daily the tide rises to meet a jungle-like land, caressed by humid air, pungent with the aroma of decay. The seasonal colors in the landscape are subtle, and the natural shapes are organic and ephemeral. The songs of the environment ring powerful and archaic. The palmettos chattering in a cool spring breeze, the great blue heron’s guttural complaints meeting the ebb and flow rhythm of the tides flooding the vast spartina marshes—it all courses through my veins. It is a sensuous feeling, and it draws those of us born here back home again. My ancestors worked the land and used its resources to advantage, and today I reverently use this same region for inspiration. I find my muse here in the lowcountry.
I shall begin my story by telling you that I am not accustomed to talking about myself. You see, I come from a long line of modest men—that’s the way they make them in the highlands of Scotland. Yet, if by chance some of my French blood turns me to boasting, I have Puritan genes to temper that inclination, and of course I have ample blood of the Irish to spark my passion.
I was born into an old southern family. My forebears have made this region home since 1695, when the sons of the Bacons of Dorchester, Massachusetts, purchased land on the upper reaches of the Ashley River near Charleston, in a place that still bears their name. These colonial Puritans established a series of settlements in the South that are now considered lost towns, such as Old Fort Dorchester, South Carolina, and Dorchester and Sunbury, Georgia. I belong to the Midway Society, a fellowship of ancestors of these Puritan colonists. There is an old church just south of Savannah on Highway 17 where we gather annually.
My paternal grandfather was a devout man completely dedicated to church, family, and country. I mention him because he influenced the personality of my father, my uncle, and subsequently myself. He served in World War I in France (as an aide to Captain Harry S. Truman), in World War II, and in the Korean conflict, retiring as a lieutenant general. Returning home after each war to civilian life, he managed to serve as president of the Presbyterian World Missions and run successful businesses in coastal Georgia. Because “the General” spent so many years away from my grandmother Pearl, she painted—not much, but she did have a talent that surfaced while the General was at war. She kept a drawer in the kitchen full of crayons, pencils, and paper. I enjoyed many hours in that kitchen making pictures. I guess that is where my desire to make art began.
I was born in Savannah because there was no hospital in Hinesville, Georgia, in Liberty County, where my family has lived for more than 250 years. My life as a child was a pretty much idyllic, small-town experience. Mom and Dad loved each other, and we lived on a gentleman’s farm, where my brothers and I ran through the woods and learned to hunt, drive tractors, ride horses, and tend farm animals. However, it was our move to South Carolina that most influenced my future. My dad went there to help his brother, Charles, with a new-concept development called Sea Pines Plantation. It was being created in the wild maritime forest and marshes off the coast of Bluffton, South Carolina, just North of Tybee Island, Georgia, on a sea island where my father had managed a family timber operation in the 1950s. We always spent summers there and eventually settled full-time on Hilton Head Island in 1964.

Midway Church
2004 | 24" × 20" OIL | MIDWAY, GA . | COLLECTION OF THE ARTIST

WEST AS A CHILD | FAMILY ARCHIVE
Dad was a practical man and much loved by those who worked with and for him. He was the kind of man who did what needed to be done, whether for his family or for others. He was quiet and unassuming, hard working, honest, dependable, and kind. My uncle Charles had many of the same traits, yet he was a more gregarious and creative intellectual, who was never afraid of the limelight. These men, and the example they set, helped mold my personality.
My early days on the island were full of adventure: hunting, fishing, exploring. My brothers and I grew up with the land, and we were accustomed to the woods and waterways of an undeveloped sea island. We played hard and had great fun on the south end of that beautiful place. I did not know then how much the landscape would be altered. The changes were at first subtle, but steady. Our favorite camping spot became Harbour Town. I once asked my father why he was ruining the forest, and of course he gave me a practical answer—the land was to be utilized for monetary gain through development, not as a playground. I watched, and it affected me deeply as the forests I played in disappeared and the vista became crowded. My early contemplations then, about the natural world around me, molded my romantic spirit and conservationist philosophy as well the approach I take in painting. I am practical in my understanding of development in this land: the inevitability is clear, and I have respect for the insight and pioneering approach my father and his brother created as a development model. I believe, though, that the human role in living on earth is that of a shared passage, not an exclusive dominance.
Today I am fearful of the irreparable damage that has been made to these coastal ecosystems. I am not writing to explain the symbiotic relationships of the oceans, land, and sky, for there are many scientific and scholarly texts that do just that, as well as organizations directed by talented and dedicated individuals leading efforts to create awareness of the coastal environment’s role in the earth’s health and vitality. I am, though, working diligently to create a body of work that will outlast my time here and be a lasting tribute to a natural ecotone important to all of us here on earth and a cultural landscape of my heritage. This is my life’s pursuit, perhaps my reason for being.

The Sand Bar
2012 | 12" × 16" | OIL | BAR HARBOR, MAINE | COURTESY OF HELENA FOX FINE ART
I was thirteen when my aunt Mary asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I am still not sure why, but I told her I wanted to become an artist. Certainly, anyone at that age who decided to become an artist was dreaming. But for me it seemed to make sense to do something different, since I didn’t think the way my brothers thought. I can tell you now that dreaming is what it took to be an artist. I ignored my father’s practical encouragements, and instead I followed my uncle’s example by pursuing my own path as an artist. Setting the goal of success through excellence and hard work is what I learned from these two men. I did not understand the creative mind then, but early on I decided that my role as an artist would be to capture the vanishing coastal landscape honestly, with diligence and purpose.
Growing up on a large coastal sea island would be the learning experience that nurtured my right-brain-dominant, intuitive spirit. In retrospect, I now understand why my great-uncle Harry told me, after looking at my watercolor rendering of a colorful caterpillar, that I had a God-given gift I should nurture. I have considered that insight for many years and often thought that it was diligent practice that developed talent. Yet now I have come to accept that success in this field really requires both practice and talent. For me, the journey I embarked on to become an artist was not a choice so much as it was a calling. I had an innate intuitive spirit driving my life toward that call to make paintings.
That calling has defined the way I pursue my life. I say that because, since youthful summer employment, I have been self-employed and have had the good fortune to be able, as an artist, to support my family and my artistic endeavors. The pursuit I mention is an independent lifestyle, filled with daily challenges and uncertainties, yet with the freedom of self-reliance. The painting of places has been the dominant theme in my approach to this creative life.
I often travel elsewhere to paint other places, yet the majority of my work has been produced while exploring the southeastern coast of the United States.
I married young, while I was still in school, and my wife and I had three beautiful children together. After I graduated we moved to Savannah, and at that time I would paint anything to make some money. I did some commercial work and started exhibiting my watercolors. My mentors at the time were two famous illustrators: Coby Whitmore and Joe Bowler. They had moved to Hilton Head in the 1970s, and I had always enjoyed regular visits with them to hear stories of the glory days of illustration in New York City.

Daufuskie VFD
1985 | 19" × 23" WATERCOLOR | DAUFUSKIE ISLAND, S.C. PRIVATE COLLECTION
Following several successful shows at the Joe DeMers Gallery in Harbour Town on Hilton Head, I realized that I wanted to prove myself and so decided to move to New York City.
Serendipity played her hand, however, sending us to live in Solebury, Pennsylvania, in Bucks County rather than in the city itself.

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