There is no camera around when I paint.

Here's my new painting Uncharted II, 30 x 40", oil on canvas. I'm letting it dry on my studio floor until it's ready for me to brush on a protective coat of picture varnish. 

It's a painting I made entirely from my imagination. A friend asked where it was done. I told them really nowhere- I wasn't so much after a location as a state of mind. 

When I'm painting there are no cameras or photographs around. That makes my process a little different than the big majority of realist painters today. It's ironic as my grandfather, John Capstaff, was the inventor of the world's first commercially available color film (Kodachrome).

I don't have anything against cameras, but to me the real subject of a painting is the vision an artist has on the inside. That's notoriously hard to photograph. The point of art is to emotionally stir the viewer. If they feel in a different place after they've looked at your work you've done your job. A good piece of art energizes the viewer, it takes them on a little journey. 

I work from either direct observation or from my memory. It's a deliciously slow process, far more time consuming than working from a camera. Relying just on your eyes and your imagination as you paint puts some extra slack in the reins. You end up wandering in directions you hadn't meant to go. Of course you go down some paths that turn our to be dead ends. You backtrack and try another way, and then another. 

Looking at one of my completed paintings I find 100% of the time my favorite things are things that I didn't realize I was doing when I was making the painting. That sort of wandering takes up a lot of time, but it's the only way I know to get to a place I've never been before. Hope you'll come along.


  1. Philip, you're so right. While the technical process of painting may seem like a formula to some, to the artist it's more happenstance and redirection, employing a diverse set of technical thought and application. Even the initial concept, which should not be encumbered by what is, tends to evolve during the process. We realists respond to each brushstroke, each shape, each color, just as expressionists do. In the final work we wind up with recognizable subject matter and theme but the instinctive quality that makes the art our own is intangible.


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