Michael A. Davis
My artwork has been labeled as “romantic realism”. I haven’t really decided whether this is a negative or positive label, but none the less, it best fits my art style. An art judge, at a competition I entered in Ouray a couple of years ago, said in regards to the realist art pieces that were submitted “he couldn’t understand why an artist would waste their time, what with the equipment available today, just take a photograph and have a print made”. And I had an art professor tell me once that in the progression of art styles (I think it was a seven step process), realism was the half way point to true art.
The reality is romantic realism fits my soul. I started out in my pre-teens working with crayons, graphite and colored pencils. Every kid starts out with coloring books, but my cousin (who trained at an art institute) showed me that even with a coloring book you can shade, lighten and darken colors to give the impression of depth. In my teens I took art classes every year. It was during these years graphite and colored pencils became my specialty. These two mediums lend themselves to realism.To catch the subtle shading or the faint wrinkle in a face or hand, to me this was true art.
When I was finally able to change majors from engineering to fine arts, because of my scholarship stipulations, at the University of Colorado (1970 – 1973), I thought I was finally entering the world of my dreams. I took classes in acrylics, sculpting, drawing, etc. The upside, I learned new techniques and improved on the ones I already had The downside, the majority of the professors had a very negative attitude in regards to realism and if I didn’t progress into the abstract I was doomed to fail. Consequently, except for a few sketches, art was put on a back burner for about 35 years.
In 2009, I was watching a watercolor demonstration at The Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade, Colorado. I was intrigued by the technique, the blend of color and the detail the medium allowed. My soul was reawakened and that afternoon I bought a self-help book, paper, brushes and a few tubes of paint. Of course after reading the book, some of what I purchased wasn’t the best quality for a good painting, but they were good enough to get started with. I spent hours practicing the techniques described in the book. A week later I started painting my first painting and as they say the rest is history.
Being self-taught, I never took the approach that watercolors were inherently an impressionistic art form. To me, it is the easiest paint medium to use. You can bring out the intensity of the color by applying layers of wash and as a bonus you can remove color and blend with just a wet brush. You can’t do that with acrylic or oil. I once overheard a woman say “the reason his colors are so brilliant is because he paints out of the tube, like acrylics”. The truth is, I empty the tube into the pan on my ceramic palette and let it dry before using it. It is technique and patience that get results. You can paint lines as thin as a hair or inches wide. For me, watercolor is the perfect medium for my romantic realism style.
I take hundreds of pictures where ever we go. I hit the botanical garden in every town I visit. I love the brilliant and vibrant colors of flowers, which are usually the subject of my paintings. I’ll study each one looking for the perfect fit, for what I have in mind. It might be a part of one picture or several combined or they just give an idea of what I want. I use the same approach regardless of the subject.
I’m now retired and art is my life.