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So the concept was complete and it was time to paint.

With most paintings I do, I actually stage the composition (except for the birds) and I photograph it. That photograph is what I then paint from.

But in this case, the painting was not something I could stage. In my mind, it was lots of pieces and parts that together would make the whole. Initially, I had only a few elements of the painting that I felt confident in. One of those was the image I started with: a variety of birds perched on a suspended stick. This represents the beautiful diversity of Americans as well as the motto of the United States, “In God We Trust”. With the painting now started, I let these elements dictate what would come next.

I begin every painting by layering red oxide on a wood panel. These are the little pieces of reddish orange that can be seen throughout my paintings. I use a palette knife to apply the majority of the paint, then brushes for the final details. With the many layers of color that I apply, it is necessary for me to use acrylic paint due to its quick drying time. When I finish the image, I mix a concoction of turpentine, linseed oil, and oil paint which I apply and then selectively remove to achieve the final glazed effect.

At the end of this piece I was exhausted. We don’t tend to consider the physical demands of making art. I was so focused and consumed with this painting that it was not until I was done that I realized the toll it had taken on my body. But the final result and the feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment made it all worthwhile.

For me, painting takes faith. When my creative reserves are empty, I have to trust that they will be filled again. This is life. With all the struggles, mistakes, and lack of clarity, we have to keep going – we can’t stop.

I didn’t. Next week you will see the result.

Post Series: "In God We Trust" - The Making of a Painting

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