I’m honored to learn that Looking Forward has received the FIG Award in the San Diego Watercolor Society’s 39th International Exhibition. Thank you to juror John Salminen and to all the volunteers that work behind the scenes to make the show possible.
This is a painting of my neighbor Matt and his mutt. Matt is a great guy who has recently come out of a very rough time in his life. His wife got into drugs and alcohol, went to prison, rehab, divorced him and left him a single father of an eight-year-old girl. Through it all, his dog Nala was by his side. Near our neighborhood there is an abandoned hospital campus, built around 1900. Running throughout the hospital grounds with Nala became therapeutic for Matt, and it’s where I decided to have him sit for the painting.
I love it when I can take a portrait beyond the simple likeness of a person and convey a bit more of their life. In this case, I wanted it to be more than just a “reverse rescue” story.
The foreground setting is the run down, decaying structure of the past, which moves to a bucolic, hopeful landscape. There’s a sense of the tension and stress of life that Matt has been living through; seen in his gaze and furrowed brow, and in his hand as he grips the crumbling stone. But there’s also an optimism in what lays ahead. He’s subtly back lit, rimmed in light. His dog is next to him, but not asleep—alert and watching.
“This painting succeeds both as a landscape and as a portrait,” says Juror John Salminen. "The artist has provided a wonderful obstacle course to draw the eye into the space and ultimately move it to the light.”
To me, Matt is taking one last look to the past with a face of strength and determination, and Nala is helping him look to the future—reinforcing that Matt isn’t starting over, but moving forward.