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  • Amy Spitzer

How I Paint and Why

The painter Pierre Bonnard would paint from memory the things he saw and drew in his daily life. I paint peonies that remind me of the ones I loved in my mother’s garden, sunflowers reminiscent of those that I grew in my own garden, pictures of landscapes from Palm Springs, California where I vacationed with my family every winter and many more essential memories.


I draw shapes on a flat surface that form puzzle-like configurations and simultaneously afford a view of a three-dimensional space (my memory world)—a paradoxical design of two seemingly opposing fields. My vision is to unite flatness with depth using a variety of means so that the observers can experience them at once, much as we experience the many paradoxes of our lives.


When I begin, I paint the composition, but I don’t have any idea how it will finally look or how the process will unfold. I do know that initially I will work through certain stages. I will first create an opaque underpainting and then “color” that by glazing the painting with transparent paints. Then I will begin refining the composition using opaque colored paint and white and more explicitly define objects and areas. From there, I will play with assorted elements until what I see corresponds to a vision in my head.


My journey varies from painting to painting, and I use sundry tricks to mold my conception. Some of these enhancements happen at the end of the process, and sometimes I spend considerable time trying to figure out what the painting needs. My teacher, Richard Yarde, had told me that as I became more proficient, I would spend more time thinking about my work and less time executing it. I can often spend an hour thinking about where to place a leaf and then take 15 minutes to paint it!


Our lives are a patchwork of planning and surprises that leads us in new directions, and so are my paintings. As I paint, I plan and discover, recall and explore, and most of all seek to share the feeling of life through paradox.


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