Matinicus Island & Cushing, Maine

artist statement

My fascination with the natural world and the challenges of the creative process has been central to a lifetime of adventures. During a full-time career in education, I was also a husband, parent, wildlife photographer, documentary filmmaker, sculptor, woodworker, writer and painter. I am now a reasonably successful, home-schooled painter whose efforts have evolved over years of observation, experimentation and hard work. 

At this moment I use acrylic paint and watercolors in a variety of styles, techniques and media to record life on a small island on the outer edge of Penobscot Bay, Maine with occasional forays into the world of mainland birds and fish. Years of island living has developed a deep respect for the struggles, challenges and fragility of island life and taught that a clear focus and simple message in both life and painting best honors the beauty, community and fragile edges of the small island on which I am privileged to live and work. For the past dozen years I have painted on Matinicus Island during the warmer months and along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania in the winter. This winter will be the first living and working on the west bank of the St. George River in Cushing, Maine.

My work is primarily focused on challenges to the culture and environment of islands in the Gulf of Maine and mainland riparian communities. My on-going Condon Cove series focuses on the cobble-stone beaches that form the edge of Matinicus Island. A second series of work developed over the past two years has focused on research, observation and paintings of North American trout and the impact that gas exploration and hydraulic-fracturing (fracking) has had on water quality and native fish populations.  Starting with a 2012 exhibit at the Maine based Island Institute, each of my major shows has had a specific environmental focus and been developed with an organization that seeks solutions to environmental, educational and preservation issues.

the artist reflects on his Condon Cove Series:

“...The paintings in this series are portraits of individual rocks that indirectly resemble actual beach stones. Each stone is positioned and painted in a spontaneous and meditative approach focused on defining its unique existence. My best work creates a "beach" that can only be discovered outside recognizable patterns, surfaces and shapes and reflects a constantly shifting world that exists in a complicated, unbalanced and chaotic pattern altered by each wave. Within this chaos I attempt to capture a moment of reflection, resolution and calm free from a traditional sense of balance, depth and space. Although some will attempt to discover an overarching organization and structure, I hope that most see the entirety of the work and acknowledge that, as in life, it can be a challenge to determine a clear course, a single point of focus, a narrative or even a quiet spot for the eye to rest…" 
news: Summmer, 2017
Late Summer, 2017 - HighWater Studio, Matinicus Island, ME

Every work of art develops from a series of intellectual and physical decisions. Each requires planning, effort, equipment, practice and a consistent stream of decisions...

...The carved pike began with the subtraction of material from a block of pine, followed by the addition of metal and color in patterns that grew to represent a specific fish. Painting a pike on a flat surface involved applying paint to a neutral ground in an additive process that continued until a satisfying relationship between all the parts was realized.

I painted the top Northern Pike in watercolor and acrylic paint on paper in 2013 and carved the bottom one from wood, applied metal and covered it with acrylic paint last month. I consider both paintings equally successful.

Two nothern pike sculptures The Cushing artist Bernard “Blacky” Langlois said that one of the reasons he moved from traditional painting to painted sculpture was that “paint is too sophisticated, too removed. When I work(ed) with it the distance between my hand and the canvas, the distance the brush represented, was too great. The balance was wrong. Painting is ninety percent intellectual and ten percent physical. “ (When) working with wood, the balance is “closer to even.”

     Shaping wood with hand and power tools requires specific physical skills in service of a plan which first identifies parts and patterns that visually define a specific creature and then how to reveal them by removing material from a block of wood of a size and strength to support your original three-dimensional design. When you start to carve you need to know where the curve of feather will emerge from a smooth surface and whether that curve will emphasize the wingtip or return it smoothly to the overall design. My carvings are rooted in reality, but the process of design, carving and coloring often push them into the realm of the possible. The tail and wing feathers of one duck are layered and twisted sheet metal that capture the softness and delicacy of feathers with edges sharp enough to cut your finger - an artistically exciting choice that was a constant from the initial design.

     The doors of HighWater Studio will open and paintings, carvings and prints will be on exhibit by the time the island apple trees bloom in a few short weeks. I hope you will stop by the next time you wander the southern end of beautiful Matinicus Island. Until then, my work can always be discovered at dsearsart.com.

Onward and upward, Dave
Cushing, ME
     past news

exhibitions: 2016

publications: 2016

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