Borrowed Patterns and Palettes

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Borrowed Patterns and Palettes

Ernst Gombrich’s great insight that artists do not learn to paint landscapes by walking in nature but, by looking at other landscape paintings reveals how artists must acquire a vocabulary of models (a Pictionary) just as aspiring poets must be well read to succeed. Like musicians and poets we learn through acquiring and testing other models. We react to precedents. In his book, The Feeling of What Happens the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio describes how we create and recognize patterns for ourselves and our relationship to external objects and, how we expand and change our auto-biographical self through exposure to new objects. This post aims to examine that process as it affects artists.

Before painting my two latest painting examples (example 1, Shore Rocks and Vines & example 2, Pond Thick with Lilies) I employed art historical memories subconsciously as well as consciously. Tracing the labyrinth of multiple memories is infinitely difficult but, I can find a few images that served to affect my palette, subject and compositional patterns. For instance, Example 3 from 1869 by Andrew Warren demonstrates a standard composition with an angle of reddish rocks set against a wedge of blue ocean. Example 4 by George Bellows from 1913 on the shores of Monhegan Island provides a pattern of flora and rocks entangled along the shoreline. You may see for yourself how I subliminally sourced these paintings for my own images.

Example 1. Shore Rocks and Vines, oil on brushed gold enameled laminated aluminum, 36×36,

Example 2. Pond Thick with Lilies, oil on white enameled laminated aluminum, 36×36,

Example 3. Andrew Warren, oil, Mt Desert Island Maine, 1869,

Example 4, George Bellows, oil, Shore of Monhegan Island, 1913,

My painting, Pond Thick with Lilies, appears to have subconsciously borrowed from Andrew Wyeth among others. His example #5 demonstrates a use of amber flora with varieties of texture and detail along its edges backed by darkened woodland. These are qualities which surface in my work as do aspects of Willard Metcalf’s shoreline Poppy Garden from 1905. His myriad brush touches offer a thick and complex surface suggesting a multitude of floral bits. He also uses a high horizon as I do. He placed his blue wedge of water behind the floral pattern. I inverted the blue-water wedge shape and placed it in the foreground to direct you into the painting. I too, used a similar high horizon. I could find many other examples of paintings which influenced my own too examples but, by demonstrating the effects of a couple of historical works I have shown how our subliminal memory helps us find and expand a language of expression.

Example 5, Andrew Wyeth, 1970, Spring Grove watercolor,

Example 6, Willard Metcalf, Poppy Garden, 1905,

Next I have a sequence of steps demonstrating my creative process for my two paintings. To observe the evolution of “Shore Rocks and Vines” consider an earlier version of the image in step 1 in example 7. Example 8 re-presents Shore Rocks and Vines in its present state.

Example 7, step one of Shore Rocks and Vines,

Example 8, Shore Rocks and Vines in its present state,

I have three steps to illustrate my process for Pond Thick with Lilies. Example 9 represents an early stage where I was blocking in shapes and textures. Example 10 represents a later stage which I would later amend by adding more water across the lower area and subtle blue lights peeking through the dark above the pond area. Example 11 re-presents “Pond Thick with Lilies” in its present state.

Example 9, step one, laying in shapes and textures,

Example 10, step two, after water areas were established,

Example 11, step three, present state of the image after amendments to Example 10,

Join me this November at Art of the Carolinas November 10, 11, and 12. Contact Jerry’s Artarama.

November 10 workshop is: New Tools, Techniques and Textures. Use registration code FR1709.

November 11 workshop is: Methods of the Ancients with Flowers and Landscapes. Use registration code SA1709.

November 12 workshop is: Fast City Life. Explore new methods, tools and perspectives to evoke cityscapes. Use registration code SU1709.

Visit then, enter art of the Carolinas in their search box to register for the workshops or, go directly to or, call 800 827 8478 ext 156.

If you find yourself in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver,Washington area for the then please visit an exhibition of my new works at the Attic Gallery in Camas, Washington (just across the river from Portland). The Attic Gallery is at 421 NE Cedar Street, Camas, Washington. Tuesday-Saturday 11-5pm.

If you find yourself near Sharon or Lakeville Connecticut then please visit the White Gallery in Lakeville, Connecticut, 342 Main Street. The exhibition is titled “David Dunlop’s Electric Cities”. Friday through Sunday Noon-4pm, 860 1029,








  1. Gena Gutierrez

    Wow David! You are absolutely amazing. Just beautiful. You always outdo yourself each time I see your new pieces.

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