Looking around my website, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that I enjoy painting with a humorous bent. But in First Tracks, I set the joking aside to instead create what I consider one of my finest representational works to date.
On the surface, First Tracks is a still life of antique skis, poles, and boots. But on a deeper level, I used this exquisite equipment to study the aesthetics of both balance and contrast.
For example, in terms of balance, my creative question was: How do I position these long, narrow objects and couple them with light and shadow to please the eye? Thinking about contrast: How do I use the light and dark colors and the glossy and muted textures to both represent the objects and also create interest?
Much of my success in answering these questions lay in the configuration of the scene itself. It was imperative to position the skis where they could be fully visible yet at an angle that would create intriguing shadows. I ended up moving the whole composition from place to place, ultimately staging the work in my garage so that I could catch natural light and have the blue sky outside reflect in the patina of the skis.
My inspiration for First Tracks was a visit to the Alf Engen Ski Museum in Park City, Utah. All the ski equipment in the image is from the 1940s: The skis are varnished wood, the boots leather, and the posts are bamboo with leather wrapping. A companion piece, Snow Day was painted around the same time.
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