Drew's Artist Statement
ANDREW JOHN (DREW) MORRISON
Thank you for visiting my on-line gallery. The site owes its existence to the diligence, sacrifice, and unwavering support from my Father. My gratitude cannot begin to honor his efforts on my behalf. My thanks extend as well to my Mother and her husband for their loyal advocacy; to my sister and her husband for their encouragement; and, finally, to my Dad's wife for letting me have too much of his time. Thanks also to the owner of Woodside Gallery (Woodside, CA) for her insight, appraisals, and for hosting my first show -- she's been great in many ways! For the support and the interest some of you have shown in my work, I am truly blessed.
As to my art…
Creating the paintings is in some ways the easy part. Marketing and selling them is where the job really begins. If you have read my biography (on another page in this web site), you already know that I am self-taught. I have been drawing from a very young age. My first real breakthrough was a pencil portrait of my sister while on a car trip when I was about 11 years old. Prior to that, my fascination with detail began with plastic models and dioramas which I painted meticulously for a kid my age.
Living in Germany and traveling around Europe with my parents as a child introduced me to the Old Masters in the many museums we visited. To their credit my parents put up with all the bored-kid-griping, dragged my sister and me to seemingly every museum in Europe, and in the process expanded and enriched our lives far beyond what we would begin to comprehend until our later years.
The realism of portraitists such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Albrecht Duerer impacted me the most with their combination of dark tones and bright, warm colors resulting from the illumination of both natural and candle light. My fascination with using color to express light in all its permutations drove me to learn through trial and error the techniques I use to create scapes, scenes, subjects I find to be visually exciting. Since I essentially stumbled into most of my technical epiphanies, I've often been surprised when reading books about painting to realize: "oh, that's what I've been doing!" Reading has continued to be a valuable source of inspiration, instruction, and validation.
I have gravitated to a representational style which strikes a balance between subtleties of tonal priority and vibrant, pure hues that give paintings the appearance of possessing their own light source -- Luminism.
I begin with a substructure of 14 oz. 100% natural cotton duck canvas or 11-14 oz. linen, triple primed by hand with white gesso.
As to the compositions themselves...
Early in my career I relied on intuition, and I still do so for creating balanced, aesthetically agreeable compositions. I use either the Golden Section Rule or the Fibonacci Sequence, also referred to as the divine proportion. It is considered a fundamental dimensional proportion found in nature. Without getting too technical, these proportional elements contribute to attractive attributes in people, scenery, structures, and so on.
All of my compositions are hand drawn with earth-tone sketching pencils directly onto the gesso'd surface. I do not use projectors or other technical aids. For some works I will sketch a grid on the canvas in order to achieve accuracy with vanishing points and proportion. I rely on a substantial amount of photo reference to piece my composite images together.
Once my sketch is complete, I begin to paint with a basic underpainting (or grisaille in portrait/figure work). As I block areas in I paint one section at a time: "back-to-front" (i.e., objects in the background first) working "forward" in the image. Unlike many traditionalists, my underpaintings -- especially portraits and figures -- are done in warm colors. Most artists do their grisailles in cool grays. In my experience all skin tones, no matter the pigmentation, require red spectrum hues beneath the upper layers of paint to make them more life-like. My intermediate layers become progressively "tighter" until the top-most layers are applied with the most attention to detail. Most of my blending technique is done "dry brush," very thin scumbling with minimal brush strokes Because I am naturally inclined toward high detail, I force myself to be more "painterly" and evolve as I go.
Some of my works may appear a bit idealized; I do attempt to enhance the effects of light on differing surfaces, both living and inanimate. I utilize a fairly limited palette of colors to achieve these goals. Most classic representationalists did the same.
Although I do occasionally use oils, I prefer working in acrylic because I am able to work faster and continue with the same piece to completion. I do not intermix brands of paint. I find this gives better balance and agreement amongst the colors, and the characteristics of the paint are always the same. The only medium I use is a liquid retarder which prolongs drying time on the palette while also acting as a flow/thinning agent. With oil, I use one very old brand -- one which Vincent van Gogh aspired to use when he was still struggling and penniless -- and I only use a natural extract solvent for thinning and cleaning. I have relatively few brushes and tend to stick with the same few for most applications. The dry brush blending techniques essential to my works require a steady stream of small-to-medium golden taklon filbert brushes. This minimalist approach was first necessitated by fairly meager early resources, but I still prefer to do more with less.
My work is heavily influenced by my memories -- I am able to live vicariously through my paintings, recalling sights, sounds, aromas, and temperatures associated with particular places and events. Some sentimentality probably ends up on the canvas.
I think most artists of any discipline and experience will agree that creating is work. Sometimes it is unavoidably tedious. Other times it can be so intrinsically rewarding I don't want to put down the brush.
Quiet, focused, contemplative creative time is not easy in prison life. Solitude is a precious and rare commodity. There are times, however, late in the evening, when luck and fate allow me to be alone in the craftshop with a work in progress, some good music on the radio. And, these in concert ...together... allow the walls and fences to be transcended for a few, fleeting moments. Thank you for transcending these walls and fences with me. Every purchase of my work not only supports my painting and those who help market it; but also those advocates who work to overthrow my sentence and bring me home. I hope to sooner rather than later see you at one of our shows or events.
With warm regards,