The Gentleman Artist


Inspiration and Motivation

When I was a teenager, my family and I visited Washington's Crossing in New Jersey. In the visitor's center was a reproduction of Gilbert Stuart's famous unfinished portrait of George Washington. There was something about that painting which struck me with such force that I remain captivated by it to this day. It vibrates with so much living presence, and captures so many admirable qualities. In fact, I have often paid homage to it in my own work.

I have always been an artist, but it was a long time before I dedicated myself to being primarily a portraitist. My original artistic motivation was, and still is, to create work which I want to have in my own life - art which beautifies, inspires and ennobles. It is about deliberately creating environments which are attractive, and support the greatest human achievements. My philosophical approach to portrait painting was born out of that impulse. 

Perhaps Benjamin Disraeli said it best - The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own. The riches that I share are to show you what the richness of your ultimate potential looks like.

oil paints and paint brushes on a palett

What is a paint brush?

On the one hand, it is nothing more than a bundle of hairs fastened to the end of a stick. A simple, primitive tool.

On the other hand, it is literally a magic wand. With it, an artist can smear coloured pigments suspended in oil onto a piece of fabric and create a vision; one that can compel generations of people to feel profound, life-altering emotions.

Is that not magical?

What is a painting?

If it is nothing more than an image, then a painting is fundamentally the same as a photograph. In fact, the more realistic a painting appears, the more apt people are to remark on how much like a photograph it seems. Yet there is a vast difference between them.

A photograph is an indiscriminate mechanical record of what was in front of the camera. The skilled photographer may aim their camera judiciously. She may adjust the settings skillfully. And she may make artful alterations to the image in post-production. But the process is still nothing like the creation of a painting.


A painting is an elaborate construction. It is a statement of intention and a record of activity. There is a reason we refer to a new beginning as starting with a blank canvas. When an artist begins a painting, they have only a vision in their mind of the result they hope to create. To begin creating that vision, they must make a mark on the canvas. That mark is an expression of intention. It is an artefact of the artists physical presence and their movement through space. Each mark must then be evaluated for its contribution to the ultimate vision. That process must then be repeated thousands of times.

As the painting progresses, the original vision crystalizes. It may expand or contract, gain new meaning or change directions based on how the emerging painting matches the mental vision, and how each serves the artists ultimate intention. And when they are finished, whether they succeeded or failed in achieving their vision comes down to the answers to three questions - What did you do? What were you trying to do? How well did you do what you were trying to do?

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nautilus shell symmetry Fibonacci half c

Why do we decorate our lives?

It isn’t clear what the nature and function of beauty may be. Yet we are inexorably drawn to that which we consider beautiful. Aesthetics are undeniably powerful, but why?

What is it that causes our attractions? What do we mean when we say, I’m in the mood for this, or I’m not in the mood for that? Why is it that we can even be attracted to radically opposing things, depending on our changing moods? Is there a common denominator beneath the disparate surfaces?

Why is it that the work of some artists, which is clearly masterful in a technical sense, can leave some people elated while others are apathetic or even repulsed by it? And why do we jealously keep some objects around us while we feel revolted at the thought of living with others?

The environments we create are a reflection of our inner world. But we can also change our inner world by deliberately changing our environments. In either case, the nature and design of our environment is extraordinarily powerful, even in a mystical sense.

What if it is a quest for harmony and unification? If our thoughts and feelings, even our intentions can be described as a frequency, then perhaps we are drawn to things which harmonize with our wavelength. That may be why we feel comfortable in one setting and uncomfortable in another. Home feels like home because we are in harmony with the environment, and it with us. Perhaps the reason why we are so thoughtful about the ways we dress and decorate our living spaces is because we are always seeking to unify and harmonize the way things are with the way we wish them to be.