I've decided to revive my blog and use it as a tool to help my painting mature. I've been concentrating on portraits and the figure. Every Thursday I paint from a live model with four other artists. I'm finally getting some work I feel is worth showing and need feedback. This is an earlier painting in its nearly finished state that I felt was developing a personal style. I'll show you the progression in more blogs.
My wife and I used to spend weekends at flea markets, junk shops, and antique stores, anywhere interesting stuff was to be found. We had our favorites like the Tail of The Yak in Berkeley and especially Aria's in North Beach. The owner Bill Haskell has the same off beat aesthetic we have and a great eye. He travels all over Europe to buy. When he asked me to put one of my paintings in his shop he chose the Big Squeak Toy. The model was a 8" tall German toy I bought decades ago from Alice at Tail of The Yak. It fits in with the paper maché bobble head bulldog, old prints, posters and other craziness he offers. Check it out when you are in the City, it's on Upper Grant a block or two above Union.
"Richard Whitlock's oil paintings of toys are at once humorous and nostalgic, while empathetic in their almost human gaze - lovingly painted with accomplished realism. His treatment of the subject, set in dreamy atmospheres lacking a background, lends a warmth that leads one to see these objects as entities, turning still lifes into portraits. At the same time, one may find their set gazes unsettling. In an age where the ambiguity between object-hood and personhood are at an all time high, Whitlock reminds us of our time-honored affection for, and distrust of, facsimiles."
for your introduction of my work as Featured Artist on the Berkeley Art Center web site. Your insights are helping to direct and inform my painting. One of the reasons I show my work is to get thoughtful feedback like yours. It motivates me to paint and challenges me to develop my ideas.
In this work I'm questioning what figure painting in our century is and my belief that a portrait of a toy figure resonates with us as much or more than real people like the Queen of England and other rich & famous folk.
I've been working on my still lifes trying to get enough paintings for a show. The painting of "Billy & Minnie" sold to a graphic designer in San Francisco who also is a set designer so I know it has a good home. My new series are like sets in a way. In the theater the cast follows the action of the script and the story unfolds. For a story I use images I find in newspapers, magazines and books. My paintings echo the photographs but use toys to replace the people in the pictures. I don't change the dolls and puppets to look human...it's a still life... they are what they are and the script changes from viewer to viewer.
Here is one of my paintings from last year that uses size and your expectations of what should be. It's a 3 feet by 5 feet, oil on canvas of a 5 inch tall squeak toy. The toy makes the tiniest of noises!
These guys were in a show along with 200 other pieces at the Berkeley Art Center that was reviewed by Kenneth Baker January 5th in the Chronicle. His review "'Wonder'-small scale submissions provoke big curiosity" invited the reader to imagine the "onerous dilemma" of contemporary artists' in choosing a piece for the show. No dilemma here. I thought it was a strong painting that represented a new direction for my still life's..... and it was the right size!