“The human figure has been subject matter for art forever,” says David Witbeck.
Witbeck has been working on figure drawing almost every week for several years. The drawings and sketches, however, piled up in his studio, unseen by anyone but him. Then one day, that changed. “I thought it would be fun to turn some of them into paintings. An artist should paint what he loves,” grins Witbeck. ‘Nough said.”
These pieces evoke the classic, whimsical Witbeck style but, because they are based on drawings from observation opposed to the iconic fishermen culminated from memories and imagination, they are more anatomically correct in terms of proportion, though ever so slight in some cases. Witbeck doesn’t draw particularly realistically and is not into making beautifully finished renderings.
“Even when drawing from life, the figure is a point of departure to have fun with making shapes,” says Witbeck. “The genesis of most of my figurative paintings are rough, one and two minute sketches.”
Just as the model is the point of departure for the original sketch, his sketch is a point of departure for the finished painting. Each step is a little further removed from the original, what many refer to as simulacra.
“Even the most gorgeous young model can become an ordinary, maybe even slightly frumpy, middle-aged beach babe or a voluptuous Nereid by the time she gets to my canvas,” he laughs of his deliberately unconventionally sexy women. “My emphasis is, as always, simplifying and exaggerating shapes and composing the surface of the canvas in a pleasing way.”
To fill out the composition and give a counterpoint to the main subject there are occasional figures in the clouds and little creatures nearby.
“They are there mostly just for fun, but they are necessary. Maybe a Freudian would say that I’m that little voyeur gull,” laughs Witbeck, “but seriously, a basic element of good composition is a repetition of shapes.”
Witbeck’s women range from nude woodblock prints to his bathing suit-clad beach babes to his Nereids, who are a Witbeck version of the classic sea nymphs.
“They’re all great fun to paint. I especially love when I don’t need to worry about what color to paint their clothes.”
David Witbeck’s Solo Show will run until Thursday, October 19 at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture at 14 Western Ave in Kennebunk, Maine. He has completely taken over the first floor, and his show is a must-see for the fall season. Please click the links below to learn more about David Witbeck and his work.