It took an unconventional painting done from a photograph taken at an extreme vantage point to set David Boyd, Jr. on his current path as a plein air painter.
The painting is a nice little piece called “Side Step” (below). Boyd painted it in late fall, in Tennessee. He had seen the general store several times in his travels, but this time, he stopped and set up his paints. The plein air piece was good, but the studio piece he did from a photograph taken low to the ground was the perspective Boyd wanted.
“The first painting I did based on that old general store was en plein air, and things changed as I was painting it,” recalls Boyd. “Something happens when I stay in the same place for a long period of time. I notice the little things. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be so cool to paint this sitting down, from that vantage point?’
“So when I got home from that trip and I went through my photos, I found one where I literally put my camera on the ground. That’s what ‘Side Step’ evolved from. It wasn’t exactly a turning point because I have always painted things that might not get a second glance, but I really started embracing that and putting more of that in my work after that painting.”
Indeed, Boyd had already spent a lot of time in alleys, just looking. “There’s a particular alley in downtown Newnan, Georgia [where Boyd lives], that I like to visit,” he says. “I just get out of the car and walk around. We always paint sweeping vistas and beautiful forests, but I thought to myself, ‘Why not paint these scenes that I’m drawn to? The gas meters and old boxes … Why am I not outside painting them? Why don’t I embrace apparently who I am as a plein air painter and paint what I see?
“I have painted these things from photographs. This idea has gotten me out of the studio and looking really hard as a plein air painter and considering what I want to say. I am someone who is lurking around the alleys and finding these intimate, bizarre still lifes.”
At the end of February, Boyd was painting during a workshop on painting interiors taught by Ken DeWaard. “It was too beautiful outside, so I went outside,” he says. And there he went. “I wanted to do something atypical from the outside of this building, and this really spoke to me — a window.
“There was something about the shadows. I did a three-value sketch to see if it would work. But I was on other side of house, and the shadows disappeared. I moved to the west side and painted a window that was doing something similar. I was drawn to the abstract shapes, in particular the interesting shadow shape. It spoke to me in an abstract way. I painted houses as a teenager and spent hours and hours painting windows and watching the sun moving around them. I don’t think people spend much time thinking about how really beautiful the sun on things can be.”
His full approach finally emerged and settled when he was painting in Florida. “‘Shock’ is the first painting that came together outdoors,” says Boyd. “I found the voltage box down in Florida when I was riding around, looking for that perfect thing. Half the time, that perfect thing is right under your nose. So just stop and take it in. ‘Shock’ is my favorite plein air painting of mine right now.”
When Boyd was talking to us, he was on his way into Atlanta, to put “Shock” up for sale. “Let’s see what the Atlanta crowd thinks about electrical boxes,” he said.
Additional Works by David Boyd, Jr.:
This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for Plein Air Today
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