I know that my best oil paintings develop out of memories of landscapes from both the recent and distant past. I understand the creative process that is best for me and I know what to do with it. I no longer have to reinvent the wheel when starting each new painting because I have a clear sense of how it should develop.
My process begins with drawings made in pocket-size sketchbooks. I must have 50 or 60 small sketchbooks filled with notations about things I've just seen or landscapes remembered and imagined. I take the books with me everywhere - on canoeing trips, to sporting events, on my travels. I make quick sketches or record ideas that might be developed into oil paintings. None of the drawings is very detailed, but each has enough information to remind me of ideas when I'm in my studio.
Each of these luminous and mysterious images of trees against sky, field, and river evoke a subtle variation of light and atmosphere. The arrangement of the trees - whether standing in solitude or in pairs or in large groupings seem at once inevitable and yet surprising, formal yet accidental.
I work on wood board, paper and canvas using several layers of gesso before priming the surface with cadmium red base, a quick sketch using charcoal is used to lay out the design, then the paint is applied. I work in layers using thinned down oil color, building on these layers with glazing techniques the colors are adjusted and brought up to completion before final coats of varnish are applied.
Light has come to play an important part, and when I look back over this body of work, I feel it speaks about spiritual places, places that contain a quiet inner light, radiating an ethereal whisper, the places we see every day.
- William McCarthy