Greg Mason Burns

Behind the Painting: New Year Gift

New Year Gift

New Year Gift – Oil on Paper (2013)

We were in the early days of the warm Brazilian summer when a collector sent me an e-mail with a photo she had just taken from her bedroom window. Deep in midst of her PhD thesis, the late evening sun had caught her gaze and distracted her long enough to see the distant cityscape slowly turn into dark hues of yellows, oranges, reds, and greys before giving way to the darker blues of the night sky above. It was a reminder to her that her thesis was going take away another summer, her second in two years with last year’s being spent in the cool winter of Andalusia, Spain conducting the research that was now being absorbed in bulk onto her computer.I looked at the picture and her request to remember what summer was like. She wanted the painting for the new year, to be a new year gift to herself, just before the most intense period of writing that she was going to do, and I pondered just how I was going to pull it off. I’m not a painter who can sit down and give you exactly what you want. I paint by emotion, and this requires patience. If I don’t feel it in any particular moment then the painting is probably going to come off poorly. My best paintings have come from extended periods of bonding with that particular painting. Everything else, for me anyway, is just practice. I had less than two weeks to put this together and to decide which colors would mix best and how I would layer everything. It wasn’t until December 30th that I finally had an idea of what I wanted to do. After having thought about it for a good 12 days, the sketch came together wonderfully, then the yellows sat across the middle, and the reds above blended into orange in between. The blues came down over the charcoal blocks and the excess was worked into the reds above to create a line of greens and greys before giving way to the night sky above. The final touch was the dabs of yellow where the lights had turned on. I never even looked at the photo while I painted. I didn’t need to, because the photo was what was there for her. The painting was what was there for me.

My advice to anyone buying art: buy the artist, not the painting. You may never know what the artist will give you, but you’ll always have a connection knowing that he or she put himself or herself into the piece of work. It’s that personal touch that matters most, and will carry weight with it forever. For this client, she got her New Year Gift, and her patience turned out wonderfully for her.