a solo exhibition by peter shepard cole
The ocean where I was raised at Rocky Point on the North Shore of Oahu has shaped my identity and become the primary subject of my art. In my paintings, I strive to convey the meditative peace I find when enveloped by this sea. The struggle of colliding currents, chops, and swells coalesce into a strange calm, the result of accepting immersion within a force much more powerful than myself.
Swimming around in the rip current, shooting photographs with a small digital camera, I begin work on my seascape paintings. I am attracted to what I perceive as interesting action, where water is pulling in opposite directions. Perhaps the current is churning after a wave has passed, or backwash off the reef is warping the face of a wave, contorting its own sense of order. Rather than perfect waves, I am looking for water with interesting character and gesture that I feel a visceral impulse to paint.
Once I have selected an image I begin painting with a large brush in a loose manner. I use a lot of solvent to keep things fluid, easily moving paint around and not feeling stuck. There is a physicality to the brush strokes, my actions mimicking the movement of the water. I use only dark, diluted pigments until I’m satisfied with the overall composition. Once I am pleased with how I have mapped things out in this transparent wash, I begin applying warm, opaque highlights into the wet paint. To capitalize on the fluidity of wet on wet painting, my first day working is a long one. After this first layer is dry, I develop details and adjust features to my liking. Glazes, or thin layers of paint diluted by solvents, are applied over dry paint to darken areas, or change the tint of an area. Details provide spots for the viewer to focus, while areas of painterly gesture express the rhythm of the sea.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Peter Shepard Cole lives and paints on the North Shore of Oahu. Raised in Sunset Beach, he was introduced to painting and surfing as a child by his father, one of Hawaii’s big wave pioneers. A lifelong love of art and the sea converge in his series of Rocky Point paintings. Based on photographs taken swimming in front of his parents’ house, these paintings convey movement and the play of light on a dynamic surface.
Peter earned an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and a BA from the University of California San Diego. His art has been featured in The Surfer’s Journal, The Honolulu Star Advertiser, Honolulu Weekly, Hawaii Five O and exhibited in the SFMOMA Artists Gallery, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. He has paintings in the collection of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and has been accepted into the Artists of Hawaii, Schaefer Portrait Challenge, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Honolulu Printmakers juried shows. He teaches drawing and painting at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.