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I grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, with farms, cornfields, and barns edging our world, a world that fascinated me even as a young boy. We played in the cornfields and sometimes in the barn behind our house. Many a day found me sitting amongst them, dreaming and drawing.
One of my father’s best friends, a well-known Chicago artist, Earl Gross, mentored me—taking me on painting trips—and yes, we painted barns. When older, I interned for him cleaning palettes, sweeping floors, running errands—for a little pay but really for the value of watching him work, or sometimes the other artists nearby. Still later, I came under the influence of a master painting teacher, William Mosby, at the American Academy of Art. His classic training methods included color, value balance, and painting technique from his own student days at the Royal Academy in Brussels. It was at this time I started life-drawing of the human form that today, sixty years later, I bring to the craggy, handsome faces of the farmers working the Virginia countryside around my home. In the course of my career as an artist, I have drawn and painted many subjects—flamenco dancers and castles in Spain, ancient churches in England, and most recently, 12th Century barns in France—and once even, a good looking dog owned by a restaurateur in New York City; the painting still hangs over his bar in the East Village. The source of my art bubbles up from a deep wellspring of life—not always beautiful but always, always interesting.
I admire Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer and the haystacks of Monet, the misty bridges of Whistler, and the rich, dark fields of George Inness. By contrast, I also like the vibrancy of Wolf Kahn’s colors, the design and narrative in Matisse’s landscapes, and the simple strength of Mark Rothko’s color bars. In the art of all these men, the subject matter becomes subservient to something more, something bigger—an idea, a message—on occasion a moment of truth. I have been pushing my work in this direction, eliminating detail more and more, looking for the deeper meaning beneath the surface. It is hard to find but worth the trip. I have found this level often in the shapes, colors, and composition of barns.
~ Bruce Macdonald
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