D.F. McWilliams

Notes from a Painter’s Life

When asked to discuss one of his paintings, Picasso is supposed to have replied, “If I could talk about it, I wouldn’t have painted it.”

That could also describe the life of a painter himself or herself. Dan McWilliams isn’t sure why he paints, he simply knows that too long without the brush in his hand, too long without an attempt to make visible what in the beginning only he can see, is too long removed from what lies in his heart and soul.

At the age of 14, McWilliams early drawings and landscape sketches were already beginning to sell in his hometown of Carmel. California. His formal art studies began soon thereafter, and eventually took him to the Pacific Northwest, where he participated in student shows in Portland and Seattle. Settling in Oregon, he studied art under Bruce St. Claire, winning two Scholastic Art Awards and a summer studies scholarship from the Portland Art Museum to study with Louie Bunce. McWilliams' work was chosen as part of a representational group of paintings reflecting the talents of Northwest student art for the international Ship of Hope tour and exhibition.

By the time he was in college, McWilliams was selling paintings at regional exhibitions and out of his small attic apartment. By his sophomore year, the Spanish side of his heritage was calling to him, and he moved to southern Spain, studying art at the Universidad de Sevilla, with studio classes at both the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Barcelona. He learned from several fine professors including neo-cubists, portrait artists and expressionists, taking greatest influence from the works of Domenico Teotocopulo, Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes, Lalazquez, Joaquin Sorolla and Picasso.

After returning from Spain and finishing his university degrees, through the years McWilliams’ paintings moved from his own take on neo-impressionism to monochromatic renderings with strong symbolism. His favorite format is the large representational canvas, alternating from dream-like paintings to poster-like portraits. Eventually his work expressed itself in three distinct styles, which shift from impressionism to abstract expressionism to the most recent abstract colorist work.

“Much, if not all, of my work is devoted to both the past and the present, to both high and low culture, and to moving beyond such paradoxes,” McWilliams says. “All my paintings are immersed in what I feel are the primal springs of art itself — the blend of emotion and physical motion that is inherent in the process. I hope that the viewers of my canvases will have a clear feeling for the physical body incorporated in all my efforts.”

At present, McWilliams paints in various styles and is continuing his explorations in the use of form and color. His images have many layers, even in their apparent simplicity, as evidenced by the common occurrence of no two viewers reaching exactly the same interpretation of the given painting. His work has no interest in the obvious, and a pure devotion to the visceral.