Artist's Statement

My main objective as a painter is to heighten people’s awareness and appreciation of the visual experience.  In achieving this objective, my main concern has been to understand the mechanics of human vision and how it relates to painting.

Many representational artists want to reproduce the image that focuses on the retina of the eye, but human vision is different than the image.  What we see is an “apparent” image which is constantly changing in time, even when the visual field is unchanging.  When we first move our eyes around the visual field we notice objects such as people, trees, cars, etc. in peripheral.  At this point, the only visual information we take in for these objects is the information needed to form our perception of the whole visual field as the subject.  As time passes, our attention is drawn in to an individual part.  As we focus all attention on this part, it becomes the whole subject.  The apparent shapes, patterns and colors that make it up are more complex and entirely different than when we noticed the part in peripheral.  The fundamental principle of gestalt is “the whole is different than the sum of its parts.”

I believe that when artists paint by focusing all attention on each part separately, no matter how well they plan, they may reproduce the image perfectly, but they can’t help but compromise their statement of the real human visual experience of the whole subject.  Throughout art history there are countless quickly executed gestural sketches made as preliminary studies which are much stronger as a whole than the larger more articulated paintings of the same subject.  The greatest example of this disparity can perhaps be found in the work of Constable.

I have found this quickly executed simple statement to be the most effective way to explore the real transient nature of the visual experience.  I not only limit the amount of time I spend on a painting, but also use relatively large brushes and small canvases.  These limitations encourage simplification and thinking about the parts only in so far as they relate to the whole. 

  Sandusky painting on the street

I also work exclusively from life.  Not only is the first-hand visual experience completely different and infinitely richer than looking at a photograph, but its complexity and fleeting nature further forces me to simplify, develop my visual memory, and better understand the subject as a whole.

In my best work I have captured the fleeting moment, produced paintings which resonate and come to life as the viewer moves back away from the canvas, and provided the viewer with some insight into the nature of his or her own visual perception. 

Choice of subject is of limited importance to me.  While I enjoy painting expeditions to such places as Florida beaches and North Carolina mountains, the subject I most often deal with is the ordinary urban environment in which I live.  I believe there is the greatest potential to heighten people’s appreciation of the visual experience by showing them the beauty in the mundane ordinary things they take for granted, such as simple wood frame houses, trees and cars in their neighborhoods

—Phil Sandusky