Artist Profile: Elliot Paul Rothman
Why draw or paint? The process helps us learn to understand proportion, form, and scale. More important, when I paint and draw, I am not just seeing but feeling, not just describing but interpreting, not just depicting a place but marking my own presence. I am expressing my own experience. I am creating my own memories.
When I arrive at a site where I will paint, my heart starts beating faster. I feel a sense of elation. I feel a rush of adrenaline. There is joy in arriving in a space that is perfectly scaled for people, with all the visual variety that flows from human activity. I am drawn to places where I can situate myself within the scene. These are the places that elevate my spirit.
I have a backpack organized with all of my supplies-paper, brushes, paint tubes and bottles of water. I sit down, spread out my tools, and initiate the work. It doesn’t always go smoothly. I was thrown out of Saint Chapelle in Paris when my water overflowed on the floor, and from Majorelle Gardens in Marrakesh for no apparent reason, as far as I could tell. More often, I am left to sit and paint for hours at a time. I sit all day sometimes and the space reveals its layers. The process also yields other personal rewards-more than I could ever expect. People stop to see what I am up to. My family checks in periodically. Often, children come to watch me and I give them a pad and brush so they can paint with me. This was especially true in China. My hand, my activity, and my continuing presence connect me to the places and the people.
Sometimes, I find an ordinary space that seems like a comfortable place to sit and paint. It does not have to be memorable. I don’t have to be looking for a Bilbao; I need not find a Hagia Sophia every time. As I paint, I see the magic in the scene. It elicits my excitement. I begin to make sense of the composition, so it becomes part of my own experience. When I paint a hillside, for example, I see all of the mass, then fields emerge, houses emerge, cows emerge, and people emerge. The more I look at a site, the more I realize its detail and depths.
Themes that continue to fascinate me include landscape, gathering crowds, architecture, water, and boats. Most of all, I paint and draw what I see when I see it. I arrive, sit down, begin and complete the work, and move on. I never modify or enhance the painting in a studio. It is what it is. I hope that the immediacy of the paintings reflects the joy, passion and pure fun of my adventure.