Daylilies and Dappled Light by Brian McCormick

Daylilies and Dappled Light by Brian McCormick

Brian McCormick

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Image size: 6.5" x 6.5"

Paper size: 6.5" x 6.5"

Mounted on 8" x 10" foam core.

This watercolor was painted on Arches paper by Brian McCormick of Madison, Wisconsin.


Brian McCormick retired from the Wisconsin Historical Society and began creating art full-time in 2008. He had spent his career as a Preservation Architect, though his first love (and his first degree) was fine art. After many years away from it, he started painting again just before he retired and hasn't stopped since. 

His works are inspired by nature, particularly of the rolling hills of the Driftless Region. While Brian has always been drawn to watercolor, he recently began making woodblock prints. Using wood scraps, he carves out a design, creating a relief printing block. He then inks the block, press paper against it, and rub the back using a "baren". Brian dreams of having a beautiful Japanese baren but for now, he uses an old wood cabinet knob as his baren.

He splits his time between a small house on the isthmus in Madison, Wisconsin, and a stone miner's cottage in a little hollow outside of Galena, Illinois.


While I spent most of my working life as an architect, returning to my first love of painting was not a major reinvention. A basic need to make things has always been my directing force. It could be a building, a set of shelves, a garden, a prairie, a painting, or a woodblock print. Of course, buildings are almost always a collaboration among many people: owners, architects, carpenters, craftspeople, etc. I've learned that my personality is better geared toward solitary pursuits, and I like to have both the control and the burden of being the sole creator of what I make. So, artwork has proved to be more fulfilling for me than architecture.

Nonetheless, architecture is about place-making; and, similarly, in my artwork I am concerned with creating a sense of place. I see experiencing and knowing the place in which you live as an important part of being human. Wendell Berry said: "If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are." He didn't mean "know where" as a point on the map, but a knowing that involves the senses, the heart, and the mind. It means knowing it over time and in all seasons. It involves memory and imbuing a place with a shared or personal meaning. As any artist will tell you, if you really want to know something, then draw it or paint it.

These places to which people can attach meaning are often a city, a town, or a special street or building. And, of course, they can also be a natural landscape, like the rolling hills of woods, old fields, and prairies in our region. Or they can be those places where the "man made" and "natural" interact, like gardens and designed landscapes. Or places where the interaction is unplanned or incidental, like the way trees interface with buildings, or the way a rural road or intersection is laid across a natural landscape.

So the subject of my artwork is "place," or those places which have a special sensory memory or significance for me. They are often very specific places that I know, shown during a particular time or season. However, when they can signify some other meaningful place-memory for a viewer, then I feel I have hit my mark. We have all had the experience of being touched by art--in today's culture, usually it is a movie or a song--and, though the specifics have nothing to do with our lives, they affect us deeply on some human level. So I strive to connect to viewers through a visual representation of "place" that is at once specific and yet, through each individual viewer's memory, connotes a sense of place that has meaning in their own lives.

I think of my watercolor landscapes as intimate.  They focus on the patterns found in the landscapes: the repetition of the forms and color of leaf, flower, stem, branch and tree trunk. My interest in pattern has limited my use of the traditional large areas of watercolor washes--instead I use smaller broken areas of paint. I typically work in only a few formats: square, double- square and triple-square (one by three units.) I believe these more rigid formats draw more attention to the shape of the painting and help to create a tension between the painting as a referential image and the painting as an object.

Find more of Brian's work here.


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