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Heaven Shining Through – new oil painting

Here is the finished oil painting entitled “Heaven Shining Through.”  Our family friend Jorn took a photo of the sunrise when climbing the Aconcagua mountain in Argentina, from which this painting is based.  I was very impressed by the photo and felt that it’d make a great painting, so here it is!

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Heaven Shining Through – Original Oil Painting – 12″ x 24″ x .75″ – gallery wrapped, triple-primed cotton duck canvas

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, I climbed Mount Chirripó and saw some really amazing views, but this one of Aconcagua is just something else.  Has anyone else done mountain climbing and seen views like this?

Feel free to leave your comments!

– Dave

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Literature, art and a personal connection. “Facing the Storm,” interpreted from The Catcher in the Rye.

Archival matte paper prints of this Catcher in the Rye painting can be purchased here.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been writing about the “Catcher in the Rye” custom oil painting I’ve been working on for Jeff, a client of mine.  It’s called “Facing the Storm.”  Alas, I have the completed pictures and story behind the art!

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Facing the Storm

The Scene from the book…

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.  Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me.  And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.  What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.  That’s all I’d do all day.  I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.  I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.  I know it’s crazy.”

How it relates personally…

Although I’ve given some explanation into the meaning of this painting, I’d like to reveal a bit more.  When Jeff was a child, his father gave him this book.  On the front cover, he wrote a note – “Jeff, I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.”  “We” referred to his Dad’s girlfriend at the time.  Jeff still has the book his Dad gave him; it’s actually the same one I read before starting this painting.  Anyways, the book made a significant impression on Jeff, since the main character – Holden Caulfield – reminded him strongly of his Dad.  Jeff’s parents divorced when he was young.  His Dad, who was a drug addict, became increasingly absent from his life starting in high school.  Several years later came a permanent absence – he committed suicide.

In his own words – Jeff describes his father’s last night

“I like to imagine that, on the night before he took his life, my father went to a seedy dive bar for his last hits. His sandy colored hair was unkempt and balding in places that only bald after years of mental anguish. His jacket was dirty and hanging loosely around frail bones, the kind of frailness that only comes from many injections of abuse. His blue eyes, though, were friendly. One side of his lips curled up into a strange but open smile. His face was shining, though it was probably the kind of brightness that comes from two lights in constant tension, one always threatening to overcome the other, each frustrated by the shadows they cause. Taking a stool, he saddled up to the bar and tried to explain himself in the words of my favorite song.

“Bartender, you see, the wine that’s drinking me, comes from the vine that strung Judas from the devil’s tree, its roots deep in the ground.”

Nodding sympathetically, the bartender asked him if he had any kids.

“Two sons,” he answered. “I was close with them when they were boys, but we began losing touch when they got to high school. Now they are in college, and I never speak with them.”

Slowly, the bartender nodded again.

At this point, this virtual stranger gave my dad some of the most honest words he had had in his life. “Your youngest son is getting ready to be a young professional in our nation’s capitol, one of the only cities in the world where he is free to become who he is meant to be. He will be wildly successful. Your oldest is getting ready for graduate school, reading and writing in ways that you could never have imagined. He will spend his career helping other people keep the wine from drinking them too badly. Sir, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You have done a fine job.”

The next night, the darkest of his life, my father held a gray blade and wondered about the bartender’s words. How could it be that, after all the pain and struggle he caused himself and his family, he had done a fine job of raising his sons? Then some final truth dawned on him. Love is not good, simple, and pure. This does not mean that it is its opposite, because neither is love some demon that needs to be exorcised. Always and everywhere, love is both brilliantly optimistic and incomprehensibly execrable. Struggling like every parent does to put it together in just this way, my dad was able to perfectly raise his two children.

Now that my dad’s eyes are closed for good, I realize my own truth, that God did not do this to me. I am not so sure that God does anything at all. Instead, our doomed but bright star allows us to watch, on the clearest twilights, how it must always set. The best thing for us to do is let it go, especially on that one ultimate day when the sun cataclysmically vanishes into itself. Because even on that chilling day, somewhere in the seemingly infinite darkness, two lights will struggle to be seen as one. The first will flicker for understanding, and the other will gradually, painstakingly, start to beam for renewed hope.”

adding our custom touches to the interpretation…

Although Holden Caulfield’s vision of being the Catcher in the Rye is very descriptive, Jeff and I took that vision and added in a few more features that relate to his own story.

  • Most prominently, his Dad took the place of Holden Caulfield on the cliff.  Jeff gave me several photographs of his Dad, which I used to paint a figure resembling him on the cliff.  In the painting, he’s catching and saving a child who is running off of the cliff.
  • Down below in the valley,  you’ll notice someone walking towards the storm.  That figure represents Jeff himself, as Jeff’s Dad never was able to “catch” him.
  • The changing skyskape, from bright and cheery to dark, stormy and dangerous, is also Jeff’s idea.  You’ll notice that the darker side is the  side by the cliff, where Jeff’s Dad is.
  • I added the lush blue rivers that run through the mountains and valley until they abruptly come to an end at a split in the earth.
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I’m happy to say that Jeff is very pleased with this painting!  He says that it’s very therapeutic for him, and although it depicts a dreary side of his family’s past, he feels peaceful when looking at it.  It was a pleasure to make a painting for someone that carries so much meaning!

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The Making of Therapeutic Art

I’ve been meeting with Jeff Lynhurst a few times over the past couple of weeks to get feedback about the “Catcher in the Rye” painting I’m working on for him.  This has been a new type of custom-art making experience for me, as usually someone just gives me a photo and I turn it into art.  Which has always worked out just fine, and my clients have always really enjoyed the art they’ve gotten.  However, Jeff didn’t give me a photo; he gave me a book to read (The Catcher in the Rye) and his story.

Jeff had selected about 20 pages for me to read that explained the scene he wanted painted, but I decided to read the whole book anyways.  I think reading the entire book helped me to get a better vision for the feeling of the painting.  It was a sad, pessimistic, sort of hopeless feeling.  After sketching my idea onto paper, Jeff and I talked more about the vision he had, so I made a few adjustments and began work on the canvas.  As I progressed in the painting, I’d email Jeff photos to get his input.  This was his painting after all, and I wanted to make sure he was getting what he envisioned!

Brigitta (my wife) and I have had Jeff over a few times over the past few weeks as well, to talk, have a beer, and see the painting in person to make sure it was coming along to his liking.  Jeff actually has kept telling me that he doesn’t want to deter my “artistic” vision, and to paint it how I see fit.  However, I know how important this is to him, and I know he’s just trying to be nice since he tried working with another artist before on this, and the guy was really intent on doing it his way.  Not surprisingly, that didn’t work out.  So I’ve been trying to encourage him to have an open mic and speak freely about what he wants, likes, and doesn’t like in the painting.

I’ve gone back a few times to make some adjustments after speaking with Jeff, especially with the dark sky.  It wasn’t dark or dangerous enough for him…in fact, I re-did the whole darker half of the sky.  I suppose that since I didn’t have the same type of experience as him, I couldn’t feel inside of me what he felt inside of him, and that translated into my initial version of the sky.  So it’s been good to keep going back and forth with Jeff.

Instead of painting Holden Caulfield (the main character of The Catcher in the Rye) on the cliff, Jeff had me paint his Dad.  He wanted his Dad to be trying to catch a child that would be running to jump off of the cliff.  I couldn’t make an exact replica of him since he had to be smaller to align proportionally with the scenery, but I assured Jeff that what I painted would resemble his Dad.  My first attempt (which Jeff told me definitely resembled his Dad), showed him stretching his arms out to the child, but it left some doubt as to whether he would actually catch him or not.  After seeing this, Jeff decided he wanted his Dad to actually be catching the child, so I painted over it to show that he would indeed be catching the child.

This was the last part of the painting that I did the other day, so it’s now complete (pending Jeff’s final approval).  We’re going to meet up again soon to take the painting over to his place.  He’s going to have it in his home for a few days and let his feelings and thoughts marinate, then decide if there’s anything else that needs to be done.  If so, I’ll make the adjustment, and if not, we’ll be done!

So sometime soon I’ll post pictures of the completed “Catcher in the Rye” painting, along with details of Jeff’s personal story and how this has been a therapeutic process for him.

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2/3 done with painting

Just have to add some more depth with the rye, make the sky a bit darker and more dangerous-looking, and add in the main character (possibly my client’s father, in this case), on the cliff.  Until then, here’s what it looks like right now!

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about 2/3 done!
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Progress on painting…a skyscape full of emotions

The sky-scape in the Catcher in the Rye painting I’m working on gradually changes from a sunny, happy temperament to gloomy and bleak.  The darkest part of the painting is on the far right side, where Holden Caulfield will be standing on a cliff.

Holden Caulfield’s unsettled state of mind is revealed in the opening paragraph:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me…”

Here are  a couple pictures of the canvas; one of the upper left, sunny side, and one of the upper right, dark side.  I’ll be adding more details as I go, and will be starting soon on the cliff and rye field.


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Sunny Skyskape


"The Catcher in the Rye", "skyskape", "sky painting", "oil painting", "custom art", "custom artist", "art with meaning", "Holden Caulfield", "dave white art", "JD Salinger"
Bleak, Sad Skyskape
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Love in a troubled inner world…The Catcher in the Rye

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.  Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me.  And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.  What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.  That’s all I’d do all day.  I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.  I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.  I know it’s crazy.”

This is the scene I’m currently painting from the novel The Catcher in the Rye. When Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist of the novel who has had a very troubled and traumatic past,  is questioned by his younger sister Phoebe, regarding what he would like to do when he gets older, this is his response.

This large oil painting measures 30″ by 48″ and will be the centerpiece in the living room of my client!  He’s given me his interpretation of how he envisions this scene, I’ve added some input, and this vision is currently being transferred to the canvas!  I’ll be posting a few pictures as I progress with the painting.

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Surf Art in Maui!

This is a recently completed painting of surfer Arnie Smith hitting the waves in Maui, Hawaii!  The painting is 8″ by 12″ and custom framed in a 12″ by 16″ black metal, archival-quality frame with UV glass protection, and an acid and lignin-free mat board!  Thanks Jenny for giving me the opportunity to provide you and your husband with art for your home!

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Maui Surf Art


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Arnie Smith surfing in Maui!
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finished Punta Uvita oil painting – Costa Rica art

…and I’m done!  This oil painting of the whale’s tale formation in Bahia Ballena (Whale Bay), Costa Rica.

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Punta Uvita Oil Painting