A sixth-generation Floridian, Doug Whittle received a BFA in painting from the University of Florida in 1984. After graduation, he spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in central Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) teaching fish farming to villagers in the Kasai Occidental region. He returned to earn an MFA in printmaking from his alma mater in 1990, and then spent two years as Director of Visual Arts at the Stuart Center for the Arts in Stuart, Florida, before accepting a position on the art faculty of Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. From 1992-2004 he taught drawing, painting, printmaking, and 2-dimensional design at that institution, while also leading the annual Winter Term New York City travel program. In 2004 he was hired to be the Director of Educational Travel at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Continuing Studies, where he spent the next 17 years imagining, planning, and leading educational trips around the country and throughout the world, until his retirement in 2021. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin.
My paternal grandmother was a painter. When I was around seven or eight years old she gave me a set of oil paints, and I proceeded to make a mess every time I opened the metal box full of colors I’d never heard of. I couldn’t figure out how to keep from getting the paint all over myself and everything in the room, and it felt like I couldn’t get it to do anything that I wanted it to do on the canvas panels that we used. The paint was slick and sticky at the same time, and seemed to have a mind of its own. Likewise, since it was clearly impossible to clean the brushes, I never did.
I’ve still got the box, but the twisted, uncapped, and dried up tubes of paint had to be discarded, along with the petrified brushes, long ago. But even at that age, with very little evidence, I thought that maybe I could paint. As I grew a little older I drifted away from the idea of painting when I discovered the bicycle, the woods beyond the edge of the neighborhood, the creek that gave up prehistoric shark’s teeth if you knew how to look, and then, of course, came junior high: girls, buddies, parties, problems, etc. Eventually, the painting box just didn’t get opened anymore.
All of that was a few decades back, but the boyhood belief that I might have a painter inside of me never completely faded. Years later, in my early 20’s, I was working a jackhammer one hot summer day and it struck me that I might be better off going to college. It was in that moment, unable to think of anything other than art that I had ever felt particularly good at, that I decided I would go to art school.
So, that’s what I did. It was fun, and it suited me. I even became an art professor for a while afterwards, but I’ve always been good at adding detours to my path as an artist, and I drifted away from it once more. However, in the last several years I have realized that there is, in fact, a painter inside of me, and that I owe it to my mom, and my grandmother, to finally dedicate myself to that.
Born and raised in Florida, I have vivid memories of what were, to me, many sensuous landscapes: foggy mornings so humid that the banana spider webs dripped with dew; lazy tannin-colored rivers winding through thick forests; hot rays of afternoon sunlight; towering thunderheads; palm trees poking out of sharp underbrush; the wind sighing through the tops of the southern pines, or softly murmuring through the Spanish moss; the sensations I got from the land left a mark on me, and I feel fortunate to have roots in such a visually rich place.
Now, as a painter, it is those physical sensations that I want to evoke. A beautiful landscape elevates my soul somehow, and I’ve always thought that it would be great if I could somehow make that feeling last, and keep it with me. It may sound pretentious, but when I begin a painting I really am trying to replicate the powerful feelings that were created in me by the landscape. It’s close to the theory of the sublime, I suppose: how overwhelmingly small and insignificant you sometimes feel when in awe of the beauty and grandeur of the natural world and, likewise, how difficult it is to accurately express that experience.
At any rate, I do understand that a scene is made up of shapes and colors, lines and textures, etc.; but the way that a place looks is not the same thing as the sentiments it evokes in me when I’m there, and that’s really what I consider the greater challenge: conveying those feelings. It is the sensory experience that I receive from the landscape that inspires me to try and create a physical memory of it.
I’m not sure how good I am at getting past the depiction of a place and on to the feeling of it yet, but that is what I am trying to do, and that is why I paint.
Opening Reception: Friday, April 19, 2024, 5:00 – 7:00 PM = Gallery Talk 5:30 PM
Gallery Exhibits have been supported by MAC Corporate Underwriter Colony Brands, Inc. and Season Media Underwriter Big Radio, with additional support from David & Julie Buchanan, Lee & Chris Knuteson, Paul & Sue Barrett, David & Janeen Babler, Kevin & Chris Callahan, Deb Thompson, Barb Woodriff & Pete Guenther, Horst & Mary Alice Hart, Jane Paradowski, Chuck & Chris Wellington.