"Flying Saucers", 48 inches x 58 inches, oil on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2012

“Flying Saucers”, 48 inches x 58 inches, oil on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2012 Courtesy of Gremillion and Company, Fine Arts, Inc.

My painitngs are about  light. When I paint representationally and I am about the business of rendering light, I often choose a subject that is back lit. It seems to offer the most extensive and complex  qualities of light — light on a surface, passing through a surface, reflecting off of a surface, often highlighting transparency, translucency, reflection, or glitter. The most complete expression of this can be seen in my china paintings, although it occurs in most of my work.

Light on Battenkill, 69 inches x 48 inches, Oil on Canvas, © Leslie Parke 2009

“Light on Battenkill”, 69 inches x 48 inches, Oil on Canvas, © Leslie Parke 2009, Private Collection, Houston, Texas

But how do you get these qualities when you work abstractly? It’s not something I figured out all at once. It started when I was trying to paint the light that glitters off the surface of water. I used white paint, but it felt dull and did not leap off the surface of the canvas. Then I scapped the silver off of a CD and applied that, and that didn’t work either. As I drove home one rainy night I noticed how the stripe on the road reflected the light off my headlights and I thought — that’s what I need. I called the highway department and asked them if I could buy some reflective road paint. It’s not the paint that is reflective, he told me, its the beads of glass that we put in it, and with that he gave me the address of their supplier.

Later I came upon diamond dust, which is even better than highway glass for reflecting light, but I was unable to find a supplier. I used the highway glass to good effect in the river painting.

Almond Tree, Biot, by Leslie Parke

“Almond Tree, Biot”, 60 inches x 70 inches, oil on canvas, 2008 ©Leslie Parke 2008, Private Collection, Houston

Then I was working on a series of almond tree paintings, which at first I rendered quite realistically. But after taking a workshop with Vincent di Siderio, a well-known representational painter, who mentioned that he often started a painting by throwing tar on it or rustoleum, I thought, why not approoach this work that way. Apply the paint differently and why not use mettalic paint, after all, Jackson Pollock did.

"Tree in Twilight", 67 inches x 96 inches, oil, enamel, metallic paint on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2015

“Tree in Twilight”, 67 inches x 96 inches, oil, enamel, metallic paint on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2015

When I finished “Tree in Twilight” and hung it on my west facing wall, I observed how the light reflected off the surface of the painting and changed every time you moved. It also took on different qualities of light at different times of the day. Immeditately I saw that instead of showing the light of the moment, it was creating a different light each moment. With Monet’ s paintings of the Epte River, he shows you how the light changes moment to moment. With “Tree in Twilight”, the painting itself changes each moment.

"Plated LIght", 72 inches x 30 inches, oil and metallic paint on canvas, ©Leslie Parke 2017

“Plated LIght”, 72 inches x 30 inches, oil and metallic paint on canvas, ©Leslie Parke 2017

From there the work became more and more abstract, but the quality of light and sensation of light remained the subject. Whether I paint representationally or abstractly, I still want the painting to have light emanating from the surface.