Artist Spotlight features Wisconsin native, Doug Hatch, best known for his realistic paintings of urban scenes. A full-time artist working from photographs in his studio, Hatch employs traditional methods of photo realism using strong diagonals, reflected surfaces, and transparent components to depict vibrant street scenes. In addition to these urban scenes, Hatch paints plein air landscapes of rural Wisconsin with deep vistas and spatial infinities.
Hatch studied art at the University of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Besides the Tory Folliard Gallery, Hatch's Wisconsin exhibitions include the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield, WI and the Overture Center for the Arts and the James Watrous Gallery at the Wisconsin Academy in Madison. His paintings are in private and public collections in the United States and Europe.
Where does your inspiration come from?
When thinking about what has inspired me, I have to start with simple observation. The juxtaposition of shapes and colors that may make up a street scene or landscape. Then secondarily I looked at other artists. Mainly a group of Americans that were active from the 1920s to the 1960s or thereabouts. I became intrigued by how they handle light and shadow patterns at different times of the day on a two dimensional surface using a fluid medium like oil paint. Simple observation becomes record.
How long have you been painting in this style and how would you describe it?
I have been experimenting with drawing and painting all of my life, but exposure to a few artists of note some 35 years ago pushed me off the fence and inspired me to take the next step. Seeing four Carravaggio paintings at the British National Museum a few years ago renewed my belief in the importance of space and contrast, things that I always believed made great Art.
I have not always done photo realism. It just seems to make sense that while in the static confines of the studio, one should be able to still the subject as well. In 2005, I began plein air landscape painting, I really believe doing this, from time to time, keeps things fresh. It is considerably more immediate and can be loads of fun as well. Capturing an expansively deep vista from on high as it disappears into the ether, is unbelievably invigorating. My works in both genres was a natural evolution to simplify the complex and I believe, to help keep things fresh.
You often describe how different areas of the paintings are like a small abstract painting all on their own. How much does abstract art influence your work?
It's quite easy to think in the abstract while approaching the rigidity of realism. The initial matrix or bones of the work is usually made up of squares, rectangles or spheres. The abstraction happens inside those frames. Then through process, hopefully, all come together in the end to create the illusion of depth, reflected light and objects in space that you might see in your everyday life.
When scouting for future subjects to paint, do you look for certain architectural elements?
My radar for observation is pinned on ten at all times. If I see bright red and yellow, I know it's a Shell filling station from six blocks away. It's probably not as much about the architecture as it is about the color or the way a shadow might affect that color as it lay across the facade extending to the pavement that anchors it. Reflected light on glass or automobile surfaces is icing on that cake, neon bloom of magenta or electric blue is the floral garnish.
People often appear in your work, but rarely to the extent one might expect when urban areas are your subject matter. Is this an aesthetic choice or part of your overall narrative?
The figure was never as important to me as the settings created by and lived in by the said figure. Some artists paint a figure and build around it. I build the surrounding's and add or subtract figuration depending on compositional necessity. A beaten path without the responsible culprits is a ponderable question mark.
What is the driving force behind your work?
"Driving force" is a brilliant and powerful duo of words. After the first couple of resolved works, it really started to feel like duty. I became determined to fulfill this duty consistently even if there was no external validation, and I was the only one that was pleased with the result. It was truth to me. Secondarily it is contrast. There is really nothing like creating dramatic contrast between subjects or the light and dark side of things. Truth and dramatic contrast done consistently are high art to me.