ARTS & COLLECTIBLES
Douglas Whittle’s world is a vibrant tapestry woven from the rich threads of global cultures, the raw beauty of nature, and the profound depth of human experience.
From the raw scribblings of a young Douglas Whittle sketching soldiers and football players to the sophisticated landscapes that now define his oeuvre, his artistic journey is a chronicle of evolution and depth. It’s a journey that speaks to the transformative power of art and life experiences.
Whittle’s narrative begins in childhood, under the unassuming tutelage of his grandmother, a painter herself. “She saw something in me I hadn’t yet seen,” Whittle reflects. His initiation into the world of oil paints at the tender age of seven was not just a lesson in art, but a rite of passage. There’s a symbolic weight to this choice of medium, typically reserved for the more experienced; it was as if his grandmother was anointing him for a future in art that neither fully understood at the time.
Token Creek #8 40x30” Oil on canvas
The Island 39x28” Oil on canvas
Tenfold 36x36” Oil on canvas
Spoon 36x36” Oil on canvas
Whittle’s academic foray at the University of Florida wasn’t just an education; it was an upheaval. “I thought all painting was landscape painting,” he confesses. This misconception was a cocoon from which he emerged, metamorphosed by exposure to the diverse artistic philosophies and techniques imparted by mentors like Richard Heipp and Jerry Cutler. It was here that Whittle began to understand the breadth and depth of artistic expression.
But it was his time in the Peace Corps, in the heart of Zaire, that crystallized his artistic vision. “It changed absolutely everything,” Whittle declares. This immersive experience in a culture so rich in artistic tradition and so fundamentally different from his own was more than an eye-opener; it was a soul-opener.
Upon his return, Whittle’s artistic evolution continued. Though he leaned towards printmaking for his MFA at the University of Florida, his heart remained tethered to the landscapes of his youth. The journey back to landscape painting was not immediate, nor was it easy. “It felt uncool,” he admits, “but deep down, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Monument Valley 36x80” Oil on wood
His career as an educator, first at the Stuart Center for the Arts and then at Converse College, was marked by a passion for teaching and a continual personal artistic exploration. “I found my real teaching voice and art-making path in Stuart,” Whittle recalls. His time leading the Winter Term New York City travel program at Converse College wasn’t just a teaching assignment; it was a mission to open young minds to the limitless possibilities of art, much like his own had been opened years before.
The transition to Director of Educational Travel at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was a surprise, even to Whittle. Here, he orchestrated experiences that broadened horizons, both for himself and the participants. Recounting a night in Varanasi, India, Whittle shares an encounter that encapsulates the profound impact of these journeys: “Witnessing the ritual of a son cleansing and releasing his mother’s pelvis into the Ganges... that’s an image that stays with you, reshaping your understanding of life and death.”
Token Creek 24x48” Oil on wood
Shell Mound 28x39” Oil on canvas
Anteater 36x48” Oil on canvas
Today, Whittle’s art is a culmination of all these experiences. “I’m painting large landscapes,” he says, “but there’s a shift in them. They’re looser, freer.” His recent foray into Plein air painting and non-objective works is yet another layer in his ever-evolving artistic identity. These pieces, while not directly representing the landscape, resonate with its essence. “They remind me of Zaire,” he muses, “the textures, the patterns, the chaos and beauty of it all.”
Sweet Tea 48x36” Oil on canvas
Parrot 48x36” Oil on canvas
In Douglas Whittle’s journey, we see an artist who has traversed vast physical and emotional landscapes. His work is not just a reflection of the places he’s been, but of the internal transformations those places have wrought. It’s a testament to the power of art as a medium of exploration and expression, of connection and introspection. Whittle’s work is not just a window into diverse worlds, but a mirror reflecting the complex journey of the artist himself.