The focus of attention on New Orleans on Sunday reminded me of a book I’ve had for a while called Painting Katrina, a collection of paintings by New Orleans based artist Phil Sandusky.
In the 150 or so paintings in the book, he presented plein air impressions of the city in both normal and troubled times, with portrayals of everyday scenes before and after Hurricane Katrina .
When I first came across the book, I was struck by his take on the subject. While it’s not unusual for artists to seek dilapidated or weathered buildings for their textural qualities, this was the first I had seen of an artist recording the results of a disaster in plein air paintings (images above, third and forth down).
In them, despite the emotional impact of his often tragic subjects, his approach was essentially the same as his approach at other times — an immediate impression of the scene in front of him, painted with an unwavering eye and direct, painterly expression of light and atmosphere.
Painting Katrina was Sandusky’s second book, his first, New Orleans en Plein Air is also still available, along with Jacksonville Through a Painter’s Eyes and his newest collection, New Orleans Impressionist Cityscapes.
In addition to his adopted home of New Orleans, Sandusky paints on location in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as well as in Atlanta and New York.
His subjects, though they sometimes include landmarks, are most often of the commonplace — everyday streets and houses that many artists would pass by without a second glance. Sandusky sees them all as worthy subjects, from simple clapboard houses in New Orleans neighborhoods to the high rise urban centers of Jacksonville and Atlanta.
Sandusky uses a vivid but not unnaturally bright palette, and his renderings of architectural elements, while based on solid draftsmanship, are often painted with sketchy, loosely delineated edges — imparting a feeling of informality and pulling the work together in a stylistic whole.
Sandusky teaches classes in Landscape and figure painting at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, and occasionally conducts workshops.
On his website, look for pop-out menus from what may at first look like a list of simple text links, with access to galleries of work from various locations, as well as a selection of figurative work. Be aware that some of the sections have small links at the bottom to secondary pages. Clicking on an image will bring up a slideshow presentation of larger versions.
You can find more of his work on the websites of the galleries listed below.