2015 Aug 18, 6:12pm
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Barricade

In this watercolor and drybrush piece we’re on the beach of Lake Michigan looking back toward the woods that rise up out of the dunes. The woods’ edge is akin to a dark, mysterious barrier, very primal and wild to me. Ever since childhood, the sight of a wooded tree line has always excited a sense of curiosity and a desire to explore.

Barricade, 2010, Drybrush and Watercolor on Paper (Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. Cold Pressed), 12 1/2 x 11 in., by David Jay Spyker

Barricade, 2010, Drybrush and Watercolor on Paper (Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. Cold Pressed), 12 1/2 x 11 in.

Trish and I were at Hoffmaster State Park, just north of Grand Haven, Michigan. At the end of the day, we were heading out of the park at closing time – pretty much right on the minute – with 6 or 7 other cars only to find the kid manning the gate had locked it already. We had to sit there for over an hour while we waited for someone to come from the nearby campground to let us all out.

I am always happy when a title comes to me that fits more than one meaning; “Barricade” seemed perfect for this little painting.

Barricade, 2010, Drybrush and Watercolor on Paper (Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. Cold Pressed), Detail, by David Jay Spyker

Barricade, 2010, Drybrush and Watercolor on Paper (Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. Cold Pressed), Detail


2013 May 11, 2:06am
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Sudden Flight

I was in South Haven, Michigan, out on the north pier watching jets of water shoot up in the recesses along the steel side as the waves rolled in. This gull had been standing there on the soaked concrete, looking at me instead of the water behind, when it was startled into flight.

I felt this was a great image, and revisited it on and off for months. It started out as a thought about how life is fragile, and tied in with how I’ve been seeing gulls as metaphors for people. Here was this bird with all the world crashing around, and it seemed so small and at the mercy of the greater power of nature – so transitory.

"Startled Gull", 2011, Graphite on Paper, 23 x 29 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Startled Gull” (Study for Sudden Flight), 2011
Graphite on Paper, 23 x 29 in., by David Jay Spyker~click to enlarge~

It took some time for the deeper personal connection to percolate up, and motivate me to actually get started on the painting:

When the phone rang the second time, I had a feeling something was wrong. Mom’s in the hospital; she had a massive stroke and might not live more than a day. That’s not something you want to hear.

I was on a plane bound for Florida early the next morning, a sudden flight filled with fears and barely restrained, intense sadness.

In spite of the reality of the situation – knowing that this wasn’t going to end with a miracle – hope would come and go throughout each day as I sat in the hospital room, traveled with family to a second hospital that had neurology specialists, and watched mom hooked up to tubes, machines, and monitors.

When you’re sitting there, and hope is not with you at the moment, a vacant numbness takes its place. These two things trade off, back and forth, and mix in with other powerful emotions to make a thick stew.

She never woke up. Her sudden flight had already happened about a week before she finally passed away.

Losing a parent changes something deep inside of you, way down in your core. The truth of your own mortality is never more clear. If you’re fortunate, you come away with the beginning of a more profound understanding of your own heart, and of the things that give meaning to your life.

The thing about life is we never know how much time we have. There is a glass-like fragility to life, to being out there in it all and experiencing the world through this gift we’ve been given.

Get out there and do something meaningful. Live with purpose. Try to be a better human being, be kinder, be more understanding, and especially be more open. That’s how I want to live.

"Sudden Flight" (Detail), 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, by David Jay Spyker

“Sudden Flight” (Detail), 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

"Startled Gull", 2011, Watercolor and Acrylics on Paper (Lanaquarelle 140 lb. Cold Pressed), 10 5/8 x 11 1/2 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Startled Gull” (Study for Sudden Flight), 2011
Watercolor and Acrylics on Paper (Lanaquarelle 140 lb. Cold Pressed)
10 5/8 x 11 1/2 in., by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

Study for Sudden Flight, 2012, Graphite on Paper (Stonehenge 100% Cotton), 11 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker

Study for Sudden Flight, 2012, Graphite on Paper (Stonehenge 100% Cotton)
11 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

Sudden Flight is displayed in ArtPrize from September 18 – October 6, 2013 at St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. If you’ll be visiting ArtPrize, please stop by St. Cecilia’s to see the painting.

ArtPrize 2013 Vote Code: 54406


2011 Jun 14, 11:56pm
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“Northbound” at Michigan Artist’s Competition

From June 10-30, the watercolor and drybrush painting, Northbound, will be included in the Michigan Artists Competition at the Art Center of Battle Creek. The competition is open to entries by any artist living in Michigan. This year’s juror is sculptor Kenneth Thompson of Blissfield, Michigan.


2010 Dec 16, 12:10am
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Northbound

It was one of those strange coincidences – you know when you’ve been thinking about someone, and the phone rings, and you hear that someone on the other end? – something like that.

Only days before Ron Dumont called to ask if I would be interested in lending a painting to a show he would be curating, I had been eyeballing these areas with tall railroad beds not far from home. I thought from below they were like great walls interrupting the flow of the summer landscape, but then, they followed the terrain, and had long since become part of it too. Maybe there was a painting lurking in there somewhere.

Ron said the show would be railroad-themed. What a mysterious bit of providence. I told him I would think about it, and see if the inspiration was there.

After sketching out some unused ideas, and waiting for Autumn to set in deeply enough to strip the leaves from much of the trees and to color most of the rest, the perfect day happened. The cloud cover and lighting were just right, and when the sun got low enough, I found it – true inspiration.

For the past twenty years, we have always lived within distant earshot of the overnight trains that run between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids; “Northbound”, for me, conjures not only that familiar, comforting sound of the horns at night, but also many walks along the tracks with Trish.

"Northbound", 2010, Watercolor and Drybrush on Paper, 21 x 28 3/4 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Northbound”, 2010, Watercolor and Drybrush on Paper, 21 x 28 3/4 in., by David Jay Spyker

You can see “Northbound” along with paintings, photography, and sculpture by nearly thirty artists at “Railroad Days”. The show is on display at the Portage District Library in Portage, Michigan through January 27. Also included are poems inspired by trains, railroad memorabilia, and model trains.