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"My subjects may remain the same, but even after 50 years of painting I'm still fascinated by the ocean and desert landscapes," Sisson explains. "I am always looking for new vocabulary to capture the aesthetic form and design and am continually expanding and refining my work."
While some of Sisson's contemporaries spend their days in leisure activities, he prefers to be in his Albuquerque studio with brush in hand. Painting is done in a standing position and is a very physical endeavor for him. He loves to engage his entire body, much like a ballet dancer, in the act of creation. Initial ideas are captured quickly and spontaneously, while the beautifully intricate details, a defining characteristic of his work, are executed in a slow and meticulous fashion. He may look at sketches drawn on location before beginning a new painting, but he never works from photos.
Maine's rocky and wild coast continues to be a favorite scenario for this prolific painter, who is a native New Englander. Sisson visits New England annually to soak in the moist salty air and play in the ever fascinating tide pools that hug the shoreline. He loves studying the unusual textures of coastal pebbles and likes to think people are beach-combing through his paintings and discovering the many shore inhabitants he has uncovered.
Sisson also loves to immerse himself in the sparse beauty of southwestern landscapes. He's intrigued by the rhythmic shapes of New Mexico and Arizona mesas, hills, valleys, and desert plains and by the movement of cloud shadows crossing the mountains and glistening canyon walls. A resident of New Mexico for more than 20 years, he's begun to observe a similarity between the natural forms indigenous to his New England childhood home and the mesas and vast open spaces surrounding him today.
"Hills and deserts in New Mexico flow and seem wave-like to me," he comments. "Sometimes New Mexico colors creep into my Maine paintings. When I put a New Mexico painting next to one of Maine, I see they are characteristically similar."
While the body of Sisson's work is now done in oils, he is a master of watercolors who was inducted into the American Watercolor Society in 1955. During his career he has created hundreds of paintings in this elusive medium. When he moved to the southwest in 1978, he discovered that watercolors didn't work the same way for him in an arid environment as they did in Maine and decided to turn to oils as another venue in which to express his deep love for the natural world around him. When he does work in watercolors, he usually produces a group of paintings for three or four weeks at a time so he can build up a rhythm and follow in the watercolor process.
"Watercolors are really a series of well-controlled accidents," he declares. "They should be spontaneous. When I start working on a watercolor in the studio, I'll finish it within a half day or a day. It is a punishing process for me, however. While I attach my oil canvases to a wall and work standing up, I create my watercolors bent over a table. It can be exhausting."
Sisson's artistic journey began during childhood in Newton, Massachusetts. He attended the prestigious Worcester Art Museum School and upon graduation spent a summer at Booth bay Harbor, Maine, where he first fell in love with the ebb and flow of tides against the rocky shore. He's been an artist-in-residence at the Cincinnati Museum and Director of the Portland Museum School. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the National Park Foundation, and Clark, Colby, Dartmouth, Salem State, and Bowdoin Colleges have included his landscapes in their permanent collections.
MEMBER: Watercolor American Society
Studied: Worcester Museum School - Graduated 1949 Yale Summer School - Scholarship 1948-49