D&E professor revives ‘fossils’ through his art

ELKINS – A local artist and Davis & Elkins College professor believes the past can be beautifully revived in the present through an intricate blending of the two concepts of time.

Born in Elkins, Michael Doig spent a lot of time during his college years switching between schools and changing majors. He began his studies as an illustration major, tested out geology, and found himself admiring the field of paleontology, only to finally decide on completing his art degree.

All the while, the one thing that kept Doig grounded was his interest in the past.

“I’m fascinated by the idea of having knowledge of the past in a way that people didn’t used to… that we’re able to reconstruct it,” said Doig.

He admits that he had never expected to move back to his hometown, but had always aspired to become a teacher at D&E, and it almost felt like fate played its role when he dropped by to visit his parents for a few days years ago.

When Doig was searching for an art teaching job on his move to Tennessee, he began dropping off his resumes to various schools just to see what would happen.

On his search, he stopped to spend some time with his parents, and took a chance, sending off one of his resumes and applying for a position at D&E.

“They called me almost immediately,” said Doig.

Doig took the position and taught photography for some time and later moved on to teaching art classes and teaching for three years at the Governor’s School for the Arts at D&E.

Now, with the GSA program being held at West Virginia Wesleyan College this year, Doig has found time this summer to continue work on a new series of paintings that focuses on bringing the past to life.

“I started my Appalachian series seven or eight years ago. I think I began working on it as sort of a way of dealing with my home place… thinking about my home place. The idea of being away from home and sort of being drawn to it in my dreams and my thoughts,” said Doig.

Due to his interest in the past and his love and aspirations for Elkins as a thriving arts community, he combined the two along with his talents to create approximately 30 paintings inspired by Appalachia.

Doig begins by researching photos online through various archives until one strikes his eye. Often these photographs are of everyday people doing everyday things. He likes using these photos because he feels like they represent the individual and their personal memories that are associated with that moment, but also the persona of many everyday individuals just like them.

Sometimes Doig even goes out into the field and takes photos that feel antique-esque, stripping them of color and letting them inspire him.

“These older images of

Appalachia are almost like fossils… digging them up and putting them together in some dynamic way… reconstructing them and trying to mirror the way they looked when they were alive,” said Doig, “yet taking liberties and interpreting them for yourself. When they’re black and white, we don’t necessarily know their colors, just like we don’t necessarily know the colors of dinosaurs. Just that they have some pigmentation.”

After finding a photograph that inspires him, he then begins sketching out the image on a large canvas. Doig says without a strong sketch behind the painting, the overall outcome of the painting won’t be as vivid or well-done.

Once he completes the sketch, Doig then moves on to his favorite medium – oil paints. He starts with a base coat of one color and waits until that coat dries before he moves on to more colors and more layers. He believes it’s better to start out with one color and lighter shades on top of the sketch so that you can better adjust shading techniques once you begin adding color.

A man who prefers to keep his palette within the usage of six colors, Doig says oil painters can keep using the same tube of paint on multiple canvases due to the nature of oils and their ability to thin out.

Doig will then add multiple layers of colors and shading until he feels like he is able to blend the past with the present. Aspects of older images or the older photographs can be seen, but he always tries to draw the attention of today’s world to his art.

While he waits for oils on one canvas to dry, he promptly begins working on another one. Thus, for the past few weeks Doig has been working on four different pieces and plans on creating five more for a showcase in Charleston in

October.

Often, the subject matter will be bright and full of color. In this way, Doig feels he is able to capture his audience’s attention, causing them to stop by and interpret or understand the “person of the past” featured for themselves, just like Doig did when he created the painting.

“I’m not trying to take the past and make it the present. I’m not trying to take the present and make it into the past. I’m trying to allow these two ideas to come together,” said Doig.

By doing so, just like the way dinosaurs are not forgotten but the minute details of their individual lives are difficult to reconstruct, Doig is able to reconstruct images from the past through his “human filter” instead of a photograph, so that at least the idea or the memory of the individual or era live on.

Doig believes that as an artist, when he sees a photograph and comprehends what it means to him as he puts it on to canvas, he is able to better humanize the mechanical nature of some aspects of photography.

Continuing with his themes of time, loss of memory, erosion and personal interest in reviving those concepts, Doig has also completed a 12-piece series on the Civil War and continues work on a series that includes dinosaurs.

Often his dinosaur series contains hidden fossil prints and miniature dinosaurs into modern photos of people doing everyday things in today’s world.

With his passion for creativity, and the essence of nature through time, Doig plans to continue sharing his love for art and the philosophies he has built behind it as he teaches students and begins the process of looking to reconstruct photos through paintings in historical regions or eras outside of

Appalachia.