Once during graduate school, one of my professors made a comment about one of my still life paintings, which at the time made no sense to me. He said, “So now you are painting landscape”. Not long after, I was invited to go out to paint with friends. It was my first time working outside since I was a teenager in my home town. Ever since that idyllic day sitting on a curb making a painting, I have been working outdoors.
What is exciting to me about painting landscape is the constant challenge of the fleeting effects of light, the ever changing subject I feel so much a part of. In the beginning, it was just an attempt to get hold of something of it that seemed true. A lot of this phase was related to gesture drawing, which I had been very involved with in school. Drawing the figure seemed very close to drawing landscape, but it was difficult for me to get hold of structures in landscape. It was necessary to work slowly and to return to the same site countless times to complete a painting. Without realizing it, I was developing a memory and knowledge of the landscape which has become very valuable. Most of this early work focused on formal issues, such as color/value relationships and shape and composition, which helped me to understand color more deeply and begin to see shape relationships. This eventually led to stronger compositions in the paintings. The still life “table” became very large.
As I struggled to understand landscape painting, more and more was revealed to me and I realized that this subject could sustain me for the long term. One day I saw green, the next day I saw the entire spectrum within green. Each session in nature brought more insight, ideas and realizations about process, and memory. I discovered that I had to be more alert in every area; intellectually, spiritually, instinctively, physically. I had to be extremely sensitive to the weather conditions, the energy of the place, my energy, the scale and the type of materials I would employ to “get something”. How does one successfully coordinate all of these variables everyday not knowing what to expect from Mother Nature. Winds gusting to anything over 20mph are very annoying, as are extreme heat or cold, glare and sunburn, not to mention small pests of all varieties. Not an easy task. What were the chances that all would be well and that I could make a successful painting? But once I had decided to paint landscape, I was in it and loved it, even the not so successful days. There was always something to learn.
One of the unique features of painting landscape is that you, the artist, are enveloped by your subject. All of these ineffable qualities influence the work, the atmospheric conditions, the space, temperature, wind, and the history of the place. It is a very rich experience. I strive to capture the spirit of the physical place and my sincere response to the energy I experience there. The response is what carries the meaning of the painting. So, as I continue with landscape, I see myself growing and changing along with it, discovering new issues to explore.
Presently, I am interested in a more personal response to the landscape as I now see how unique each moment in nature is…and how we will never see or experience it again exactly the same way. I want my viewers to feel the air and light of the place. I want to share my experience with my viewers in a very real way, as if they too stand in that place, as if the space opens toward them. The always fascinating work continues…
*photograph used with permission from Steve Crozier and Lakewood Now