I'll be honest, it took me awhile to quit wiping off paintings, and to feel comfortable with my new surroundings here in CO. I try not to accept anything less than what I feel very good about in my painting. I've thought a lot about it, there were many factors to acknowledge, that had me scratching my head at my painting for a while. They're all interesting to me. This post is my idea about what I've been going through since moving here.
There is one thing about painting, above all others, that keeps my interest alive and energized. Including all of the good and bad, that comes with being an artist. It can be, in part, the following 'things'. But they're not the major underlying motivation for me. It is not the particular subject that I'm painting, it's not the physical act of applying paint or pastel, it is not only color, it is not only design, it is definitely not money or the benefits that other 'jobs' hold.
The one thing that keeps me painting is the intimate insight that you develop when you work long enough with your subject. It's such an immensely satisfying, internal reward, and it is why I paint, above and beyond any other reason. When you have that, everything that you do in a painting, is guided by it. That is the quality that I hope to bring to my art.
In painting the landscape, in my opinion, you Must become intimately familiar with the mood of the land, the smells, sounds, climate affects, the weather patterns, the way the sky above changes the look of the dirt, trees, rocks, and water. You must sense what the land is about every single time you head out to paint.
That doesn't mean that you can't be out there painting if you're not in tune with what I'm discussing here. Yes, you can make images all day long, and I do this a lot. But to give those images more than just a rendered surface, you need more than a good hand and a good brush.
Everything that I put into a landscape painting, that I am proud of, has an underlying force that comes from how well I understand the raw essence of what it is I'm painting. It's the kind of intimate knowledge that gives the weapons, clothing, art and accoutrements of the First People, the native Americans, such an amazing life force and connection to a wilder land than exists today. They lived it, breathed it, ate and died on it. That's the kind of understanding that I'm talking about. It is Spiritual.
I used to paint birds in a natural history style. In that case the accuracy of the biology of the animal or bird, and their environment, was critical to the viewers of those paintings, and to me in painting them. I'm not talking about that in this case, I'm talking about a much deeper and yet bigger picture than that.
I lived in Minnesota for 33 years, fished, hunted, xc skied, hiked, and painted it on a near daily basis. I became very familiar with what the land there was telling me. Not to be mystical, although this is a bit of a mystical sensibility, I felt the land, much as a farmer does, because I had so much experience being out in and on it.
As a painter, that sensibility came into my work, via my own internal editing, desires and artistic choices. I painted many, many 'rendered' images, not pieces of art, along the way. Learning has a much higher volume of failures than successes in any field. I look at those failures as teaching tools. "Why didn't I catch the mood of that day?"... "Why did I get caught up in the type of tree instead of what those trees mean to the shape of the land that they're growing on?"... "Why is this painting so boring to me? It's well rendered, it looks like the scene. What is missing in it that doesn't allow the spirit of the place, the sense of place, to come through? What was I saying as an artist about the landscape that is unique to my own vision?" These are the questions that come to my mind when I leave a painting location and am not thrilled about what I just painted. It's not usually that I didn't get the color, that I didn't draw it well enough, that I didn't choose a good design. I usually can accomplish those things.
What is missing when I don't enjoy my efforts, is that I return with a mere rendering, not an understanding of the life of the landscape that I just painted. That happens for two reasons... 1- I don't know the place...or... 2- I didn't dig deep enough into why I want to be there, at that time, painting that place. The latter can't be understood until the former is in place.
That brings me back to the point of this post, I hope. When I moved to Colorado I was excited to jump into painting immediately, faster than I was ready to. Not only did I have some emotional things to overcome, normal in a relocation move when you've been in once place for so long, the logistical things that had to be done... like driver's license, unpacking, creating a workplace in a new place, finding out how to get around town, feeling like you're in a new country, and so on... I also needed some time to wander around the country side to understand a few things about this new land I was now planted in and on. I did a lot of that, wandered, photographed, attempted to paint it, and wondered if I would ever learn this place as well as I knew where I lived in Minnesota, well enough to paint it as I wanted to?
I have been blessed since moving here with great things happening in my career... an article in the November issue of Southwest Art Magazine, and the cover of the same issue... I've been invited to show as a featured artist at Gallery 1261 in Denver, and have also been invited to show as a guest at Saks Gallery in Denver, and at Mary Williams Fine Arts in Boulder. I'm grateful for these and other opportunities that have arisen since my move. Not to mention all of the artist friends that have been so gracious and welcoming to me here.
If you're an artist, you know that despite every other good thing that happens in your life, if your painting isn't going right, if you're not in touch with that Artist within you, it can be overwhelmingly concerning.
Not to draw this out too much longer, but I am happy to say that I am 'finally' beginning to be more in touch with where I am. When I first started painting around Longmont and Boulder, I would stand and stare, mouth agape, at the mountains. They're so powerful, so beautiful, that they put me in a painterly trance. I've painted a few of them, wiped out a bunch, and am now settling down into seeing things closer to my feet where the understanding begins. I found a couple of dirt roads that are rich with texture, color, shape and design possibilities. Any success I'm gaining, has been because I've limited myself to gaining an intimate understanding of those two areas first, before I try to tackle chunks of the larger landscape, just yet. It's working, I feel good about what I'm painting now.
In fact, I've been hauling out large canvases, up to 24x30, and feeling pretty comfortable that I'm beginning to gain a sense of 'my' place in this landscape. As time goes along, as more paint is pushed, more in depth observation and questioning is pushed through my art brain, I am now confident that I will find out how this land breathes in time. Now the fun begins...
These are all field paintings that were painted in October and November. The first one, "Longmont Resident" was the first painting that I painted here as a new resident of Colorado, back in late September.
Thanks for reading...
Longmont Resident - oil - 9x12
October Flow - oil - 10x8
Indian Summer Day - oil - 11x14
Entanglement - oil - 11x14
November Willow Gold - oil - 9x12
61st Street - oil - 6x6
Fast Lane - oil - 6x10
Ringbills - oil - 14x18
Pasture Cows - oil - 6x12
Snaking Along - oil - 9x12
Softly Opening Day - oil - 18x24
Spread - oil 0 12x16