thoughts on landscape
A year ago I was in Ireland and missed the Wisconsin fall colors, the drama of the leaves bursting into flaming reds and yellows, then dying to a smolder on the ground. By the time we got home in mid-October the autumn show was pretty much over. This year I am loving the spectacular beauty of leaf season which has come on a few weeks early--plenty of time to take it in before leaving for Ireland again, on 10/23.
The scene above is along the road where I often walk with the dog, and in any season there is beauty all around. I am especially fond of the more subtle times of year like early winter and early spring, when earth colors dominate, and the textures of the dormant fields and bare trees are prominent.
In the late 90s when my paintings were fairly literal interpretations of landscape, walks and drives in the Wisconsin countryside often filled my mind with painting ideas. A particular kind of cloud, a tree alone in a field, light reflecting off water, the curve of a hill in late afternoon shadow...I reacted to these sights with specific, focused attention to how I might use them in a painting. (Then, as now, my work took place in the studio rather than in plein air, and although I have always taken a lot of landscape photos, the paintings were done from memory alone.) Sometimes I miss the directness of that process. Noticing something in the landscape, grabbing it with my mind and imagination, and working it out with paint. Current
, below, is one of these paintings from about 1998, 16"x16".
How convoluted and indirect my work is now by comparison. I do still get lots of ideas from the natural world, from its colors, textures, contrasts, compositions. But these ideas are part of a complex stew of visual elements, that now includes aspects of the human-built world, handwriting, scratches and doodles, geometric forms, ancient monuments in Ireland and all sorts of other references that creep in by suggestion. Also the painting process itself--the interaction of color, the building up probing into of layers--creates a very different basis for how the work develops. I have always been somewhat open-ended when I work, but my landscapes were a lot more straightforward in their path from idea to finished painting than what I do now. I love the unpredictability of my current work though, the excitement of discovery, the wild journey from here to there. Tasting this aspect of process oriented work drew me more and more strongly to abstraction over a period of years--though I still consider my art roots to be in landscape and the natural world.
The painting below is Dark Field
, 12"x12" oil and mixed media on panel.