Above is the two-page spread on my paintings that appears in the new Volume 24 of Studio Visit magazine. Given that these two of my favorite paintings are reaching a broader audience I thought it would be good to tell a little more about them. In this post I'll take up the first one.
Inland, oil on canvas, 45 x 60", 2008
The forests of inland New England are really dense. So much so that I often resort to searching out the clearing provided by a beaver pond so I can see more of a vista.
In the early days of American landscape painting small farms dotted New England. Painters of the Hudson River School like Cole and Church could set up their easels anywhere and likely find a panoramic view without too much trouble. That all changed with the expansion of mechanized agriculture in the Midwest. New England's rocky soil and hilly sloping fields made the going harder. A lot of New England farms failed and their owners made the trek to the cities to find factory work. Abandoned by the thousands, their farms reverted to the natural forest remarkably quickly.
One of the most haunting of experiences for a landscape painter hiking through what seems to be an untouched natural forest is to come upon the remains of long forgotten stone walls that used to mark the edges of some one's tilled field. It's enough to make you believe in ghosts.
My title for my oil of this New England beaver pond, Inland, was chosen with all this in mind. It's a wildly complex painting, containing so many forms. My challenge was to make it intricate without descending into confusing the viewer. I started as I often do by purposely including too much- water, grasses, white tree trunks, fields, distant pines and for good measure, a sun drenched mountain.
As a painter you have to put the brakes on yourself sometimes. Stepping back and considering what among the perhaps overly generous offering needs to be scaled back or simplified. A painting after all can't be about everything.
Bringing Inland to completion meant going on a mission through the entire middle ground to tone down or eliminate most of that section's highlights. One prominent red mass of foliage remains near the middle. It serves as a bridge between the cooler hues of the middle ground space and the bright oranges to be found in the foreground and the far distant mountain. I had tried it with the red tree completely removed, but that made the middle ground feel too isolated from the adjoining warmer spaces. One wants the different spaces in a painting to feel differently from each other, but not so much so that they seem to be speaking in different languages.
I will write about the other oil painting, Ascension, in the next blog post coming in a few days.
Ascension, oil on canvas, 40 x 32", 2008