Looking Out, Looking In

Here I am in Acadia National Park in Maine getting ready to paint. I'm surveying the horizon to decide just what to include in the next picture.

And this is what greeted me this morning as I entered my studio. The night before I had been sorting out some oils on paper, deciding which to use as sources for new paintings.

These two photos reveal a lot about the creative process. First you go out and encounter the world. There's looking long and hard, and then mulling over what you've seen to pull out what's most significant. It's like human relationships- you meet hundreds and hundreds of people. You end up having something meaningful with only a handful of them. If you're lucky you've picked wisely and reap the benefits.

For a landscape painter, being outside is exhilarating but a little overwhelming too. It pours over you. But you make paintings and drawings out on location, catching what you can of the best ideas you find out there. I love to bring the small plein air pictures I make out side back to the studio and then put them away for awhile. Out of sight, I forget what it was I was thinking as I made them.

Then I bring a whole number of them back out to examine. I'm always surprised at how different they look to me once I've been away from them for a few weeks. By then I've gotten a fresh eye for them, seeing possibilities I'd overlooked when I first did them. You literally are given a second chance with each of them. Very often I'll go back into them, editing this and adjusting that, and almost always make them stronger.

Before I can get to mixing colors this morning I'll have to pick up all the works on my studio floor. But before I do that, I'll have made mental notes about who's going to be helping me get new ideas for paintings and who's headed back to my storage racks.


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