Thursday, April 02, 2009
Shaped by the Landscape
(This painting photographed horribly - all the photoshopping in the world couldn't get the colors quite right, and now it looks all dark - grrr!)
Sometimes I get all into my own head and start to wonder if my paintings have enough meaning or not - whether or not pure landscapes are as worthy a pursuit as something more abstract or narrative. Usually, I don't think like this for long, because the fact remains that I have no desire to paint anything else. I paint what makes the biggest impact on me, and that happens to be the landscape around me.
I just started reading the book "Why I Came West" by Rick Bass, and he touches a bit on the landscape and its impact on the artist. I thought I'd share some of his words, because he says it so well.
"One often hears about how an artist sculpts or shapes his or her work and how, sometimes, the artist's work then helps shape or direct culture. It seems to me that we hear less often how the artist's subject sculpts the artist."
I love how he words that - the way that the artist is actually sculpted by the landscape. Now that I live in the mountains that I paint rather than being a casual observer from the city, I feel that force in my own life. I know how the landscape can shape a person - how the seasons become metaphors for seasons in your own life. And of course, Bass says it better here:
"I am as entwined in the rhythm of the weather and seasons as any of the other plants or animals. I have become a part of my subject, enmeshed in it. I am no longer on the outside of it, an alien observer."
I think that knowing what I paint is making me a better landscape painter. I'm no longer just aiming to paint pretty pictures - I'm trying to paint the essence of the landscape around me. And I've got a long way to go.
One last thought from Bass, that might be obvious but should be said:
"As an artist, I find it deeply important that such places, such wild places, be protected wherever they are still to be found."
Easier said than done, of course!