Thursday, April 02, 2009

Shaped by the Landscape

"January Sky"
Oil on Panel

(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!


  1. BREATHTAKING! Imagine, if the image, which you say has not come out well,looks so beautiful here, how would be the original...WOW!if only I could see it...Loved Bass's words...deep and meaningful!

  2. Amazing Sky!

  3. I can't imagine how good this would look if the photo was better - it is quite breath taking already!

  4. Stacey, I think if we trust our own instincts and paint scenes which inspire us in some way, we can safely assume that we'll touch others in the same way.

  5. The painting looks wonderful on my monitor. Great sky.
    I nominated you for an award. If you wish to participate, please go to my blog.

  6. This is an awe-inspiring sky. I like how you constantly are questioning and investigating your direction with art. I think such introspection will only strengthen the pieces you work on.

    BTW, I also nominated you for an award, and if you wish to participate please visit my 4/5 post. Thanks, Liz

  7. I firmly believe that when I am in nature, especially where the landscape is untouched and native, I am in touch with the divine. I know that that is a nineteenth century pantheistic view, but just because a thought is old does not make it less true.

    Living in the mountains is bringing you into greater harmony with the divine Stacey and your work reflects that.

    I cannot think of a more important reason for you to paint than to teach us how to see what you see and feel in your beloved mountains. You are following your heart and we are all better for it.

  8. Your landscapes are so beautiful and open to each individual viewers own revere and interpretation. Don't ever doubt the artist path you are taking.

  9. Ramesh, Red, and Jeremy - thanks so much for the encouragement. This is one of those paintings I struggled with (invented the entire foreground because what was there didn't work), so I have a weird feeling about it!

    Peter - I totally agree. Someone told me once to paint what I love, so I went with it and haven't really looked back.

    E. Floyd - thanks so much for the nomination. I've been behind lately, but I'll try to pass it on as soon as I get a chance.

    Mike - I've always seen the divine in nature, to the point that sometines I'd rather be outdoors than in church. It definitely affects my painting!

    Onpainting - thanks for the encouragement. I wouldn't say I doubt the path I'm on, so much as try to think deeply every once in a while if there's something I should be working on or exploring that I haven't yet. I think it's okay to do that, so long as it doesn't get to the point of really doubting the essence of what I'm doing.

  10. gr8 work!!!! love them all!!! you made my day.