Wednesday, May 13, 2009


"Summer Grove"
Oil on Panel

I've painted a lot of aspen trees this year. It started out as a challenge - I struggled with them, and since they're everywhere in Colorado I figured I should work on it. And they're fun to paint - every grove is different. Also, the galleries love aspen paintings, because tourists buy them, and I can't complain when they're paying my bills during a rough patch in the economy. But this is the point where I get a little bit wary of being pegged as a painter of very specific subject matter.

Do I want all of my galleries to be begging for aspen paintings for the rest of my life? Probably not. I like painting them, but like everything else, only when I feel like it!

The best artists out there sell regardless of what they paint. It doesn't matter if Richard Schmid paints a figure or a landscape - he executes all of his paintings so well that his collectors see value. And since he's painted a variety of subject matter throughout his career, his audience doesn't expect to see only one thing.

I paint purely landscapes, so my subject matter is already a bit limited, but I like painting different scenes, seasons, and moods. I used to paint a lot of big vista mountain paintings, but since I've moved to the mountains, I find myself painting the more intimate scenes - the corners of the landscape that you see when you spend more time in a place. I think that expanding my comfort zone has improved my painting.

It keeps me on my toes to paint different things, so there's a fine line to walk between keeping the galleries happy and painting what will help me grow as an artist. I think this is something a lot of artists face when they sell through galleries, and sometimes the best thing is to find a gallery that is run by owners who truly appreciate good art (vs. "sellable" art). I tend to have the attitude that if I improve enough that anything I paint is a knockout regardless of subject matter, it won't matter what I paint so much as how it's painted. To get to that point, I have my work cut out for me - I won't be getting bored any time soon.


  1. Just love the way you handle your trees in landscapes!

  2. Just because they call them "aspen" paintings (as opposed to "mountain" paintings?) doesn't mean it is the aspen that attracts them. Aspen may just be a convenient (for them, not you) label.

    I personally prefer your aspen paintings to your mountainscapes, but wouldnt know an aspen if it fell on me, so it is not the particular tree attracting me, but a combination of a bunch of things that appear more often in your aspen work than your mountainscapes - closer foreground view, enclosed intimacy, light, colour, mood, composition, vertical orientation. And just like your aspen paintings don't need ALL those elements to be "an aspen painting", I don't think they need aspens either.

    So see if you can puzzle out what feeling they are craving when they ask for "aspen" pictures, and that will free you up a whole lot so that you can paint both what you enjoy and what tickles the tourists fancy, without selling your soul.

    I suspect the difference may be between foreground focus and background focus with virtually no foreground. Being INSIDE the landscape rather than observing it from a distance.

    Despite my preferring your aspens to your mountains, my fave pics of yours are actually NOT of aspens, but intimate, bright paintings with water, so they feel more like an aspen pic than a mountain. "Silence" & especially "September Reflections" to name 2 recent ones.

  3. Hi Stacey. Here are my 2 cents as a collector and nonprofessional artist. I sometimes buy art on the spot just because I like it, but first and foremost, I strive to buy art from artists that I have researched and interest in following. My last two acquisitions were Jay Moore pieces. I admire Jay's consistent quality and respect his "time in service" if you know what I mean. Funny enough, the large piece that I bought was, I my view, not what Jay typically does. The piece in question, in my opinion, was a rather moody painting on an overcast day that spoke of Jay's influence by John F. Carlson. Jay says he is a product of all the artists that have come before him and I feel the piece exemplified that for me. I like my art to be more that a pretty picture. Discussion the provenance of a piece is much more interesting to me if I can find an interested ear. When I think Jay, I think experience, quality, passion and amazing water. I do think aspens when I think Stacey but also enjoy keeping an eye on where you are going as an artist. To be honest, the aspens and hearing your story when visiting the Breckenridge Gallery is what initially captured my interest. Keep doing what you are doing and I believe the rest will continue to fall into place for you professionally. Sorry for the long-winded post!

  4. adebanji - Thanks!

    Tor - thanks for the comments. It's good to hear that you like the more intimate scenes, since that's an area I've been working on lately.

    labrown - I appreciate your perspective as a collector. I know Jay well, and he works harder than any artist I know, and also has a great story to go along with every painting. He could easily have been pegged a few years ago for his realistic depictions of water, but he's stayed committed to high quality and passion in his work and avoided being pigeonholed. That's a big lesson I've learned from him and other successful artists I know - you have to stay true to yourself as an artist no matter what. The cool thing about being an artist is that it's a process, and the years of working through things like this just keep it interesting all the time - it's why I love my job!

  5. Hi Stacey,
    Very nice painting. I wouldn't worry too much about the aspens though. In my opinion they offer some real nice structure both vertical and horizontally on the ground for building composition. So when I look at that piece, I am thinking that it has a great composition (and they happen to be aspens).