This is a farm right in the heart of Starksboro, Vermont, a small town along the western foothills of the Green Mountains. It was late fall when I painted this--a favorite time of year for me as most of the leaves are already down and you can see many more features of the landscape. It's also a time when we seem to get a lot of clouds and rain. It was muddy, wet, and cold on this day and shortly after I started painting the manure spreader came out to spread its cargo in the adjacent field. I must have been upwind because it didn't get too bad while I stood there. My three-year-old has been absolutely fascinated to learn about poop trucks, as we fondly call them, and every time we head down one of the many country roads trying to get the one-year old to take a nap, she asks if we're going to see a poop truck. So with that in mind I really wanted to capture, not so much the poop because I'm not sure that makes a good motif for a painting, but certainly the muddiness and the dampness and the fact that our food, our very subsistence comes from places just like this. I find the muddiness and the churned up landscape beautiful for that reason.
This is the New Haven River near Lincoln, VT, a favorite place of mine to visit in the winter. The snow covered boulders along this stream provide endless compositional opportunities. I've done a few more paintings of Lincoln VT since this one that I'll be posting in the next month or so. Lately it seems I've been doing series, or multiple paintings, of various places in Vermont and I like the thematic approach.
Lincoln Vermont is a sleepy little town just up the road from where I painted Upper New Haven, in the Green Mountains. While the road continues on past the town and over the Lincoln Gap, that part of the road is closed in the winter. Although not technically situated at the end of the road (there are other four-season roads in and out of Lincoln) it certainly has the feel of a town at the end of the road. I could have named this piece “Tire in The Snow”, or perhaps “Tire and Propane Tank” because these are deliberately prominent elements in my painting. For all the nostalgia that could be evoked by a place like this--a sugaring shack and a barn positioned ever so keenly on the bend of a snowy stream in Vermont--I like to try to keep things contemporary. Propane is a common and efficient means of heating and you see a lot of these tanks all over the countryside, as well as used and discarded tires. The tires always make me laugh. I’ve painted a lot of farms and every single one of them has a pile of tires somewhere...why are there so many tires? I’m not a farmer and I don't live way out in the country but I like to speculate that I see so many tires because the land is rough and it wears out the tires of the people who try to wrestle something from it. I feel there is a nice (and perhaps deep) metaphor at work here, and the application of paint and texture is meant to reinforce that idea of roughness, but I am content just to include the tire and the propane tank and to paint like I paint, and let the viewer ruminate on what deeper meaning (if any) it could possibly have.
When I paint sunshine I want my painting to glow just like real life, I want the painting to look like it is emanating it's own light source. A perfect fidelity to this kind of glowing sunshine usually isn't entirely possible however...sunshine is just too bright. This scene in particular was extremely bright and in trying to really capture the sparkle of sunlight, I threw just about every color I have at it, especially in the shadows. In person, the painting does glow really well and I've always enjoyed it for that reason. I included a picture of it framed to try to give some idea of the glow...but alas I'm not a photographer.
I've had the fortune of traveling out West for my art over the last few years and have truly come to love Phoenix in late February. Coming from Vermont it's like a whole other world...a glorious amazing world with sun and light and warmth! My journeys are always book-ended by a stop through Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix and I always have a great deal of excitement stepping off the plane and making my way through the terminal. Airports are funny places, simultaneously exciting and maddening. But the West is spectacular and getting to paint it is a singular pleasure, not the least of which because for me the excitement of the travel is all part of the adventure, an essential part of how I experience of the West.
My wife recently noted, and wondered aloud what it could possibly mean, that I like to paint remote cabins in rough terrain with no apparent means of access. It's no secret that a lot of artists, myself included, tend to be solitary creatures, so I responded in jest that it might mean I just want to be left alone. It also occurred to me that as a father of a toddler and a newborn I may subconsciously be searching for an easily defensible position from which to protect my young family...from who knows what. Whatever the case subconsciously, this scene initially reminded me of something like a David Winter cottage, with its small cabin perched improbably upon a jagged outcropping of rock. While the cabin in this scene is nothing like the idyllic cottages of David Winter, in fact it is quite a bit more utilitarian, it is nevertheless a remarkable little camp set high in the Green Mountains along a cascading stream, and no doubt a great way to beat the heat in the crisp mountain air.