My working title for this piece was "Wounds of Time". That of course is a heaping pile of pretentious garbage. That's how it is with me..a title pops into my head as I'm painting, and while it may adequately capture my idea, it's usually just bad. I almost always force myself to come up with two titles for this reason, as insurance against such bad ideas. Two very different backyards are pictured here: in one, the back-end of a house has been ripped off; in the other a nice little deck with furniture and toys in the yard can be seen. A lot of Vermont is just like this: the dilapidated and unused right next to the renovated and vital.
16 x 24 OIL ON PANEL
It took three sessions outside to get this painting 80% done. I'm usually much more efficient than that but nature kept cutting me off each day with shifting weather conditions. My wife rolls her eyes: oh you love it, she says. It’s true, I do. The extra challenges make the successes that much more rewarding. The Transparent Oxide Red harmony in this piece was a joy to paint.
First Day of Winter
14x20 OIL ON PANEL
This first day of the 2017/2018 winter was nine degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill near zero. Too cold really for me to paint outside, but I did anyway because I was itching to get out for the first snow painting of the season. If the surface texture of this piece looks a little different than usual, that's because I had to add a lot more medium to get the paint moving...oil paints won't freeze but they get awfully stiff.
I am an artist who lives and works in Vermont so I am obligated by social custom, at some point in my career, to paint a cow. This day seemed like the perfect time. The clouds could not have been more billowing, the sky could not have been more saturated, the variety of greens could not have been more pleasing, the cows could not have been scattered more perfectly. This painting makes me happy whenever I look at it: it's high summer in Vermont, not too hot, plenty of saturated color because we always seem to get our share of rain, maybe a little buggy close to the farm, but somehow (at least in my mind) more pure.
I must have driven by this place a hundred times on my way to more “scenic” fare, and every time it caught my eye. At some point I realized I had to paint it. Then, for a while, I tried to work up the courage to ask permission to paint on the property. Eventually that effort failed. There are two large spotlights trained on the approach to the stairs which is both unsettling and gives the strong impression that visitors are neither expected nor wanted. Of course, that is a prejudgment I made with incomplete information; but I figure maybe sometimes, in the interest of self-preservation, it’s okay to judge a book by its cover. However, despite any apparent differences in lifestyle between us, as I painted the scene I began to pick out things that spoke to a greater commonality: a Weber grill, a lawnmower, a workbench with some kind of woodworking project in progress, a failed attempt at a garden, pride in America. These are things many of us can relate to and I found within myself a growing appreciation of their daily pleasures, triumphs and perhaps struggles as witnessed by the artifacts spread across their lawn.
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.
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.