I am happy to report that the first new painting of 2015 turned out to be a snow-covered, boulder-strewn creek in overcast light--I can`t think of a more perfect start to the year! As I`ve stated before, these scenes call to me perhaps like no other. The snow turns everything quiet and still, save for the water, while the cold and lack of sunshine keep sane folks far away. It`s just me and the glorious creative act before me. And the challenge of painting a scene like this without strong shadows from the sun has long stoked my technical and professional aspirations. It was in the mid 20s this day, which, although that sounds pretty chilly, with decent gear and no wind it was quite pleasant and I was able to stand out there several hours working on this smaller canvas.
14 X 24 OIL ON PANEL
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.
12 x 24 OIL ON PANEL
My working title for this piece was "Wounds of Time". 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.
Burlington Rail Yard 1
9 X 16 OIL ON CANVAS
12 x 24 OIL ON PANEL
It occurred to me recently that I have never painted one of the many tiny hamlets that dot the Vermont landscape. I`ve painted many nearby farms and the surrounding land, but I have conveniently omitted any mention of a white steepled town center from my oeuvre. After thinking about this for a while I decided it was probably time, but I also realized I was hesitant to try it. The immediate question I had was this: how can I paint such an iconic symbol of New England without falling into the trap of nostalgia or sentimentalism. The answer was to try to paint the scene in the off-season, in this case early Spring before the leaves have made their appearance. The land in April is simultaneously beautiful and not really beautiful at all, and my intent was to have the painting reflect that duality. I think it worked pretty well because I`m not even sure I like parts of it; hills covered in dormant trees and matted, dried-out meadows just aren`t that interesting to me. But I do feel the raw and unimproved landscape on this particular day and the scarred and rubbed out paint meant to represent it capture something special about Vermont nevertheless: Winter is long, and for every gloriously colorful Spring day that will follow there is necessarily a day like this one that precedes it.
16 x 24 OIL ON PANEL
Starksboro is a town in Vermont chartered shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed. It is exactly what you`d expect of such a town: a white steeple church, several Greek-revival style homes right on the road, neighboring farms, and a stream winding down out of the Green Mountains with a cascade that once had a mill. Just downstream from the old mill site is where I painted this piece. I always feel a strong sense of time and history in these places. I like to imagine the surveyors walking this very same cascade looking for a good spot to put the mill; and while they had a very practical concern at hand they no doubt appreciated the beauty of it in itself. Now I stand here all these years later, the functional mill long gone but the rocky cascade still going, the beauty of it still enduring for anyone who happens by.
A Well Lighted Place
16 X 20 OIL ON CANVAS
Rocks, trees, and water high in the mountains...I will never tire of these paintings; not the least of which because they always start with a window-down drive up less traveled dirt roads, then a short walk into the woods to set up for an afternoon of painting on location. Sign me up! Plus I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of suggesting all the complexity a scene like this entails. As an artist my job is to capture the essence of a scene, and my feeling is that such complexity is exactly the essence of these places. So while I must simplify I must not make simple. Reality is layered and complex and fractal and uncertain, and so should my painting be as well.