Do you ever wonder what inspires an artist to paint? The features artists of Landscapes: Near & Far thoughtfully answer: what about nature most inspires them? Below you’ll find an answer to the question, along with a select featured work by each artist.
Light, shapes and values. Light is the magic of the landscape whether it is something you realize or not. For me light is what dictates an emotional response. Think of how one’s feeling changes as you watch a sunset or a sunrise and what the noon hour feels like in contrast. Also composing interesting shapes and getting the values or tones to read correctly. Being able to sense where things are in the two-dimensional space of the canvas. Making subtle shifts that pushes the work. That process excites me.
I am not sure why nature is so inspiring to me. Maybe that I grew up on a remote ranch in Northern New Mexico located at the base of the Turkey Mountains where my brother and I roamed endlessly. Or, more probably, that the quiet meditative moments that nature allows are a refuge from the hustle of our current world.
In some respects, nature is a universal language that most people can relate to. We all interpret it with our own emotions and experiences. Nature is a mirror, and as an artist, I try to reflect what I see, though what I see is filtered through my own emotions. So what I find that inspires me when out sketching is a reflection of my mood de jour. If I am feeling reclusive, I might respond to a shady tree overhanging a creek, or an up-beat mood would have me responding to a grand vista.
A drawing or sketch of a scene is not a literal account. What I prefer is to pick and choose what parts to include with the goal of convey the mood of the scene. I will often leave out what may seem as essential ingredients as I feel they are a distraction to the ultimate statement.
I am drawn to the way that light and shade define form. That is why most of my paintings are painted in sunlight. I live in a landscape that is dominated by an abundance of sun and I became accustomed to finding a way to capture the truth of this place in that light.
I work from observation and memory. So, for me, it’s about what I see in nature but also what associations or memories my experiences in nature might evoke. I am particularly drawn to fading light, and transitional times of day, not only because it is beautiful but because it reminds me of my childhood days in the woods on horseback watching the flickering last light of the day. Still to this day I am fascinated by that light, the feeling of being in the woods and being in a place where there’s a palpable wildness and quiet.
What has inspired me as an artist has changed over time. Growing up in Colorado, how can you not be inspired by the mountains, the rivers? Now a days I’ll go out and look for an idea, a shape, an emotion. I used to go out and look for a pretty picture, but now I go out and look for what interests me—a shadow dancing across snow, light reflecting off a landscape, a shape that inspires the composition—challenges me to make it work in my own style. I’ll always paint early and late in the days because the light is beautiful, but that’s just the beginning. I have the rhythm of a shape informing my painting. It’s not about copying what I see, it’s about making a painting, and pushing what I see.