Studying Form, Color, and Pictorial Composition in the New England Landscape
When I applied for a grant through the Research and Apprenticeship Program (REAP) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) during the spring of 2016, my intention was to gain more experience in the art of painting outdoors. By looking through the student work of my favorite painters I realized that most of them had spent some concentrated period of time studying landscape painting and producing dozens or even hundreds of small sketches of different scenes and times of day outdoors. I knew that if I was going to advance toward my own artistic goals, I needed to apply myself to those studies as well. First, I wanted to study different effects of light outdoors and learn more about color relations through the constant practice of observation and color mixing. Second, I wanted to learn more about how to express complex forms in a broad and simplified way, an underlying principle of theway nearly all great painters see the world. Third, I wanted to learn more about composing pictures by persistently producing small studies (usually between 8 x 10 inches and 12 x 16 inches) and thinking about the principles of good composition for each one. The complexity of landscape as a subject made it a great source of practice for all three of my goals.The best thing I gained from the summer’s work was actually something I lost. I lost the crippling timidity that often kept me from painting outside.I can deal with the fear of failure that stares back at you when you look at a blank canvas. I can deal with people laughing at my silly painting outfit or coming up and asking questions, with the wind blowing a wet canvas off my easel and into my clothing, with standing in the sun for hours on a hot day wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to shield my Irish skin. All that is part of the fun of landscape painting, and none of it distracts me much anymore. That’s good, because a landscape painter has too much else to think about.