For the first day of summer: cool, abstract

The snow painting up there is one of the largest paintings I ever tried–two feet by four feet. You can’t see the whole thing because my web program insists on a certain shape for the featured blog photo. So here it is again, this time with all 48 inches displayed:

I would not have bothered you with this effort but for two of my supporters, who surprised me with their enthusiasm for this unnamed work, which is hanging in the Pantano Gallery in the library of Southern NH University through the end of this month.

I worked on this painting over the winter of 09-10. I started by covering the entire canvas with a layer of “Flesh”, i.e., a light orangy pink that Winsor Newton produces presumably for the painting of flesh tones on white people. Instead of using it for people, I like it for sunsets. I wanted the painting to be suffused with orangy pink because my inspiration had been the sight of the setting sunlight glowing through brown autumn leaves in a twilight scene mostly covered by soft, fresh snow. The location is the view from my bedroom/studio–sort of. More than most, this painting was created from memory. So I was really interested when one of my supporters told me that she thought the painting was “abstract”.

Painters will often remark knowingly that all landscape paintings are abstract paintings. “Abstract” should signify nonrepresentational. So what is it about some landscapes (all landscapes?) that prompts us to call them “abstract”? I think one factor may a quality of “hide and seek”–one of the joys (for me) of this painting, as well as others that border on abstraction, is the ability to recognize familiar objects within the bounds of the painting. But unlike more conventional landscapes, the recognizable objects are not being offered as subjects of the painting.

The whole point of my painting up above is the orange orb, the representation of red sunlight filtered through the dried up brown leaves still clinging to their tree in the face of a heavy snowfall. Kudos to my friend who knew instinctively that this was an “abstract” painting!

Here is another of my paintings that I think may be classified toward the “abstract” end of the spectrum.

I call this one “Spirit Lake”. The photograph that inspired it may have been taken in Alberta Canada–I’m no longer sure. After studying that photograph, way back in 2006, I smeared the canvas (36 x 12) with the paint that you see above, thinking I was setting up an underpainting for the more elaborate version to come. But I stopped short because I liked it just the way it was. Even though this was a very early painting in my so short “career”, I never tire of looking at it, and recognizing with pleasure the suggestion of reeds in the water, the snow on the mountains, and the fir trees ruling the middle ground. Like the orange orb of the later painting, the white orb of the sky reflection in this early painting was the subject, and what could be more abstract than an empty, white orb?

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