In four directions from where I live, I see a valley of open farmland, safely tucked into a valley surrounded by a variety of trees. On distant hills to the west, where I watch the sunset, sometimes cows or horses dot the landscape. To the east, the trees catch the light from each fading day as the moon peeks her face from a nearby ridge until she takes center stage in the sky. It’s so beautiful that, no matter where I turn, I’m in a nearly constant state of awe.
Poetic phrases that are directed at no one, and everyone, come to mind: “May there always be a creek in your life,” is one that is almost a mantra, a wish, that I feel on days when I make my way to a nearby creek bed. There, I look under rocks for crawdads (a childhood pastime that I refuse to give up) or I sit still, alone with my notebook.
Landscape paintings are inspired by visions such as these because the earth provides us with so many wondering thoughts of how and why we’re here. And sometimes all we can do is absorb the beauty, then let it spill out in our own creative interpretations.
Isn’t it wonderful when you can look at a painting and hear it? Listen–that’s the sound of the cedars catching wind and softly whining as they sway, ancient and alive. And that’s the rhythm of water, running swiftly over worn stones as it finds its way to the ocean.
Gordon MacKenzie paints watercolor landscapes that show his own love of the natural world, and he teaches others how to do so as well. His timeless book, The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook, is a resource that highlights his years of experience, put on paper for you to learn and apply. I recently asked MacKenzie to share a few words with us about his love of the landscape.
“People have asked where I get my ideas for my landscapes,” he said. “Truthfully, only a small quantity come from painting on site, and even fewer from photos. For the most part, I simply look within my memory at the wealth of impressions gained from experiences in nature. More specifically, I pay close attention to the feelings that are stirred by those experiences. It’s those associated feelings that I want in my picture because they represent moments when the earth spoke to my soul.
“The challenge in making the painting is to construct an environment that will once again evoke those feelings. This is where memory, intuition, and especially imagination come into play in the subject and composition of the picture. The resulting scene is more like a stage set where the atmosphere and treatment of the subject helps viewers with similar experiences relive their own special moments in nature. When I hear people say, ‘I’ve been there,’ or ‘I know that feeling,’ I know that I have touched a soul.”
I hope you find inspiration here to go into the landscape (land, water, or sky) that surrounds you and pay attention, even for just a moment, on the beauty that’s always around us.
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