For the Love of the Landscape

The land has always been so important to me. My father was a classic outdoorsman. Like him, I feel tied to the land. I like the wilderness, places where there are sounds, but no noise: just land, just nature, just presences. I wander around the landscape of the upper Midwest with a camera to shoot reference photos. Often I don’t see the painting; I feel its presence. Anytime I get a feeling, I snap a picture.

I suppose it’s a natural question to wonder why such a nature lover wouldn’t want to paint en plein air. I have—on hikes with my sister who’s also a painter. But I have to let an image/idea gestate before I paint it. Sometimes I wish I could sit within a landscape and meditate awhile, then make one stroke that would reveal the essence of the scene. But that’s not who I am. I take the photo and finally—it can be the next week or the next year—I pull it out, look at it and know/trust that if I base a painting on this scene/photo the presence will be revealed.

The stories behind the paintings:
In the upper peninsula of Michigan, you see a lot of bogs but not many marshes. Each geological region has its own fauna and flora. My sister and I were walking on a nature trail, when we came upon these wonderful yellow flowers. To shoot a photograph, I had to hang on a tree over the water. The yellow flowers were radiant. The mirror images—the shapes and shadows in the sky, on the shore and in the water—I didn’t even see at first. I felt a presence, however, and that was the beginning of Deer Marsh (watercolor on paper, 31 x 22 ) which I worked on for several weeks in my studio.

Fish Trap: Again, I was walking on a nature trail and came upon a logged-over area; the poplars had started to grow back and the ferns were growing in the disturbed soil. The colors were wonderful: from red violet to cool green in Fish Trap (watercolor on paper, 21 x 37).

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