Romancing Nature

Although Scott Zupanc today paints representational landscapes in watercolor, he started out as an abstract expressionist. “Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock were like gods to me,? he says. “But when I studied the history of American painting and came to the Hudson River School (active 1825-1875) I saw that Thomas Cole, Thomas Doughty and Asher B. Durand were really my guys. They painted the environs of the Catskill Mountains with attention to detail but in the Romantic spirit of J.M.W. Turner. They looked at nature the same way I did: God is trees. That was the key?the moment I shifted away from abstraction and toward representation.”

Cedar Spring (watercolor, 25 x 25)

Zupanc’s attachment to nature is as intense as it is enduring: “I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, 16 miles from the nearest town. The genesis of Cedar Spring was this: I was driving down the road with my mother, whom I’d just taken trout fishing. I slammed on the brakes and backed up?there was a hole in the trees through which I could see a pond. I liked the structure, the circular idea,” says Zupanc. “But it was more of a feeling: You know it will be a painting, you don’t have to worry—I guess you could call it ?faith-based painting.’ ”

Rather than fill pages of a sketchbook, the artist committed the scene to memory: “I learned about seeing through hunting and fishing with my father. We would sit for hours in a duck blind or a deer stand. You look and you sit still. You slowly start observing and noticing things: a spider web on the water, for instance. That experience was the beginning of my learning how to see. When you sketch, you deny yourself other opportunities. I used to do a lot of sketching but now I walk. Here in Wisconsin, the trees are absolutely beautiful right now (in September) and I want to be outside, on the trail from sunup to sundown, so I don’t miss anything.”

Artist/instructor Tina Tammaro is a contributing editor for The Artist?s Magazine.

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