Friday, September 22, 2017

Question and Answer with Chris Larson of Rivers and Roads.


If you could answer two or three of the prompts below I believe we could have a nice “celebrating the artist” page. I love the video you sent as well. We are getting closer to the website being ready and I will send you what I’d like to put up in connection to you before doing so. Of course if there is anything else you’d like to add please do.


How long have you been painting, at what point did you realize this would be a vocation for you? I have been painting since high school.  My first oil painting was a self portrait Junior year.  I realised my first year in college that I wanted to make the visual arts a vocation.

Earliest Art memory? My first memory seems to be looking down at the street from a crib near the window watching people walking down below.

Favorite places or scenery to paint and why? I love to paint the sky and water; as it is always changing and is so challenging, and rewarding to try and imitate light, and its reflection with oil paint.

Who influences your art the most? George Inness and John Constable.

constable sky and tree.jpg

What is the biggest challenge you've faced as an artist? One of the most challenging and rewarding projects was painting commissioned landscapes of Central Park.  It was a challenge to have to paint in the park and also install the work in the apartment that overlooked the Park itself. Also painting outside in England, in bad weather was quite a challenge.



Works you are most proud of? My recent larger studio paintings of Choate Island, in Essex Bay, Massachusetts.

hog island.jpg

Memories of special places (physical/metaphorical) your art has taken you? Some favorite memories are going to museums in Italy, and seeing great works of art for the first time.  These were spiritual experiences for me. Metaphorically art has “opened my mind” to new ways of seeing the world and appreciating the beautiful and “small” things in life.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Poets and Painters, from 1795 to 1849.

When I go back and look at some of the first paintings that American artists were making I am fascinated by their optimism. In paintings like "Kindred Spirits," 1849, by Asher Durand, you feel the sublime in nature and the conversation of two friends as they marvel at its rugged beauty.  This was painted a year after the death of Durand's friend Thomas Cole.  The painting commissioned by Jonathan Sturges depicts Cole on the right with his easel  under his arm, talking with a poet William Cullen Bryant.  I looked up some of Bryant's writing and the first quote I came upon was what I might have expected; " Go forth under the open sky, and list To Nature's teachings."
     This spot in the Catskill Mountains is painted lovingly and reverently. There are no ruins from Europe.  There are only the broken branches of trees and the mountains that seem as if they have been placed, or composed in a way that skips the eye back into space getting lighter, softer and more ultra-marine as they move into the distance.  Its gives us the feeling of peace between man and nature, where two friends just stand in awe of what they are seeing.  It is an idealized moment.  The hawks flying free and the light just right.  So many landscape artists of this period seem to have the feeling of America as a paradise regained in their work.  The waterfall running through the center is another great design in composition.  It leads our eye up and down the painting and for me adds a sound of water moving.  There is great attention placed on the detail of the ferns in the foreground to the left.  The over hanging branch also has a visual rhythm as the pattern of the leaves seem to speak order in the wild.  There is a great balance in the painting.  There is not only reverence for Nature but also that of Thomas Cole.  The Oxbow, by Thomas Cole is another great painting, painted in Massachusetts.
    The last painting I have chosen goes back a little further to 1795.  In this painting we can see an influence of the European painters such as Claude Lorraine who lived in France in the 1600s. Winstanley has a painting that can still be seen at Mount Vernon, that was owned by George Washington.  During a visit to Mount Vernon I was fascinated by these paintings and their dark beauty.  The mood and mystery is something that I am drawn to in my own paintings. This painting by Winstanley was painted around the same time that the poet William Wordsworth was composing lines prasing Nature for its doorway into the human spirit.  These words echo that of Bryant; "Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher."
Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove i state reclined,
In the sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to mind.

William Wordsworth

"Kindred Spirits" 1849, by AsherB. Durand, New York Public Library, New York

"The Oxbow", 1836, by Thomas Cole, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

"Meeting of the Waters," 1795, by William Winstanley, at the Museum of Art, Utica, New York

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Bring it all Back Home" (Painting out doors from Claude, Corot, and Constable).

     Claude, Corot,  and Constable all worked outdoors and brought what they were working on into the studio to use to further the vision that they saw. I have been enjoying painting out of doors more recently.  Getting up early and setting up to paint is as I have been reading how Claude would do this to study the light at dawn and dusk.  His drawings in the British Museum are among my favorite studies of the landscape.
Constable copied the painting Hagar and the angel who said looking back this was an important epoch in his life. 
     I love hearing how other artists were influenced by each other.  When you hear that they saw certain works you can start to make connections.
Claudes sketches were not ends in themselves but was interested in the imagination and how he could look inward to use the landscape as a body that expresses a spirit beneath; as Casper David Friedrich puts it: "It is not faithful representation of air, water, rocks, and trees which is the artists task, but the reflection of his soul and emotions in these objects."
I have put a few of these artists out door studies next to a finished painting done in the studio for you to see how they feed into each other.


Monday, January 30, 2017

creativity is an endless pleasure

When we try and preserve a moment by taking a picture or a video, we never quite do the place justice.  there is too much information.  There is so much going on in any given moment. when I paint or draw out side i see more and more that our landscape is consumed by urban and suburban sprawl. I want to preserve the beauty that is being engulfed.  We live in a time where things are changing rapidly.  Painting slows me down.  I start to look.  I take off the veil that is over my eyes and I see things that are always there.  A constant beautiful song that is under everything but so faint that you need to stop and listen carefully to hear it.  Painting and drawing do that for me.  When mankind and nature are in harmony it feels right.  It feels good.  I love the romantic poets of the nineteenth century.  they understood that nature had a voice and could teach us spiritual truths if we were willing to listen.  With the dawn of industrialization these poets were aware that their beloved countryside was changing.  Factories were creating dark clouds on the horizon in the name of progress.  These poets like William Wordsworth mourned what was being lost and the beauty that still can not be surpressed.  I too see this beauty out of the corner of my eye as it vanishes.  I try and look at it.  the graphite on paper turns the page into someplace that is real.  The magic always works for me for some strange reason.   Turning the sky and clouds into paint helps me to remember that these things are sacred.  I stop to listen and hear the most beautiful music. Nobody is going to paint the same scene the same way.  We all bring with us in the brush and the line something of ourselves, of our past experience, our teaching, our own vision as we respond to what it is we are seeing.  It is endless. Creativity is an endless pleasure.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Canvas or Panel?

A friend asked the other day which I prefer painting on, canvas or panel.  I have been painting on larger canvases as of late but I do hate the sound of the canvas if I am constantly dabbing on an area.  Painting outdoors it is better to work on a panel as the light will not go through the back of the canvas if I am painting into the sun.  The stiffness of panel also I like painting against.  Sometimes the give of a canvas id too much.  That said canvas has its own properties that I like as well.  Much lighter when painting large is nice.  Haling around big panels can be tough.  Another option that I have tried and like is to glue the canvas or linen to a board.  This world well and you can get the texture of the linen as well as taking care of the problems with canvas that I have mentioned.  If a sharp object pokes the canvas you have something behind to protect it as well.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

the end and the beginning

        With the end of a year and a new one upon us I thought I might try and start to try and be a little more consistent with entries. I like many artists prefer to paint rather than write about the act of painting.  I think  this time of year one thinks about childhood.  Giving gifts to my children I naturally think about my own childhood.  There is something of a longing in most good paintings that I have seen.  A Rothko painting makes me long for communication with the spirit; my own or in another realm.  I have memories of driving in the English landscape to get a christmas tree.  I remember seeing a group of trees in a field with fields and trees receding into the frozen landscape and liking what I saw.  it is a clear memory I'm sure tampered with by time but I remember taking a mental note as if to my adult self my seven year old self stored valuable information.  I would awake in America having dreamed that I was in the English countryside.  Nothing ever really helped with the feeling of home sickness.  I am home with my family and the people are what matter now but the places that imprinted on my brain then.  The rural beauty and the field desolate unused until the spring seemed to be telling my little self something.  "This is what time is.  Things will come and go.  Life and death, cold weather and warm weather, sadness and joy, they all need one another and ad to the richness of life. As the year closes and another begins there is hope.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Painting Plein Air

This week I made a few studies out doors of Choate Island.  The view is from J.T. Farnham's 88 Eastern Ave, in Essex, MA. It was an amazing, clear morning.  The strong shadows changed dramatically over the course of two hours so I had three paintings going to try and record what the light was doing. What I love about being outside painting is that the painting becomes like a record of passing time.  It is frustrating when you get something down on the panel and then the light completely changes, but at the same time there is a joy and humor in the fact that we really don't get to hold on to anything.  The longer you look at something the better.  It is important to look more at what is in front of you as the time spent looking at your painting.

By keying in the value of the sky first I base the rest of the values from that.  If the sky is too dark you get in trouble.  The refection of the sky in the water is almost always a little darker in value that the sky due to the perspective.  In the excitement of driving up to paint at 5am I left my wallet at home and my friend Wayne stopped by on his way to work to give me $20. Thank you Wayne!  It was really nice also to have no one around, only a few joggers and those cars going by.  A group of artists that I liked are those from the Barbican School.  Theodore Rousseau it is said "made himself a mirror rather than an artist" by Theophile Gautier. Many of the artists that I am drawn to seem to be after a certain truth and realism. In the process these artists tend to make pictures that do not look "real", but instead are a unique perspective on how they the artist see and feel about what they are seeing.  No one can really be a mirror because we are human and that will spill out.