About Painting

This page contains random thoughts, comments and quotations about painting,
especially outdoor painting. Your comments and quotes are invited

"Painting is easy when you don't know how,
but very difficult when you do."

     I was already in middle age before I began to attend art shows, gallery openings and art museums. The act of putting paint on canvas to explain the beauty of the landscape was fascinating to me. I wanted to try it. How hard could it be? I was sure, with my formal training in engineering, I could go to the library, find a book that describes the painting process, and follow the directions to a successful outcome.  I was surprised to find there isn't a prescribed procedure for painting. Every painter seemed to have their own way. Apparently if I was going to paint, I would have to figure out my own way. Instruction can certainly help, but in the end, you have to do your own thing. It also became clear to me that to paint the landscape it's best to go where the landscape is - outside.
   Early in my painting experience I was fortunate to meet and become friends with Carl W. Peters and his wife Blanche. A true artist, Carl lived to paint. Though I met him only a few years before his death, his encouragement, comments and critiques are forever inspirational to me. After his death his wife generously opened his studio to me to allow study of his paintings. Today I am proud to have Carl's studio easel in my own studio. I use it to display finished work. I would never paint on it. I wouldn't want to contaminate Carl's easel with my paint.
For those interested in Peter's life and work, I recommend the book, "Carl W. Peters, American Scene Painter From Rochester to Rockport" by R. H. Love. 

    After more than thirty years of painting outdoors I was hoping it would get easier. It hasn't. In fact, it has become more difficult. Oh, some of the mechanics are easier, but getting the idea or feel of the place has not. I guess it's because, as time goes by, the things I'm after in a painting have become more subtle. Nature suggests the mood, the painter interprets and records it. 

"Painting from nature is not copying the object:
It is realizing one's sensations."

    When I paint in public places (which I try to avoid as much as possible) invariably someone will come along and say, "Oh, it must be so relaxing to paint." My reply is always, "No, it's not relaxing, it's frustrating." No matter the season or the weather, it's always a challenge to use paint to depict a landscape. I'm rarely satisfied with the result I get. Somehow, the picture I had in mind is always a bit better than the one on the canvas. But wait 'til you see the next one! It's the "next one" that keeps you going. For me personally, and I believe for others as well, there comes a point in an outdoor painting when you should ignore the subject and do what the painting demands. Sometimes I find it helpful to consider a title as I begin a painting. It helps to keep my focus on the concept of the painting. Frequently, during a painting session when I, or one of my companions, begin to struggle, I will ask, "Now what is the painting title?" The point is usually made. Keep the subject in mind and know were you want to direct the viewers attention.

    I love painting in winter. Each season has it's own appeal, but for me, the color and forms of the winter landscape are unmatched by any other season. Many of the painters of the past that I admire are well known for their paintings of winter.  In addition to Peters, Edward Redfield, Elmer Schofield and Aldro Hibbard, among others, were masters of winter.  

     Although I prefer the outdoors, I do paint in my studio. The odd still life or occasional figure painting provide a nice diversion, but landscapes are my main interest. The landscapes I do in my studio are usually taken from work I have done outside - either successes or failures. A studio painting may focus on just a part of an outdoor work, or it may be another try at the whole thing. Sometimes I try a more drastic approach, like changing day into night or summer into winter. The studio is also a good place to sit and think about painting. Better yet, have painter friends in and talk about painting. The Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla said, "A studio is a good place to smoke your pipe." I haven't tried that.