8 November, 2015. I often find myself drawn to the paths of Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, a small, unassuming tract of hilly, wooded land on the outskirts of Liberty, Missouri. It’s nearby, and within five minutes I can be surrounded by trees and birdsong. Especially in the early morning and late afternoon, this is a wonderful location for painting and sketching: long shadows trace the contours and undulating surface of the hills that make up nearly the entirety of the property.
As I reconnect with oils, I find a common pursuit with that of my line work and watercolor: Keep things loose and free. Avoid the temptation to overwork; enjoy the flow of mark making, the pushing around of paint, the calligraphy of line – and accept the gifts of chance as they are presented. I want to see that lines are drawn, that mistakes are made, that the surface is painted; if the process gets too precious then it’s no longer even about the process, but about the end product…and that is anathema to the process.
I’m not interested in photographic – or even accurate – representations so much as I am reacting to the moment and place. I remember the first time this occurred to me. I was in college; there was a massive thunderstorm brewing and suddenly I was overwhelmed with the desire to be a part of it. For me, this meant rapidly assembling a painting kit and heading outside to capture the elemental fury that was about to take place. My roommate laughed nervously and told me I was nuts. I vividly recall the desire, as much as I do the frustration of not being able to capture even the simplest part of the storm. Thirty years later I understand that I was approaching things as if I was a camera, rather than as a painter. Faithful documentation – even had I the skills to do so back then (and I decidedly did not) – was missing the point. (Clay County, Missouri. Oil on tinted panel, 12 x 9 inches.)