A collection of remembered places on Minnesota's North Shore.These paintings are a reflection of all the time I have spent collecting visual memories while paint the North Shore.
For nearly twenty years I have been traveling to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota to paint the landscape. I began with the thought that to help my studio painting I needed to paint from nature to learn. This grew into a love for solitude with nature and plein air painting.
Plein air painting and the effort to capture the light and sense of place became my obsession. As many successful artists quickly learn it is a different challenge to paint in nature. Besides the the ever fleeting light one has to contend with weather, insect and fatigue. I embraced the challenge painting exclusively plain air for many years. I became a purist only working on paintings in the field and never in more than one session, but I always felt like I was still learning.
Now I have changed focus slightly with this series, Recollections. The paintings are based on memories of the places I have been and many I have painted. I am drawing from the vast experiences and recollections of abstract feelings and the concrete elements. I used plein air studies for some as seeds. Some will feel very familiar and hopefully all will elicit a sense of place.
To make the paintings work together and feel as a whole I set up some parameters. All are painted in a square format. This forced me to make the composition tell part of the story rather than use a horizontal format for panoramic views or a vertical format for tall subjects. Having a consistent format also best conveys the idea that these are all born from the same idea, as if all are looking through the same window into my memories. If asked, I could tell you the locations that inspired each painting. While some are specific most are a conglomerate of several places.
The color palette I used was restricted to red, yellow, black and white. This gave me a basic set of warm and cool. Using black as my only cool, gave me a really strong dark to create dynamic contrast of the values. It also forced me to look at the subtlety of grays. Something I really enjoyed that will forever effect my plein air and studio work. I will do another post that I get into more depth about the palette in the near future.
Another departure from my plein air and studio work was with the choice of medium. Until recently I painted most studio paintings in oil and plein air paintings in oil, gouache, or casein. These are done with fluid acrylics. The fluid of the acrylics allows me to stay fresh with my brush strokes. They are, for most colors, pretty opaque. Which means I can lay down lights or darks and develop a painting without thinking about the process. Although I love oils I don't think I am disciplined enough to get the best out of them. This is also why I have recently been using gouache and casein for my field sketches.
Sometimes, as an artist, it is tough to change up what you are doing especially if you are having success. You work hard perfecting your craft and it is hard to okay lets try something different. I guess part of it is the risk of failing. I'm glad I took the risk and believe I learned much from the process and plan to continue this series for a while.