It seems that all great artists spend some time in their careers painting landscapes. As a subject, it engulfs us. Our instructors have told us to ask ourselves “what is essential?”, to come up with a system of shorthand, to look for the planar structure and see interlocking shapes of warm and cool colors. The landscape still overwhelms. Every scene presents a different set of problems. Landscape painting holds the keys to understanding light, abstraction, and the necessity of immediate action. In some way, landscape painting is a practice of religious devotion, if art were such a thing.
Last week we received our new painting instructor, Xico Greenwald. His advice has broken me of some bad habits and also helped me understand how to answer the question posed by our previous drawing instructor, Brian Kreydatus. What is essential is the love we give to what we are attracted to in the landscape. Seeing is a deliberate act of caring about what I’m looking at. It operates just beneath the intellect and arouses a feeling of excitement to share my perception of the world.
As we enter the last two weeks of our time at Mount Gretna, I’m excited by the prospect of being able to communicate, through paint, the beautiful things I see in nature. It is mind-boggling how complex the simplest things are when looked at carefully. And inspiring how beautifully mundane things become when we pay close attention to them.