In which we find how the artist came to plein air…
Once a great farming country of tobacco and wheat, the gentle, rolling landscape of Maryland, full of the colors of American history, is not a gaudy, over-the-top landscape like California, but a settled place of oak and sun-dried hay, of old farms and fields that still remember the blood of revolution and the war between the states. For 27 summers and winters I was of this place, raised two of my three children there, and began seriously thinking about painting because of it. In my mind, I mixed the colors of the bare winter trees or the hazy summer skies.
Seasons there were simple and direct, either all green or all gray, bursting with an abundant green shout of ‘Here I am!‘, slowing one down with the thick, stand still air of summer and then trimming itself down to bones in winter. One learned to hunker way down in those winters, or keep moving. But in the summers you wanted to move very slowly. In the summers, long slow walks, rambles really, through field and forest brought the beauty of this subtle place to rest in your heart, in your body. Sweat became a constant fact in the hot and humid, buzzing stillness of the place, a stillnes which, at any moment, might be cracked apart by operatic thunder and rain storms. The only way to survive the extremes of this place was to be of it, to have it in your body and you in its body and, somehow, the two of you becoming one thing.
The landscape there depended upon season for its visual beauty because it was a simple landscape, everywhere woods of oak, squirrel and deer, insects and more insects. One had to look closely, closely, to see the beauty, even to the point of grabbing a handful of weeds and dirt and peering into it with all your might. You didn’t just live in the countryside, you became enmeshed in the abundance of its life. Those long walks that became such a part of me, taught me how to see. As I walked, mixing the colors of what I saw on a mental palette, I saw how the trees, at dusk, go from grays at the ground to burnt orange near the top against the pale yellow-blue evening sky. To me, the beauty of this transition was worthy of all my effort to learn how to paint it. In this plain-spoken landscape I first determined that I must learn to paint landscapes.