Landscape Painting and Life

Landscape painting is a slow and deliberate process. It is like filling a ten-gallon bucket with a dripping faucet. Each tiny brushstroke, every decision, adds to the overall image, but it takes time and patience to create something beautiful.

For me, the process begins out on the land. I get out hiking in the White Mountains as much as I can (though mostly in the warm weather). I take a million pictures of everything that looks like it could potentially be a painted composition, plus details of rocks and plants I may want to study and add into my work. If the hike happens to be a leisurely one (when I'm not out for distance or with a partner that wants to stay moving), I might bring a sketchbook or watercolor set to make a few quick drawings.

Back in my studio I sift through hundreds of photographs to see if there are any compositions that call to me strongly. There has to be something special and striking there about the light, the line of a mountain ridge, or a cloud shadow drifting over a slope.

"Springtime in Zealand Valley," 8x10 inch oil on panel.

Once I have chosen and studied a scene, I think about how I want it to look as a painting. What will be the focal point? Where will the darkest shadows and brightest highlights land? I often sketch out a composition in graphite directly on a panel first, though I may do this with brown or gray paint, too, in order to map out those light and dark areas. This helps to establish the overall tone of the painting.

As the painting progresses, there is always a "messy middle" stage in which things don't seem like they will turn out well. I just have to push through this part, stopping to really look at the work and calculate my next move. It is always a challenge, but sticking with it produces rewards, either in the finished piece or just by learning something through failure. It requires patience, skill, and a love of the process. But for those who are willing to put in the effort, it can be a very fulfilling experience.

"Mount Garfield at Sunrise," 9x12 inch oil on panel.

The process of landscape painting can be seen as a metaphor for life. Just as the painter slowly adds layers of paint to create a beautiful image, so too do we slowly add experiences and memories to create our own lives. Each experience, each memory, is like a dab of paint. It may seem small at first, but over time, it adds up to something significant.

Life is, as they say, a journey and landscape painting is a way of capturing that journey. It is a way of preserving the beauty of the world around us and the beauty of our own lives. So next time you see a landscape painting, take a moment to appreciate the artist's hard work and dedication. And remember, your own life is a work of art in progress.