Welcoming change

A large part of being a landscape painter and especially a plein air painter is embracing what is around you, as it, in turn embraces you. It is a series of actions and reactions. And of observations, both the broad kind and the nuanced kind. The ability to be flexible in your approach and change things if they aren’t working. It is also about feeling.

Feeling the place that you are in. Absorbing the atmosphere and the light and the smells and the sounds. It’s critical, I think, to figure out why a place is compelling. What makes it tick and how that affects you. I think that’s why it’s hard to paint places I’m not familiar enough with or that don’t “pull” me in.

painting “summer downpour” on location

When I started trying to paint outside, it was a way to bring a memory back with me. I loved the total sensory overload and the challenge to try and figure out a painting in the middle of all of that. But what I loved most was coming back to the coast and painting. At the time I lived in Charlotte, NC. A lovely green city, full of trees and green grass and nicely manicured spaces. Parks, gardens and walking trails are numerous. But it all felt very orchestrated to me. No ocean, no marsh and no big sky. And most importantly …. no wildness. No lush, overgrown, overrun, undomesticated wild places.

I painted outside a good bit in Charlotte over the years. But it never felt right. I struggled to find the magic, and instead, I always felt like I was just trying to replicate the scene in front of my easel. There was a spirit that I was looking for there that was missing. When I came back to visit the coast, my paintings felt different to me. They weren’t always “successful”, they definitely weren’t masterpieces but they had an energy to them that I couldn’t capture in Charlotte.

The difference wasn’t just the landscape. The difference was me. It was what I felt here that I didn’t feel in Charlotte. It was the freedom and openness in my spirit here, that mirrored the wild landscape that surrounded me. Here, I welcomed whatever the landscape gave me. Sun, storms, heat, bugs, wind … it was all good. In Charlotte, all of the “perfection” in the landscape shut me out. I felt pushed away rather than pulled in.

I think it is important as a person and as a painter to bloom where you are planted. For years, I worked hard to like a place and paint a place that I just didn’t feel on the deepest level. At some point, I had to make a decision. I could either live one place and long for another or I could go where I needed to go. Paint what I needed to paint. Welcome change into my life and start to really feel the landscape.

The most important thing to me as an artist is being true to who I am and what I want to say. I paint to try and capture the feeling of the beautiful, wild place that I live. And now, when I go other places to paint, I bring with me that ease, that deep feeling that I have found here. It is easy to find and embrace the spirit and the joy in other landscapes and paint from a place of peace and openness when your roots are planted where they need to be.

“summer downpour” 10″ x 20″ oil on panel AVAILABLE

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I am a landscape painter living and painting on the Georgia coast. Painting and writing is a way to reach out and share my observations, my experiences and my inspirations with you. It is how I tell my story and the story of the wild, beautiful landscape where I live.

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