Acrylic Landscapes of
Descending Road, 9" x 13.75", acrylic on paper, 2022.
Continuing the American Landscape Tradition
The landscape idiom is friendly. It provides an easy and satisfying read. A walk in the woods has the natural environment resonating within our being; the sounds, sights and fragrances of a nature walk offers release from persistent and unwelcome brain activity. In nature, our senses come alive, and we feel alive and refreshed.
When nature is applied to painting space, landscape imagery may be leveraged as a vehicle for expression that connects with our being. However, even as landscape space may an easy read, there is much beyond the obvious. It may be said that where the familiar representation stops, the painting begins––the art begins. Beyond a pleasing and familiar landscape appearance and what may be a deft and virtuosic performance of skill and technique, painters compose and orchestrate space––using design with shape, line, color, and pattern––to evoke experience, both phenomenal and aesthetic. As we live and interact with a spatial world, we relate to painting space, moving about in painting space as though we are in real space. Lancaster County imagery provides material for spatial experience, drawing viewers into landscape facsimiles while, at the same time, larger and less apparent forces in design and composition work their magic.
Beyond representation––things looking like things––landscape space may be further articulated for both its three-dimensional and two-dimensional features. For example, the recognizable image may be articulated for its illusion of 3D space, much like set design, the spaces in and around objects––trees and buildings––designed to ease a viewer’s navigation as well as provide its own aesthetic space, with its own dynamic––relationships with both tensions and congruity. Additionally, composition of spaces and shapes on the two-dimensional picture plane may work expressively as design––beyond what may be called a good arrangement––with movements that produce tension and drama or highly articulated harmony.
Additionally, realist features of a landscape image may appear convincing while investigation may show that what appears quite realistic is, in fact, artificial; there are a multitude of devices artists use in landscape imagery to suggest appearances that are not actually described as they would appear in nature. So it is with my painting; the infinite complexity of nature cannot be contained in the paint medium, but it can be simulated. Looking closely at the early development of the paintings shows the images as approximations, not as mirror images.
So, landscape paintings operate on many levels and when a painting touches a viewer, it may be that the active expressive devices are hidden from view. A painting can be felt to have a “rightness” because the articulation is thorough. In my book, Landscape Illusion (1987), various levels of expression are discussed and illustrated: representation techniques with acrylic, 3D design and composition. What wasn’t covered in that book is the way a landscape painting may function in its totality as a metaphor for the landscape, its space, patterns and textures, and how experience with painting generally becomes a vehicle for art to tap personal experience, phenomenal as it is. As a result, painting experience bring us closer to the nature of all experience. That dimension is elaborated on the Writing Pages listed in the website menu within the document Art as Illusion. DC
"Still Water" (sketch) 1.75" x 3"
"Still Water" (detail) half-size
This super-small painting sketch (left)––near actual size on a computer screen (1.75" x 3")––shows some of the essential properties of a landscape painting. Multiple patterns simulate nature's infinite diversity. Here, by necessity, patterns in tree foliage and grass patterns are loosely defined, not to copy the appearance of foliage and grass but to provide an equivalence––a facsimile––with playful and inventive brushwork that appears to capture nature's details.
A magnification (right, half-size) shows organic patterns and shapes comprising the landscape image.
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