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Paint the Place You Call Home

2 Nov 2011

We plein-air artists seem to put a lot of emphasis on traveling to far off places to paint, don't we? The fields of Tuscany, the rugged California coast, the farmhouses of the Cotswolds all seem to beckon. And heeding that call can be fantastic. I know from experience that traveling does wonders for providing a fresh dose of creative inspiration.

Yet sometimes in our desire to seek out new vistas, we overlook the breadth of outdoor painting possibilities—many as close as our own back yards. You know, we don't always need to search out sweeping views of mountains and valleys and forests unending. It can be just as motivating to try a close-up view of a familiar subject. And if there's one lesson we can take away from the two artists in today's post, it's that plenty of great intimate landscapes are waiting to be captured on canvas right at home, regardless of where you call home.

For John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902), home was a 17-acre farm in Greenwich, Connecticut. For more than a decade, he found endless inspiration in his house, a little foot bridge, and a pool with its adjoining waterfall, painting each of these scenes dozens of times in every type of weather and season. Each painting is unique and fresh, never a repeat of something he'd done earlier.

The Cascade by John Henry Twachtman, oil on canvas, 1890.
The Cascade by John Henry Twachtman, oil on canvas, 1890.
The Little Bridge by John Henry Twachtman, oil on canvas, c. 1896.
The Little Bridge by John Henry Twachtman, oil on canvas, c. 1896.
Winter Harmony by John Henry Twachtman, oil on canvas, 1895.
Winter Harmony by John Henry Twachtman, oil on canvas, 1895.

Similarly, Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) was known for taking long, solitary walks around his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, as well as his summer home in Cushing, Maine. His immersion in his environment prompted countless paintings. About the inspiration he found in the small and familiar, he wrote, "My God, when you really begin to peer into something, a simple object, and realize the profound meaning of that thing--if you have an emotion about it, there's no end."

Pennsylvania Landscape by Andrew Wyeth, oil on canvas, 1942.
Pennsylvania Landscape by Andrew Wyeth, oil on canvas, 1942.
Far From Needham by Andrew Wyeth, oil on canvas, 1966.
Far From Needham by Andrew Wyeth, oil on canvas, 1966.

So the next time you're looking for a new subject to paint, consider taking a closer look at your immediate surroundings for possibilities. It's easy to see the benefits, isn't it?

* If you're painting something you feel strongly about, as Wyeth said, that emotion will come through and strengthen your painting.

* If you already know the subject well, painting it will give you a chance to explore other aspects of your painting process, such as an untried technique or a different color palette.

* You will probably hit upon a unique view of the subject, something that no other artist has painted before.

* And finally, familiar subjects painted in an intimate way tend to resonate with viewers and invite them to get involved with your work.

Plein-air painters will always enjoy traveling to the places that inspire us, which is great. I'm certainly not going to stop seeking out the new and different. But on those occasions when I can't leave home, I'm glad I have Twachtman and Wyeth for inspiration in finding a great subject just around the corner, if not closer.

-Jennifer


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Comments

dalanarts wrote
on 3 Nov 2011 1:08 PM

Great article Jennifer and so true!  I live in Hawaii where I can paint beautiful scenery year round but find myself constantly plotting plein air adventures abroad.

Dalan

www.outdoorstudio.blogspot.com

KatPaints wrote
on 4 Nov 2011 6:33 AM

Hey everybody, Paint out at Dalan's!! Bring your camping gear.