Table of Contents
About this Piece
••• Purchased for Collection •••
Forest Waterfall Series
A few months ago I decided to paint a series of ACEO cards with a forest waterfall or other natural forest scene that included moving water. (The link above explains what an ACEO card actually is.) This scene is from a favorite place I like to visit up on the Grand Mesa in Colorado. In the spring this otherwise small creek swells and roils with snowmelt water, making it an interesting study in how water moves.
Painting en Plein Aire
I enjoy taking a sketchbook and watercolor box along when I visit with Nature. I’ve also found that stuffing a few blank ACEO cards in my kit allows me to have a more spontaneous approach to capturing scenes like this should I decide to create something a little more refined than a pen or pencil sketch. Painting outdoors (en plein aire) builds ones skills far better than referring to photos.
Sketching on site has the same effect, but at times a sketch and a reference photo or two are all that time allows. So I’m not knocking photos at all. They are valuable references for painting in the studio, particularly for larger, formal pieces. One just has to realize their limitations compared to painting on site and not get stuck with just copying a photo.
This forest waterfall piece was done en plein aire and is actually a compilation of several scenic elements that exist there at the creek. I generally take artistic license with any landscape or nature scene unless there is a need to capture an accurate sense of place, such as a monument or well known location. Niagara Falls or Mt. Rushmore comes to mind. Artistic license then is a tool used to refine the painting into a cohesive communication of what I’m feeling and sensing as I paint a forest waterfall. It’s not about copying a scene precisely.
My aim with a scene like this is to capture the movement of the water and the steadfast resolve of the boulders and rocks to impede that movement. Of course that’s a perception and I realize boulders and rocks don’t actually possess “steadfast resolve”. However, that is the feeling such a forest waterfall scene evokes when I ask myself why I’m drawn to it.
That is what landscape art is I believe. A means by which humans communicate the spirit or feeling of a scene or place as the artist experienced it. As mentioned above, it’s not about accuracy or photo realism. It’s about beauty, finding it and expressing it convincingly.
Even a landscape depicting a sporting scene of hunters killing ducks, which doesn’t evoke beauty when worded that way, in reality depicts human friendship, the cycle of life, and the need for food and procuring it in way that is direct rather than far removed. Such a scene removes the innocence we all experience by shopping instead of hunting and evokes the sense of respect a hunter must possess for the prey they take. And those are beautiful human emotions, hidden in the painting yet expressed by the artist with hunters shouldering their shotguns and firing.
All surrounded by Nature’s beauty, the act itself is revealed as beautiful as well. Because of the depth of emotion involved in stopping a life to sustain another. Because of the design and beauty of the sporting guns, clothing and grace of the hunters in using them. And because of the grace of the bird on the wing in its innocence and beautiful lack of a mind that obsesses about its own existence and future, but rather, is mindful of and lives in the moment.
All these reflect the beauty of nature in such a scene if given thought and contemplation. Landscape art is meant to evoke thought and contemplation through capturing all the aspects of beauty in a scene. Particularly the beauty hidden but revealed only by contemplating the scene as a viewer or the artist who created it.