Solo Show, "Sacred Lands", July 2017

As with every show, I try to dig deeper into the mysteries of the land and it isn't always easy to find a clear path.  Usually when I try too hard the path is blocked, but when I come more from a receiving place then I get somewhere.  This year's "Sacred Lands" at Waxlander Gallery is the culmination of 5 months of steady studio work and 25 new paintings.  All have been an attempt to uncover more, but one in particular, "The Story Sunflowers Told", brought me to a place I've never been before.  Though I have interpreted flowers on canvas for years, this piece was entirely new for me.  Using a photo as reference, I first used a grid system to sketch it out on canvas because is was critical to get the myriad of sizes of the flowers right as well as their organic composition. This more exact approach led to a tighter composition, but one that wasn't constricted.  When I finished it, I felt I had captured that brief moment in time when the wind caught this grouping of sunflowers, each with there own voice in the arrangement across the 52"x122" diptych.  Yes.  I wanted it large and something to be experienced and not just looked at.

I talk about "The Story Sunflowers Told" because I consider it the "mothership" of the show where all the other pieces can dock.  I dug deeper and found this piece or so i'l like to think.  The mundane, the normal, the familiar, like those sunflowers I saw on walk with my dog, are always next to us.  But beyond all of it, is another experience.  And that is what I want to paint. 

Hope to see you at the show. 

The Story Sunflowers Told, oil on canvas, 52x122 diptych, 2017

The Story Sunflowers Told, oil on canvas, 52x122 diptych, 2017

Nature Works 2017

Greetings in 2017!  Already the second month in and the Nature Works Show is fast approaching.  Thank you for coming to my studio log.  The paintings for this year's show are varied.  Obviously, there are pieces from my beloved state of New Mexico and the grandeur that is so apparent here.  There are several cloud paintings that were inspired by the monsoons near my home just outside of Santa Fe. Always full of power, they produce voluminous clouds thousands of feet up into the sky. There are also paintings from a different state.   During a journey to the Tall Grass Prairie in Northern Oklahoma I saw the incredible expanses of a different context, that of rolling fields of grasses and wildflowers.  Or, though the back woods, a much different world: the trees.   The oaks, the dogwoods, the ash and willow trees, bordering the fields and farmlands, casting their shadows,.  I feature several pieces showing these scenes. 

My work is always an exercise in capturing the essence of how I experience the land and all it's parts.  Every painting is a kind of portal, an opening and an invitation to travel in and thru my experience.  Land is spirit.  Alive.  Healing.  Beautiful. All encompassing.  

If you can make it, please come to the show.  

Field's Edge  14"x 48"  oil on linen

Field's Edge  14"x 48"  oil on linen

"Best of Show" Award, Nature Works, Tulsa Ok

I was honored to win "Best of Show" at this year's Nature Works show in Tulsa for "New Mexico Lilies".  As I mentioned in my last log, this subject is new for me.  It was after seeing them everyday when I'd head out to the studio that I thought I'd paint them.  Though I call them lilies, they are known as Jimson weed and spread rapidly.  They open at night and close when the sun's heat returns the next day.   

New Mexico Lilies  oil on canvas  36"x36"  2016   Best Of Show

New Mexico Lilies  oil on canvas  36"x36"  2016   Best Of Show

2016 Nature Works Show

Hello.  It's a little over a week away from this year's Nature Works Show in Tulsa.  It is now my 8th annual run.  I did not know when director, John Reeves, invited me to exhibit in 2009 that it would turn out to be one of my best shows year after year since then.  Being that it's one of the top wildlife shows in the country I didn't know how a landscape painter would fare.  But I established a loyal following pretty quickly and for that I'm grateful.  It's been such a great organization to be a part of.  The majority of their earnings go towards nature conservancy purposes in the Tulsa region.  In addition, many significant bronzes have been installed in the city parks. 

This year's show preparation took me into the clouds where I like to go.   For me, the infinity of space and drama in skies touch a deep part of me.  As in a spiritual pilgrimage, I feel larger than the everyday minutiae when I open my canvases to sky and clouds.  

New Mexico Lilies, oil, 36"x36"

New Mexico Lilies, oil, 36"x36"

Sky Over Prairie Flowers, oil, 15"x30"

Sky Over Prairie Flowers, oil, 15"x30"

Then a surprise surfaced.  I've always been drawn to O'Keeffe's paintings of Jimson flowers, a common wild plant that often spreads rapidly in yards.  But being so common, it is an amazing flower that opens in a beautiful lily shape in the day and closes shut at night.  I painted 3 paintings and like what I want to do with skies, I bring in the element of infinity in the compositions.  In a sense, they are like clouds in a sky.  Pictured is the largest painting.  

Please come the show if you are in the neighborhood (times and directions in Events).  Thanks for reading and supporting my work. 

 

10th Annual Solo Show in Santa Fe

Brush with Sky, oil, 16x20

Brush with Sky, oil, 16x20

Greetings again from the studio.  I am thick in preparation for my 10th annual solo show in Santa Fe at Waxlander Gallery.  Opening night is September 4th.  I will be showcasing a new body of work that has taken months of gestation, contemplation, and planning.  One major break through happened way upstream in the canvas building department.  Over the last several years, I've begun making most of my canvases for my shows since I've gotten more particular about the type and surface I paint on- smoother and double gessoed with sanding in between.  As result, the mix of medium and oil paint I use flows incredibly well.  Since painting is a very kinetic process for me, I work quickly, stand all of the time, and walk constantly back and forth. For the paint to flow well is critical. If everything goes right, the painting  vibrates with movement and color.  This is a big part in getting to the spirit of the scenes I paint.  It's a building process and really it's starts the moment I put a canvas frame together.  

This year's show celebrates my love of the land in a myriad of ways, particularly roadway passages through the radiance of Autumn colors. I feel such passages are entry points into new discoveries beyond the bend to new scenes I want to explore.  Wild flowers, cloud vistas, water reflections, shadows and sun…everything is there.  It is taking the common and making it as extraordinary as I can, to create an entry point, a portal into an entirely new experience.  Hope you enjoy the show.  Please come!

Warmest wishes, 

Matthew 

"Exultation", 10th Annual Solo Show, Waxlander Gallery, 622 Canyon Rd, Santa Fe, NM

September 1-14th, Opening Night, September 4th, 5-8pm

 

Eminence of Shadows, oil, 48x72

Eminence of Shadows, oil, 48x72


The New Year

Here we are in the New Year, and maybe with it, bringing new hopes, dreams, a resolution or two and...well… maybe more of the same.  The studio brushes are wet again after a hiatus and of course I've brought those hopes, dreams and resolutions with me into the studio.  For one, I want to reach new levels in my art, how I interpret the land and how I get there with my materials.  Maybe it's more pronounced before I start the work for my shows. 

Sustenance, oil on canvas, 30x40,  2015

Sustenance, oil on canvas, 30x40,  2015

 Last November, I revisited the Bosque del Apache south of Socorro to refuel and gather more material.  Along with the Tallgrass Prairie in Northern OK, this place is deeply tied to my soul as a painter.  It is a mystery, this intense bond.  Perhaps it's that all parts of the land…water, sky, grass, trees…weave together in perfect harmony.  But, then the color!  And sunrise.  And sunset. It is magical. I could spend a lifetime interpreting it. 

So here I am, with fresh material  and in the process of getting ready for a show in early March in Tulsa  Those dreams and hopes and resolutions I was talking about?  I want them to come into this new work.  I want the colors of the Bosque to resonate and the grasses to flow like no other work I've done before.  I just have to get out of the way, right? Let the mystery and beauty of the land come though on it's own.

Happy New Year!

 

Post Show Musings

It has been a few weeks since my show officially ended and I'm happy to report that all faired pretty well.  This year's work, exploring new viewpoints in landscape and the large tonal triptych (pictured), garnered positive reviews. Response was particularly strong before opening night which certainly took the pressure off.  

Today is a contemplative day for me.  As the years pass by along with my solo shows, I've seen a gradual evolution in my work.  Change and new growth inevitably marches on and  my images, my technique, and my studio rhythms follow.  I guess it's a matter of always digging deeper into the mysteries of the land and trying to translate on canvas what I see, not in replication, but as close to a living and breathing image as I can get.  For me, it's not about copying what I see, but bringing an entire experience onto canvas; an encounter with a slice of land that burrows deep into the soul and words aren't necessary to describe the experience.  I'd like to think it's a "state of beingness", you and this landscape painting.  And it's your experience alone with your own range of feelings that's important.   

Coming up next, is a group show at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa in early November to help raise operational funds for the museum.  Always extremely well done, it has been very popular over the years. I've included my paintings in the Collector's Reserve folder if you would like to view them.  

Anthem of the Bosque, oil on canvas, 48x120 triptych,2014

Anthem of the Bosque, oil on canvas, 48x120 triptych,2014

 

Upcoming Show, "Touching Land"

Some time has passed since I last came here.  The ending of Winter and beginning of Spring  offered many adventures, one being a trip to Tulsa, Ok for a show in late February and several trips to Colorado Springs in March and April to touch base with family and gather more inspiration.  It is now the second day of the official beginning of Summer and my Fall solo show preparations are underway.  

Cottonwoods, Late Fall, oil, 40x30

Cottonwoods, Late Fall, oil, 40x30

As always, every year I try to extend the previous boundaries, try new subjects, and experiment with new techniques.  For last year's show, "Adagio for Grasslands" broke new ground in how I painted grasses over of the years.  I wanted to bring them closer than ever before as if standing right in it all, with the horizon only a small portion above.  For me, the tall grass of the prairies is like Mount Pedernal was to Okeeffe or Sainte Victoire was to Cezanne.  They move me again and again with deep feelings and I am continually drawn to paint them.  It's a mystery; after all, they are a just grasses, but it's all in the context: the wind, the sky, the expanse of the prairie, the stillness, the clouds and shadows floating by.  What I see and feel in all this interplay is what drives my to bring it onto canvas.

Summer's Passage, oil, 48x36

Summer's Passage, oil, 48x36

This year, trees have begun to play a significant part.  I am also bringing them closer in, some quite close like the grasses in "Adagio".  Visually, trees are immensely powerful to me also.  Though different from grasses, the branches travel in a myriad of directions holding leaves that produce an infinite number of shapes and then there are the fascinating openings showing bits and pieces of sky or mountain.  Trees are informal, growing towards optimal balance unless wind or other forces of nature want to intervene.  There is also no striving or overworking built into their DNA. They just are and this is what holds much power for me.  

So in many ways, these directions are towards a deeper immersion into the land, seeing infinity not so much in literal space, but in a single patch of grass or tree.  


“To see a World in a Grain of Sand 


And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour.” 
― William BlakeAuguries of Innocence 


Spirit, Materials, & Technique in a Nutshell

An old glass palette surface.  Few colors can create a myriad of possibilities.  

An old glass palette surface.  Few colors can create a myriad of possibilities.  

Last, I talked about my painting demonstration  at the famed Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa.  What I didn’t talk about was my process as a painter and offered to touch on this in my next log.  So,  today I’ll attempt to shed light on how I approach painting. 

Painting is multi faceted.  First, and foremost, there is the feeling and spirit of the image to paint.  Then there are the materials and surface to use for the painting and, finally, the technique one uses to convey the image onto canvas with the original feeling and spirit.  What seems to happen with me is that I will start a painting and, in its levels of construction, finally reach what I call the “crossover” moment into that ethereal, magical place that provokes emotion.  This place is what it’s all about.  It’s taking how landscapes make me feel and, after building the skeleton of composition, color notes, values, and contrasts,  reframing that feeling into a painting.  Essentially, this crossover moment is a spiritual dimension, a place where experience becomes deeply felt and healing in a visceral and vibrant way.  Words are hard to use to describe this phenomenon. 

My materials are rather basic: limited palette of primary colors, warm and cool of each (Alizarin Crimson, Naphol Red, Yellow Lite, Yellow med, Yelllow Deep, Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, and Titanium White), a few sturdy palette knives, a large mixing surface (an old double pane window has served the purpose just fine), various sizes of brushes (Fans and Brights are favorites), and two mediums, Linseed  and alkyd Walnut oil.  Surfaces vary from canvas with some tooth to linen when I want less texture and I also paint on panel when I want to highlight detail and nuance. 

My technique is a mix of speed at first and a more relaxed approach when I near completion.  The beginning is kinetic, involving larger brushes, the palette knife ,and quick application of paint which I mix with linseed oil for better flow.  I initially go for “blocks” of color that I later blend with the knife and brush and which produces the interaction of color notes I like.  If I’m successful, the colors can almost vibrate giving the feeling of aliveness on the canvas (originally static) surface.  This effect is very important in the “crossover” moment.

The images come from two places: either from my own creation ( memory sometimes) or a photograph that is often cropped to a workable composition. I take several trips a year for study such as to the Tallgrass Prairie in OK with my trusty Nikon and come back with lots of material.  I do get out with an easel, but I am mainly a studio painter since I work with larger sizes and have more control in the studio.   That may change, however,  because I recently bought a handmade Pochade Box, basically a very portable and smaller easel.  My older French easel just was too heavy to lug into the hills.  

In the end, no matter how good the materials or technique or initial inspiration, the land continues to hold deeper mysteries.  Like lessons in life repeating again and again until we catch a glimmer of the solution, so is the process of painting how the land moves me.  I will always be learning. 

Gilcrease Museum Demonstration

painting demonstration, photo courtesy of Gilcrease Musuem

painting demonstration, photo courtesy of Gilcrease Musuem

It has been over two months since my last log and more miles travelled--- Colorado, Oklahoma, Arizona, and another visit farther north to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.  My last solo visit to this place was almost 20 years ago before I embarked on a 1000 mile bike trip through Great Britain.  To get in shape for the big trip, I did some training at the monastery in the dust and under the hot sun.  What I didn’t know is that 5 years later I would discover my love of painting and then move down to New Mexico and eventually etch out a life of an artist in Santa Fe.  This was not until after more than a enough moves around the northern part of the state. 

Back to present day, earlier this month,  my sojourn east to Oklahoma recently took me to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa where I was asked to do a painting demonstration on the eve of the annual Collector's Reserve fundraising show. Gilcrease is definitely one of my favorite museums. Not only housing great art, it is located on some beautiful 475 acres at the foot of the Osage hills.  I was honored.  It was my first museum demonstration and certainly a highlight this year.  My next log will feature an outline of the talk I gave during my demonstration about my painting philosophy and technique.  

Painting demonstration surrounded by large reproductions of the Masters, photo courtesy of Gilcrease Museum 

Painting demonstration surrounded by large reproductions of the Masters, photo courtesy of Gilcrease Museum 

Since my last show in Santa Fe, I have begun a new series of paintings focusing on the prominence of light I play with in my pieces.  I have also revisited the softer and subtle paintings of the Bosque Del Apache, a bird refuge and wetlands near Socorro, NM, another place of inspiration for me.  Here is “Bosque, Final Hour” which I completed in October.

Bosque,Final Hour,oc,25x75,2013.jpg

As the temperatures turn colder and the fall colors fade and fall from their tree homes to the ground to be recycled again for next season, I continue to seek new images to paint.  I am thankful I have the space and time and resources to do so.  It is a blessing and with that comes the challenge to stay true to my vision as an artist and perhaps, as is my hope, to gives others a feeling of respite from the everyday grind.

 

 

Uncommon Ground

"Adagio for Grasslands"
80" x 108"
Oil on Canvas

Hello and welcome to my first blog on my redesigned site.  I start it less than a week away from my show, Uncommon Ground, at Waxlander Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.  I guess an appropriate beginning would be to talk about why Uncommon Ground.  Over the years at Waxlander, now my 8th, I have painted many landscapes always with an urge to dig deeper and deeper into the way I express how my landscapes make me feel.  Many paintings in the process have failed, some almost get there but fall short, others succeed and only when they can survive the test of time.  It’s sometimes an arbitrary process. I can work long hours on a piece but it never turns out and then work on another in one or two studio sessions and it magically comes together.  What leads up to this, however, is the foundation of steady work, showing up in the studio every day and painting even when the juices aren’t there.

This year my intent for my show is to go beyond the usual images I paint to new interpretations, perspectives, and unfamiliar ground.  My largest painting in the show, “Adagio for Grasslands”, a triptych, I feel is the “mother ship” that leads all the other paintings into this new ground.  I’ve painted many grassland scenes but this piece is viscerally and perspectively different, and more frontal than anything I’ve ever done.  It took me a week to complete, working steady and methodically with each panel, and the amazing thing is it came together with only a few revisions and struggles.  I’d like to think I was ready for this painting. 

The genesis for Adagio for Grasslands came from a visit to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Northern Oklahoma, about 35,000 acres of pristine, historic prairie land where grasses grow 10’ high in some places.  It is cared for by the wonderful Nature Conservancy who also manages a heard of over 2500 bison on the prairie as well.

ADAGIO 2.JPG

From photos, I got the basic composition, deepened the colors, and decided on the scale and size of the panels.  Then I translated what I remember seeing, in almost staccato-like fashion, colors swathes hidden in the seemingly monochromatic color scheme.  This was uncommon ground for me and in the end a dialogue started to happen.   The tallgrass.  I could hear its language and offered my own in return.  It’s a rare thing when I can step back from a painting and hear and feel an entirely new language come from it back to me, a language that isn’t my own.  This reciprocal event is the meat of all that I do in the studio and what fuels my passion to paint.   The rest is gravy. 

Well, I am new at this blog world and am excited about logging more “moments” in my studio life.  Most days are spent working in a bit of a vacuum, with me as the sole worker, critic, and ponderer.  This allows me to break down that wall and share more of my world aside from the shows that I do.  I would be appreciative of hearing any comments of those in the creative process themselves or from those interested in artists who eek out a living, day by day, in the precarious act of creating.