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.


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.