Sunday, May 27, 2018

Quick Glance | Long Look

I saw it for just a second...

I can’t explain why I am attracted to certain scenes and subjects, but I’ve learned to pay attention to the “glimmers” of paintings that I see on a regular basis. I see them out of the corner of my eye, or when I turn my head, or they flash by the windshield while I’m driving. Sometimes I find them in snapshots that weren’t intended to be painting references. The moments are like shooting stars, quick flashes of light.

The scene at right is an example of a persistent “glimmer” that I can’t escape. This farmhouse is located on Middle Road (Rt. 628) in Frederick County, Virginia. I’ve looked at it under cloudy skies and pelting rain, through blinding morning glare and hazy afternoons. No matter the season, the time of day, or the weather conditions, I am attracted to this place. There is something about the proportions of the house, the bright red roof, the contrasts of the geometric forms against the slope of the hill and the irregular trees.

I’ve tried to photograph this house dozens of times, whether as a passenger in a moving car, or after pulling off along the road. None of the photographs ever manage to get at what I’m seeing. But I have learned to use photographs as tools to explore my vision of the scene, and that’s where the quick glance evolves into a long, long look. From photographs and memories, I’ve completed drawings, ink and watercolor sketches, and color studies. Nothing I’ve yet done has captured whatever it is that is tickling my instincts, but in the meantime, I am enjoying the journey and looking forward to finding an unknown destination.

My long looks sometimes take years, as is the case with this subject, or in the case of a plein air sketch, maybe it’s only a few hours. But even in  abbreviated painting sessions, I’ve found that I develop a heightened sense of familiarity with subjects because I’ve committed effort to paper. The places and people become part of me, and I feel a jolt of emotion and remembrance when I revisit a place that I’ve painted.

Quick glances inspire; long looks feed the soul.

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