Landscapes take shape

As I’m getting ready for the Spring show at Parsons Gallery of the West, I am thinking about how a landscape tells a story, even when there are no people in the picture.

Like when we first see that horizon line it tells our restless brains we’re looking out at the world as we know it. That line goes from left to right or vice versa. It locks us in and answers the first of many questions.

When you look at a painted landscape with no people rendered in it, what is being said first is, “It’s just you and me, dear observer, along with this concrete creation.” And even though it is solid and hard like concrete, it sometimes holds a sublime scene that has no trace of humans, so no cement roads, cars, or telephone poles.

But still, the landscape has a story to tell for anyone who wants to listen by looking. It’s a hum of the very earth and its vibrations, the musical motif of clouds, the run of the river that we can’t see but know is just out of sight below, on the floor of the canyon.

Sometimes I plan what I’m going to paint, and sometimes, a landscape demands I paint it, even if it’s just from memory. The clouds bunch up and shoulder their water as my brush scrumbles and drags. The tree demands attention. The distant mountains want you to know exactly how close they are.

If I had my way, an endless landscape would roll out from under my brush and tell the story of just how far I’ve come.