Showing posts with label landscape. Show all posts
Showing posts with label landscape. Show all posts

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Painter’s Emotional Lens

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

We often think of landscape paintings as representational art. But, in fact, many artists are so inspired by the landscape they are experiencing, they prefer to convey these scenes through the lens of their emotions.

I recently attended a lecture by a docent from the Phoenix Art Museum about the Hudson River School. These American painters of the 19th century hiked in uncharted territory of upstate New York, in awe of the wilderness around them. They sketched and wrote their memories on site; then created paintings in their studios that we would call realistic, but which conveyed their fascination with and love of nature.

Dawn Mountain Glow
Fran Larsen
Today, some contemporary painters express their reactions to a landscape in a different way. They choose to ignore local color and instead, use hues that convey their emotions rather than describe what they see. Others prefer to express themselves with more stylized, abstract versions of physical realities. To explore these different concepts of landscape painting, I called two artists from Wilde Meyer whose work I admire.

When she moved to Santa Fe, Fran Larsen was thrilled by the wonderful light there, the amazing landscape and the interesting cultures of its residents. Fran says that her paintings are metaphors of her reaction to these unique New Mexican characteristics.

“I’m inspired by the way the environment here makes me feel,” she says. “Because of the intense light, I see color in entirely different ways. Once color becomes arbitrary – rather than local – shapes can be arbitrary as well.”

Hidden in the Mountains
Fran Larsen
Inspiration for her painting entitled “Dawn Mountain Glow” came as Fran was looking out her window at the canyon below her house. She painted the arroyo that runs through the canyon – a technique she often employs. “Roads and rivers are entry points that take us into things, and I believe that each painting is an exploration for me and the viewer,” she says. As you can see, Fran’s choice of colors is personal, and doesn’t reference the local scene. I sense that her emotional lens was a joyful one – the vivid colors in the canyon and the sky make the painting energetic and pleasing.

Fran departs from realism in other ways. In her painting entitled “Hidden in the Mountains,” she makes no attempt to portray a three-dimensional depth of field. “This painting is about a landscape, but my interest here is design and the use of flat space – a more cubist approach,” she says. Fran explains that she contrasts light and dark areas, using hues that vary in intensity, to give the painting a “feeling of push and pull.” She uses small dots to enliven the shapes and add texture.

There is another unique element in Fran’s paintings – the frames themselves. She designs, constructs and paints each frame to complement the painting. “The frame reasserts that the painting is an object, as opposed to a representation,” she says.


Sunlit Canyon
Sushe Felix
Sushe Felix lives in Colorado. Her southwest landscapes have a distinctive style, which she claims is derived from her interest in American abstract painters from the 1930’s and 40s, as well as the modernist movement. “In particular, I’ve been influenced by Raymond Jonson, who led the Transcendental Painting Group in Santa Fe,” Sushe explained.

Late Night Reflection
Sushe Felix
I looked up the group on Google, and found that the aim of the Transcendental Painting Group was "to defend, validate and promote abstract art. They sought to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new expressions of space, color, light and design."

Thomas Hart Benton, who was at the forefront of the Regionalist movement, also influenced Sushe, as did the southwest regionalist painters, who took the local landscape and abstracted it. Sushe does that in her own way, with a strong focus on forms, shapes and color. You can see her unique style in two of her paintings, entitled “Sunlit Canyon” and “Late Night Reflection.” She likes to define the shapes of the mountains and sky with sharp edges, but contrasts that with soft shapes inside the borders. When I asked her how she created the delicate areas of clouds, mountains and trees, she said that she uses old brushes to scrub acrylic paint on her canvas to create a pastel-like effect. “I studied pastel in college, so I know how to blend very well,” she says.

Sushe often includes depictions of wildlife in her paintings. Here, her love of animals lead her to create endearing “critters” with round eyes – as you can see in two beautiful paintings entitled “Nest of Blooms.” and “Full Brood.”


Full Brood
Sushe Felix
Nest of Blooms
Sushe Felix


Many people want a point of reference when they look at a painting. But more importantly, a painting should reflect the artist’s vision – seen through his or her emotional lens.

View more art by Fran Larsen and Sushe Felix at Wilde Meyer Gallery.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses: Three expressionist landscape painters

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com


Lola's House, 40" x 40"
by Judy Feldman

Question: What kind of world is it when you don’t see black, grey and brown?

Answer: It’s the world of colorists and expressionist landscape painters.

You can certainly see my own love of color in a new painting entitled "Lola's House." I enjoy painting interiors and still lifes, where color is always welcome.

But, color isn't limited to interior settings. Landscapes, too, can push the boundaries of color, especially if artists express how they feel when they look at a scene, rather than try to reproduce it. These painters are happy! I also think that the southwestern landscape seems to encourage painters to see a bit out of the box.

Michelle Chrisman does the majority of her painting outdoors in New Mexico. "Part of the enjoyment for me is to be outside, to paint quickly and record my emotional response to what I'm seeing," she said. "I love to get in the zone, surrounded by nature, and paint alla prima, that is, wet on wet, finishing in one session." Her painting entitled "Luminous Light" is a good example of her fresh style. It's as if she took in her surroundings and expressed it in just a moment, to say how it affected her.


Luminous Light, 24" x 30"
by Michelle Chrisman

Michelle is a colorist who "hyper sees;" that is, she sees the hues that make up the local color others perceive. She's very interested in the effect of light and spectral color, which is defined by Wikipedia as a "color that is evoked by a single wavelength of light in the visible spectrum…" The spectrum often is divided up into named colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

"For me, paint is part of the experience," she said. "I want it to be luscious, to say "I'm paint, touch me!”


October in the Mountains, 50" x 60"
by Barbara Gurwitz

You can appreciate Michelle's technique and color vision in her painting entitled "Morning Light on Abiquiu Cliffs." I like the wonderful reds and yellows she uses to show warmth and light, contrasted with violet and greens to indicate the shadow side of the mountains. I think she wants us to focus on this area of the painting, as she uses much softer tones for the land and river in the foreground. So I’m guessing that it's the mountain that really grabbed her eyes. In addition to strong color, Michelle uses heavy texture with a palette knife to describe her landscape.

Barbara Gurwitz wants to create a sense of place in her landscape paintings. She takes photos and does sketches of the special places she wants to paint. But realism takes a back seat to the expression of how she felt at the time of her visit to the site. "I’m not interested in duplicating the colors of nature," she said. "I’ve always chosen colors that speak to the way I see the world, which are sometimes different from what you would expect."


View From the West, 24" x 30"
by Barbara Gurwitz

When looking at one of Barbara's paintings, "October in the Mountains," I know it's a scene of a southwestern village in the foothills of a mountain range. But her strong, primary colors give this landscape great energy and a charming, folk art quality.

Barbara also seems to see through rose-colored glasses, and that may be because she uses a red ground under her paintings. "It’s a wonderful neutral," she said. She leaves the red as negative space in some areas. This is evident in most of her paintings, such as "Santa Cruz Autumn" and "View from the West." The red under-painting makes everything glow!


Three in Ranchos, 32.5" x 38.5"
by Leigh Gusterson

Leigh Gusterson learned to paint in New Jersey and was trained in the Hudson River style of plein air painting. "It was grey and humid a lot of the time, and my paintings reflected that weather." But things changed when she relocated to Taos and experienced the effect of the light there. Now, Leigh loves to push color when she paints on location at her favorite sites.

"As artists, we train our eyes to see shapes, form and color more intensely," Leigh said. "I like to share what I see with viewers of my artwork. Sometimes, it's the awesome New Mexican landscape that displays these amazing colors!"

Leigh's loose, painterly style enables her to paint expressively. We can see her wonderful technique in "Three in Ranchos" and "Down in Pilar."

Like Barbara, Leigh enjoys painting scenes of villages nestled in the mountain foothills, with their farms, houses and church. She, too, chooses to wear rose-colored glasses, and infuses some of her work with a sense of whimsy, as in "These Sheep Need a Barn."

So, if you’re living in the Southwest, take a drive to a favorite spot and look again. You, too, may see some beautiful colors you’ve never seen before.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Meditation and Mystery

Jeff Cochran explores the natural world of landscapes and primates.

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Transformation 48"x34" oil on canvas
by Jeff Cochran
Many painters like to switch back and forth with their favorite subjects. I find that I tend to go from interior settings with many details to still lifes, which are much more relaxing. 

Jeff Cochran focuses on two very different subjects: landscapes and chimpanzees. You might wonder if there is any connection between the two. I certainly did, so I gave him a call.

Obviously, interest in the natural world is a link. But, mystery is also the common thread. Jeff says that chimps have a certain mystery – they are human-like and can connect with the viewer, who wonders what they are thinking. His landscapes have a sense of mystery, too, painted in a dreamy idealized style.
When I looked at some of Jeff’s paintings, I was reminded of the Hudson River School, a mid-19th century American art movement of landscape painters whose vision was influenced by romanticism. He agreed that he, too, liked to portray pastoral settings. “My paintings look like a place where you could go and sit and think,” he said. Instead of New York’s Hudson River Valley, the land around his home in Taos, New Mexico is Jeff’s inspiration.

Late Summer Irrigation, oil on canvas 54" x 68"
by Jeff Cochran
“I like to do plein air studies in the alfalfa fields that are in this area,” he said. “The rolling mountains and irrigation washes also become subjects for my paintings. There’s a certain atmosphere around here that gives a soft glow to the surroundings.” You can see examples of these places in his paintings entitled “Irrigation at Patrick’s Place” and “Late Summer Irrigation.” These works are larger paintings, taken from his studies and done in his studio.

Irrigation at Patrick's Place oil on canvas 32" x 33"
by Jeff Cochran
Although Jeff paints from nature, he is not interested in being a purely representational artist. His paint palette does not always reflect local color; rather, he prefers to use muted hues that convey his romantic view of the scene. “A Soft Summer Afternoon” and “Pasture in Talpa New Mexico” both have that dreamy quality that draws people to Jeff’s work.

A Soft Summer Afternoon, oil on canvas 46" x 56"
by Jeff Cochran
Pasture in Talpa New Mexico, oil on canvas 40" x 48"
by Jeff Cochran
So, then, you might wonder why he likes to paint chimps. According to Jeff, about 20 years ago, he visited the San Diego Zoo, and was impressed by their amazing chimpanzees. “I started painting them, and people responded very well,” he said. The eyes of these creatures and their soft, fuzzy fur are very appealing. Since he seems to know them so well, he has humanized them in portrait form. “Transformation”(shown at the top of this post) and “Psychedelic Chimp #9 are good examples of Jeff’s skill in getting up close and personal with these creatures, and adding some humor as well.

Psychedlic Chimp #9 oil on canvas 50" x 46"
by Jeff Cochran
His fascination with chimps and their portraits led to his acquaintance with the renowned primatologist, Jane Goodall. Jeff’s relationship with Jane Goodall came about when he found out about her Institute’s annual fund raiser. Uninvited, he sent them a four-foot chimp painting. Jane Goodall loved the painting and didn't want to auction it so she could hang it in her office. “I sent a second painting to donate to the auction, and later on, I attended her 70th birthday party.”

Jeff has a third area of interest. He’s also an organic farmer, selling vegetables at farmer’s markets, as well as opening his farm to young people interested in gardening and farming. Cochran thinks of his farming as art, and that what he is really doing is creating a giant land sculpture. Maybe we can look forward to seeing some romanticized vegetable gardens!


You can view more of Jeff Cochran's art at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Style of Style

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

We often talk about an artist’s style – the way he or she paints that’s easily identifiable. That can apply to realism, abstraction and anything in between. There’s also stylized painting – a technique whereby the artist depicts an image in a unique way – presenting subject matter, forms and color choices that are very distinctive.

The Wilde Meyer artists I spoke to all said that they want to take the viewer beyond the subject by eliminating certain details and adding their own artistic marks.

Loire Valley 35.5" x 35.5" oil on canvas
by Rena Vandewater
Pear Tree 19" x 25" oil on canvas 
by Rena Vandewater
For example, Rena Vandewater, an artist from Idaho, paints scenes from places she has visited, and although some of the elements are identifiable, much of the paintings are about her artistry. As you can see in “Loire Valley,” the chateaux are there, but the orange hills and vibrant green trees are definitely Rena’s invention.

“I work very intuitively,” she explains. “The painting talks to me the whole time I’m working on it. The patterns and shapes evolve in the process, and although I see the image as a whole, each space has a life of its own.”

Rena discovered that the lines and dots of her patterned areas give the paintings a 3-D effect. “By using this technique and vibrant colors I can add movement to the painting.” This 3-D aspect is evident in “Pear Tree,” which also reflects her love of quilts and textiles.

Jaime Ellsworth and companions
Sometimes, stylized painting removes details, focusing more on shapes and color. The work of artists Jaime Ellsworth and Robert Burt fall into this approach. Jaime calls herself a “shape artist” who likes to keep her art “on the lighter side.” She doesn’t work from photos – just “what comes out of my head” – but I think she’s inspired by her family of 4-legged pets, including dogs, a goat and miniature horses. As you can see in her painting entitled “Scent,” she knows just what dogs do when they get together! (Jaime probably gets a lot of laughs from her animals. I just can’t resist including this photo she sent me of a typical car ride for her.)

Scent 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas
by Jaime Ellsworth
 “Waterbowl” is a great example of Jaime’s skill with shape and color. There are basically three shapes in this 30X40 painting – all the details are distilled away, and we can just enjoy the beautiful hues and forms.

Waterbowl 30" x 40" acrylic on canvas
by Jaime Ellsworth
Robert Burt also eliminates most particulars in his lushly colored paintings. He paints what he sees around his home in Mexico, where he lives for part of the year, and in his travels.

Bell Tower 12" x 12" acrylic on canvas
by Robert Burt
“I don’t want to distract the viewer with details, since I think that can be stressful,” he says. “Colors and shapes are more important to me.  I’m trying to tell a story and bring the viewer into my painting. Sometimes, you don’t need a door or a window to know it’s a building.”

She Hears Something 30" x 24" acrylic on canvas
by Robert Burt
You can see Robert’s beautiful simplicity in “Bell Tower.” His use of basic shapes and complimentary colors gives us all the facts we need, and we can just enjoy looking at the small church. Shadow and light also are important elements in his stylized work, as in “She Hears Something” and “Fast Friends.”

Fast Friends 12" x 12" acrylic on canvas
by Robert Burt
Sushe Felix is interested in the natural world of plants and animals. Her stylized work reflects her interest in the American Abstract painters from the 1930’s and 40’s, and modernist painting. She strives to achieve a balance between detail and simplification and uses areas of layered vibrant color.

Quiet Waters 28" x 27.5" acrylic on panel
by Sushe Felix
At first, I thought her work had a folk art quality, but on further inspection, I think it’s much more sophisticated. “Quiet Waters” has all the elements of a southwestern landscape, but its brilliant hues and abstracted shapes (the clouds are so art deco!) make this painting much more interesting.

Cloudburst 21" x 28" acrylic on panel
by Sushe Felix
Other examples of her unique style include “Cloudburst” and “Yellow Headed Blackbird.” In her artist’s statement, Sushe says “I strive to create an orderly composition of both geometric and organic form. Movement is achieved by repeating forms, shapes, and differing directions of line. In essence, I am striving to find new and different ways in which to depict the natural rhythms of life and nature.”

The next time you see a painting that looks “stylized,” just remember that it’s the artist’s unique way of communicating his or her vision of the world!

Yellow Headed Blackbird 21" x 15" acrylic on panel
by Sushe Felix

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

High and Low


The Dramatic Effect of the Horizon Line (and what happens when it’s not there…)

Claude Monet "Water Lilies" (Source: Wiki Commons)

During a visit to Paris last September, I spent several hours at the Orangerie museum. That’s where Monet’s amazing water lilies mural paintings are displayed. There are four walls of murals, which were painted on canvas and then affixed to curved walls. Each mural is 41 feet long and more than six feet tall. The visitor is invited to sit and contemplate these tranquil images, designed to “offer an asylum of peaceful meditation at the center of a flowery aquarium.”

What I noticed is that these paintings seem to pull the viewer in, to embrace you in such a way that you feel as if you are right on top of the pond, and almost inside it. I wondered whether the lack of a horizon contributed to this sense of no spatial limitations.
Some of the artists here at Wilde Meyer have created that sense of being pulled into their painting by omitting a horizon, or by placing it in a particular way.


Robert Charon’s “Koi Pond II” evokes the same feeling to me as Monet’s water lilies. I’m drawn into the pond, as he creates a wonderful illusion of depth, with the dark outlined stones at the bottom, the bubbles on the surface and the koi floating through them. This painting calls for reflection, too.

Koi Pond II mixed media on panel with resin varnish 24"x36"
by Robert Charon

In some of his other work, Robert creates a different mood by changing his horizon line.

Sunset II acrylic on panel with resin varnish 12"x16"
by Robert Charon


“Since the horizon line gives the viewer a focal point, its placement depends on the subject matter,” he said. “In ‘Sunset II,’ the horizon is low, since I wanted the majority of the painting to be the sky. By showing the sunset as the lightest hue near the horizon line, and painting deeper hues above it, I can create the glow of the sunset.”

Through the Reeds acrylic on panel with resin varnish 12"x36"
by Robert Charon

Mini Distant Trees 6" x 6"
by Robert Charon
In his work entitled “Through the Reeds,” Robert actually has two horizon lines – the line where the reeds meet the water, and the small line where the reeds part, to reveal the trees behind them. The technique of this narrow 12”X36” painting is pretty amazing: my eye focuses first on the reflection of the reeds on the water, and then travels far in the distance. It’s a painting that holds my attention!


A small piece, called “Mini Distant Trees” also is interesting. The horizon line is almost in the middle, indicated by small trees. The pale sky takes your eye back, but the swath of red in the foreground is arresting. It’s a soothing painting, and yet, it’s not.

Robert Anderson, another Wilde Meyer artist, also changes his intentions, between abstract and landscape paintings. In his large work entitled “Floating in Time,” as well as “Clarity, Movement and Light,” Robert wants to “draw viewers into the painting, and keep them there.”

Floating in Time oil on canvas 96" x 72"
by Robert Anderson
Clarity, Movement, and Light oil on panel 24.5" x 24.5"
by Robert Anderson


When he’s doing landscapes, he favors a high horizon line, since he is interested in showing distance.
“With a high horizon, I can create a more dramatic vista,” he said. “The deep foreground gives me more space to show the relationship between the flowers and plants I’m focusing on, and the trees and mountains in the far distance.”
Summer Sunflowers oil on panel 33.5" x 31"
by Robert Anderson

You can see an example of Robert Anderson’s technique in “Summer Sunflowers.” The large flowers in the foreground seem even larger when contrasted with the receding background, with its much smaller flowers and trees. The intensity of the flowers’ hues also brings them forward to us, while the small line of sky seems to blend in with the soft shades of the background.



“Summer Blue,” a large 46”X66” painting, is another work with just a sliver of a horizon line at the very top of the painting. It’s quite faint, but it still helps to give the viewer the illusion of depth. Robert’s interest is obviously the field of flowers, but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if he didn’t include the small trees and hills behind them and the little strip of pale blue sky.


Summer Blue oil on panel 46" x 66"
by Robert Anderson
A very low horizon line has the opposite effect. If you look back at the post I wrote on August 16th about Albert Scharf’s cloud paintings, you see how he uses the thin slice of land below the clouds as a counter balance which, he noted, makes the sky look even larger.

Landscape 618 oil on canvas 30"x40"
by Albert Scharf

So you see, the painterly intent of the artist is often tied into the placement of the horizon line and can really elicit certain emotional reactions to a work. What do you prefer?  Let us know in the comments.





Thursday, August 30, 2012

Expressionist Landscape Painters:


The World Through Rose Colored Glasses


Question: What kind of world is it when you don’t see black, grey, and brown?
Answer: It’s the world of colorists and expressionist landscape painters.

Desert Oasis 24.5" x 30.5"
by Michelle Chrisman

And what a lovely world it is. I know that personally, I ‘m attracted to high color. The primaries are my friends, and I don’t want much to do with those “sad,” muted colors.

In my last post, I wrote about landscape as a personal vision. I noticed that there are some other landscape painters at Wilde Meyer who express how they feel when they look at a scene, rather than try to reproduce it. These painters feel really good!

Michelle Chrisman does the majority of her painting outdoors in New Mexico. “Part of the enjoyment for me is to be outside, to paint quickly and record my emotional response to what I’m seeing,” she said. “I love to get in the zone, surrounded by nature, and paint alla prima, that is, wet on wet, finishing in one session.” Her painting entitled “Desert Oasis,” shown at the top of this post, is a good example of her fresh style. It’s as if she took in her surroundings and expressed it in just a moment, to say how it affected her.

Michelle is a colorist who “hyper sees,” that is, she sees the hues that make up the local color others perceive. She’s very interested in the effect of light and spectral color, which is defined by Wikipedia as “a color that is evoked by a single wavelength of light in the visible spectrum, or by a relatively narrow band of wavelengths. The spectrum is often divided up into named colors: red, orange yellow, green, blue and violet.”

Kitchen Mesa 24.5" x 30.5"
by Michelle Chrisman


You can see Michelle’s technique and color vision in her painting entitled “Kitchen Mesa.” It was painted at Ghost Ranch, the site of many of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. I like the wonderful reds and yellows she uses to show warmth and light, and the soft violets to indicate the shadow of the rock crevices. The blue/green hue in the foreground really pops against the red tones around it. In addition to strong color, Michelle uses heavy texture with a palette knife to describe her landscape.

“For me, paint is part of the experience,” she said. “I want it to be luscious, to say ‘I’m paint, touch me!’”

Barbara Gurwitz wants to create a sense of place in her landscape paintings. She takes photos and does sketches of the special places she wants to paint. But realism takes a back seat to the expression of how she felt at the time of her visit to the site. “I’m not interested in duplicating the colors of nature,” she said. “I’ve always chosen colors that speak to the way I see the world, which are sometimes different from what you would expect.”

View from the West 24" x 30"
by Barbara Gurwitz

High Country Summer 40" x 60"
by Barbara Gurwitz
When looking at one Barbara’s paintings, “A View from the West,” I know it’s a scene of a southwestern village in the foothills of a mountain range. But her strong, primary colors give this landscape great energy and a charming, folk art quality.

Santa Cruz Autumn 34" x 44"
by Barbara Gurwitz
Barbara also seems to see through rose-colored glasses, and that may be because she uses a red ground under her paintings. “It’s a wonderful neutral,” she said. She leaves the red as negative space in some areas. This is evident in most of her paintings, such as, “High Country Summer” and “Santa Cruz Autumn.” The red under-painting makes everything glow!

When Barbara paints, she often calls upon her spiritual mentor, Vincent Van Gogh (who wasn’t quite as upbeat as she). “I love his willingness to paint as he saw fit, and he’s always been an inspiration to me.”

 Leigh Gusterson learned to paint in New Jersey and was trained in the Hudson River style of plein air painting. “It was grey and humid a lot of the time, and my paintings reflected that weather.” But things changed when she relocated to Taos and experienced the effect of the light there. Now, Leigh loves to push color when she paints on location at her favorite sites.
Hollyhock Morning 9.25" x 12"
by Leigh Gusterson

“As artists, we train our eyes to see shapes, form and color more intensely,” Leigh said. “I like to share what I see with viewers of my artwork.” Even though Leigh uses non-traditional colors (as in “Hollyhock Morning”), she said that her palette is simple, with just 12-14 colors. “I can make anything I want with these colors,” she explains. “And, sometimes, it’s just the awesome New Mexican landscape that displays these amazing colors!” She said the pink cliffs in “Magpie Playground” really exist.


Magpie Playground 17.25" x 21.5"
by Leigh Gusterson

Like Barbara, Leigh enjoys painting scenes of villages nestled in the mountain foothills, with their farms, houses and church. She, too, chooses to wear rose-colored glasses, and infuses some of her work with a sense of whimsy, as in “Drive By Sheep.”

Drive By Sheep 27.5" x 27.5"
by Leigh Gusterson

So, if you’re living in the southwest, take a drive to a favorite spot and look again. You, too, may see some amazing colors you’ve never noticed there before.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Landscape: A Personal Vision



I just returned from a wonderful trip to Santa Fe. I was struck by the stark beauty of this area, and how much sky one sees there. At times, the sky takes over nearly the entire field of vision, and the ground is just a small sliver underneath. Just driving there on 1-40, I noticed how the very low horizon changed my perception. I felt surrounded by the large, billowy clouds. That’s an idea I’ll pursue in another post.


It’s easy to understand why so many artists who live in Santa Fe choose to paint landscapes. Albert Scharf and Fran Larsen exhibit their work at Wilde Meyer. Both interpret the landscape differently.

Landscape #616 oil on canvas 40"x30"
by Albert Scharf

Looking at Albert Scharf’s beautiful cloud paintings, you can really sense the vastness of the sky I was feeling myself. When I spoke with him, he said that he finds that clouds are an interesting subject because of what they do to the light, and since they have abstract shapes, he’s not bound by form or structure.

“Clouds have an amorphic shape that enable me to pursue my interest in the emotional content of color,” he said. “Also, the manipulation of their hard and soft edges gives great energy to the paintings.”

High Desert Mountains 30"x30"
oil on canvas by Albert Scharf
At first, Albert just painted clouds, but he then decided to add the thin slice of land below as a counter balance which, he noted, makes the sky look even larger. This is the effect of the low horizon that intrigues me. You can see how this happens in Albert’s painting entitled “Landscape 616.” (Yes, he numbers his paintings and has done nearly 800.) In “High Desert Mountains,” he has increased the size of the ground and given it texture with a palette knife, which gives the painting a completely different look.

Landscape 576 oil on canvas 48"x60"
by Albert Scharf
Although he has seen many beautiful Santa Fe skies in the 30 years he has lived there, Albert does not use local color; rather he prefers to present his ”skyscapes” in saturated hues that transcend through the conscious into the subconscious. “I want to take my viewers to a place where they feel good,” he said. A great example of his wonderful use of color can be seen in “Landscape #576.”


Companion Paintings 24"x96" (diptych)
by Albert Scharf
Lately, Albert has created several “companion paintings,” which involve two or more pieces that have similar landscapes, but one is in warm tones and the other cool. When hung together, they look like reflections of each other.



Although Fran Larsen has lived in Santa Fe for many years, she grew up in Michigan, where she spent time with her uncle, who was a glacial geologist. “We talked quite a bit about geology and the anthropology of the old tribes who lived in the areas we visited,” she said.

South from Beyond  28"x60"
by Fran Larsen

When she moved to New Mexico, she was thrilled by the wonderful light there, the amazing geologic forces that created the landscape and the interesting cultures of its residents. Fran says that her paintings are metaphors of her reaction to these unique New Mexican characteristics.

Dawn Passage 13.5"x13.5" by Fran Larsen
“I am inspired by the way the environment makes me feel,” she says. “Because of the intense light here, I see color in entirely different ways than I did in Michigan. Once color becomes arbitrary – rather than local – shapes can be arbitrary as well.” As you can see in “Dawn Passage,” Fran picks her own colors for the mountains, sky and houses, and creates a more stylized vision of the landscape.

Like Albert Scharf, Fran Larsen paints her personal experience, rather than an actual depiction of what she sees. She prefers to paint her reactions to a scene – “what it creates in me” – which helps her remove the “horse blinders that make us see things so literally.” Many of her paintings feature a road that winds through the mountains - - such as “Take the High Road” and “Deep in the Canyon.” Perhaps that symbolizes the journey that she has taken with her art in Santa Fe.

Take the High Road 24" x 28"
by Fran Larsen

Deep in the Canyon 22" x 26"
by Fran Larsen
 
There is another unique element in Fran’s paintings – the frames themselves. She designs, constructs and paints each frame to complement the painting. “The frame reasserts that the painting is an object as opposed to a representation,” she says.
 

Early Dawn, Arroyo and Mesa 38" x 22"
by Fran Larsen