Artist’s Statement

I paint landscapes of the Methow Valley where I live and places I visit. The Methow Valley is a remote valley in the North Cascades in Washington State with a population of about 5,000. I aim to create landscapes that give the immediacy of a real place at a real time. In other words, I paint in the tradition of "realism." The closer I observe the natural world, the better my painting. At the same time, I see an inherent abstraction in nature that I try to preserve and capture in my work.

I mainly use photographic references for my studio paintings, but sometime I paint from small, plein air paintings that I have painted outdoors in front of the subject. I look for something special in each particular moment or scene. Is the light reflecting off the ridges or the mountains in a beautiful way? Is the angle of the river, the view of the mountain just right? Are the clouds good? I particularly look at shadows and light. I compose my painting in the camera while I am in front of the landscape, but I see a great difference between a photograph a painting. I once read, "The touch does not describe; it evokes." It the touch of the brush on the canvas that binds me to my painting.

I aim for an immediate emotional response--one that draws the viewer to pause and think about what is represented and why the painting exists--what it is communicating. I am always interested in hearing what meaning my paintings hold for the viewers of my work. Recently, a viewer told me that a painting I had done of a storm over a mountain with a scraggy, dead tree taking almost half of the left foreground made her think about how there is always sadness in any life, but that there is also learning which can never be exhausted. She enriched my own experience of my painting. I value that paining is a unique way to communicate with others, at first with words, and then, perhaps with words you never expected.

I have learned from Julian Merrow-Smith, a contemporary plein air painter who paints small-scale landscapes, that the paint should show. His "fracture"--the "space" between the brush strokes--is very open and loose. His compositions make clear distinctions between foreground, middle ground, and background while at the same time finding the aesthetic purpose of the painting. I keep his example in mind when I make choices about my painting. I am also mindful of the works of Monet and Cezanne, especially for the ways that each of them devised to move beyond classic, linear perspective.

I always challenge myself in my work whether by using a compositional scheme I haven't used before--or by experimenting with scale--or employing a different color palette or using brush strokes that are new to me. I want my work to be consistent from painting to painting, which it is, in my always using the highest quality oil paint with a limited palette on twice-primed Belgian linen that I stretch myself and stain with a light beige undercoat. For me, painting is a way to elevate simple apprehensions I have of the world around me and to communicate with others

 
susan-donahue.jpg