I paint landscapes that speak to me because of their beauty and tranquility. There are certain scenes that repeatedly pull me in and capture my imagination. Each time I return to paint the scene again, I try something different: vantage point, composition/cropping, palette, time of day, and/or technique. Series painting is a wonderful way to become familiar with a place, to explore and discover new aspects of it.
Above all, series painting has to do with finding the essence of a place or an idea. Once a motif is selected (or we are selected by it), the process has more to do with being open to the ideas that flow rather than grasping for them. — Elizabeth Mowry, Landscape Meditations
Sometimes, I intentionally begin a series of paintings based on a theme. My “Infinity” and “Antelope Canyon” series are two examples (see my Shop page). But, I often don’t even realize that a theme is developing until a year or more goes by and I have a group of paintings that fit together. This was the case with painting Long Pond Lake, on the campus of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York.
My first painting of the lake was in 2006. It was a comfortable summer morning, with a gentle breeze softening the rising heat, and I set up my easel to paint the right side:
After a lunch break, I returned to the lake to paint the left side. I had to position myself a little further back underneath the shady protection of the trees. The peace and quiet evaporated when a large group of children, supervised by Omega staff, arrived with unbridled enthusiasm about playing in the water. Although their energy was initially jarring, once they were in the water, I got back into a “zone” and found my focus once again:
When finished with this second painting, I began to pack up my gear. Suddenly I realized that the children had gathered around me. They were fascinated that an artist was in their midst. “We’ve been watching you all afternoon!” one said. “Really?” I replied.
“Yeah, we saw that you were painting and didn’t want to disturb you.” Hmmm, I wondered to myself, is that why I stopped hearing them? They actually became quieter?
“Can we see the painting?” another asked. Several jumped up and down in anticipation.
I said, “Sure, here it is!” They oohed and aahed, and asked to see more paintings. So, quite unexpectedly, I was talking to children about art and showing them my paintings. It was a beautiful way to end the day.
A few years later, I returned to Omega and was drawn again to the lake. I used a slightly larger format (12″ x 9″ vs. 10″ x 8″ for the first 2 paintings) and moved closer to the water. I think I was more successful at capturing the distance of the opposite shore:
I returned to Omega again last year. Painting the lake has become a familiar and comforting way for me to get centered and to enter into my painting retreat “space.” I changed the format to a wider, shorter view of the entire lake, and I used sanded paper:
Obviously, I love Omega. I’ll be spending another week there this summer, painting of course. While I’ll continue to explore different nooks and crannies, I’m sure I’ll paint the lake again. I have no idea what that painting focus will be until I begin. Stay tuned….
What kinds of themes have you been painting? Please share!