Visual familiarity breeds complacency in artists, as well as in “normal” people. We see, we appreciate, then we go forth in search of something new to see. I’m often as guilty of doing that as anyone else. I have a chronic case of wanderlust.
The difference, in my case, is that I live in a scenic canyon in one of the most stunningly dramatic parts of America. (People travel from foreign countries to spend their precious vacation time driving the 20 mile route we take to the post office.) I enjoy 360 degree beauty every single day, yet I don’t always paint those days. Artists love experiencing a novel, unanticipated new view of life, and I’m no exception. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence for me, as well as for all the constantly wandering cattle hereabouts.
And yet…I never go a day without a quiet gasp of delight when I see a patch of morning light illuminate just one rock cliff on the mountain we call “home”, or watch the midday sun wash the deep, rowdy reds of the volcanic boulders tumbling down its face a gentle salmon color. I don’t jump up and down and scream or anything–I simply stop what I’m doing, thinking, feeling for a heartbeat or two and savor the amazing beauty of the world around me. But do I paint it?
Perhaps to apologize to Brown Mountain for the neglect it must feel, having an artist around who has painted Blue Mountain, Sawtooth, Livermore…Big Bend National Park…Hill Country…even western Canada more than she’s painted big Brown, one day in late spring I ordered the biggest Gessobord panel I could fit into our truck after framing. (See the science behind my artistic choices at work here?) And, while waiting for said archival board to arrive, I started courting Brown Mountain. Artist seeking a serious painting relationship. Loves big canvases. Will paint in oils. Adores splashy sunsets on volcanic mountains. No smoking, please.
Before FedEx dropped my board off the truck (and I mean Literally Dropped) Brown Mountain responded. Without any modesty, the mountain stood there, naked under one of our big West Texas sunsets waiting for me to snap some glamour shots. Which I did.
I went back and ordered a few more pricey tubes of Holbein’s professional oil paints, luminous colors worthy of my summer love, Brown Mountain, which is actually red most of the time. And I started painting the mountain I see every day from my “driveway”, our road to anywhere.
Oils drive me a bit crazy because I generally use a traditional technique of applying a layer of paint, letting it dry, then applying a thin glaze (a wash) of transparent color over that. Again and again. While the actual time at my easel is about the same for an oil or a pastel, the drying cycles of an oil pretty much take forever. A big oil takes a little longer than that. I found myself finally finishing this oil landscape painting Sunday afternoon, July 3rd, and had an appointment in Midland with my framer on Tuesday, so after church, I pulled a six or seven hour final session at my easel, applying glazes and teensy details like stems of grass. It’s the most fun stage for me, other maybe than starting a painting.
As I painted, I mulled over titles. Sometimes I have the title before I begin, but not on this one with its intimately familiar subject. I like my title to give the viewer not only a path to enter a painting on, but also, a tiny insight into my soul, into my inspiration. I lose sleep thinking up titles. Humming “America The Beautiful”, the rousing patriotic poem we’d sung as our closing hymn at First Presbyterian Church in Marfa that morning in honor of the Fourth of July, I painted one more stem of grass. And suddenly, my painting was complete and I had my title: “Sunset’s Mountain Majesty”
Wanderlust aside, if you are lucky enough to be an artist living on a red volcanic mountain in Far West Texas, land of fiery sunsets who really needs to travel just to see some purple mountain’s majesty? Not me.
Thanks, Brown Mountain. This may be the start of something big.
SUNSET’S MOUNTAIN MAJESTY
30″ x 40″ oil on archival panel by Lindy Cook Severns 2016
Old Spanish Trail Gallery and Museum, Fort Davis, Texas
This original oil painting was custom framed by Ramon Gonzales, Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland, Texas