I had a "deja-vu" experience recently when I was out painting with my friend Kathy at Vasona Lake in Los Gatos, CA. I realized I had painted a similar scene as a student in the 70s. I still have the painting and it reminds me of what I was going through back then: I was distressed about my upcoming senior show, knowing I had a lot of work ahead. I had just "seen the world" in a semester-long art program in New York, and felt I was regressing to be back in Indiana for a year to finish up college. And having to live in a sorority house again? I escaped to this farm to paint every chance I could. And there it was: this painting (Jones Pond, below) painted itself that fall day as I sat - yes, sat to paint- "yoga-style" on the ground for 3 or 4 hours. (even at age 21, it was an effort to then stand up!)
This painting was a break-through for me then. At 20x24, I’ve never since finished that large of a painting alla prima (all at once) en plein air (not in studio). It came together so easily and it got me hooked on painting Plein Air; although we just called it painting outside. Now of course I see the issues with it- clumsy trees on the right, value and temperature of distant trees are too green, need to lighten and blue it. But i will always remember the feeling of having created something that wasn’t there before, and over the years as this piece hung in my Dad’s study, and eventually my home, it brings back that last gasp of fall. This piece honors that scene.
Fast forward almost 4 decades, and I'm painting a similar scene 2000 miles away. I really think looking at Jones Pond all these years helped to inform me in the recent painting. I’m now more conscious of painting masses as a value, suggesting a tree trunk in broken lines not snaky lines, painting the air between me and a distant hill that goes blue.
The recent painting isn’t as restful but calls on me to keep painting because I’m on to something. But I’ll take it standing up!