|Sunset Glow, 16x20, oil - Available|
Recently, I was asked if some of my Grand Canyon paintings might be included in a series of presentations at Grand Canyon National Park. (The lecture series, "The View from Point Sublime - Art in the Grand Canyon," continues at the Park through the end of November and coincides with the Celebration of Art exhibit at the Kolb Studio.) Of course, I said yes!
I was also asked to comment on the current role painters play in depicting the Canyon. A century ago, painters like Thomas Moran brought its grandness to folks back east and were instrumental in having it turned into a National Park. But what about today? Here is my response:
I'll never forget what one spectator told me during a painting event similar to the recent Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. He was watching me paint, and as I added the finishing touches, he remarked: "You know, I don't paint myself and I can't afford any of these paintings, but just looking at them has changed the way I see. Now, when I hike through the Park, I feel like I'm in a painting."
His statement really made me think about the role of today's painters as they work within the boundaries of these beautiful national treasures. The days of showing people scenes they may never see are long past, since today they can hop on a plane and be at the Canyon in just a few hours. Also, the Canyon is now protected for all time, so no PR campaign is needed to save it. And with a few clicks of a keyboard we can see thousands of snapshots of the Canyon's beauty. So what is there left for the painter to do?
My tourist who said paintings changed the way he sees had it exactly right. A painter's role isn't to reproduce the scene photographically, but to capture and convey the sense of the Canyon's magnificence by stating more firmly the beautiful contrasts of light and shadow, of warm and color colors, and of near and far. The painter pares down the Canyon to its essential grandness and presents that to the viewer. Each painter has his own idea of what to pare away and what to emphasize. The painting that results puts the viewer in the "driver's seat," as it were, and shows him the Canyon through the painter's eyes. The painter is an individual, and as such, each painter has a unique interpretation of the Canyon.
If you've seen the Canyon firsthand, seeing the Canyon as the painter sees it adds a richness to your experience and makes it all the more memorable. And if you've not see the Canyon firsthand, then painting will make you yearn to do so.