Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Being a Regionalist Painter


McKinney Marsh Morning, 8x10, field study en plein air, Jan Blencowe, copyright 2010

Last week end we had a gorgeous day with relatively low humidity which made for a fantastic day of plein air painting at the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Salt Marsh Unit, Westbrook, CT

There was a lovely softness about the light that morning and it took me a while to build up enough layers of paint to convey that feeling through shimmery veils of translucent color. I really love acrylics for that kind of flexibility to be able to use the paint really thinned down like a watercolor wash, over thicker more opaque layers of paint. That technique allows for very subtle nuances to be created which is good because Nature herself is filled with subtle nuance.

Right now I'm reading a book I picked up over the week end, an autobiography of  Andrew Wyeth

Amazon has the paperback edition

I have long liked Wyeth's work but it is only recently, after studying a lot of Winslow Homer's work, especially his watercolors that I gained a deeper appreciation for Wyeth's work. I don't really know that there is any particular connection between Homer and Wyeth, except that for whatever reason one led me to the other.

Wyeth is known as a regionalist, famous for painting his home state of Pennsylvania. In this way he has a connection to another artist I recently read about Harry Leith- Ross who also painted the Pennsylvania landscape. 

I think that I am probably also a regionalist painter, finding my inspiration in the salt marshes, coast line and fields close to my home. I added to my permanent blog pages, an article titled The Connecticut Landscape, which explains my regionalist leanings,  you can find it by clicking the tab at the top with that title.  

It's interesting that Regionalism as an art movement came about during the Great Depression and that we are currently in a time of great economic recession, if not depression and I am feeling moved to paint my own home surroundings and create paintings that convey a mood of gentle peace and reassurance. 

Here's a blurb from Wiki that gives a good introduction...

Regionalism is an American realist modern art movement that was popular during the 1930s. The artistic focus was from artists who shunned city life, and rapidly developing technological advances, to create scenes of rural life. Regionalist style was at its height from 1930 to 1935, and is best-known through the so-called "Regionalist Triumvirate" of Grant Wood in Iowa, Thomas Hart Benton in Missouri, and John Steuart Curry in Kansas. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Regionalist art was widely appreciated for its reassuring images of the American heartland.


Artists respond to what is going on outside and inside of them, in society and in their hearts. While I don't consciously eschew modern life and technology you will notice that I rarely include images of modern life in my paintings. I tend to edit out cars, buildings, cell phone towers etc. in favor of a purer, idealized landscape.  Am I a reactionary? Possibly! It is an intentional choice I make when painting but it is not a conscious reaction to our technologically saturated society. 

Are my quiet, calming landscapes in response to the turbulent times we live in. Possibly! But again they are not thought out and planned for that reason, the paintings happen as they happen

In a more specific way, I am trying to establish my reputation as a Connecticut/ New England painter, in short a regionalist, in a broad sense of the term. Lately I have been reevaluating my business plan and have decided to concentrate my efforts closer to home. I am currently searching out well established galleries in CT, RI and Cape Cod that would be a good fit for my poetic landscapes.

So if anyone out there has a gallery recommendation for me please send me an email with your suggestion!                       



3 comments:

Mary said...

You've captured the old master feel in this. Just perfect!!

AutumnLeaves said...

That painting has to be my favorite yet, Jan. There is more depth and dimension with that foreground tree on the left. The light is fabulous. Interesting reading your thoughts as to why your pieces are composed thusly. Especially the comment regarding a possible response to the turbulence of our times. I like paintings with the mad rush of lines, etc., but only if truly well done. I tend to prefer the more bucolic sense of landscapes myself though. A place for each and each touches an emotion or mood.

Dusty Pines said...

i really like this one - the composition is so seamless (do i remember seeing a pic of you painting this one?! i try to keep up w/ every blog i follow, but . . . !) & the movement of the water thru the pic works so well. yr entries are so thoughtful, too . . . i think one of the reasons i like the hudson river school guys is how attached i am to that region. thank you for sharing the painting(s) and the post(s)!