My Inspiration

The Connecticut Landscape: There’s No Place like Home

The Connecticut Landscape has become my primary subject and source of inspiration in my work.

Our lives are often shaped by circumstances, circumstances that we may view as constraints:

Careers take us to where there are jobs.
Finances dictate what we can and can’t do.

But I m an advocate of the old adage... Bloom where you’re planted

Limitations, whether external or self-imposed are often the catalyst for the greatest creativity.

My story involves having a son with autism, and as his primary caregiver I need to stay close to home.  Traveling to paint or study is not easily worked into our day to day life.

But that circumstance has grounded me and caused me to take a closer look at my own backyard, and like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I recognize that my heart’s desire is there.

What every artist desires is a connection to a subject that deeply moves them, inspires them and compels them to explore through the use of a visual language what it is that stirs their heart, mind and soul.

Julia Cameron author of The Artists Way, and Vein of Gold, works that are motivational support systems for artists and creative professionals writes:

We must remain tourists on our home terrain

Since I don’t have much opportunity to be a tourist in all the usual places artists go Provence, Tuscany, Santa Fe, Tibet, Nepal, I take Julia Cameron’s advice seriously and to heart and remain a tourist on my home terrain.

Fortunately, my home terrain is Connecticut, a place that artists have always considered a desirable place to paint with an exquisite quality of light.
Connecticut has been home to two famous art colonies, Old Lyme, at the Florence Griswold House , and Cos Cob at the Holley House.  The artists that worked there read like a litany of some of America’s best and most well known artists.

William Merritt Chase
John Twatchman
J. Alden Weir
Childe Hassam

And many, many others came to Connecticut to paint and many settled here.

I see my own work as part of that tradition that finds Connecticut, its land and light a rich subject to mine.

Connecticut has the Litchfield Hills, the river valleys, fields and farms, rock walls and coast line, all of which I paint on occasion but my creative efforts have been focused in, laser sharp, on a small, fragile slice of Connecticut for over a decade now, the salt marsh.

Unlike cultivated, tame farmland or gentle rolling hills dotted with red barns or lakeside communities lined by comfortable homes the marsh is a wild place, even dangerous. It seems to me to be a final wilderness on the edge of civilization.

A fragile ecosystem, yet endowed with the strength of ten thousand years its inhabitants, both plant and animal, survives the daily inundation and drought brought on by the ebb and flow of tides presided over by the waxing and waning of the moon that hangs in the cosmos.

In the marsh there is openness, vast and wide. One can wander, solitary and silent, either brooding or rejoicing.

This dangerous exposure causes it’s creatures to be masters of camouflage, to remain hidden in plain sight. That’s why you’ll rarely find bird or animal in my paintings.

From activity on the microscopic level to osprey, herons and ibis that soar in the skies the salt marsh is filled with a particular kind of energy.

It’s not kinetic energy, the energy of motion, found in rushing rivers and waterfalls, but rather the marsh as part of the intertidal zone, composed of embayments and estuaries is a low-energy space inducing the feeling of holding one’s breath waiting for the exhale.

This kind of anticipatory stillness is often depicted in my paintings.

Morning Stillness, 24x30, acrylic on linen

As a painter there are many subtle fascinations in the marsh for me.  There is color, earthy, gritty, and reflective. Many of the paints and pigments I choose for my palette come directly from the earth and owe their hues to natural earth elements.

Transparent red oxide, also known as Mars orange, made from iron oxides. The word Mars refers to the Roman god of iron and war. Mars Orange has been manufactured as a pigment since the 17th century.

Raw Sienna, made from a form of limonite clay whose yellow-brown color results from ferric oxides
has been used as a pigment since prehistoric times, although its current name came about during the Renaissance. It comes from the city of Siena, in Italy, and is short for terra di Siena, meaning earth of Siena.

Yellow ochre Ochre comes from the Greek word ochros, meaning pale yellow. It was one of the first pigments to be used by human beings, and evidence of its use has been found at 300,000 year old sites in France and the former Czechoslovakia.

There is what Monet termed the “envelope of light” which in an open space comprised of water and sky is an all encompassing presence, a natural metaphor for the spiritual pulse that sustains all life in the marsh and in fact, everywhere.

This idea of the marsh as a spiritual place runs deep with me and it comes from my understanding of what the ancient Celts termed a “thin place” and edge, where earth, and water and sky meet, a conjunction where the veil between this world and the world of the spiritual is very thin, in effect a place where those two worlds intersect and mingle a bit.  There’s magic there, divine spark.

There’s often turbulence in the marsh, windswept, battered by the worst of storms coming in off the water, but there’s also always a strength, a peace at the core that calmly, patiently endures the howling winds, buffeting rains, freezing sleet and snow. The marsh is resilient, it renews itself, it renews me.

Places of Inspiration

Places of inspiration where I paint frequently include Hammonasset, Rocky Neck, Harkness, Oyster River, Lieutenant River, Westbrook, Clinton, Madison, Guilford, Branford all situated along the Connecticut Shoreline.

Times of day inspire me, too, early morning, late afternoon, the golden hour of sunset and twilight.  The moments of change from light to dark and back again and from dark to light hold a special significance for me. Day to night is about acceptance and dark to dawn is about overcoming. Twilight or dusk, can contain both elements of peace and confusion.

The change of seasons is also of interest, the rolling of one season into another, the shift of time, the movement and progress of our lives.

The sense of abundance, the richness of colors and textures of late summer into autumn is perhaps my favorite season to paint. It is for me a celebration of the goodness of life the fruit of our labor and the seeds of the next generation.

I call my paintings Poetic Landscapes and I think you can see why.  They are filled with metaphor, simile and symbol. This Connecticut landscape, my home that resonates so deeply with me is really a mirror of my internal landscape and when I paint the marsh I am in fact painting a self-portrait.

One of the ways I come to understand my own work better is to talk with the people who own my paintings. I consistently hear from my collectors that having one of my paintings in their home brings them a certain kind of calm and joy.  The paintings seem to become a kind of invitation to slow down and breathe, and to enjoy the luxury of a moment of stillness from which they gain strength and they glean an opportunity to quiet their minds and experience a rich sense of being.

Visual poetry in paintings like literary poetry offers respite from a busy, clattering world and a way to access deeper meanings and  thoughts.