Breaking Apart: Painting the Landscape of Maine

by Jan Blencowe in Maine Landscape Paintings


Breaking Apart, 24×18, acrylic on linen panel, copyright 2013 Jan Blencowe

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In the last post I showed you the under painting for this piece done in a lovely color called green umber made by Old Holland.

A few things are going on for me right now in my practice. 


  • One, I’m honing in on subject matter that documents changes in nature. Here the breaking apart of granite boulders over time, through the slow, relentless, renewing processes of nature. All these are elements that can be found in the landscape of Maine and incorporated into a painting.

  • Second, I’m focusing on very rich, high chroma colors balanced by very rich but neutral colors. This has been a key for me in really capturing what the eye (or my eye anyway) sees in nature. There are some amazing colors in nature but there are also many indescribable colors, muddy browns and reds, grays of every hue, beige and tans that are mottled and splotched with the impossible to name green-blue-gray-silver-lavendar of lichens, moss, fungus, seaweed, spider’s webs you name it. Colors in nature are very complex because the relationships between things in nature are very complex. Bringing these Maine landscape colors into my painting in a deliberate way builds authenticity since I am drawing on my own direct observations when working there on location.

  • Third, broken, impressionistic brushwork. Here, I think the Impressionists got it absolutely right. In nature, in changing sunlight we see flickers of light, spots and dots where light is falling and is caught on the highest parts of an object, and then spots of shadow colors in many shades where light does not fall to a greater or lesser degree.It’s the mosaic of light that really defines a landscape painting.

  • Fourth, simplification or if you will abstraction. Informed by the light I am reducing the actual forms of objects to patterns of light and color. So while the whole painting reads as realism, the individual parts of it are really abstractions of the light and color I can perceive. Now I am looking at my landscape painting as a piece of art governed by the principles and elements of art in an isolated way, not just tied to the objects they will ultimately represent.

  • Fifth, I am working towards a synthesis of my plein air paintings, my watercolor sketches done outdoors and my studio paintings into a coherent consistent body of work. 

It’s all pretty exciting to see your own work grow and develop. As Picasso says, you must follow the paint!