It is an early morning, and the sun is climbing the sky fast. It will be a hot day. But for now, the long shadows mark the rungs of my sight ladder, taking me deep into the landscape. These long stretched shadows are the subject of the next painting:
Horsebarn HIll: Purple Shadows, oil, 10 x 10 inches
“Plein air” is a French term meaning “open air,” and it refers to outdoor painting. Painting outside played a major role in the development of impressionism. Despite the common belief the things are really as they are, that they have a precise and determinate color and shape, a simple observation will make it obvious that color, shape, and intensity (tone) change with light and atmosphere. Everything transforms as the light and air change, and this creates an abundant and nuanced world, giving itself to us to be experienced.
Under the heavy advertising from today’s art world, many believe that painters make now only abstract and conceptual work. However, there have always been painters working outside, and these days there is a growing plein air movement, and many painters take their easels outdoors, at least part of the time. The infinite variety and nuance of the outdoor experience filtered through the unique and modern sensibility and skills of each painter allow new artistic expressions. Some might say, “This plein air painting belongs to the past.” It would be so if the artist copies old masters. But plein air will always remain a valid expression when the artist stays true to the subjects and the personal experience. Both nature and human experience are inexhaustible. Their beauty will always pour in the eyes willing to look.
Horsebarn Hill: Moonrise at Sunset, oil, 10 x 10 inches
The deep red barns are a mark of New England. They hold a quiet and austere dignity that balances the exuberance of trees, bushes, weeds, flowers, and grasses that rush to cover every available inch of land.. This barn on Horsebarn Hill goes almost unnoticed:
Horsebarn Hill: Old Barn, oil, 10 x 10 inches
The idea of a year of painting every day on Horsebarn Hill came to me sometime in the spring of 2019. I have painted the hill for a couple of years. The place grew in me, after many long walks under its high skies bathed in light. I watched how the landscape changed along a day, from fresh crisp mornings to glowing evenings to deep nights scattered with stars. The seasons have rolled over the hill, bringing something new every day, like the ever-changing expression of a silent god covered with grass, rocks and trees, bearing effigies of barns and stables, its eyes gleaming between clouds. And across all these changes, something has remained constant, an enduring quality of the open landscape, generously greeting and bringing together everyone. On Horsebarn Hill, children fly kites, prospective students get acquainted with the UConn Dairy Bar, couples walk hand in hand, and locals walk their dogs. Here is where we brought our young daughters to watch for the first time a moon eclipse, and then years later, we joined the entire town gathered on the hill to watch a sun eclipse. We brought our friends during their visit. We practiced yoga and meditated on the hill. We visited the cows, horses, and chickens. We circumambulated the hill through scorching sun, pouring rain, and freezing wintery wind. So many memories are nestles in the geography of this place. I envision a tapestry of oil paintings holding together an entire year of stories from Horsebarn Hill.
The first painting shows the old landscape barn watching over the hill:
Horsebarn Hill: The Red Barn, oil, 10 x 10 in.