I am aware that landscape painting isn't for everyone. In a contemporary setting, most viewers probably expect nothing but boredom toward the prospect of a landscape painting that doesn't include at least some small element of human interpretation or presence. That seems to influence the most constant re-occurring theme across all disciplines of land art too, "Man vs. Nature" or "Man's Interaction with Nature" or "Man's Effect on Nature." I can't always avoid it myself. My introduction into landscape painting began with the obligatory images of desert residences and weathered vehicles and to this day still depicts elements of dirt roads and shoveled earth. As you can see from the photo above, sometimes the human elements creep in without my intention. And further on that note, beyond the frail fencing pictured above, you are still looking at a photograph that one day may be used as a primary visual source for a painting, a process rooted in interpretation.
Is it a defense mechanism that I find a need to justify my use of photography in landscape painting? A part of me always feels as though there must be some element of eye rolling when someone turns away from my work. This leaves me wondering why someone would assume that my dedication to my work would in someway be less genuine. As though the use of photography was born from laziness as opposed to preference, or even necessity. The pathetic fallacy is that all of these ideas are rooted in my own baseless assumptions. Who gives a damn what anyone thinks? As far as I see it, plein air painting is a constant string of human compromises: time is limited, light is limited, and the weather can be far from permitting. These are all compromises that effect the working process and, regardless of your own intentions, they may just be detrimental to your own techniques. Painters know how these compromises will affect their work. We work with compromises on a daily basis. Trust our experience.
There is a reason I use photography for my painting. If I were searching for a more human interpretation I would throw my easel in the car. If I were aiming for less, I would unbox my projector. There is also a reason I stop short of photo-realistism. Red-Green colorblindness led me to photoshop, while a short attention span turned me away from the projector. These are chosen techniques. If I had chosen to battle those elements of myself then I would have chosen to add more human elements into my paintings. It is a sales pitch assumption that those human elements always make for better work. I have drawn a line into my working process that I find necessary for my goals and I make all of my decision to walk that line to the best of my ability.
If I stick to my guns I can make you a new landscape painting. One that does not depend on blatant interpretation. One that does not use familiar architecture, trees, and land formations. You know what a barn looks like. You know what thick, pasty clouds painted with a palette knife you look like. You know what an old truck looks like. You know what a patch of trees on the horizon looks like. You know how the river winds through the three overlapping hills, which become bluer with each step of distance. You know what boats look like. Or the sunset shining through the waves. You know how the long, one point perspective shot looks too. It may even still speak to you.
This is far from new territory. Though I still managed to not only pitted myself against the nature of landscape painting, but the demands of contemporary "high-end" painting as well. Though I do not feel that I should have to add any abrasively interpretive elements to make a good landscape, it is against ones own nature to remove man made objects from an environment. I still find myself halfway through a painting wondering why it needed to contain a dirt road in the first place.
You will never see me paint Southern Utah either. It may be an astounding environment, but you already know that fact. My paintings are currently focused around Utah's northwest region, around the west desert. From there they will most likely migrate into Nevada and deeper into the heart of the Great Basin. These photos were all taken in central and southern Nevada. These photos were taken off the side of the highway. They are regions where an average driver wonders if they will make it to Reno without falling asleep behind the wheel. Regions that most would prefer to occupy their minds thinking about which casino would have the best odds. Or which club in Vegas will get them laid. Who gives a damn if the mountains next to you were formed from the Earth ripping apart millions of years ago? Who cares if those moutains are currently rolling onto their sides? Who cares if where you are currently driving used to be a thousand feet under water?
If you grew up in the west you are a part of this history. Whether you realize it or not you are involved. This land pushes people over the edge. They have no idea how to interpret it. They have no idea how to use it. Should you shovel the earth for silver or build a hotel that promises gold? Is it the perfect land for dropping a bomb? Will aliens visit you? Is there a body buried somewhere out there? Where did the showdown take place? Can you see this history when you only see the land? Why don't you pull over and find out? This is the boring American West in all of its glory and it's had a hold on you long before you found the casino.