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Spring Painting and the subtle sense that this too shall pass

I’ve spent a lot of time either in the mountains taking photos of the Rockies for my Colorado Rockies series, or painting in my studio. After weeks of prep and painting I was accepted just this week, into the Boulder Open Studio tour that happens each October here in Boulder County.


This will be a time for artists to open their studies up to the public and collectors, as well as show our work in the library gallery downtown Boulder. It’s an honor to be included in the tour.

Lately I paint mostly on wood. I like painting on MDF, which has a coat of paint to start off, but MDF is a bit fragile. If it were to drop just right it could damage part of the board. So I’ve taken to attaching wood struts on the back of my boards using a two part epoxy that is solid. I’ve also switched from MDF to thin plywoods.

I like painting on plywood because of two things. The firmness of the board allows me to lean in and draw and later to just work on the painting without the give of canvas. I also like the texture that plywood adds to my painting. Even though I sand, and put three coats of gesso on my boards, each sanded, the plywood texture comes through a little. This allows me to use that texture to get some nice results while painting. The boards have a nice tooth, and I can swipe and dry brush over these raised areas and it just adds to the painting.

I know some people have a prejudice against working on board. The traditional media for ages now has been canvas, but even during the Renaissance they worked on board, and much of that is still around. I think there is some misunderstanding that perhaps to pick the wrong board might mean your art will not be around forever, but here’s the thing, is there anything more fragile than canvas? How easily it can be ripped, bumped or destroyed. Over time it absorbs the moisture in the air and warps.

At the basic level art in some way is acknowledgement not just of the endurance of nature, it is an acknowledgement that the Rocky Mountains I love to paint for instance will be gone some day too. Art acknowledges and bears witness, but the flipside is that it acknowledges the fragility and passing of this world.

So in some ways when I’m painting or even up high in the Rockies taking photos and being a witness to the Rockies there is a subtle sad mourning, for the rockies and all things that come to pass. I can sit up there, feet planted in the snow and I take an array of photos that I’ll later stitch together in my studio as panoramas with super high resolution. I use those panoramas to pick what I’ll work on next. While I’m sitting there, as the witness, I feel at some subtle atomic level I can feel that tiny shift of the Rockies receding as they are. Some day they will be gone, and already in New Mexico they have receded into the Earth again. It is sad, it is beautiful, it is part of this incredible changing world we live on and sometimes all you can do is bear witness to that one moment.

Art is just another thing that will not last forever, there is no best board or canvas I can build, it too shall pass.