Inspiration In The Wide Open

Sunset Color Study, 8x10, oil on linen

Sunset Color Study, 8×10, oil on linen

I’ve been drawn to the big open skies and the feeling of distance in my paintings here, but the real challenge has been deciphering the characteristics of the sage brush and grass that plays a role in every scene here. When it comes to the studio phase of this project, I imagine a richly textured foreground in my large paintings, with accurate representation of different plant species and ecosystems. I’m thinking of Andrew Wyeth and Albrecht Durer … it is fun to imagine how these artists would paint here. In the painting to the left, I have some good color notes, and when combined with accurate drawings, this type of study will be extremely helpful in bringing my idea to life on the large canvas in the studio.

Snow Flurries, Andrew Wyeth, 1953

Snow Flurries, Andrew Wyeth, 1953

Speaking of inspirations, Wyeth has been on my mind a lot. I love how he takes a mundane subject and imbues it with such weight and power. For instance this hill, looming in front of the viewer, gives me an ominous yet excited feeling about what lies beyond the horizon. I was thinking of this painting when I stopped to paint the above Sunset Color Study, and how intriguing I find the subtle topography here.

On my long walks and runs across the prairie, I am starting to notice which scenes really light up my imagination. There are the wide open vistas and big skies that feel expansive and boundless, the tangled sage brush and grease wood in the foreground that allude to the wildness of this place, and the abstract simplicity of sky vs. grass. In the below painting, Prairie Swoop, I was attracted to the curve of the horizon, the swaths of color, and the gentle wisps of clouds that gesture in unison with the land.

Prairie Swoop

In my ten days out here, it’s rained a few times and the landscape has started to become green. I’ve been covering more miles hiking with the ASC Landmark research crew, and on adventurous trail runs – my favorite way to clear my head and explore new territory for painting. I have yet to make a trip into town, which is an hour away. The local radio station has been an amazing soundtrack for my drives out here – from 7 AM to 1 PM they play only Native American music, which seems to emphasize the feeling I have of being so remote. Way up here near the Saskatchewan border, between two Indian Reservations and in the middle of millions of acres of undeveloped land, this does feel like a rare oasis where the drama of nature has become the dominant presence in my life.

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Prairie Noon, 8×10, oil on linen

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Larb Hills

Larb Hills

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storms, 16×8, oil on linen

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2 thoughts on “Inspiration In The Wide Open

  1. Hey Emilie – Very nice prairie series. Wonderful values and palette. Haven’t done any plein air painting in over a year, and you are inspiring me to get outside. – Tom

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