Image turned thirty years old this April. As we reflect on what’s ahead, we asked fifteen visual artists and two singer-songwriters to tell us what they learned and how they changed after turning thirty. Click here for the full collection.
Autumn Morning Fly-Fishing is a little painting I completed last week. I never saw it coming in my twenties or thirties, but the painter who was known for figurative narratives and still life was to fall in love with landscape painting.
Looking back, it was always there. In my twenties I made snowy treks to a mountain lake with painting supplies on my back to record the quiet serenity of winter. I hiked down into the Luray Caverns of Virginia to capture that surreal underworld landscape for a huge narrative painting about the Sumerian goddess Inanna and her descent into hades.
I was ambitious, to be sure, and somewhat fearless. I made a lot of big paintings that garnered attention from critics and traveled across the country from one gallery and museum to the next. It was a glorious time.
I was significantly changed by marrying and having children in my forties. My work became smaller in scale, and I backed away from a heavily loaded calendar of commitments.
I began to paint still lifes of what was readily available, such as fruits and flowers from the garden. It gave me a new appreciation for the vast amount of information and beauty that you can only observe in person—all that the camera doesn’t capture. I became enamored with painting from life once again, seduced by its truth.
Then last year one of my adult students asked me to teach plein-air painting in the south of France with an art and travel tour company. I loaded as much of my expertise into the ten-day course that I could. We spent sublime days painting outside. We photographed everything we wanted to remember, and I was inevitably devastated by how little of the color and atmospheric qualities could be recorded digitally.
Once again I realized that painting, like life, has so much more truth and beauty when we experience it fully and first hand. When we do, it’s as if the universe conspires to make things spectacular and perfect—like last week when I stood on the banks of the Green River, intending to make a painting about fly-fishing by painting the river and later faking a fisherman into it—and then a fly-fisherman walked right into the water in front of me, right on cue, as if to say, Here I am. Isn’t this the perfect spot? And now get to work.