Braddock Farms

This painting turned out really well- I did in on commission for a new friend. It was great to work on a commission about Braddock.

This is one of the strongest mostly paint paintings I’ve made in the recent years. While the physical objects are used, the vegetables and green space is all paint. I drew out the contrast of the blocky factory and more ephemeral clouds to high light the directional substance of the crop rows. I used thick paint to create the bush textures and a couple different kinds of green to help with differentiation.

Throughout the process I was trying to evoke this painting:

There are a lot of differences between my painting and the a masterwork from one of the most famous painters of all time. Mainly, my painting has a factory, and his doesn’t. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether his would have been better with US Steel hanging out in the back.

I feel at times suspicious of the cult around Van Gogh. Why has he become the most beloved artist we remember from history? Is it solely because of his sad story? I feel protective of artists whose narrative seems to outpace the critical thinking people do about their paintings. I heard someone talk about the sad, desparate strokes of the stars of Starry Night- the communication of his deep feeling. That could be true, but then what about the rest of his paintings? Where did his sadness go in this one?

I think the truth is that Van Gogh seems more approachable do to his story, but his art is still just as complicated as the impressionists or anyone else- the story serves to let people put his big art in their pockets. If “depression” is the final analysis of a couple of decades of intense work, there must be a lot of stuff that got missed. Art is good when there’s a deep well of meaning to dip into- when you can meditate on a painting or enjoy it day after day- where it’s layers come out at different time, where you find yourself curious about it a decade after seeing it. That’s how I’ve enjoyed the painting at the museum. I must have seen it 30 times by now, but I still feel struck by it every time I see it. It doesn’t matter to me if Van Gogh was sad while he made it- he made something really profound.

In Other News:

I have been back at the office and it’s been…draining. I felt like I had so much more energy for painting at the end of the day when I worked from home. I need to figure out how to have energy for painting or the paintings are going to dry up. How did I do this before? How do I do it now with two kids? Maybe the answer is less video games- I’ll have to investigate.

I was talking to my friend about the psychology of running. He’s a marathon runner, and the way he describes it is sounds like how you think is almost, if not more, important than the condition of your body. Being able to use your energy well and keep your body moving- to sort of trick yourself, sounds like a big part of what makes runners able to go huge distances. I think there are similar tricks to painting.

I need art to help me chill out. I need to find a less grinding way to paint. I recently made a cloud painting that…sort of worked. I might blog about it soon. It was super fun to paint, though. Except for the part where it was a mixed success, that’s exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing, that I need to be doing in the new ecosystem of my life.

Next I’ll be doing another landscape- I’ll be sure to keep you posted. Thanks.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley W. says:

    Definitely reminiscent of Van Gogh’s work. I think regardless of the story behind the art, it has the propensity to speak to the viewer in a personal way, and some artists are just really good at doing that without having to tell their story. They let their art do the talking. But knowing the subject matter and setting can drive home the meaning. There’s merit in both. Good work Nathan!

  2. Isabel says:

    What I notice in the Van Gogh painting are the intensely tender colors and the simple, visible lines — straight, swirled, that give you a sense of motion. I can see why it fascinates you every time.

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