Many years ago I bought a sketch pad from Aaron Brothers art store and began to record some of the unique features of the Arizona countryside on paper with pen and ink. The Strathmore 300 Series includes a very fine quality paper in the 11" x 14" size which is perfect for mobile sketching and outdoor impressions. One of the scenes captured in this manner I entitled "Arizona Landscape," painted with acrylics on a similar size Masonite panel which I had primed with acrylic gesso. Rather than using the smooth side, I opted to paint on the rough-textured side of the panel, allowing for a more painterly feel as if painting on the surface of a prepared canvas. While I liked the overall appearance of the finished result, I have to admit that the rough texture made the process of painting more difficult and time consuming in order to achieve the desired results. Blending colors and shading various areas can be performed with greater ease on smooth surfaces. Still it is fun to experiment a bit with various textures and to explore the full extension of possibilities when trying to capture what the eye sees or what the soul feels. Often in Arizona you gain the impression of entering into some secluded palace of breathtaking desert colors surrounded by rugged mountains, a place where singular beauty seems to capture the heart and make time stand still. This particular scene represents one of those moments where the observer may easily become transfixed by the evolving pattern of rocks, trees, rolling hills, distant mountains and mystical horizons along the edge of the Arizona landscape.
"Strings On Holiday" - 12 inch diameter format on pressed wood, acrylic paint. From an original sketch completed in 1986, currently in the artist's collection. For a time this painting was featured in an art show at Mountain View Station, one of the branches of the US Postal Service at Mesa, Arizona.
I posted a picture of the original sketch for this finished painting in the blog-post entitled "Strings, Dreams and Orchestral Visions" published on 11/21/2013 (still available in the archives). In that post I indicated the story behind this rather imaginative set of images. Previously I did not believe that I could fully or adequately illustrate the visual content of my dreams, but completing the first sketch and then the final painting convinced me that the subject was within grasp. This entire scene was set out before my eyes in a vivid dream sequence which stayed with me for hours, days and weeks after first viewing. The main subject which dominated this imaginary landscape was a floating violin or cello which seemed to slowly advance across a wide agricultural field and then to just hover in front of my vantage point. The instrument seemed to glow with a white light infused from within, emitting musical notes all the way along the richly colored fields below, some notes also hovering above the ground, others disappearing beneath the field, and still others remaining partially submerged like scythes or farm implements skimming the surface. The sky above seemed to suggest a mixture of both daytime brilliance and night-time wonder. What seemed to be a farmhouse in the distance also looked like a music stand from which more notes were emanating and joining the chorus in successive waves. To the left stood an enormous red-branched tree with a fine display of sinewy extremities. In the left distance what appeared to be a striped orange and brown mountain also seemed to become part of the foliage of the red tree, suggesting a colorful bonnet or regal canopy of fantastic size and character. Surprisingly I do not remember hearing any explicit forms of music in the midst of this dream, yet there was dynamic motion, color and possibly just the mysterious sound of a solo violin. At this time (1986) I was working full time as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service and had not played a musical instrument since 1965. In 2000 some friends gave me a beautiful vintage Scandalli accordion which transformed the way I thought about music. Then I joined You Tube in 2009 and began to post some videos of accordion music including some improvisational pieces and folk and classical standards. In some respects I think that the dream of the floating violin and the imaginary landscape helped to re-ignite my passion for seeing and hearing the wondrous beauty of acoustic music. Despite my initial reluctance to try to capture this dream via visual Art, I found that the image came quickly and fairly easily once the process had begun. Correspondingly, the practice and study of music also came along so naturally with the gift of an accordion. It seems that we are only away for a short time and then we are ready to explore anew our musical or artistic roots. Once those notes are planted in the ground, we have only to look up to see the full picture.
Usery Mountain Recreational Park, just north of McKellips Road in Mesa, Arizona. The unique coloration of these mountains may have inspired some of the images seen in my original dream. The finished painting suggests the various stripes of tan and brown, transformed into the brown and orange pattern in the imaginary scene.
The original three inch diameter sketch on artist's paper, composed just after I experienced that unusual dream of the floating violin and imaginary landscape. I used color pens and tried to work quickly in order to fully capture the essence of the scene. The colors differ somewhat from the final painting but remain true to the spirit of the original vision.