Food, Travel, and Painting
I strive to capture and interpret the abundant beauty that surrounds us. Whether it is a bowl of freshly pulled beets from my garden, or a magnificent autumn day in the vineyards, it is important to me to encapsulate the essence of the senses.
From early on, my life has always been focused on the arts. Painting, drawing, printmaking, and weaving have all been mediums for my artistic expression. My work has been described as being “rich in color,” and my landscapes have been praised for their “powerful abstract elements.” One critic stated: “the skillful handling of the pastel and the juxtaposition of the colors to each other transforms an ordinary scene into a glowing landscape.”
My work is a conversation with nature. My paintings are more than simple depictions of places. Rather, they invite a choreographed dance of the eyes, where the viewer is invited to look deep into the depths of the work and see the subject’s spirit and life-force.
Recently, I have been developing what I call my “Kitchen Series.” This series is part of a larger body of work entitled Farms, Food, and Travels. The Kitchen Series highlights fruits, vegetables, and flowers grown both in my organic garden and by local New Hampshire farmers. Beets, leeks, asparagus, apples, onions, tomatoes, pears, nasturtiums, and peonies all play starring roles.
Apples and Porcelain
The series began with my painting Apples and Porcelain. For this piece, freshly-picked red apples are paired with a white-and-blue antique porcelain bowl that is so thin light passes through it. The light filters through the bowl and dances off the apples. When I first put the still-life together I was stunned at the image’s beauty and realized I must continue painting food. Even the shape, size and color of the bowl drew me to this composition and inspired future works.
Asparagus and Tomatoes
Asparagus is one of my favorite foods. Whether boiled, steamed, or grilled, it is always delicious when paired with the right foods. For this particular piece, I chose another favorite of mine, tomatoes. Whether with cooking or painting, it is hard to go wrong with this combination or composition. As with the food, the painting spoke to me: “Keep it simple!” The asparagus nestled between fresh tomatoes out of my garden is placed on an earthy linen cloth. This painting makes me want to cut up a tomato and reduce some balsamic vinegar.
Leeks and Onions
There is something amazing about the process of watching a leek grow from a tiny unmanageable seed to a sprouted hairlike stalk to a sturdy soup-ready vegetable in the fall.
For my piece Leeks and Onions, mature leeks are paired with Vidalia onions and an antique gold stoneware bowl. The image appeals not only to one’s compositional eye, but also to one’s sense of touch, taste, and smell. This painting was awarded “Best Still Life” in a recent juried pastel show. For me, the subject matter will always remind me of the autumn promise of a warm fireplace and bubbling soup on the stove. Even now, when I look at the piece I can almost smell the dirt from pulling these from the ground and taste the lunch I made with the ingredients.
What goes best with food? Wine, of course! I have spent a number of weeks on two separate occasions this past year painting vineyards in California. My daughter, Leah Reid, is a musical composer living in California’s wine country. On my trips I am able to combine two of my favorite things: being with Leah and painting.
Traveling to another part of the country demands a new palette of colors. During October, New England is rich with lush greens, reds, vibrant yellows, and oranges. In contrast, during this time California’s palette is filled with golds, purples, and rusts, which reflect the dryness of the area after a rainless summer.
The vineyards during this time are particularly beautiful. The beauty of the vines, planted with precision, is a joy to behold. All of my paintings are done en plein air — meaning “in the open air” — done outside, and on site. Painting landscapes requires a sensitivity and understanding of the elements. To capture an image of the wind whipping through the trees, one must physically experience it and watch the movement as it happens — something that cannot be captured from a photo.
When working in the vineyards I try not to attract attention to myself. Rather, I wish to be a quiet observer capturing the beauty that surrounds me. I become a part of the environment and a figure in what seems to be an extended family of vineyard owners and winemakers. A trust is instilled with my recognizing the beauty of what is so important to them.
While at Savannah-Chanelle winery in Saratoga, California, I met a woman who was visiting the vineyard her family once owned. She reminisced about her relatives planting the chardonnay vines over a hundred years ago. Because the vines are so old (surviving prohibition), their roots go very deep and have become drought-resistant. She told me stories of her growing up in the vineyard and tales of the original house that I was painting. She fell in love with a sketch I was doing and purchased the painting right off my easel. The next day the vineyard’s manager followed suit and bought a painting for the tasting room. Savannah-Chanelle embraced my work and exposed me to their wines. In the end we traded wine for art. Needless to say, my daughter and son-in-law were pleased when I returned to their home with the cases of exceptional wine.
Nature, farms, and food have always carried a special place in my heart and year round I strive to capture their beauty.
My father was raised on a farm in Nebraska. Although he moved to New York after serving in the war, he passed his love of the land onto me. I remember him always working in his garden, proud of the beautiful produce he grew and nurtured. Painting the fruits and scenes of such hard work — from farm to table — brings me closer to my father and the passion he instilled in me. For example, my painting Freshly Plowed explores the very nature of New Hampshire farming. In the work the field had been freshly harrowed — a term I erroneously refer to as plowing. On the farm, the land seemed to grow as many rocks as vegetables. The piece illustrates how hard it is to prepare the soil and the beautiful vegetables we enjoy in our daily lives.
As the seasons change so does my work. In spring I capture the flowers and awakening plants as they peek through the thawing ground. In summer I focus on gardens, farms and the prolific lush greenery. In the fall I focus on the intense changing colors of the leaves, landscapes and the harvesting of the land. In winter, I capture the sparkling ice and pillowy drifts of snow.
Painting outdoors is rigorous and demanding, yet completely worthwhile. Even in the cold New Hampshire winters, I can be seen on the fields bundled from head-to-toe in boots, a heavy down parka, and thick gloves.
Needless to say, being warmed by a wood fire, working on my Kitchen Series, and enjoying the spoils from such hard work is a particular joy of mine. I can see the life of the land inside the fruits, vegetables, and flowers I paint. I strive to bring some of the beauty indoors. I hope my paintings evoke the senses in viewers as they have in me. I have many of the still lifes hanging in my own kitchen, and without even turning on the oven or stove, I can imagine the wonderful smells of future meals.
The series is only just getting started. I plan on expanding the series to include the visuals of food preparation as well. What is more appealing than the ingredients ready to be transformed into a pie? Yum.
First published February 2015