Portraits of Places

The Glow  36"x 48"

My earliest attempts at art were pencil sketches of the people around me, usually when they weren’t looking! As years went by I explored other subjects and media, working extensively in watercolor, etching, silkscreen, then beginning my professional career with monotype and oil painting. Though painting and drawing people came naturally to me, I became more attuned to the changes of light over land, how the atmosphere created color shifts at different times of day, and the angles of shadows in different seasons.

These “landscapes” are real places. One of my favorite subjects is a large sweep of land on the western-facing slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This original Spanish land grant is now a ranch, tended by the Estrada family for generations. I watch the coastal light play over the contours of the great meadows, I see the sweep of shadows under the clouds in the rainy season. Each year I am astonished that earth so brown, so trampled, can in a matter of weeks begin to glow with an almost fluorescent green.

When I look at these hills, they seem to meet my gaze. This is what I always look for in a subject and it is how I decide that a painting is finished: it is finished when it looks back at me. I work on these paintings the same way I work on a portrait, building up glazes, moving between a physical likeness and an essence I perceive, pushing colors, creating a “face”.
These places are maintained by people and they sustain the people in return. On the border of one large Estrada meadow is a group of fifteen Native American grinding rocks telling us that this place has sustained other people as well. It is my hope that the viewer will feel the integrity of these places, not only as pleasing for they eye and mind, but also as something precious to the survival of ourselves, our fellow creatures and our planet.

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