The paintings in this series grew out of a commission to paint a single landscape of a rambling ranch in Auburn, California. Passing through the gate of the ranch, the amazing beauty of the landscape transported me to a whole new world. Possibilities for other paintings opened up for me as I found myself drawn to many different subjects, different angles, different sizes, different formats, at different times of day.
The ranch house is the cornerstone of the series, quickly joined by its surrounding trees, hills, birds, and animals. The local movie theatre in nearby Auburn, and a group of giant roadside statues also found their way onto my canvas. Upon seeing this new combination of natural and man-made elements, color emerged as the most important compositional element in the artwork. I applied multiple layers of saturated color to capture the strong sunlight and the wide-open spaces enveloping the ranch. I juxtaposed color opposites to heighten the energy level of the pieces. Yet still, some of the paintings evoke quiet moments, demanding cool blues and violets to describe the deep shadows, and neutral colors to create transitions between warm and cool areas.
I made multiple visits to Auburn over the course of the summer to convey a strong narrative quality in the paintings. Some of the paintings comment on ranch life, depicting the ranch house from the inside looking out, or the outside looking in. In others, human-made colors and forms contrast with the organic shapes and hues of nature. The dreamlike quality in the paintings is a result of going back and forth between the ranch and the studio. When painting plein air style, I paid attention to the sights and sounds on the site in order to energize the artwork, concentrating on detailed areas only when I returned to my studio.
My artistic influences include California Impressionism, Fauvism, The Ashcan School, and the American Scene Painters. When working on this series, I remembered the words of master painter James Doolin, who advised me to make my works strong on the abstract level, clear on the descriptive level, and mysterious on the narrative level.
All of the paintings in the Auburn Series were completed in July of 2011.