For the past twenty years, I have been working as a landscape painter in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. While my preferred medium has always been oil on linen, my methods, techniques, and aesthetic aims have all undergone significant transformations since I first began.
As a young painter, I learned my craft in the studio, painting still-lifes and portraits, as well as landscapes drawn directly from nature. Over time, I became increasingly engaged with more abstract and spiritual aspects of the landscape form and I began to pursue a less representational, more expressive style. In order to move away from the constraints of figurative painting, I developed a more indirect process that still informs the way I conceptualize my work. When I first approach the canvas, I will usually have some sense of the color scheme and overall composition; an almost architectural strategy for how I will proceed to build the painting. Each painting begins with preliminary sketches and color notes recorded on site, but the work itself takes shape in my studio, after a meditative interval of temporal and spatial distance that allows memory and emotion to guide the work.
To achieve a diffuse quality of color in these paintings, I use many layers of paint, allowing each to dry before the next is applied. In this way, the colors come to resonate with one another and produce an overall depth of hue even as each remains visible as its own separate plane. This very deliberate technique is only one part of the creative process, however, a sort of skeleton key to the final product, in which the operations of chance and accident frequently come to govern the direction of the painting. Along the way, the surface of the paint is often refigured in unpredictable ways, and there is much that has to be scraped, sanded, destroyed and reapplied before the essence of a place, its mood and atmosphere, finally emerges onto the canvas.
This is indeed a process in every sense of the word, and even when I am not painting, I still experience life as an artist; thinking about the work, observing my natural surroundings, learning from other artists and searching for new expressive possibilities. At times, I am reminded of a remark John Cage once made regarding musical composition: ‘Everything you do is music and everywhere is the best seat.’ For me, this also says something about the fundamental appeal of a life in painting: to be always and everywhere involved in the mysterious dimensions of the everyday, in the extraordinary way in which the visible world can articulate something meaningful through the medium of paint.
—Mary Sipp Green