Autumn Inspiration

autumninspirationAutumn Inspiration

The Restfulness Amongst the Riot

by Clara Rose Thornton

For painters as well as general spectators, autumn in Vermont is a sensory deluge. Fabled colors unknown in most regions of the world wave their brief, bittersweet hellos; there is a pleasing sharpness to the air and the season seems to represent all that can be beautiful about transitions, endings and new beginnings.

autumnlydia

Autumn Inspiration

The Restfulness Amongst the Riot

by Clara Rose Thornton

For painters as well as general spectators, autumn in Vermont is a sensory deluge. Fabled colors unknown in most regions of the world wave their brief, bittersweet hellos; there is a pleasing sharpness to the air and the season seems to represent all that can be beautiful about transitions, endings and new beginnings.

autumnsusan”It’s a macabre, visual evolution,” remarked Susan Osgood, an abstract painter raised in neighboring Westmoreland, N.H., and now living in Brattleboro. Osgood, whose work incorporates nature as metaphor, observed, ”Things are dying, things are falling, and yet ‘possibility’ is evoked; it’s about what’s going to happen next. It’s change. It’s almost like the unknown, as with any change. Here’s this big transformation—all the leaves are tumbling off—and the kid inside might wonder, what will happen next?”

This sense of evolution was among the main properties discussed by four painters, each with his or her own very distinctive style, who were approached to discuss the specific way that autumn affects the creative mind. It would seem that the most obvious character of the season—the foliage—would have emerged in the forefront. Rather, unifying these divergent artists was shared talk of themes beyond the obvious, such as the how much of fall’s bountiful color to include, the tangible crispness in the air and a spiritual beckoning to withdraw into oneself.

autumnnichT. M. Nicholas, living on the Cape, is known for his vivid Vermont landscapes, including ”Mudget Farm” and ”The Road to Warren.” His works come alive with precise detail of the foliage, hills and quaint towns defining the region. ”The autumn is always a special time because of dealing with all that color and trying to control it,” he said. ”It’s challenging to try and push as much color into something as you can and still have it behave, in a way, so that it doesn’t become overbearing or gaudy.”

Lydia Thomson of Townshend, who acts as director of Brattleboro’s River Gallery School and has been teaching landscape painting for 20 years, prefers a somewhat muted palette. She mused, ”I like it when the colors have died down a bit. I like to paint the grass when it’s that sort of maple yellow… When I’m painting outside I’m often more attracted to the subtle earthy colors that are in the trees and grass in the late fall. I like it after the greens and fracas of color has drained out of them and we’re left with maple yellow and ochre colors.” The muted, hazy essence of her piece ”Red Hills” attests to this tendency.

With heightened attention to their surroundings, these artists are drawn to the more sensual and spiritual climes of the season, reaching beyond the purely visual. For example, Osgood, whose work would never, at first glance, be considered landscape, draws upon the abstract essence she receives from the natural world and infuses it into her paintings through color and mood. ”One of my pieces is very yellow with black ink dots drifting down from above (”Egypt Drawing Number 11”). That could be autumn for someone. It is autumn. It’s a moment looking to the leaves and to the dark tree—to the dark, wet bark of the tree. It could be something very different for someone else. I love that about abstract work, that it takes people into those recesses of an idea, memory or image that’s in there.”

”During fall the air is very crisp,” she expanded, ”and it fills your lungs in a different way than the hot, muggy temps in the summer… (Painting fall) for me is a time of clarity. Things are diminishing and the air is clearing and you have a bigger view—literally.”

autumnireneThe sense of reduction and looking inward was of paramount importance in the three artists’ discussion. Irene Cole of Manchester is an abstract painter whose method involves gathering mental pictures of a scene and filtering them through layers of emotional memory. ”Autumn is a time of letting go—in nature, the landscape, as well as in people,” reflected Cole. ”It’s a time that you’re not only letting go of all of the growth that happened in the spring and summer, but you are naturally, in life, letting go and getting ready to go into that deeper place that happens in the winter, because we all tend to be inside and that draws us within ourselves more.” Cole’s piece ”Monoprint 8” represents this sort of mellowing essence through the use of smudged watercolor and muted, intermingling earth tones.

Thomson concurred with this view. ”There’s a little bit more of a restfulness. Even though fall is a riot of color, I feel that in the autumn things slow down, and when things slow down it seems more restful. I suppose that sounds counter to the riot of color we get in the fall here, but I’m talking more about the late fall when things start to settle and you see the landforms more. It’s a transitional time. Emotionally andspiritually, at least for me, there’s a gratitude for that—that silence it offers which allows you to stop and take a bit longer time to look at it.”

From the ebullience of summer into the still core of winter, autumn can offer a transitional time of refuge—a colorful array that, to these artists, should inspire us to look beneath the surface.

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