As a visual artist I am committed to the process of direct observation. I believe the great visual artists were, in function, great observers. They became great observers via the practice of direct observation in the execution of paintings. One learns to see, I think, through patient comparison, which is corporal to the process of observed painting. Direct observation brought to the landscape is plein air painting; that is, landscape paintings made on site. The record of plein air painting would seem to speak for itself. However, in actuality very few within the art world (and particularly in the academic community) tend to acknowledge that a common denominator among the most widely popular and influential painters of the last century and a half is their creation of large-scale plein air paintings. The major achievements by Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Monet, for instance, are embodied as large-scale landscape paintings made by plein air observation. Claude Monet painted in this way more than any other human so far, and I consider it no coincidence that he is probably the most popular and influential painter to date. Visual artists should not forget nor underestimate the formal and conceptual novelty inherent in real vision…in your eyes, in mine. Witness the century-long feeding upon the corpse of Monet to understand the meat that was there (Pollock would then be the rotted hide of Monet?). Abstraction was borne out of unprecedented plein air observation (in painting practice they are the same language). I would assert that plein air observation is just as effective (and formally novel) today as it ever has been, and is no less likely to yield passionate artists and compelling, connective visual art. I expect newer generations of visual artists will not so readily accept the view that plein air painting is passé because rejected modernists say so. In any case I don’t.
Accordingly my process is large-scale plein air and prolific. I have averaged 22 hours per week of direct and pure plein air observation over the course of my first six years as a full-time artist working in Crested Butte, Colorado, painting the mountains and community here. I hope and expect with improved methodology and financing this next year to log perhaps even 1500 hours of plein air painting. That is a rate of plein air painting that only a couple of painters may have ever reached, and those in environments less challenging than Crested Butte. I hope I may reach and hold such productivity for some decades. I usually work five to ten sessions on each of my paintings, a session averaging about 3 hours. I produce about 50 original paintings each year.
Currently my commercially available oil landscapes are working largely to capture and share Earth’s beauty. With this function my paintings are essentially consoling to a viewer: this to the extent that beauty is real (it is) and endures any level of scrutiny or skepticism. However one so inclined will notice realist inclusions in subject matter which I hope begin a dialog about apparent, contemporary relationships between humans and Earth.
I will make large plein air oil landscapes as long as I can. I hope to paint and see as much as Claude Monet and Rockwell Kent. I love painting deeply. I intend to honor painting (again).return to Shaun Horne’s gallery page