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Accessing "Mountain-ness"

October 13, 2017

Reflecting back in April of 2012 I had a conversation about landscape painting with a gallery owner. I believe there really isn't much departure from my older work, despite the varying appearance of my new works today.

Below is an excerpt from that conversation:

I asked one of our current exhibitors, James O'Brien to speak to me about his process of his work in landscape painting:


"I want the painting and the viewer to have an experience together. My goal is to convey to the viewer a philosophy embedded in the art—for the viewer to see how natural light can reveal new truths within the objects it affects, bringing into focus an unexamined life. Our surroundings hold a hidden key to our emotions and by documenting the relationships of light values and focusing on the space, I can convey an emotion to the viewer in a carefully calculated composition. 


When painting landscapes, I begin with hundreds of thumbnails, each sketch conveying a different point-of-view or idea. I attack the canvas with aggressive and energetic brushstrokes. I don’t worry about color or the placement of anything, but attempt to capture the level of intensity or tranquility surging in the moment. When painting a mountain, my goal is to get the mountain on the canvas, capturing it the way it is; strong, tall, mighty—accessing it’s mountainness. In studying both traditional and contemporary landscapes, I observe the way light reveals and disguises the world around us. 

After grounding the canvas with a primitive feeling, I begin to construct the skeletal structure of the image, allowing the brushstroke to flow with the composition—building mark upon mark—until finally achieving a satisfactory image. 


For me it’s the visual relationships between objects that are most interesting and not, necessarily, the objects themselves. Visual cavities allow light to be perceived as if it is a divine energy full of life, communicating the secrets of sight—it can be a source of obscurity too, instilling darkness, confusion, and fear. Values of light imbue the viewer with emotion and reveal a world beyond time. By studying light’s soft and harsh qualities I create fantastic locations for the viewer to explore and bear witness to a wholly new perspective of life." 

She commented shortly after.

 My first thought when seeing this painting was that it looked sublime. And it is majestic, too. It's interesting to read James O'Brien's approach to creating. He's right - "visual cavities" do allow light to be perceived as if it is a divine energy full of life. In Deep in the Void, the light seems to fill, even move within the empty space in the Valley. It's like God is there.


To merely create illusions of mountains will not fulfill my creative void, however the experience of creating a copy of a mountain enriches my next encounterincreases awareness, and brings in a new focus. Its a privilege to hear mother nature lecture, but I believe it is even more amazing to play a part. 





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James Michael O'Brien

O'Brien Art, LLC

All images are NOTICE OF COPYRIGHT: It is ILLEGAL to copy or reproduce these images elsewhere (social media, print, etc.) without the Artist's permission. Violators of this Federal Law will be subject to its civil and criminal penalties.