Lynn Kearny, Artist
I am an artist and lover of the western landscape. Painting lets me experience that place and my feelings for it intensely. Every few months I travel to northern New Mexico where I grew up, looking for scenes that inspire me. Every year or two my husband and I take a camping vacation to Colorado and Utah, hiking in the mountains and exploring interesting canyons. I make field sketches and take photos of vistas that captivate me. I’ve built a large archive of photographs and sketches in my studio to draw on for new paintings. Here in the Bay Area I go out plein air painting, looking for scenes that inspire.
I respond to strong, well-defined form and color. I look for the bones and muscle of the land: rock, cliffs, mountain peaks, and foothills or straight-edged mesas with their broad debris skirts and the wide playas between. The blues and purples of the high peaks with their cloaks of dark green vertical pines and bright clouds of aspen are things I can see, smell, and feel. The cream, peach and russet hues of canyon country with its grey-green brush and brilliant turquoise sky make me want to grab them with my hands. When I see these forms and colors in combination, I look for the composition that best expresses what I feel.
Once I compose a subject, I do a simple sketch, reducing the overall composition to about five major shapes. With gray inks I create a thumbnail-sized value map, or Notan. I then turn away from my subject and make an under-painting based solely on the shapes and values in the Notan. I check that the under-painting has the right feel before finally bringing the painting to life with my soft pastels.
The most important elements in a scene I create are form, value, color, and texture. Texture captures the look of rock, land, foliage, clouds and water in ways that suggest their actual appearance. Texture allows colors to appear through subsequent layers, creating harmony throughout the painting. I achieve this using the side of the pastel, stroking it across sanded paper like a paintbrush rather than drawing lines.
I want to translate the beauty and power of the natural world into a visceral experience for others. It may convey peace or inspiration, love or awe, joy of returning to a loved place, or a need to get out there and experience it directly. I hope it will also contribute to a desire to see the magic of the natural world preserved for us and for future generations.
I see my future work moving toward greater simplicity and directness of expression, relying more on texture, form and color and getting further away from detail. While some have observed that my work is becoming more abstract, I will never become a true abstract painter. The landscapes that I love will always be clear and present in my art.