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Covered Bridge

July 21, 2011

Covered Bridge, 16x20, Gouache (Click image for a slightly larger version)

I’ve done several paintings from reference photos taken in this particular area.  It’s along the Mohican River in Ohio.  The bridge stares at me every time I go through my references, asking “Is it my turn, yet?”  I finally decided it was time.  There are certain subjects I love to paint and draw, but in some cases, I fear they have been done so many times that no one will care about my version.  Covered bridges.  Red barns.  Bluebonnets.  But the flip side of that is that they are still very much beloved parts of the countryside.  And I think I know why.

People often comment on the serenity that shows up in a lot of my paintings.  We live our lives in such a hurry, and are pulled in so many directions, that there aren’t many serene moments any more.  Maybe that’s why I paint the subjects I paint.  When I started painting, I still worked a fulltime non-art job.  The work was fast-paced and stressful.  I found myself coming home and climbing the stairs to the studio after dinner, and painting for 3 to 4 hours.  On a weeknight.  People asked if painting was a stress reliever.  Well, yes.  Absolutely.  Almost any artist will say it is.

But I find myself wondering if my chosen subject matter wasn’t also part of that stress relief.  I could lose myself on a trail or a path in open country or in the woods.  I could listen to the sound of water, or the buzz of cicadas, or maybe just the quiet that the scene suggested.

When we were doing the First Saturday Arts Market in Houston on a regular basis, there was this one particular lady who visited our booth on a number of occasions.  She would just stand and look at the paintings.  She told us that visiting our booth and looking at the paintings brought her great peace.  It seemed to produce a few moments of calm in what seemed to be a somewhat troubled life.

There is a school of thought that says art is supposed to have a message.  That it’s supposed to have meaning.  I don’t know about that.  Sometimes I think those are the folks who feel the need to explain what they’ve done so we’ll understand it.  I don’t think I paint messages.  One of my old college art instructors, Bob Wygant, said he didn’t try to paint  a meaning.  He tried to paint a mood, and let the viewer supply their own meaning.

I’ve had people tell me one of my paintings reminded them of a time or a place in their own personal past.  That, and people like the lady who felt such calm when viewing the work, is a very large part of why I paint what I paint.

Sometimes it’s good to just sit and listen to the water going by.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2011 7:41 pm

    Love you painting Ralph. I agree about painting a mood. If you have to explain the meaning of your painting or if the title of the painting is more important than the painting itself…???

  2. July 22, 2011 2:04 am

    I see such vibrancy as well as peacefulness in this one. The water is almost rushing. The light is intense in areas. Yet the bridge and the trees are just sitting quietly.
    Very alive.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Gary Presson permalink
    June 16, 2013 3:31 pm

    Ralph, I have been going through your online portfolio painting by painting. You have an astonishing range. You also have lack of pretense that is very rare in this day and time when everyone is so busy tooting their own horn that they fail to see the value in others. Having said that, I believe that this is my favorite. You captured the mood in a way that is inspirational.

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