Living in the Adirondacks is all I need – I’m inspired by the landscape I see and often by the kind and friendly people I interact with as well. This past week I experienced a different kind of inspiration – more like an immense gratitude for this special place on the planet.
One hundred artists attended the Publisher’s Invitational Paint Out hosted at Paul Smith’s College. I wrote about my experiences at the 2012 event, because I was inspired then too, but this year’s event merits additional attention.
Eric Rhoads, who publishes Plein Air Magazine, has done this for 3 years now – extending an open invitation to plein air painters, throughout the world, to come paint the Adirondacks. Eric understands the magic of this place too.
Granted, we had a glorious week of Adirondack blue skies, with only 1 day in which it clouded over and rain spattered a few canvases. The water was high, due to our wet, wet, spring, so all the waterfalls we went to paint were roaring. The black flies were mostly absent, thankfully, the no-see-ums and mosquitoes did make their presence known, however they weren’t awful. But the question is, why would artists from California, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Brunswick, CA , and elsewhere, want to come here? Those places surely have some beautiful landscapes….
First of all, there is the tradition of the Hudson River School painters. Artists came to the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Adirondacks in the 1800’s and they were inspired by the rugged wilderness of these mountains. The visible power of “nature” in spite of the march of civilization across this continent in the name of Manifest Destiny. We followed in the footsteps of some of these historic artists and painted last week near some of the spots they painted 150 years ago.
But the real attraction, I believe, is the spirit of this place, even without knowing the history of the Adirondacks, or how much was logged and burned before the land became protected by the Forever Wild amendment in the state constitution. “These aren’t like other mountains” is a comment I heard several times.
While there are summits that are barren of trees, most of our mountains are cloaked in green, a green that is so intense this year, due to abundant water, that some artists found it hard to create the right color. I, personally, have never used as much Permanent Green Light in my paintings as I have this year! I wonder if it’s the irregular glacier formed shapes of our mountains, or the craggy, snaggy, leaning white pines, or the erratic glacial boulders that randomly dot the landscape, entangled by gnarly hemlock or yellow birch roots. Maybe it’s the tannin colored water crashing over rocks, reflecting the brilliant blue sky as it slides over ledges on it’s way to the sea. The fresh, clean pine-scented air, cool nights, the openness of our scenic vistas, or the intimate space of a forest trail cloaked in soft, reddish brown pine needles, where you can barely see the sky.
Could it be the rustic homes or farms tucked in close to the landscape, not intruding as much as complimenting? There is a rugged individualism that exists among those who choose to live here and visitors seem to pick up on that as well. Of course I also heard questions like “where do you get your food in the winter…? and “you don’t go outdoors when it’s 20 below zero, do you?”
Whatever it is – if we could bottle it and sell it, we’d be rich. As the artists departed for their homes, or other destinations, they all thanked us for the experiences we gave them here. Whether their paintings were successful or not – they loved being her and having a chance to get to know these mountains, ponds, fields and forests. This is what the advertising executives need to understand about the Adirondacks. The spirit of the land, the colors, smells, shapes, and the feelings inspired by them are why people who come here fall in love with the place. Artists have figured that out!
Photo above, plein air painting at the Visitor’s Interpretive Center. Below, St. Regis Mountain.