I WAS RECENTLY READING a book about the landscapes of Gustav Klimt. I was intrigued to discover that he often used a pair of opera glasses or even a telescope to flatten the landscape as he painted a distant scene.
A few weeks ago, during one of our frequent days of smoky atmosphere caused by a series of fires out west, I passed a very prominent rock outcropping along the mountains near Willard, Utah. This particular peak is very beautiful and I've been tempted to paint it many times. It has that postcard look that too often spells disaster should I try to paint such a picture-perfect scene. However, this week the smoke had caused a veil of white to drop over the distant mountains enforcing a subtle simplicity onto a very complex scene. In the near distance a cluster of trees didn't show the same atmospheric effect. Their colors were bright and clear. But as I positioned myself so the trees superimposed themselves over the simplified background of distant rock I got a glimpse of the perfect motif.
This experience demonstrates that simplification can often lead to a superior painting. Imagine those rich light and dark greens of the trees superimposed over the distant purples and pinks now rendered sublimely pastel by the veil of smoke. I'm not a fan of forest fires. I consider them a plague and in many ways our summer was marred by the multiplicity of fires. But in this one case it showed that beauty is found where you find it.
Brad Teare October 2012