Behind the Scenes | "Fresh Air" spring series

I wanted to take the time to share my thoughts behind my process of creating my most recent series of landscape paintings! As you may have read in my previous post, Melody and I had been dreaming up our spring show together since January of this year. My six paintings derived from a string of questions I asked myself about my own personal draw to nature; I found it to be quite spiritual. 

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There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to paint landscapes and more specifically mountain landscapes. If you don't already know this about me, my creative instinct always runs there at any given opportunity. I looked myself in the mirror and asked myself the daunting question of "why do I love Colorado so much?" Sure, it is my birthplace but I felt there was something more. I proceeded to ask myself, "why I pride myself being from there?" and "why do I enjoy being in the mountains?" which ultimately led to, "why do I long for them?" This was the topic of my morning pages (a great practice to start your day from Julia Cameron's novel The Artist's Way) for a week straight.

 Initial Sketches

Initial Sketches

I researched the history of landscape paintings, landforms, the psychological effects of being in the mountains and more. I reflected on the sentimental aspect of being from there and having my tie to family members and memories. I dove into my faith and explored the history of mountains in the Bible and why they're mentioned more than 500 times in scripture. As I filled my mind with facts and trying to find the answer to my ambiguous question, a thought popped into my mind. Could this feeling I have be a longing in my heart for the Kingdom? I decided I need to paint my way through my own interpretations of heaven on earth from personal experience. 

 Progress shot from  Counsel

Progress shot from Counsel

I spent about three weeks planning, sketching and painting my six original landscapes for our fresh air show. I'll never forget the Monday when our WiFi went out (thanks to the squirrel who chewed through an important wire outside our home lol) and I was forced to set all my screens aside. I was astonished at how dependent I had become on "tools" throughout my workday such as streaming music through Spotify, listening to podcasts, scrolling instagram and sifting through my gmail etc. After a little bit of grumbling to my husband on how I couldn't get things done he suggested, "why don't you just paint all day long with no distractions?" A dream day come true! ... yet I felt so intimidated to start. It had been awhile since I had picked up acrylic over watercolor. But once I laid down my first layer of blue paint for the sky of Counsel it broke the barrier and I painted full-time for a week an a half-non stop! Talk about reFRESHIng.

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All but one of my paintings were referenced from photographs I had taken on past trips. These photographs hold some of my dearest memories and I wanted to do my best to capture my spiritual state when I was in them. 

  Piety,  24x20, acrylic on canvas, purchase  here

Piety, 24x20, acrylic on canvas, purchase here

Fun Fact: Piety was an imagined landscape and by far the most challenging piece for me to complete in the series. I almost left this one out of the show because it didn't feel "finished". After stepping back and really looking at it post show, I came to the conclusion that deep down this one felt the most vulnerable. It came from my own imagination, not referenced from a photograph, and became a very intimate moment of creating with God. 

   Counsel  reference Guanella Pass Colorado, 24x24, acrylic on canvas, purchase  here

 Counsel reference Guanella Pass Colorado, 24x24, acrylic on canvas, purchase here

I titled each piece in reference to the sky. After doing some biblical research on mountains in scripture, I found that mountains hold religious symbolism for both jewish and christian cultures since the "feel closer to God" who dwells in the heavens. The sky. I resonated with that thought and painted each sky with a gift of the Holy Spirit in mind. 

  Fortitude  reference Capitol Peak, Colorado, 20x20, acrylic on canvas, purchase  here

Fortitude reference Capitol Peak, Colorado, 20x20, acrylic on canvas, purchase here

What I've found to be true is that our human heart's long for awe, we long to see something, experience something grandeur,  bigger, splendor, something more lovely than itself. My hope is that my work reflects the beauty of God instead of mistakenly rivaling him.

  Wisdom,  reference Maroon Bells, Colorado, 22x30, acrylic on paper, purchase  here

Wisdom, reference Maroon Bells, Colorado, 22x30, acrylic on paper, purchase here

No matter what your spiritual background or beliefs, we can all relate in finding rest in a beautiful view. It can be freeing, refreshing, nourishing and captivating for our souls. I hope you take the time to reflect on a past or present view and think about what makes you long for it.

  Understanding  reference Independence Pass, Colorado, 22x30, acrylic on paper, SOLD

Understanding reference Independence Pass, Colorado, 22x30, acrylic on paper, SOLD

I recently read an excerpt from Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura that fed my soul. Fujimura is an artist who believes that beauty is necessary for our soul's flourishing. He writes, "Our sense of beauty and our creativity are central to what it means to be made in the image of a creative God. This satisfaction in beauty we feel is connected deeply with our reflection of God's character to create and value gratuity. It is part of our human nature. That is why our soul hungers for beauty."

  Wonder  reference Ecola State Park, Oregon, 22x30, acrylic on paper, SOLD

Wonder reference Ecola State Park, Oregon, 22x30, acrylic on paper, SOLD

All photographs by the lovely Renee Toole

Mallory McCamy