I manipulate metals and minerals and bonding solutions in order to provoke emotional responses from people I will usually never meet. That which happens in the process some people call art. My talent for creating icons and illusions turned into a lifetime of manipulations... in various pigments, bronze and steel, some quite large, which loom in museums, schools, collections and public places all over Texas. Here on this blog you can watch my creative actions and insights unfold...

From the Easel in My Studio

"Just Me,  Willie and the Angels" sold through Harris Gallery, Houston, Texas.
I have painted this exact scene twice... this one was very large, and the smaller version was named "Where Angels Play."  I was listening to Willie and Merle sing "Pancho and Lefty" as I drove into Palo Duro at sunrise one morning. Sorta got to me. Then I ran around the knolls of this wonderful canyon, taking pictures like crazy. This was the former home of the great Texas bison herds and the Comanche tribe known as "Qhahadi," and later the domain of Charlie Goodnight. All these years later... it still gets to me.

My first love will always be painting "plein air" landscapes and simply translating them in my studio into large canvases when I have the time. Between the big jobs, I enjoy making these "small" paintings (for me) for galleries. They think they are big, usually two ft X three ft or larger.

I start most of these by sketching out of doors, and taking photographs to help create designs and details, thus bringing home information about light, shadow, color, and temperature, which all goes into the final canvas.

A painting from the Hill Country done "plein air."
Monet, Pissarro, even the misfit Cezanne were "plein air" painters. It was a French term, literally translated: open air, suggesting the out of doors...

This was a practice passionately pioneered by the French Impressionists who broke away from the norm of artists painting "guesscapes" from their studios, and emphasizing the importance of painting from LIFE, from actual experience, from actual observation of the subject, and most importantly, in natural light. The practice not only caught on, it became the standard by which all landscapes are judged.

When my friend and mentor Jimmy Dyer introduced me to plein air back in 1986, I was already an established, award winning art instructor in the Houston area, but I soon found I had a lot to learn. Jimmy and his painting buddies had been impressed and improved a great deal when they began to listen to the great American master painters out west such as Tom Lovell, Wayne Wolfe, Ned Jacob, Richard Schmid and Robert Loughheed, all of whom were zealous proponents of "painting out-doors."

Done swiftly and spontaneously, out of door paintings tend to ignore details and rather focus on light, values, and subtle hues, trying to capture a scene's atmospheric qualities.

"Nature's Way," a scene taken from a plein air session at the Grand Tetons, Wyoming. Sold through Blues Alley, Navasota, Texas

On my first painting trip with Jimmy... we ran into a natural disaster... the foothills of the Tetons were literally on fire. I was heartbroken... But Tim Lawson saw it as an opportunity. He and Toby Birr taught me something important that day. Don't come to paint with expectations to fill. Let nature show you something... and have eyes to see... even beauty in a forest fire.

 My large easel paintings are marketed through several Texas galleries, such as Harris Gallery in Houston.

"Comanche Gold" is still in the artist's collection

This canyon is just a short ride from where I fell and broke my wrist and cut my head, requiring 13 stitches. My brother and I were visiting Sitting Bull Falls in New Mexico, part of the Guadalupe Peak National Park at Guadalupe National Forest. After I recovered, I returned to capture some of the most stunning photos of Texas landscape I have ever taken, at McKittrick Canyon... But when I pass this landmark, I am already saying to myself... "Easy does it!" 
"Mountains Bow Down" was a commssion for Rowan Oil.

Yes, even a Texan can admit that California has some of the most beautiful landscape in the Western Hemisphere. After my devastating fall in New Mexico,  Linda my wife was always hollering "BE CAREFUL!" as I left the house.  If she had only seen what I had to do to get the photos for this commission...
"The Horsetrader" is in the Joe and Beverly Gust collection.

On one painting trip out in New Mexico, Jimmy wanted to do some plein air inside the Pueblo Reservation... Tim wanted to paint something else.. and we split up.  Tim was always identifying a peculiar subject... sometimes not so well conceived.. but often\ a danged masterpiece, so I went with Jimmy. We had to pay... just to photograph, and even more if we painted... so I just ran around and shot photos while Jimmy set up his easel... found a composition... fought with the light and limited time.

All I could think was... This was the oldest, still occupied, multi-family housing unit in America! And I have less than an hour!  My first visit to Taos Pueblo was, like most artists... a lesson in humility. So much... so simple... so universal. Yet it is impossible to do justice to such a subject... and that's why many artists have had to try! 

"Hill Country Blues," part of the Faber and Sandy McMullen collection.
"The Guardian"- Guadalupe Peak, sold through Harris Gallery, Houston, Texas.

"The Just and the Unjust" sold through The French Market, Navasota, Texas.

"Deer Valley Shadows," McMullen collection

McKittrick Canyon when her maples are turning... Absolutely incredible! Sold through Harris Gallery, Houston.

"Twilight Fire," also from the McMullen collection

Every day must come to an end... and so must this page!

There is much, much more at my offiical online portfolio, or "Netfolio" at:  http://russellcushman.com/

1 comment:

  1. If you're in touch with Toby Birr, I would like to speak with him about an original oil painting by him early in his career. its a portrait of Jesus given to my dad by one of his relatives.