I’ve recently finished the painting “Lowell Larimer Road II,” a rural subject that depicts the rich farmland between Lowell Larimer Road, Marsh Road and Highway 9, near Snohomish, Washington. It was begun on site, after doing a couple of preliminary studies. The initial few plein air sessions were done with my friend, painter Mehdi Fallahian, who painted a view of the same subject. I decided to finish the painting in the studio, as the grasses, weather and color relationships were somewhat volatile this time of year.
I grew up in rural Spokane, in an area called Glenrose Prairie. Glenrose is fast becoming a sprawl of gated communities and overdevelopment. There is little left of the rural countryside that I knew as a child. Few social and economic incentives encourage the younger generation to cultivate these family farms, and often existing small farm owners are forced to regard the sale of such valuable properties as a means to bankroll the expensive costs of a comfortable retirement and subsequent extended care of old age. One of the adverse side effects of this cultural shift in the economics of rural life has been a radical decline in the amount of arable land across the United States.
Contemporary artists should valorize these subjects, in the same way that the landscape painters of the 19th Century valorized the disappearing wilderness. Their efforts resulted in the creation and extension of the National Parks system, and provided one of the significant foundations for the ethics of the environmental movement. Aesthetic attention often precedes social change, and a serious artistic exploration of the rural countryside could have profound consequences. Aside from that, it’s fun to paint out in the open air, on a sunny day with a friend and a glass of wine. In the words of my old painting companion Will Kitchen, “The great thing about painting outdoors is that you get to live your life while you are painting it!”
Images chronicling the progressive development of this painting can be seen in the “New Paintings and Works in Progress” section of this website: http://www.williamelston.com/new_wip/ .
I’ve added options for taking private painting lessons or critiques to the “Classes” section of my website. If your busy lifestyle does not permit taking regularly scheduled painting classes, you can sign up for private lessons or critiques. More information can be found here: http://www.williamelston.com/classes/ .
This study was done on Lowell Larimer Road, overlooking the Snohomish Valley. I was painting on site w/ Mehdi Fallahian. I did two small studies before the heat made the field untenable.
Update: I’ve put some more material related to this subject on the “new and in progress” page of this website. Please check it out!