Maynard Dixon, Inspiration, and reason #523* to go to Utah

Maynard Dixon. The Plains. 1931. 32 x 36.
Maynard Dixon. 1926. Dry Gulch. 16 x 19.
Maynard Dixon. Colorado Desert. 1927. 28 x 38.

The landscapes that I'm working to capture - the rugged dry lands of eastern Washington - aren't easy. For every painting I'm willing to share with you, another one lands on the pile in the basement.

Scrub, sage, stark eroded hills: these are not the elements of the Hudson River School of painters. But in Texas, studying with Deborah Paris, she and her husband Steve asked if I'd looked at the work of Maynard Dixon, as they thought that would provide me with paintings to study.

Nope never heard of him. But clearly I needed to and now I have! Here's a few paintings and I've been turning to these again and again as I seek to resolve questions of composition, scale, color, foreground, depth and how to capture these crazy landscapes.

*The paintings shown here are from Brigham Young University (they have a great online catalog here) where they have an exceptional collection of Dixon's works. Which is why I need to go back to Utah. That and Capital Reef and so many other beautiful places.


Casey Klahn said…
I didn't open the link today, but enjoyed these images you've posted. They look like watercolor to me, but I'm probably wrong. Very nice!

One tremendous challenge I face in open (eastern Wa) landscapes is the lack of "handles" at either side of the canvas. It is easy for the eye to wander off the page, or not read the landscape properly. I know some tricks from my early art lessons, and they sometimes work, but it remains a hard thing.

Good to see what these successful guys have done.
Sonya Johnson said…
Maynard Dixon is my favorite early 20th century western/southwestern artist. His minimalist, almost abstract, treatment of the land and sky are the perfect compliment to the basin and range and Colorado plateau country he painted.

If you find yourself in Tucson, be sure and check out the museum of his work in the Medicine Man Gallery. I visited it a few months ago when I was back there. It's definitely worth a look.

I enjoy seeing your work and your approach to painting the fields and open space where you live :). Your technique/style also lends itself well to your subject matter.
Lisa McShane said…
Casey - that's exactly right. These landscapes conform poorly to any compositional rules since they go on forever. Scale is out of whack. The Dixon paintings (oil, small to medium sized) are SO helpful to me as examples.

Sonja - thanks so much! I can't believe I didn't know about Maynard until a month ago. Now I wonder what else I'm missing... Great tip on the Tucson museum - I may be there this fall so will definitely check that out!